In the wake of Tommy Waters’ decisive Honolulu City Council win Saturday night, Mayor Kirk Caldwell and Council Chairwoman Ann Kobayashi spoke of the need to set aside politics and work more collaboratively in the coming months.
Waters, a longtime Caldwell ally, defeated Trevor Ozawa, who won the November general election contest by 22 votes only to see the results invalidated by the Hawaii Supreme Court. Ozawa, among Caldwell’s staunchest critics, was expected to be chosen by colleagues to become Council chairman in January until the challenge by Waters and a group of 39 East Honolulu voters threw the election into turmoil and dashed those plans.
Kobayashi, also a frequent critic of the mayor, became the Council’s leader.
Despite the likelihood that he will gain more support from a reorganized Council, Caldwell said he and all Council members need to work together.
Caldwell said that he had an unscheduled talk last week with Kobayashi Thursday following a function where the two appeared. They agreed to meet this coming week about the upcoming budget and other pressing issues, regardless the outcome of the election, he said.
The campaign got heated at times “but afterward, it is about setting aside the politics and representing all the people,” Caldwell said. “There are just so many challenges that our city faces that need to be addressed. And the Council and our administration has to work together to address them.”
He acknowledged there are areas where he and the Council disagree. Last week, Council Budget Chairman Joey Manahan said he does not expect the mayor’s proposal to establish a $5 monthly curbside trash pickup fee to help stave off program cuts will be able to make it out of the Council.
“There are going to be times when we disagree on the policy and that’s important,” Caldwell said. “But to fight for political reasons is something that I hope to avoid.”
He said he and Kobayashi have been able to do that since she became interim chairwoman in January. “We may disagree on policy but we’re not doing it based on politics or personality.”
Ozawa made Waters’ friendship with Caldwell an issue, calling his opponent a lap dog for the mayor while describing himself as an independent watchdog who would serve as a check to questionable administrative policies.
Kobayashi, who was at Ozawa’s election night party at Roy’s Hawaii Kai when the results were announced, said it was clear Waters had won. “I’m sure the Council will stay united and work together,” Kobayashi said. “We have a lot of work to do that’s why.”
Later, however, she told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that she expected there to be a leadership reorganization soon and that her time as the Council’s leader, a job she accepted reluctantly, may be short.
The reorganization could happen this week, even before Waters’ victory is certified and is able to take office in early May.
Among those showing up at Waters’ victory celebration at the Brilliant Ox at Ala Moana Center were Council members Ikaika Anderson, Joey Manahan and Ron Menor. All three have been more supportive of Caldwell’s policies as has Councilman Brandon Elefante.
The remaining Council members are Carol Fukunaga, Kymberly Pine and Heidi Tsuneyoshi.
Despite Kobayashi’s prediction about losing the chairman’s gavel, she may still end up keeping it. Several Council members told the Star-Advertiser privately that Kobayashi has been even-handed and noted that Anderson, Elefante, Manahan and Menor all chair key Council committees.