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Special coverage of the 2020 general election airs and streams on Hawaii Public Radio beginning Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 2 p.m. Hear NPR analysis and local insights into the results and the aftermath airing on HPR-1 and streaming on hawaiipublicradio.org and our mobile app.

Majority of Honolulu Council Seats Open, Election Could Set City's Future Direction

FILE - The Honolulu City Council in 2019.
Ryan Finnerty
FILE - The Honolulu City Council in 2019.

Five of the nine Honolulu City Council seats are up for grabs and the city’s next four years hinges on this election.

Council Chair Ikaika Anderson, Vice Chair Ann Kobayashi, Budget Chair Joey Manahan, Ron Menor and Kym Pine are all terming out this year. That means the council races have no incumbents and the seats are wide open for the taking.

Those running to replace the outgoing council members will be faced with a slew of challenges affecting Oahu residents. The most immediate is the economic impact of the coronavirus and the plan for recovery.

The current council and Mayor Kirk Caldwell's administration have been working on ways to make Oahu more economically resilient, and to fill in the gaps where federal and state COVID-19 aid have fallen through.

Council members say sustainability should be a guiding principle for recovery and that it could position the city as a leader in areas like climate change.

Affordable housing is another issue the current council has been steadfast in tackling, in part because it helps address Oahu’s homelessness crisis that threatens to worsen during the pandemic.

The council has passed measures to build more affordable housing units for working class families while prohibiting monster homes and addressing short-term vacation rentals that continue to vex residents islandwide.

Rail is another big, expensive issue that will face the next council – and the next administration.

Just how much the overbudget, much-delayed project will ultimately cost city taxpayers remains an open question as construction begins on the most controversial – and trickiest – part of the project…the urban core.

Remember: traditional polling places are closed and primary election mail ballots have been issued instead. The mail ballots must reach county officials by 7 p.m. Saturday. Postmarks don't count. For more information on where to drop your ballots or to vote in person, go to elections.hawaii.gov.

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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