East Honolulu Councilman Trevor Ozawa could be the new chairman of the Honolulu City Council, replacing his political ally Ernie Martin, who leaves office at the end of the year.

On Thursday, Ozawa and three other council members – Carol Fukunaga, Ann Kobayashi and Kymberly Pine – introduced a resolution outlining the council’s proposed new leadership.

Under the resolution, Pine and Fukunaga would continue to serve as the vice chair and floor leader, respectively.

Honolulu City Council member Trevor Ozawa during full council meeting.
Councilman Trevor Ozawa, who represents East Honolulu, would become the council chair under a resolution introduced Thursday. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Incoming Councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi, a former legislative aide for Martin, was elected to replace her former boss representing the North Shore. She could give the resolution the support of a majority of the nine-member council.

Tsuneyoshi could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Ozawa’s office issued a press release Thursday afternoon declaring him to be the next chair, even though the new council is not expected to vote on the resolution until Wednesday. 

“I am very optimistic that we will be able to work effectively as a team to address the many challenges ahead of us and to serve as both a partner and check with regard to the Administration,” Ozawa said in the statement.

The four council members who signed the resolution and Martin have made up a bloc on the council that has held a 5-4 majority since March, when Martin replaced former chairman Ron MenorFollowing the reorganization, Martin selected Ozawa to chair the council’s Budget Committee. 

Council members Brandon Elefante, Ikaika Anderson, and Joey Manahan supported Menor’s leadership. Their minority bloc is typically more friendly to the policies of Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

Pine was the swing voter in the power shift that returned the chairmanship to Martin. She had previously helped form a five-member bloc that tilted power to Menor. In December 2016, she signed a resolution to make him chairman.

Ozawa narrowly won re-election in November, beating former state Rep. Tommy Waters by just 22 votes.

Caldwell and other members of the council’s minority faction backed Waters’ campaign. Waters filed a petition with the Hawaii Supreme Court challenging the election results and requesting a recount. The court has not yet issued a decision regarding the petition.

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