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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, August 23, 2001

Council majority leaves checkered past

City Council Chairman Jon Yoshimura has agreed to pay $3,532 as a settlement in a dispute over his campaign fund expenses.

That doesn't hold a candle, of course, to the $80,000 that his colleague, Councilwoman Rene Mansho, agreed to pay for similar, but far more profound, confusion over what campaign donations are for.

Yoshimura apparently won't have to share Mansho's worry that records of her campaign spending were turned over to a Honolulu Police Department investigation. (He did, however, plead no contest to driving away from hitting a parked car in a late-night collision.)

Yoshimura politely blamed the state's "vague" spending restrictions for his difficulties with the Campaign Spending Commission, and suggested a "plain English" handbook for candidates might have prevented them.

We'd suggest that voters weighing Yoshimura's aspirations for higher office (he reportedly is contemplating a run for lieutenant governor) consider that most candidates don't have the problems he has had in proper use of and accounting for campaign money (and campaigns for higher office often entail much larger sums). Campaign Spending Commission director Bob Watada had to urge Yoshimura to hire an accountant to straighten out his records, which is hardly high recommendation for a job involving stewardship of public funds.

Still, Yoshimura in other respects has been a bright and energetic councilman. Voters will have a lot to ponder about his next candidacy.

Besides the difficulties of Yoshimura and Mansho, three more council members have engaged in questionable pursuits, and five is a majority of the nine-member council. That's not a pretty picture.

Councilman Andy Mirikitani, of course, has been found guilty of theft, bribery and corruption charges. He ignominiously has refused to resign his seat, but he stands to lose it anyway if he is sentenced for this offense before the end of his term. That's now set for Dec. 4. One can't blame his constituents for feeling poorly represented.

Councilman John Henry Felix has used his status and clout as an elected official to resist and ignore a land-use law that, as interpreted by the Department of Planning and Permitting, precludes his home wedding business. This act of defiance puts Felix in a terrible position if he expects his fellow citizens to obey other laws passed by the Council.

It pales by comparison, but it's not comforting to know that Councilman Steve Holmes has yet to resolve the discrepancy between his claim to have been educated by the University of Iowa and its failure to recollect having awarded any degrees to him.

Lest you conclude the City Council is a school for scoundrels, we'd remind that members John DeSoto and Duke Bainum have served with honor and distinction, as did members Donna Mercado Kim (who moved to the state Senate) and Mufi Hannemann (who left to run for mayor) and their replacements, Romy Cachola and Gary Okino.

But the majority speaks ill for the institution.