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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 29, 2003

An organized council? Hah!

By David Shapiro

The distressing thing about the City Council's latest talk of reorganization is that members are so out of touch with political reality that they don't recognize the inherent contradiction in terms.

In order to reorganize, you must have been organized in the first place.

This council has been anything but. Just 10 months into their term, members have been models of mayhem, equivocating endlessly and pointlessly on vital issues from budgets to bus fares.

Council members can't even muster the backbone to stand up to the chicken-fighting lobby and acknowledge that crowing roosters don't belong in our residential neighborhoods.

Passing the gavel from one unsteady hand to another won't supply the absent leadership and teamwork that's been at the root of the council's dysfunction all along.

In this reshuffling scheduled for Halloween eve, Gary Okino will be ousted as council chairman and be replaced by Ann Kobayashi dressed in her Donovan Dela Cruz costume.

Yeah, yeah, they'll insist that Dela Cruz, 30, the youngest and least experienced council member, is really the chairman and leader, but whom do they think they're fooling?

Kobayashi has undercut Okino from her Budget Committee chair since the council was sworn in. She's clearly the brains and muscle behind this reorganization she's been orchestrating since summer, in retaliation for Okino's attempt to rein in her committee from its childishly acrimonious budget battles with Mayor Jeremy Harris.

Dela Cruz has said little about why he wants to be chairman or where he plans to take the council, deferring questions on the reorganization to Kobayashi. She says only that the new chairman will be a consensus builder.

Right. Does anybody really believe that Dela Cruz, with a grand total of 10 months of experience, can "lead" this collection of veteran lawmakers and show ponies?

This is not a knock on Dela Cruz, who is a promising young politician. But it's a promise that could be quickly snuffed if the tenuous majority put together by Kobayashi unravels and he takes the blame as the front man.

Kobayashi essentially has insulated herself from full accountability for the council's performance under her guidance by putting a novice in the hot spotlight while she pulls the strings from behind the scenes.

There are no issues of substance at stake here or battles of competing ideas for the city's future. It's a power grab, pure and simple. Each council member is looking out for his or her own interests with little consideration of the public interest.

And it's discord that can only lead to more discord.

Okino crossed Kobayashi by trying to promote a more collaborative relationship between the council and the Harris administration.

Kobayashi remains bitter over her loss to Harris in the 1994 mayor's race and her brief and unpleasant service in his administration. She seems driven by a reflexive need to attack the administration on every possible front.

The six members who are joining Kobayashi in this reorganization are signing on for even more ill will between the council and the administration, which is especially pointless since Harris is a lame-duck mayor who will be leaving office next year.

The council should concern itself with looking to the city's future with cohesive vision instead of settling old political scores.

The continuing pandemonium is disappointing to voters who expected better things from this group after suffering eight years of ugly infighting, backbiting and self-serving from the previous council.

Luckily, we'll have another chance to set things right when five of the nine council members face re-election next year.

David Shapiro can be reached at dave@volcanicash.net.