No sooner had Lee Donohue taken his seat on the City Council than he was being asked to decide on a property tax rate increase for a new class of property owners.
"I did my research on many of the items that were coming up for a vote here," said Donohue, former Honolulu police chief. "So I felt comfortable with my votes."
After about an hour of testimony and brief deliberation, Donohue was the Council’s unanimous selection yesterday to fill the vacancy created by the election of Charles Djou to Congress last month.
In a statement from Washington, D.C., Djou wished Donohue well.
"This was a decision by the City Council, and I respect their choice," he said. "I look forward to working with Mr. Donohue and the rest of the Council in the best interests of the people of Honolulu."
As expected, Donohue was sworn in and seated immediately to represent the 4th Council District – from Waikiki to East Oahu – for important votes on matters including the city’s $1.82 billion operating budget.
But his first vote was on a tax rate increase for property owners who do not live in their dwellings. Throughout his campaign, Djou touted his record of never voting for a tax increase.
"You can take a stance of not raising taxes, but it takes money to run a government," Donohue said. "If the raises in taxes are justified, I have no problem with that.
"I think the raises in taxes were very reasonable."
Donohue added that he does not plan to seek office in the fall, a pledge sought by Council Chairman Todd Apo. The term expires on Jan. 2.
"I saw this as a nice opportunity because I could give back one more time, with the skills I have, and not be obligated to run for any office," Donohue said.
Donohue, a 40-year police veteran, served as chief for seven years until he retired in July 2004.
He was among 27 candidates who submitted their names for consideration to fill the vacancy, and emerged as one of six finalists considered by the eight remaining members of the Council yesterday.
The others were Jonathan Lai, a Honolulu attorney who was supported by Djou; former state senator and Board of Education member Donna Ikeda; former state Rep. Carl Takamura; former Djou chief of staff Lori Wingard; and former state Rep. Brian Yamane.
Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi said rumors circulated in City Hall that Donohue was Mayor Mufi Hannemann’s pick to fill the vacancy, but added she feels Donohue will be an independent voice.
Heading into the meeting, Apo and others said they did not get a sense that any of the nominees had strong support among a majority of the members.
Councilman Nestor Garcia, who nominated Donohue, said he wanted to work with the former chief on legislation to regulate fireworks and enhance public safety. He also had an eye on preparations for next year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering to be held in Honolulu.
"This is a priority of our first responders," Garcia said. "I would like to have the opportunity to consult with the chief as to how we would marshal our resources."