The Honolulu City Council is comprised of only nine (9) Districts. But its legislative powers are far-reaching for the entire island of Oahu.
The Council has a monthly Public Hearing throughout the year. There are also monthly committee meetings. Annually, there is a dedicated budget hearing session from March to June where all the budget deliberations are presented and decided upon. There can also be other Special Hearings held at Honolulu Hale or Kapolei Hale or any other designated site.
Its powers include real property taxation (it’s main source of revenues), approving or disapproving of budget items for the city’s operations and capital projects. It also legislate zoning and its related ordinances – where you can build a business shop or whether you can have a nursing home or set up a large scale farm. It regulates quiet hours, fireworks, shoreline setbacks, building codes, transportation like the Honolulu Rapid Transit Project, sewer plants, and so on. It also nominates and approve candidates to boards and commissions. In other words, the Honolulu City Council affects you life, a lot.
The 9 members have term-limits. Each can serve up to two consecutive four (4) years term. However, a former city council member can run again after a lapse of one term.
The city council alternates in the election cycle. One election would open up the even-number districts of 2, 4, 6, and 8 and the other set of 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9.
The most coveted positions, in order of significance, are the Chair, Vice-Chair, Budget Committee, Planning and Zoning Committee, Transportation, Sustainability and Health, Housing and the Economy, Executive Matters and Legal Affairs, Public Infrastructure and Technology, Parks and Community Services, and Public Safety.
The City Council is the legislative Branch which creates the policy-making, laws and ordinances. The Office of the Mayor is the Executive Branch where the Mayor is supposed to implement the legislative mandates from the City Council, besides managing the operations of the city and county of Honolulu.
We strongly encourage you to find out who your city council member is. Keep their email and telephone number. Feel free to communicate with them and ask lots of questions, offer suggestions and ask them to meet with you in your communities. Too often, huge and consequential bills are passed without much public participation. Often times, the customary hour session for recognition and awards are more packed with residents than the main decision-making public hearing session after.
A city council member is as active and responsive in the communities as you make them out to be. Hold them accountable. They need your vote. They are paid by you, the taxpayers of Honolulu.