Last week, Hawaii County Council members proposed Bill 143, a controversial plan to extend their terms from two to four years and reset their term limits to allow for three more terms. This change would have let council members elected in 2024 serve up to 12 more years.

Critics, including local residents and political analysts, slammed the bill as a power grab, likening it to tactics more suitable for autocratic leaders than for a democratic council in the U.S. The proposal came at a time when the county is facing serious problems.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the county's sewage treatment plants, the community lacks water infrastructure needed to support new building projects and Hawaiian Electric is implementing rolling blackouts.

The local economy is also pushing families to their limits. Many kama'aina families are leaving to find better jobs and cheaper living costs elsewhere. These issues highlight a need for effective governance that is more focused on public service than political gain.

 

Incumbent elected officials and supporters of the bill said that longer terms would allow for more stable leadership and better handling of complex issues. They argued that frequent elections interrupted the council's ability to carry out long-term plans, but that is what elections are for—to give the public the opportunity to change unpopular or controversial plans.

Despite these arguments, many residents were frustrated. They felt the council was ignoring real issues like improving public infrastructure and living conditions to focus on changing election laws for their benefit.

The debate over Bill 143 showed the community's concerns about the direction of their political and social environments. With elections approaching in 2024, it shows our county council's priorities—preserving their own political careers.

Hawaii County is at a turning point, dealing with environmental, economic, and social challenges. The community needs leaders who focus on these real problems. Hawaii County needs change, and change begins at the core.