By PETER SUR
Tribune Herald staff writer
The outgoing members of the Hawaii County Council will sit together for one final time Monday morning in Hilo.
On a day filled with aloha, in both the “hello” and “goodbye” sense of the word, the new County Council will be sworn in at noon that day, along with a re-elected mayor and the first newly elected prosecutor in 20 years.
Then, at 3 p.m., the council will convene in its chambers to organize itself and return the chairmanship to J Yoshimoto.
The 9 a.m. meeting of the council is the customary adjournment sine die session, where misty-eyed lawmakers will pass resolutions commending each outgoing member for having “consistently and unwaveringly demonstrated personal dedication, leadership, integrity, commitment to excellence and outstanding public service to his constituents and to the general public,” and for having “compiled an exemplary attendance and voting record.”
This year there are six outgoing council members. Chairman Dominic Yagong and Brittany Smart were defeated in their runs for higher office.
Pete Hoffmann and Donald Ikeda are prevented by term limits from seeking re-election.
Angel Pilago declined to seek re-election, and Fred Blas was defeated in his bid for a second term.
With the departure of Yagong, Smart, Hoffmann and Pilago, the new council is likely to be far more willing to work with the administration of Mayor Billy Kenoi than the outgoing one.
After the outgoing council adjourns, three of the members — Yoshimoto, Brenda Ford and Dennis Onishi — will head to the Afook-Chinen Civic Auditorium to be sworn in with newcomers Valerie Poindexter, Greggor Ilagan, Zendo Kern, Dru Kanuha, Karen Eoff and Margaret Wille.
The ceremony, which is free and open to the public, will begin with musical selections from the Hawaii County Band. Third Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura will administer the oath of office, according to a statement by inauguration coordinator Pat Koga.
Kenoi, Yoshimoto and new Prosecutor Mitch Roth will each address the audience.
Then, at 3 p.m. the new council will meet to organize at the Hawaii County Building. Under the council’s rules, at their first meeting Kenoi will serve as a nonvoting chairman pro tem until the council can elect Yoshimoto as chairman. After the nine vote on Karen Eoff’s nomination as vice chair and Stewart Maeda as the new clerk, the council will dive into proposed amendments to the council’s rules of procedure.
After that, the council will vote to assign committee leadership posts. Councilman-elect Zendo Kern is in line for the chairmanship of two committees, Planning and Environmental Management.
Reached Wednesday afternoon, 1st District Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter said she had been busy taking orientation classes to prepare her for public office, including “Government 101, Ethics, Roberts Rules and the Sunshine Law.” She said working for a nonprofit organization in the past has given her past practice in ethics.
“I’ve met with Finance Department just to get a basic overview of their schedule and the basics,” the incoming Finance Committee chair said, adding she was grateful for her help.
Poindexter’s first priority will be to dive into issues surrounding the budget for the coming fiscal year. She’ll also want to look into the priorities of the different communities along her district, which stretches from Hamakua to South Hilo. She expects beach access at Papaikou will be a hot topic, as will be completion of the Hamakua Community Development Plan.
“I’m so looking forward to it,” she said, speaking generally. “We bring forward a different style of government” from the present council.
Kern, for his part, said he had been learning as much as he can to start his term on a good note.
“The big thing that I’m working on right now is the building code,” Kern said. He’s working with the county Planning Department to make adjustments, and also to develop an “alternate building code.”
“We’re still working on exactly how that’s going to look,” Kern said, but he hinted that for example owners of agricultural parcels of a certain size could be allowed “a little more flexibility in how to build.”
He envisions allowing bamboo, as a natural, sustainable plant, as building material.
“We’ve had homes that have been built over the last many, many years” that aren’t up to the current code, Kern said. He would like to see homes that are more cost-effective without sacrificing safety.
Email Peter Sur at firstname.lastname@example.org.