LIHU‘E — Laying it all out to have a smooth transitional Inauguration Day next month, Kaua‘i County Council-elect met for an organizational meeting yesterday morning.
Votes and discussions at the organizational meeting Wednesday are largely provisional, straw-votes that will be voted on and verified at the inauguration in December.
“The whole reason for this organizational meeting is so that when Inauguration Day comes … it’s a smooth Inauguration Day,” councilmember-elect, and current council chair, Arryl Kaneshiro said. “We want to get everything out here.”
For the 2018-2020 council, contention arose over the chair and vice-chair positions, both fielding split votes. This upcoming council wanted to avoid that, with all members voicing their desire for a unified start of term.
Councilmember-elects made the unanimous decision for Kaneshiro to continue in his role as chair in the upcoming term, which will be his last, but it wasn’t without discussion and a failed motion first.
Both Kaneshiro and councilmember-elect Mason Chock expressed their desire for the chair position, making an agreement to support the one who could garner the most votes amongst the group. Earlier this week, Chock released a statement saying he’d gone to each official and was prepared to support Kaneshiro, who appeared to have more votes of support for the chairmanship.
During the meeting, councilmember-elect Felicia Cowden made a motion for Chock to take the helm.
The charter dictates that the chair position is decided by the council. Who is chair has nothing to do with how many votes a member earns.
By Wednesday’s meeting, the council-elect received 33 pieces of written testimony, all but one were in support of Chock as chair. Many suggested that since Chock earned the most votes, — and has for the past three elections — he should be the chair.
The discussion among members largely focused on the council running smoothly for the past two years, so many did not see a need for change. Members also pointed to Kaneshiro’s background in finance as important as the council will soon wrestle with a budget as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on.
Some testimony noted Kaneshiro’s position with Grove Farm, a large stakeholder on the island, as a conflict of interest, but, throughout his term, he’s recused himself from discussions and votes. Members came to Kaneshiro’s defense, reiterating his integrity and voting history as to why he had their vote.
When it came to a vote on the first motion, Chock, Cowden and councilmember-elect Luke Evslin called in favor of Chock, with Kaneshiro, KipuKai Kuali‘i, Bernard Carvalho Jr., and Billy DeCosta in the opposition.
Kaneshiro received a unanimous-seven for his chairmanship in a follow-up motion.
Chock was unanimously voted into the vice-chair position, which will be voted on again at the inauguration.
The council discussed minor tweaks to its rules, but going into her second term, Cowden suggested the council attempt to be more “pro-active” by requiring departments to give briefing reports, having more one-on-one availability amongst the group and have stronger training regarding ethics, sexual harassment and system information.
By enlisting these strategies, Cowden hoped there wouldn’t be surprises in the future, like the repurposing of the Adolescent Treatment and Healing Center, overtime abuse, unbalanced bank accounts or failed contracts.
Cowden said she wanted to head into the next term more unified as a group, which she felt lacked the past two years.
Evslin and Kaneshiro agreed that many of these feelings may stem from transparency Sunshine Laws that restrict how councilmembers may discuss county-related matters outside of public meetings.
Members apologized she felt left out, and assured her that they’d ensure she felt respected this term.
In the last two years, fellow members have made jokes about how many questions she asks, rolled their eyes while she spoke, interrupted her and not returned texts or messages, according to past minutes and news articles.
During yesterday’s meeting, as she went over these points, Cowden was interrupted.
“My second term I’m going to be stronger and more forceful,” she concluded.