City and County of Honolulu Government

| Suggest an Edit

Honolulu has been the seat of government in Hawaii since 1850, when King Kamehameha III proclaimed it the capital of his kingdom.

Honolulu remained the center of island politics even after the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown and Hawaii was annexed by the U.S. in 1898. Hawaii became a U.S. territory in 1900. It would be another five years before the Territorial Legislature created five counties in a law that became the basis for Hawaii’s modern municipal governments. Four counties, including the County of Oahu, were governed by elected Boards of Supervisors, with the state retaining control of most county functions.

In 1907, the County of Oahu was renamed the City and County of Honolulu and the office of mayor was added to the Board of Supervisors. Democrat James Fern, a self-taught shipping master for the Inter-Island Steamship Co. and a member of the Board of Supervisors, became Honolulu’s first mayor in 1908, winning over Republican John Lane by seven votes. Lane defeated Fern in 1915 and served for two years before Fern was re-elected, serving until 1919.

In 1959, Hawaii became a state and the Hawaii Legislature granted home rule to the counties. In Honolulu, this meant adoption of a city charter that created a mayor-council government structure. The mayor serves as chief executive officer of the city, with responsibilities that include supervision of the executive agencies responsible for public safety and welfare; culture and recreation; community and human development; citizen participation; and general government operations. A nine-member city council is responsible for legislative and investigative functions. All offices are nonpartisan and candidates are elected to four-year terms for a maximum of two consecutive terms. Elections are conducted by the city clerk every two years.

Because city elections are nonpartisan, the voters can choose from all candidates for each Honolulu office during the primary election. A candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the vote wins outright in the primary, otherwise the two candidates with the most votes advance to the general election.

Salaries of elected and appointed officials and are set by the Honolulu Salary Commission.

The City Council must approve each year’s budget by June 15.

The mayor, city council and their appointees hold much of the power in Honolulu. Public worker unions, which represent many of the city’s essential workers, also wield significant influence. Lobbyists for public utilities, prominent developers and large landowners also have a voice in city planning and growth. Elected neighborhood board members serve in an advisory capacity, bringing the issues that impact their communities to the attention of government officials.

Kirk Caldwell is the current mayor of Honolulu. In the August 2012 primary election, Caldwell, the former city managing director, received 29 percent of the vote, beating Peter Carlisle who received just under 25 percent. Caldwell then defeated Ben Cayetano in the November 6, 2012 general election.

City and County of Honolulu Government

November 2017

Monday, November 13

Recycle Or Incinerate? The Battle Of The Blue Bins

October 2017

Friday, October 27

Audit: Honolulu Could Save Millions By Burning Recyclables For Energy

Wednesday, October 18

Why It’s So Difficult To Clean Up This Honolulu Hoarder House

Wednesday, October 11

Islandwide Sit-Lie Ban Gets Preliminary Approval Despite Opposition

Friday, October 6

Hawaii Officials To The Homeless: Go Away

August 2017

Wednesday, August 23

Honolulu Council Sends Sprinkler Retrofit Bill To Advisory Panel

Friday, August 18

The Trouble With Trash For Local Volunteers

Wednesday, August 16

Audit: Some Honolulu Garbage Workers Take Excessive Sick Leave, OT

Wednesday, August 9

As Some Oahu Cemeteries Run Out Of Space, City OKs Expansion

Who Will Step Up To Save The ‘Stairway To Heaven’?

July 2017

Tuesday, July 25

Council Members Put Mayor’s Call For Sprinkler Retrofitting On Hold

Friday, July 21

Honolulu City Council May Seek Crackdown On Waikiki ‘Floatilla’ Events

Wednesday, July 12

Honolulu Weighs Property Tax Increase For Owners Of Historic Homes

Tuesday, July 11

Honolulu City Council May Expand Its Plastic Bag Ban

June 2017

Friday, June 30

Honolulu May Allow Transportation Companies To Regulate Waikiki Streets

Wednesday, June 28

Homeless And Community Service Workers Considered For Park Cleanup

Monday, June 19

What Honolulu Lobbyists Don’t Tell You

Chad Blair: Why Staring At Cellphones In Crosswalks Should Be Illegal

Monday, June 12

The Sorry State Of Many Honolulu Parks

Wednesday, June 7

Council Rejects Proposal To Ban All Plastic Bags At Checkout Counters

Friday, June 2

Hawaii Supreme Court To Rule On Secret Government Deliberations

May 2017

Tuesday, May 16

Fee Increases For Parking Meters, Bus Fares Clear Another Hurdle

Thursday, May 4

Committee Proposes Fee, But Balks At Total Ban On Plastic Bags

April 2017

Friday, April 28

Why Oahu’s Neighborhood Boards Are ‘The Pulse Of The Community’

Wednesday, April 26

Honolulu Joins Movement To Protect Undocumented Immigrants

December 2013

Thursday, December 5

‘Tis the Season: See What Gifts Honolulu City Agencies Got This Year

June 2013

Thursday, June 20

VIDEO: The Kirk Cam — Our Intimate View of the Mayor’s Spin About Town

May 2013

Thursday, May 23

Ala Wai Canal: A $100 Million Problem

Tuesday, May 21

Ala Wai Canal: Oversight Is As Murky As The Water

Saturday, May 18

Federal Judge Refuses To Toss (de)Occupy Honolulu Suit Despite City’s Efforts

April 2013

Tuesday, April 30

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s Staff Comes With A High Price Tag

January 2013

Wednesday, January 9

Hawaii Elections Fiascos Prompt Calls For New Legislative Action

Thursday, January 3

Will Honolulu’s Mayor and Council Finally Work Together?

December 2012

Saturday, December 29

No Honeymoon for Mayor Caldwell: Critical Infrastructure Issues Ahead

November 2012

Saturday, November 10

It’s Your Money: Hawaii’s Election Holiday Cost Taxpayers Millions

September 2012

Thursday, September 13

Honolulu Council Could Kill Subsidy to Save Bus Routes

August 2012

Wednesday, August 29

Honolulu’s Most Dangerous Intersections: Guess Where?

Thursday, August 16

Honolulu Tells HUD Troubled Wahiawa Senior Center Making Strides

Wednesday, August 15

Native Hawaiians Sue City Over Haleiwa Park Sale

July 2012

Thursday, July 26

Beach Ban for Business Vetoed by Honolulu Mayor

Saturday, July 21

Incumbency No Help for Honolulu’s Current Mayor

Wednesday, July 11

Honolulu Rail PR Contractors Whacked

Saturday, July 7

Fire-EMS Merger Contract Awarded After Honolulu Official Manipulated Score

Thursday, July 5

Honolulu Ethics Panel Investigating Fire-EMS Merger Contract

Tuesday, July 3

It’s Your Money: Sooey! Honolulu Pig Control Costs $1,400 Per Head

Honolulu Council Member Slapped with Record $6,500 Ethics Fine

June 2012

Saturday, June 30

The Dirty Dozen: The State of Honolulu’s Public Restrooms

May 2012

Thursday, May 10

Council Asks Voters To OK $5M for Nonprofits

Wednesday, May 9

Is Honolulu Drowning In Sea Of Leaking Money?

‘Pipe Whisperers’ Hear The Rustle Of Running Water

Wednesday, May 2

Honolulu Hale Lead Paint Cleanup To Cost $250K

April 2012

Friday, April 27

Civil Beat Poll – Can Gov’t Solve Challenges?

Sunday, April 22

Honolulu Salaries 2012 — Pay for Men and Women

Honolulu Salaries 2012 — Common Jobs and Names

Honolulu Salaries 2012 — The City’s Big Earners

Honolulu Salaries 2012 — The Full Employee List

March 2012

Monday, March 19

Water Board’s Beretania Land To Be Developed

Saturday, March 17

Landfill Site Panel Wants Distance From Residents

Friday, March 16

$100K+ To Fix Lead, Mold at Honolulu Hale

Thursday, March 15

Lead, Mold Contaminate Honolulu Hale

Tuesday, March 6

Honolulu’s Tech Deputy: Government Can Help

Thursday, March 1

Civil Beat Poll – Rail Top Issue for Honolulu Voters

Mayor’s Budget Holds The Line, Lacks ‘Fun’ Projects

February 2012

Wednesday, February 22

Troubled Senior Center Rejects Federal Funds

Tuesday, February 21

Tech-Savvy Leaders Push Honolulu Toward Gov 2.0

January 2012

Saturday, January 14

Feds Say Senior Center Still Violating Grant Rules

Inside Honolulu — Government, Politics and Issues — Jan. 16-22

Saturday, January 7

Inside Honolulu — Government, Politics and Issues — Jan. 9-15

December 2011

Saturday, December 31

Inside Honolulu – Government, Politics and Issues – Jan. 2-8

Thursday, December 29

Soon for Sale: Obama’s New Winter White House

Wednesday, December 28

New Honolulu Council, Mayor Had ‘Quiet’ 2011

Saturday, December 24

2011 Year in Review — Honolulu

Friday, December 23

Inside Honolulu – Government, Politics and Issues – Dec. 26-Jan. 1

Wednesday, December 21

Honolulu’s Response to Too-Popular Service: Stop Offering It

Friday, December 16

Inside Honolulu – Government, Politics and Issues – Dec. 19-Dec. 25

Tuesday, December 13

Scathing Audit: Honolulu Ambulance Service Lacking

Thursday, December 8

Obamas Not Staying at ‘Winter White House,’ Owner Says

Monday, December 5

Forward Thinking From Honolulu Hale

Saturday, December 3

Inside Honolulu – Government, Politics and Issues – Dec. 5-Dec. 11

Friday, December 2

Inside Honolulu: Dec. 2

Thursday, December 1

Inside Honolulu: Dec. 1

November 2011

Wednesday, November 30

EPA Orders Additional Safeguards at Waimanalo Gulch Landfill

Tuesday, November 29

Inside Honolulu: November 30

Inside Honolulu: November 29

As HGEA Invokes ‘Favored Nation’ Clause, Who Got Better Deal?

Friday, November 18

Inside Honolulu: November 18

Thursday, November 17

Inside Honolulu: November 17

Wednesday, November 16

Inside Honolulu: November 16

Tuesday, November 15

Inside Honolulu: November 15

Monday, November 14

Inside Honolulu: November 14

Saturday, November 5

Inside Honolulu: November 7

Berg: West Oahu Should Secede From Honolulu

Friday, November 4

Inside Honolulu: November 4

Thursday, November 3

Honolulu Presents Final Plan to Prevent $7.9M Grant Repayment

Wednesday, November 2

Inside Honolulu: November 3

Inside Honolulu: November 2

Tuesday, November 1

Inside Honolulu: November 1

October 2011

Saturday, October 29

Inside Honolulu: October 31

Friday, October 28

Inside Honolulu: October 28

Thursday, October 27

Inside Honolulu: October 27

Wednesday, October 26

Inside Honolulu: October 26

Tuesday, October 25

The Civil Beat Poll: Carlisle Leaves ‘Em Wondering

Inside Honolulu: October 25

Monday, October 24

Inside Honolulu: October 24

Friday, October 21

Inside Honolulu: October 21

Thursday, October 20

Inside Honolulu: October 20

Wednesday, October 19

Issues at ORI Senior Center Unresolved as Federal Deadline Looms

Inside Honolulu: October 19

Tuesday, October 18

Inside Honolulu: October 18

Monday, October 17

Inside Honolulu: October 17

Thursday, October 13

Inside Honolulu: October 13

Police-Business Deal Raises Ethical Questions

Wednesday, October 12

Inside Honolulu: October 12

Tuesday, October 11

A Second Crack at Clearing Honolulu’s Sidewalks

Inside Honolulu: October 11

Monday, October 10

Inside Honolulu: October 10

Friday, October 7

Inside Honolulu: October 7

Thursday, October 6

Inside Honolulu: October 6

Wednesday, October 5

Inside Honolulu: October 5

September 2011

Wednesday, September 28

City Leaves Key Questions About ORI Unanswered

Monday, September 26

Feds Still Have ‘Serious Concerns’ About ORI Plan

Wednesday, September 14

Honolulu Rail Agreed to Pay Lobbyist $300,000

Thursday, September 8

Planning Commission Again Splits on Vacation Rental Enforcement

Saturday, September 3

Carlisle Says ORI Wasn’t ‘Following Rules’

Honolulu Mayor Ducks Undercover

Friday, September 2

Carlisle Wants $1B Rainy Day Fund as Legacy

August 2011

Tuesday, August 30

Cleanup Cost Landfill Company at Least $2.2M

Friday, August 26

Honolulu Rail Asks Losing Bidder to Extend Offer — Just In Case

Thursday, August 25

Mayor to HUD: Tell Us What To Do And We’ll Do It

Planning Panel Split Over Honolulu Vacation Rentals

Wednesday, August 24

Carlisle’s Tales From Japan

Wednesday, August 17

HUD Concerned About ORI Report From City

Thursday, August 11

Honolulu Vacation-Rental Controversy Heats Up

Tuesday, August 9

Planning Commissioner Fined For Ethics Violations

Full Disclosure: Mayor Peter Carlisle’s Cabinet

Friday, August 5

HUD: City Should Have Caught ORI’s Problems

Thursday, August 4

Honolulu Council Goes Easy on Troubled Nonprofit

Wednesday, August 3

Senior Center at Heart of Federal Probe Falls Short

July 2011

Wednesday, July 27

Ten Years After 9/11, Emergency Response Needs Improvement

Tuesday, July 26

Berg E-Canned Second Staffer — Or Said He Did

Saturday, July 23

Even With Rate Increases, Honolulu Water Cheap

Friday, July 22

Even Without Challenger, Carlisle Rakes In Cash

Thursday, July 14

Budget Battle Left Few Sewage Sludge Options

Wednesday, July 13

Few Cities Track Police Crimes, Honolulu Included

Monday, July 4

Does Hanauma Bay’s Repair Process Need a Fix?

June 2011

Monday, June 27

Council Overrides HART Vetoes; Next Stop, Court?

Friday, June 24

No Crime Stats Kept on Honolulu Police Officers

Friday, June 17

Inside the Nonprofit at Center of HUD Probe

Thursday, June 16

Staging a Coup Without Breaking the Sunshine Law

Wednesday, June 15

Carlisle Administration Forgave $1.2 Million in Loans to Nonprofit Accused of Misusing Federal Funds

Thursday, June 9

Honolulu City Council Approves Every Gift Offered in 2011

Tuesday, June 7

Berg ‘Concerned’ About Aide Tampering with Hawaii Rep’s Email

Rod Tam Sentencing Delayed to August

Sunday, June 5

In New Rail Agency’s First Meeting, Leaders Emerge

Thursday, June 2

Hubba Hubba! Honolulu Planners Likely Won’t Touch Iconic Neon Sign

It’s Cheap to Park at Honolulu Parks

May 2011

Thursday, May 26

Evidence Ignored in Unsolved Rapes

Tuesday, May 10

Tenants Voice Concerns About City Plans to Sell Affordable Housing

Monday, May 9

Waikiki Beach Is Shrinking, But Hotel Tower Is Rising

Monday, May 2

Waikiki Hotel Plan Caught In Honolulu’s Tangled Web

April 2011

Friday, April 22

Hawaii Disclosure Law For Government Officials Not Transparent

Thursday, April 21

Honolulu’s Billion-Dollar Door-to-Door Service

Honolulu Closer To Ending Scrap-Yard Subsidy

Saturday, April 16

Honolulu Police Reviewing Open Records Policy

Thursday, April 14

Bombardier: Honolulu Didn’t Keep Its Word on Rail Contract

Fired Honolulu Employee: Lax Oversight Led to Overtime ‘Free-for-All’

Overtime Whistleblowers: Honolulu Didn’t Listen To Complaints the First Time

Tuesday, April 12

Honolulu Personal Service Contracts Examined

Wednesday, April 6

Hawaii Silence On Landfill Inspections Speaks Loudly

Honolulu City Council Shares Possible Conflicts

Praise for City Staff from Losing Rail Bidder

Honolulu Revises Rail Redactions After Criticism

Tuesday, April 5

Apo Committed Same Ethics Violation — Twice

Honolulu, Losing Rail Bidder Lawyering Up

New Details Emerge About Landfill Spill Response

Sunday, April 3

Honolulu Managing Director Defends Transparency on Rail

Saturday, April 2

Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em, Furloughs Do Save Money

March 2011

Thursday, March 31

Honolulu Council’s Rail Concerns Boil Over

Tuesday, March 29

Honolulu City Council Chairman: ‘Don’t Tell Me I’m a Whore’

Friday, March 25

Lab Results: Landfill Water Exceeded Legal Levels for Just One Chemical — Iron

Wednesday, March 23

U.S. Transportation Chief: “No Doubt” City Will Follow Path To Rail Success

Tuesday, March 22

Despite Furloughs, Overtime Down in Most City Departments

Monday, March 21

Should Private Scrap Yard Get $1.9 Million Subsidy from Honolulu?

Friday, March 18

Honolulu City Council Battles Administration for Control of Rail Agency

Sunday, March 6

Honolulu Mayor Urges Union, HECO Compromise

Thursday, March 3

Police Secrecy Law Stalls in Hawaii House

Honolulu to State: There’s No Rail Money for You

Wednesday, March 2

Budget A Moment of Truth for Honolulu Mayor

February 2011

Thursday, February 24

Carlisle: Financial Truth About City is ‘Not Pretty’

Tuesday, February 22

Oversight of Honolulu Medical Waste Limited

Wednesday, February 16

FTA: Honolulu “Cannot Expect” Funds For Rail

Wednesday, February 9

Progress at Landfill But Trash Woes Persist

Wide Gap Between Illegal Rentals, City Enforcement

Saturday, February 5

Carlisle’s Campaign Rhetoric Meets Reality of Bargaining Table

Thursday, February 3

January Garbage Spill Was Second In A Month

Tuesday, February 1

Waimanalo Gulch Landfill Spill — a Timeline

January 2011

Thursday, January 27

No Paperwork to Back Up Safety of Medical Waste

Wednesday, January 26

EPA Orders Immediate Clean-Up at Landfill

Tuesday, January 25

Nurses Warn Against Dumping Medical Waste in Honolulu Landfill

Public Workers, Private Data: Bill to Hide Salaries

Friday, January 21

City Reminds Winter White House Owner of Rental Law

Thursday, January 20

After Landfill Spill, Lots of Questions, Few Answers

Wednesday, January 12

City to Contact Property Owner About Short-Term Obama Rental

Tuesday, January 11

Honolulu Officials At Odds With Winter White House Owner’s Take on Law

Wednesday, January 5

Obama’s Winter White House an Illegal Rental

December 2010

Friday, December 31

Carlisle: City in Better Financial Shape Than Expected

Thursday, December 30

Stories From the Honolulu Beat – 2010 Recycled

Wednesday, December 29

Berg Wins District 1 City Council Race

Thursday, December 16

Mufi Makes His Return to Honolulu Hale

Wednesday, December 8

Civil Beat Conclusion: Honolulu Rail Report ‘Shoddy,’ ‘Biased’ — and Right?

Civil Beat Analysis: Honolulu Estimate for Federal Funding to Run Rail Questionable

Civil Beat Discovers $227 Million Error in State Consultant’s Work

Civil Beat Analysis: IMG’s Rail Operating Cost Off By Miles

Civil Beat Analysis: City’s Rail Tax Plan Optimistic

Tuesday, December 7

Mayor Shifts Stance on Furloughs

November 2010

Monday, November 22

Honolulu’s Lowest Paid City Employees

Civil Beat Shares Honolulu Employee Salaries

Honolulu’s Highest Paid City Employees

Who Works for the City and County of Honolulu

Sunday, November 21

Selling Sex in Honolulu: Prostitution Busts for Men Turn Up Mostly Locals, Few Tourists

Selling Sex in Honolulu: Police Focus Prostitution Arrests on Women, Not Men

Tuesday, November 16

Road to Riches: Getting Paid for Overtime Work — Twice

Friday, November 12

‘I Think I’m Peter. They Think I’m the Mayor.’

Thursday, November 11

Mayor Says He’s Found “Circle the Wagons” Mentality at Honolulu Hale

Wednesday, November 10

Planning Director Hasn’t Opposed a Major Project

Tuesday, November 2

Second Guessing Secondary Treatment

October 2010

Friday, October 29

Ethics Complaints Up at Honolulu Hale

Wednesday, October 27

Office of Housing: Take 2

Monday, October 25

Carlisle Says ‘No’ to New Office of Housing

Tuesday, October 19

Election Office Breaches Confidentiality of Voters

Thursday, October 14

The Anti-Homeless Bill That Dare Not Say Its Name

Wednesday, October 13

Carlisle’s Off-Island, Who’s in Charge?

At Honolulu Hale, It’s In With The Old For Now

Tuesday, October 12

New Mayor Takes Office, Preps for Trip to D.C.

Thursday, October 7

HPD: Law Doesn’t Apply to Us

Friday, October 1

Urban Zones Proposed to Keep Sidewalks Clear of Homeless

Big Job Ahead for New City Administration

September 2010

Thursday, September 30

City’s Budget Director Leaving His Post

Monday, September 27

Carlisle, Chin In Hurry to Take Over Honolulu Hale

August 2010

Wednesday, August 25

Hannemann’s Honolulu Hale Examined

July 2010

Thursday, July 29

Curfew to Lead to New State Rules for Public Housing

Thursday, July 15

City Council Approves Massive Sewage Settlement

Council Weighs Banning Gas Leaf-Blowers

June 2010

Wednesday, June 16

Hawaii Links for Wednesday, June 16

May 2010

Tuesday, May 18

Honolulu Property Tax Proposal In Perspective

Saturday, May 15

Transit Plan Out of City Hands

Tuesday, May 11

Rail, Highway Projects Won’t Be Covered By “Local Jobs Bill”

UPDATE: Djou resignation would not trigger special election

Sunday, May 2

No Strings on Tourism Tax, A “Double-Edge Sword” For Counties

Hirono: ‘Never Take Anything For Granted’

Saturday, May 1

What Comes After Curfew at Housing Complex?