Wednesday, January 3, 2001
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Posted on: Wednesday, January 3, 2001

Nonpartisan Maui coucil debuts rancorously

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui Bureau

WAILUKU, Maui — Maui County’s new nonpartisan council got off to a rocky start yesterday with an ugly partisan flap over the selection of the panel’s leadership.

After being sworn in during a ceremony in the morning, Democratic and Republican members in the afternoon accused each other of plotting and sneaking behind each other’s backs to lobby for leadership positions.

In the end, the five-member Democratic majority had its way with the re-election of Patrick Kawano of Molokai as chairman of the nine-member council. Another Democrat, Dain Kane of Wailuku, was re-elected vice chairman.

Republican Charmaine Tavares of Kula, who originally sought the chairmanship, won the presiding officer pro tempore position — third in the line of succession — after Democrat Mike Molina of Makawao switched his support to offer Republicans "an olive branch.’’

Not all of the discussion was so noble. The Republicans came out firing, accusing the Democrats of meeting behind closed doors to select council leaders even though they had promised no such discussion would take place until yesterday’s organizational meeting.

Republican Wayne Nishiki of South Maui said the Democrats pulled off "a power grab’’ that left yesterday’s meeting nothing more than a "kangaroo court.’’

"I was not asked to this party,’’ Nishiki said of the meeting to pick leadership. "It was a party where they passed out the turkey. The only thing I got left with was the scraps.’’

Republican Alan Arakawa of Kahului called yesterday’s proceedings "a farce’’ and "a sad state of affairs’’ for an electorate that voted for a charter amendment making this year’s council the county’s first nonpartisan board.

But Kane retorted that Republicans phoned to lobby "perceived weak members’’ in an effort to gain votes in their favor. "That’s hypocrisy at its lowest,’’ he said.

Kawano, who has been elected to eight two-year terms on the council — his last under a new term-limits law — said he has no regrets about meeting with other Democrats about organizational issues.

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