Updated: May 8, 2:13 p.m.
A leadership shakeup today at the Honolulu City Council landed Ikaika Anderson the chairmanship of the council while Tommy Waters was sworn in to represent East Honolulu following a court challenge and months of delays. The changes came as the council also took up the contentious issue of short-term vacation rentals.
Anderson, who represents Windward Oahu, took over the chairmanship on an unanimous vote succeeding Ann Kobayashi, who had held the post on an interim basis.
Several dozen residents of Anderson’s district were present to voice support and opposition to his selection. His opponents primarily cited the planned redevelopment of Sherwood Forest in Waimanalo, which Anderson has not opposed.
“We are not always going to agree. But I ask each and everyone of you that, when we disagree, we do so respectfully...There is much much work to do for the people of this city,” Anderson said.
The new chair drew an endorsement from Waters, who said: “We have the opportunity to have one of our own -- a Hawaiian -- as council chair.”
Kobayashi will serve as the council's vice chair and Carol Fukunaga as floor leader.
Waters, who took his seat for the first time representing District 4, won office by roughly 1,000 votes in a special election last month against the district's previous council member, Trevor Ozawa.
Waters had challenged Ozawa's win in a November election, saying city elections officials erred in the count. The Hawaii Supreme Court agreed, setting the stage for the April 13 special election.
The council is also taking up controversial measures to regulate short-term vacation rentals. A group held signs outside of City Hall in opposition to the proposals.
Council members heard from both sides of the short-term rentals debate.
Former Gov. Neil Abercrombie supported the stricter of the two measures. Bill 85 would require operators of bed and breakfast and transient vacation units to include a nonconforming use certificate number in their advertising. Fines for noncompliance would range from $25,000 to $50,000 per day. Neighbors could also sue an owner for violations of the regulations.
Abercrombie urged the council to take action. "We are on the edge of an explosion in illegal vacation rentals," he warned.
Opponents of the bills said the proposals, if adopted, would hurt or close their businesses.
Andreea Grigore of Elite Pacific Properties, a local property management firm that helped organize the protest, said the company has been legally operating more than 100 units under existing law.
She said for the past 10 years the company had been following the rule allowing for rentals of 30 days or longer. But if allowance were to be eliminated, it "would essentially shut us down."
This story is developing. Please check back for updates.