Councilors mull power of chairman

The Hawaii County Council appeared to settle a conflict regarding powers of the council chair Wednesday.


The Hawaii County Council appeared to settle a conflict regarding powers of the council chair Wednesday.

Council Chair J Yoshimoto proposed a resolution clarifying his authority after an apparent disagreement with Kohala Councilwoman Margaret Wille.

The issue was over whether Yoshimoto could decide whether presentations and other non-legislative matters are put on the agenda for council meetings.

Wille told the Tribune-Herald she has sought to have the council hear several presentations that have not been scheduled. She declined to say what they were regarding.

Yoshimoto said during the meeting that Wille had raised questions regarding his authority to reject such proposals.

He said it is standard practice for the chair to not place non-legislative items on the agenda that relate to private interests or are deemed to be a poor use of the council’s time.

His resolution would have put that in writing by amending the council’s rules of procedure and organization to state that the chair may decide whether non-legislative matters, such as reports and communications, would be put on the agenda.

That prompted a nearly hourlong discussion on checks and balances between the chair and the other eight council members that ended with the matter being postponed to the call of the chair.

During the discussion, Yoshimoto said the chair needs the authority to reject non-legislative items in order to prevent “pink elephants,” a metaphor for nonpertinent issues, from being brought forward.

“We have to make sure that it pertains to council business,” he said.

Several other council members agreed, with some noting that it costs $6 a minute to run council meetings.

“Who’s going to pay for it?” said Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter. “It’s on the back of our taxpayers.”

Wille said she disagreed with the cost concerns, adding that the current policy is “usurping power” of other council members.

Hilo Councilman Dennis Onishi sided with Wille on the matter of cost.

“We can’t use money as an issue,” he said. “If the public wants to hear that, we ought to support that.”

But, as the discussion progressed, the council members appeared more in agreement with the current policy, and an offer from Yoshimoto to create a compromise resolution didn’t attract much interest.

The compromise would have allowed the rest of the council to decide whether non-legislative matters the chair wants to dismiss would be put on the agenda.

Wille said afterward she was satisfied with the discussion.

“I’d prefer we act in a good faith matter,” she told the council.

Yoshimoto said he believed the council’s rules were already clear enough. He said he may bring back his compromise resolution at another time. At the meeting, the council passed bills on second reading to provide $300,000 for a community park in Hawaiian Paradise Park and $400,000 for road projects in Puna.


On Tuesday, the council voted 8-1 while meeting as the Finance Committee to send a bill offering tax breaks to organic farms to the Real Property Tax Stakeholder’s Task Force. Puna makai Councilman Greggor Ilagan, who introduced the bill, voted no.

Email Tom Callis at

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