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Oʻahu is looking for residents to fill over 400 neighborhood board seats

FILE - The Kailua Neighborhood Board meets during the pandemic in June 2020
Courtesy Kailua Neighborhood Board
FILE - The Kailua Neighborhood Board meets during the pandemic in June 2020

Fifty years have passed since Oʻahu voters approved a neighborhood board system. Frank Fasi was the mayor at the time.

"It was overwhelming support, which is easy to understand," said Lloyd Yonenaka, executive secretary of the Neighborhood Commission Office. "It was another avenue where the public could actually access their government. They could talk to some of the legislators. They could talk to the council members. They could talk to the representative for the governor or the mayor."

Nowadays, 33 boards across the island meet monthly. Various federal, state and county departments are supposed to show up at meetings in some capacity, but some of that is set to change this year.

"From the city side, the city continues to send representatives to all the boards, and they're usually a director or a deputy director. On the state side, while they used to send directors or deputy directors, I've been told that they will be changing that and replacing those people with public information officers from each department," Yonenaka said.

Boards also receive reports from local police and fire departments, councilmembers, and sometimes military officials.

Elections happen in odd-numbered years, which means Yonenaka is currently looking for over 400 people to fill every seat.

"I would encourage everyone, check our website, get involved. This is an incredible way to be involved in your community. You could talk about any issue that is happening and is relevant to you," he said. "We all know somebody that we always say 'you should run for office,' right? That's the person we want. Encourage them to run for neighborhood boards."

Click here to sign up for the 2023 neighborhood board elections. The application will be open through Feb. 17. Voting will occur between April 28 and May 19.

This interview aired on The Conversation on Jan. 25, 2023. The Conversation airs weekdays at 11 a.m. on HPR-1.

Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
Sophia McCullough is a digital news producer. Contact her at news@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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