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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted at 12:30 a.m., Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Ex-legislators predominate City Council

By Treena Shapiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Sean Flynn, 3, looks out from a voting booth as his dad, David Flynn, casts his vote at Noelani Elementary School in Manoa.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

Five of the nine members on the new City Council will be experienced legislators, with Charles Djou, Nestor Garcia and Rod Tam winning their races last night.

Djou and Garcia had chosen to move from the state House into the council races; Tam has been a state senator. When they are sworn in at the City Council on Jan. 2, they will join former Sens. Ann Kobayashi and Romy Cachola, who were elected outright in the Sept. 21 primary.

Former broadcast journalist Barbara Marshall also defeated her opponent, former state Sen. Stan Koki, in their Kane'ohe-Kailua-Waimanalo district race.

Marshall, having never served in political office, said she did not know what to expect from a City Council with a majority of former state lawmaker. "I just hope that all of them will come in wanting to accomplish what I want to accomplish, which is a balanced budget,"Marshall said.

The other two winners were Mike Gabbard in Wai'anae-'Ewa and Donovan Dela Cruz in the district comprising Wahiawa, the North Shore and 'Ahuimanu. Gabbard defeated Pam Witty-Oakland; Dela Cruz got more votes than former state Sen. Gerald Hagino.

The results tracked the top vote-getters of the Sept. 11 primary. All six won in yesterday's general election.

Their terms will be staggered. Council members in odd-numbered districts — Gabbard, Marshall, Kobayashi, Cachola and Garcia— will serve two-year terms. The council members in the other districts — Dela Cruz, Djou, Tam and Gary Okino, who was elected outright in the primary — will serve four-year terms.

The five former legislators were Democrats, except for Djou, who was a Republican.

"I think the state lawmakers are going to be amazed at how close to the bone we operate the city,"Mayor Jeremy Harris said last night. "The state government, I think, has a lot more fat and a lot more cushion."

He suggested that perhaps their legislative backgrounds could help the city lobby the Legislature to correct inequities such as the system in which the city must issue parking tickets while the state collects all the fines, or the city having to pay the state's general excise tax even though the state does not pay the city's property tax.

Tam, who defeated longtime Makiki Neighborhood Board chairman and Chaminade University professor John Steelquist in the district encompassing Kalihi Valley, Nu'uanu and Kaka'ako, said the new council members with state legislative experience "offer in-depth knowledge.

"We know about the finances of the state,"he said. "With Ann Kobayashi… , we intend to look into the financial condition of the city and we'll look for new revenue sources."

Garcia, who beat former Police Chief Michael Nakamura in the district made up of Waipahu, Mililani and Makakilo, said the former legislators on the council can only help. "Obviously we've had to look at things from a statewide perspective, but that will be helpful because that forces us to look at the big picture and long-term issues, but I think with that legislative experience to serve as a foundation, it will help because we're facing a host of problems at the city level which need experienced people to take them on,"Garcia said.

Djou, who served as House minority leader, defeated Robert Fishman, 55, in the district consisting of Waikiki, Kaimuki and Hawai'i Kai. Fishman worked for several Democratic administrations, including those of Gov.s John Burns and George Ariyoshi, as well as serving as Mayor Jeremy Harris' righthand man.

Djou said his strong lead indicated that those who worked on his campaign got their message across to voters.

"They didn't want another insider — they wanted an outsider,"he said. "They wanted someone independent, fresh and apart from the Harris administration."

Reach Treena Shapiro at 525-8070 or tshapiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.