Another election season has just begun on O'ahu. Candidates for this year's Neighborhood Board elections have all submitted their registrations, and elections are coming up for these grassroots positions. Under a new City administration, there is a push to activate this level of community involvement.
Lloyd Yonenaka says his friends asked him why he applied to head the Blangiardi administration's Neighborhood Board Commission.
"This administration in particular looks upon the Neigborhood Board as a tremendous asset. For me, that's important."
After serving as information officer for Maui County for 20 years, then doing community relations at Hawaiian Homelands, Yonenaka says working in neighborhoods is what he likes to do.
"I like the neighborhood boards. I believe they're underutilized, I believe they can play a bigger role, I'm just looking forward to seeing if we can expand their role and their value to the community and to government."
Neighborhood boards meet one evening per month, with reports from City representatives, HPD, and other community partners regularly on the agenda. Developers, for example, air projects at this level, and individuals present concerns. Yonenaka says, during the pandemic, they've struggled to accommodate remote meeting needs.
"Once we get that down, so anywhere we go we know exactly what we need to do to set up this Zoom or Webex meeting, then I want to look at live streaming. If we can go live, that would be great."
There are 33 neighborhood boards total on O'ahu, with eight or nine members up to twenty per board. All candidates registered for the 2021 election now have their profiles on the neighborhood board website. If you are 18 years or older, Yonenaka says there is only one other qualification.
"In order to vote or to be a candidate, you just have to be a resident. You can be somebody from another country, and I think that's reflective of the community. The community is not just citizens."
Neighborhood board meetings are recorded and accessible through a robust City website that also offers board member resources, meeting minutes, contacts, and schedules. Also, the agenda for upcoming meetings. Most boards across the island currently have one or two openings.
"Even though the candidate filing is closed, there are openings on the board as you know. If you attend the meetings, they will actually entertain filling that seat during the meeting. So if you're there, approach the board chair, submit a resume, (tell) them you'd be interested, meet some of the board members. If there is an opening, they may agree to just have the seat filled. By you."
Yonenaka says well over 400 candidates registered this year. About a third of them are uncontested and are automatically seated. If that happens in your community, you will not get a ballot this year.
Everyone else, voting passcodes will be mailed out April 23rd, and voting runs through May 21, 2021.