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City Council Chair Anderson Announces Surprise Departure

Casey Harlow/HPR
FILE -- City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson

Honolulu Council Chair Ikaika Anderson's unexpected resignation yesterday follows a tumultuous year of controversies and COVID-19 challenges.

Anderson made his announcement at the end of a special City Council meeting. He said he’ll be resigning from his seat later this month.

"As anyone who knows me knows, I was raised by my grandparents. They’re both in their 80s at this time. And I share errand duties for them and driving duties for them with my mom and my stepfather," he said.

"And as such, I’ve arrived at the difficult decision, members, to announce my resignation from the Honolulu City Council, effective September 23, at the adjournment of the 10 o’clock a.m. Honolulu City Council meeting." 

Anderson has represented Windward O?ahu for eight years, and would have termed out on Jan. 1. He asked his fellow council members to appoint his chief of staff, Andrew Malahoff, to complete his term.

Esther Kia?aina and Greg Thielen are running for Anderson’s council seat in the November general election. Anderson, who had run and lost a bid for the 1st Congressional District seat in 2014, did not seek another office.

Mayor Kirk Caldwell issued a statement following Anderson's announcememt: 

"I want to thank Ikaika Anderson for his many years of public service, not just as a member and leader of the City Council, but also since he was a young staffer working for former Councilmember Barbara Marshall. Through it all, he has been someone who cares deeply about his community, and I know that will never change. It is with warmth and appreciation that I wish him and his family all the best. Ikaika's guidance and leadership will be missed."

Council Vice Chair Ann Kobayashi said Anderson has spoken to her about his resignation and added she admires him for his decision.

"I’ve known Ikaika ... oh, for years. I know his grandparents, and he was raised by his grandparents and is very close to them," Kobayashi said. "And during these COVID times, they’ve been needing help grocery shopping, going to the doctor, etc. And he wants to spend time with them, because he’s been in politics for so long that he wants to spend time with his grandparents.

"And then after he retires, I guess he’ll be working somewhere. So now’s a good time."


Kobayashi is expected to step in as the acting council chair for the remainder of the year.

With COVID-19 roiling the community and economy, Anderson and his fellow council members arguably may have had more challenges than faced by many previous councils.

They continued to work through the pandemic, holding meetings and hearings taking both virtual and in-person testimony, and dealing with local controversies in their districts.

In recent days, Anderson had been especially upset by social media posts critical of his comments on the Kawainui Affordable Apartments, a controversial project in Kailua that has split the community he represents.

Anderson has said he will wait for the hearing process to proceed before he decides how he will vote on the project. But on his Facebook page, he chastized an anonymous social page for what he described as more "kukae pipi (which means bullshit, folks)" and "spreading lies" about his remarks on the project.

The councilman has also had to deal with community opposition to a sports complex in the Sherwood Forest area that Anderson had initially championed. In June, Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced that the city would not go forward with any part of a master plan for the region given continuing protests and finding of cultural artifacts.

In 2014, Civil Beat reported Anderson, then-fellow councilman Stanley Chang and Caldwell had received more than $100,000 in political contributions from Los Angeles developers of the Ritz-Carlton Residences in Waik?k? that required approvals from the city.

Anderson said at the time that campaign contributions don't buy his influence.

More recently, Anderson dealt with an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in council services and other offices that limited access to Honolulu Hale in the midst of the primary election.

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