The city Neighborhood Commission rejected a proposal yesterday to postpone board elections for two years and save $210,000 to help balance the city’s budget.
Neighborhood board election ballots are scheduled to be mailed out next month with new terms starting July 1. That means candidates must turn in their forms to enter the election by today.
The commission came up with the idea as a way to save money. Commissioners said they are authorized to take such action because of a rules change in January.
Mayor Peter Carlisle informed the commission that postponing the elections would save $210,000 and provide time to find ways to improve the boards.
Managing Director Doug Chin said at the meeting that funds for the elections are available, but the city wanted to use the money from this year to help balance next year’s budget.
Tom Smyth of the Downtown Neighborhood Board argued that ballots do not need to be sent to uncontested elections, and without all the applications in it’s impossible to know how many seats are uncontested.
"This budget issue is only relevant if we know what we’re talking about, and you obviously don’t," he said. "That doesn’t make sense."
Bryan Mick, acting commission executive secretary, said 50 candidate applications were received yesterday for a total of about 260. He expected to receive another hundred today, the application deadline for the 439 seats.
The commission heard overwhelming opposition to the proposal from about a dozen community and board members.
"Nothing is more American than the right to vote," said Thad Spreg, who wanted a chance to run for the Makakilo board. "Canceling elections, changing rules, taking away the right to vote is not the answer."
Glenn Oamilda of the Ewa Neighborhood Board said one of the tenets of the rules governing neighborhood boards is public participation.
"If you’re not going to have an election, dissolve the system," he said, "because you guys not acting to the basic tenet of the plan."
However, Michael Golojuch, a Makakilo resident, supported postponing the elections because of the usually low voter turnout.
"Hopefully you will use this two-year time to go to an appointed board," he said.
Victoria Cannon, another resident of Makakilo, said the election was needed because some members of the Makakilo Neighborhood Board are not fairly representing their neighborhood.
"The neighborhood board members are representing themselves, and it’s creating some serious schisms and bad, bad vibrations," she said.
Neighborhood Commission Chairman Brendan Bailey said the elections shouldn’t be held just to remove a small minority of members who might not be serving the community well.
He said community members can still remove problematic board members through a recall process.
The commission’s decision "needs to be what’s in the best interest of the neighborhood board system and what’s in the best interest in the city as a whole," he said.
Mick said current board members can still resign if they do not plan to stay on the board, and vacancies can be filled by appointment.