June-July 1991 Home   Newsletters

August 1991

September 1991

Honolulu City Council Districts
Arguments for and against Limiting Terms of Council Members
Arguments for and against the Different Electoral Systems
Environment and Natural Resources
Conflict of Interest and Excusal from Voting
Viewpoint
Testimony at Public Hearing
Uncharted Realm of Term Limitation (Jeffrey L. Katz)
Consensus Meeting
Golf Course Development Policies Workshop
Teamsters Vote Count
Membership

Arguments for and against Limiting Terms of Council Members

According to the March 1991 issue of the Reader's Digest, in an article advocating term limitation for Congress, three States passed initiatives to limit state legislators' terms. 67% of the voters voted in the affirmative to set a 12-year cap in Oklahoma, 71% were in favor of limiting legislators to 8 years in Colorado, and 52% voted in favor of limiting terms in California.

ARGUMENTS FOR LIMITED TERMS

  1. Limiting consecutive terms can reduce possibility of long-time council members building an inappropriate level of influence or becoming stale.

  2. Allows for infusion of new blood and ideas.

  3. Would give more people a chance to serve on the Council thus increasing interest in local government.

  4. Less time and energy might be spent on fund-raising and other activities to ensure re-election and less action will be based on the need to get re-elected.

  5. Will be viewing proposed laws from the perspective of the citizen who will be affected by them rather than their political effect on himself/herself.

  6. Restores the idea of the citizen legislator.

  7. The limit would be on consecutive terms. It would not preclude a council member's return to the Council after an interval as a member of the lay public viewing the work of the Council and seeing its strengths and weaknesses.

  8. Many of the campaign abuses would be eliminated.

  9. Lobbyists would lose power.

  10. Incumbents have a fund raising advantage and the support of a staff who know that their jobs are dependent on the incumbent's remaining in office.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST LIMITED TERMS

  1. Limiting terms, unless terms are staggered, can mean that each new council must start from scratch, spending a valuable portion of their limited term learning to be council members.

  2. Increasing complexity of our municipal organization has make experience and continuity essential goals to strive for in council composition.

  3. It should be the voters who decide whether each council member should continue in office. Limiting of terms would restrict voters' choice.

  4. Those-running for office for the first time may be hesitant about challenging an incumbent who has one more term of eligibility and may elect to wait, thus practically guaranteeing the incumbent another term.

  5. Might shift tower to lobbyists, staff members and the bureaucracy.

    (In the Congress, it is said that it is the senior members who rely on staff the most.)

    (The limiting of terms is opposed by many lobbyists because they would need to re-educate the entire legislative body.)

The electoral system, the system by which we select members to our legislative bodies, must be designed to produce fair representation for all the groups that make up a community. At the same time, the composition of the City Council should assure a council which, while recognizing the particular needs and concerns of the different districts and addressing their problems, keep city-wide interests in mind.

Minority groups, whether economic, social or racial, must feel that there is a particular person who will represent their concerns. With all the divergent needs of the different groups and districts, the council must be viewed as being fair and not favoring one or more groups at the expense of the others, if it is to gain the support and cooperation of the citizens of the city. All the council members must be accessible to all the voters.

Unlike many communities on the mainland where representation of racial groups on legislative bodies is a major issue, it has not, in recent years, been a subject. of too much public debate in Hawaii, probably due to the fact that no one racial group constitutes a majority. Our concern seems to center more on fair and equal representation for all economic and social groups and geographic subdivisions.

In Hawaii racial balance in hiring practices is increasingly of serious concern to some racial groups. It may, sooner or later, become an issue in the composition of our legislative bodies.

The system used by a community might depend on its size and the degree of homogeneity of its citizenry. Demographics may change with time and necessitate a change in the system to accommodate the changing needs.


The Honolulu City Council members are selected from single-member districts as decreed in the Charter of the City and County of Honolulu.

League's present position calls for a combination of single-member districts and at-large seats, with the single-member district seats making up the majority of the council seats.


With all this in mind, the Charter Review Committee is considering replacing our present position with a broad statement of our goals, so that we can be more flexible in supporting one system or a combination of systems as the situation warrants. The choice at our consensus meeting would be:

  1. retention of our present position;

  2. selection of another system for our position;

  3. adoption of the broad statement of our goals. (The entire questionnaire will be presented in the September Voter.)

In the pro-con section, many of the arguments for the one system would be viewed as arguments against another system, and in the interest of space, we are not repeating them.

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