Honolulu City Council’s Revolving Door

City Councilman Ron Menor. File photo

City Councilman Ron Menor. File photo

Something about the Honolulu City Council makes its nine members want to leave it.

Not all of them, understand. Kymberly Pine, Carol Fukunaga and Ron Menor (Council Districts 1, 6 and 9, respectively) were elected in 2012. All are approaching the midpoint of their first four-year term.

And all are legislative veterans. Before running for the City Council, Pine spent eight years in the state House.

Fukunaga served 26 years in the state Legislature, Menor 24. Both served in both the state House and Senate.

None appears eager to leave the council, at least at the moment.

Not so for the rest of the councilmembers. Ernie Martin represents the North Shore’s 2nd District. He’s in the midst of his second and thus final four-year term. Still, Martin chairs the council, and he has his sights set on the chair in which Mayor Kirk Caldwell now sits.

Windward Oahu’s 3rd District is served by Ikaika Anderson, now two years into his first full four-year term. He doesn’t want to stick around to finish it. He’s announced for the Democratic nomination to succeed Colleen Hanabusa in the 1st Congressional District. Should Anderson lose, he’ll be back in Honolulu Hale. If he wins, and if he can get past the Republican nominee, likely former councilman Charles Djou, he’s off for the nation’s Capitol.

East Oahu councilman Stanley Chang also wants to go to Washington. He’s completing his first term on the council this year. Chang’s giving up his seat to make the run for Congress.

The fifth district’s Ann Kobayashi will be back. Her term runs to 2016. With a previous incarnation as a councilwoman before an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2008, Kobayashi boasts the longest City Council service of the current nine. That said, she’s been heard talking retirement.

The 7th District’s Joey Manahan is also only an 18-month councilman, but he too seems awed by the sparkle of the national Capitol’s dome. He wants CD1 as well.

Breene Harimoto just wants to cross Punchbowl Street to the state Capitol. He’s leaving the council two years into his second term to run for the state Senate seat being vacated by gubernatorial candidate David Ige.

“I offered Breene Harimoto my condolences when he said he was running for the state Senate,” says Menor. “It’s so much more difficult to get things done over there. It’s a larger body with a much larger volume of bills. And committee chairs play the key roles.

“There are only nine of us on the council. We’re more involved with each issue, and we’re held more accountable.”

That keeps the nine busy indeed.

Adds Menor, “The council’s where the rubber meets the road. Literally. We deal with roads, buses, barking dogs, garbage collection. The volume of phone calls and emails is far greater here than when I was in the Legislature.”

If council service is so fascinating, why do they leave?

The meeting of opportunity and ambition, for one. Open congressional seats seldom come along. In 2012, Tulsi Gabbard, less than two years into her first term on the council, ran for the open 2nd District congressional seat – and won. Thus, congressional bids by Anderson, Chang and Manahan in 2014.

And term limits. Councilmembers are limited to two four-year terms. Two years hence, Harimoto is out of office. Ige’s open state Senate seat, should Harimoto win it, offers him the opportunity to serve, well … until he wants to run for governor.