Categorized | Featured, Government, News

Mayor, prosecutor, council sworn in at inaugural ceremonies

Karin Stanton | Hawaii 24/7 Editor

While Mayor Billy Kenoi was sworn in to his second term Monday, the County Council added six new members and the county got a new prosecuting attorney.

Family and friends packed Hilo’s Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium to watch the inauguration of Kenoi, Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth and County Council Chairman J Yoshimoto, Vice Chairwoman Karen Eoff and members Brenda Ford, Dennis ‘Fresh’ Onishi, Greggor Ilagan, Dru Kanuha, Zendo Kern, Valerie Poindexter and Margaret Wille.

Yoshimoto and Ford are beginning their fourth and final terms; Onishi is entering his third term. Meanwhile, the other six make up one of the largest rookie classes in recent memory.

With the induction of three members under age 35, the average age of the council dropped by a decade. The average age now is 47.5; the average age of the previous council was 57.1. And with the addition of two councilors well over 6 feet – Kanuha and Kern – this council is also considerably taller.

Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura administered the oaths of office.

The Hawaii County Band and the Kamehameha School Concert Glee Club provided music and entertainment. Presentation of colors was by the Hilo High School JROTC Color Guard.

Kenoi said he looked forward to working collaboratively with the new council and vowed to treat each of the island’s constituents with respect and aloha.

He said the achievements of his administration are the result of hard work by myriad people, but the shortcoming and failures are his responsibility alone.

Kenoi also thanked retiring deputy mayor and former finance chief Bill Takaba, who has served the county for 39 years under seven mayors.

Roth said he intends to rely on his mother’s advice as he takes over from retiring county prosecutor Charlene Iboshi. He said his mother taught him to have faith, act with integrity and honor, and always try to do good deeds.

Following the inauguration, the council convened its first meeting and named Stewart Maeda as county clerk and Maile David as deputy county clerk.

The rest of agenda included resolutions naming the council leadership, but ended with the council members unable to agree on the new rules of procedure, which is typically a quick and simple vote.

Votes for committee chairs and vice chairs ran 9-0, except for the ones naming veteran councilman J Yoshimoto as chairman and newcomer Karen Eoff as vice chairwoman.

Ford and Wille voted ‘no’ on both those resolutions.

Committee leadership

* Finance
Chair: Poindexter
Vice Chair: Ilagan

Chair: Kern
Vice Chair: Wille

* Public Works and Parks & Recreation
Chair: Kanuha
Vice Chair: Onishi

* Environmental Management
Chair: Kern
Vice Chair: Kanuha

* Agriculture, Water and Energy Sustainability
Chair: Wille
Vice Chair: Poindexter

* Public Safety and Mass Transit
Chair: Ford
Vice Chair: Wille

* Human Services and Social Services
Chair: Eoff
Vice Chair: Poindexter

* Governmental Relations and Economic Development
Chair: Onishi
Vice Chair: Ilagan

* Hawaii State Association of Counties
Representative: Onishi
Alternate Representative: Ilagan

While the committee leaders were affirmed without opposition, much of the discussion centered on the council’s rules of procedure. The resolution, introduced by Yoshimoto, is a standard practice for each incoming council and typically is based on the previous rules and procedures.

However, Yoshimoto’s version included a few amendments that came under fire from members of the public and council members.

Changes include limiting how a council member may participate in meetings via videoconferencing and broadening the conflict of interest definition.

The clause that drew concern is intended to prevent marathon meetings lasting into the evening. It calls for council and committee meetings to be concluded at 6 p.m. and continued as a future date. A meeting could continue past 6 p.m. if two-thirds of the members present agree.

Several members of the public opposed the cut-off time, saying it would be unfair to tell people who had waited all day to testify that they have to come back another day.

Ford and Kern agreed, saying they knew what the job demanded when they opted to run for office.

Eventually, the offending clause was extracted and the amended resolution passed unanimously.

The 6 p.m. meeting cut-off may return for further discussion at a later date.

Earlier, the outgoing members held a final – or sine die – meeting, where the council said farewell to Fred Blas, Brittany Smart, Angel Pilago, Pete Hoffmann, Dominic Yagong and Donald Ikeda.

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