Come Thanksgiving, the Honolulu City Council is going to be largely unrecognizable. After elections and Council Chairman Todd Apo’s November resignation, announced Tuesday, five of the council’s nine members will be new.

Apo is resigning to take a public affairs job with Disney’s Aulani resort (a spokeswoman for Disney says the company won’t release Apo’s agreed-upon salary at this time). His post-election departure introduces a new wrinkle: The third special election on Oahu in six months. In May, voters elected Congressman Charles Djou in a special election. Voters will elect a new mayor in a special election that’s coinciding with the September 18 primary.

The City Council, too, has seen a recent rash of special elections. Voters turned out for special elections to replace former council members Barbara Marshall and Duke Bainum after their respective deaths in February and June of 2009.

The council has 10 days to call a special election after Apo’s resignation date. The election is required because Apo has more than one year remaining in his term (he has two). While the City Charter requires a special election in this case, a staffer in the city clerk’s office says planning for a special election won’t get underway until the City Council officially calls for it. 1

  1. A previous version of this story stated that the City Council could ignore the vacancy for 30 days after its occurence, and the new mayor would appoint a successor. That’s only the case when the vacancy requires completion of a term with less than one year remaining. Apo’s successor will complete the remaining two years of his term.

City Clerk Bernice Mau says it’s “really hard to tell” how much the special election to replace Apo might cost. The special election to replace Marshall cost the city $225,000, while the special election to replace Bainum cost $170,000.

“We were able to get the cost down on the second special election because it was the second time,” Mau says. “Hopefully we can get it down again this time.”

City Councilman Donovan Dela Cruz, whose term expires this year, says he hopes the special election can be averted all together.

“I hope that timing works out where he can reconsider having the special election during the general election,” said Dela Cruz, who is running for Hawaii Senate ahead of his City Council term’s expiration this year. “It would really save the taxpayers money.”

Dela Cruz, who chaired the City Council for more than three years, acknowledged there’s a small pool of candidates for the soon-vacant chairman position.

“Look who’s left, that’s what it comes down to,” Dela Cruz says. “It does take more effort. You can’t just have the title and think there’s no extra responsibility. It can’t be about a power trip. It can’t be about ego. Whoever takes it should take it very seriously because it’s an opportunity to build consensus, to pass legislation, and to work with the incoming mayor to move the city forward.”

Here’s a list of who’s leaving: Dela Cruz, Rod Tam, Lee Donahue, Gary Okino and now, Apo. Still on the council are Ann Kobayashi, Romy Cachola, Nestor Garcia and Ikaika Anderson.

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