The new year will see dozens of candidates vying for office, including notable fields for Honolulu mayor and city prosecutor. Candidates are already promising a clean start for our local government, even as it remains tarnished by the ongoing Kealoha scandal.
We are hearing a lot of campaign promises of transparency, accountability and restoration of trust in government, and all that is welcome. In a representative democracy like ours hope must spring eternal.
But it is also critical that we take full stock of how uncomfortably numb we may have become to what has already transpired. An enormous dark cloud has hovered over the City and County of Honolulu for so long now — five years and counting — that it can be difficult to recall better days.
Honolulu will elect a new mayor and prosecutor and five City Council members in 2020. The lingering Kealoha spectacle shows just how badly we are in need of fresh, incorruptible leadership.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
Not only are a former Honolulu police chief and deputy prosecutor awaiting sentencing in a corruption probe that also ensnared five officers, but the elected prosecutor and a deputy are on indefinite paid leave because they have been targeted in the ongoing federal investigation.
As if that weren’t shameful enough, Honolulu’s lead attorney is also a possible target and is also on paid leave. We all anxiously await learning the fate of Keith Kaneshiro, Chasid Sapolu and Donna Leong, who sit at home receiving the salaries that we pay them.
But the fact that the acting city prosecutor, Dwight Nadamoto, was subpoenaed by the feds for questioning late last month only underscores that investigators remain seriously focused on their essential work.
The Kealoha scandal, as disgraceful as it is, presents an opportunity for better governance.
Those willing to serve must fully comprehend how there will always be bad actors among us who must be rooted out.
Those asked to vote for elected officials must carefully scrutinize their positions and backgrounds.
And those in a position of authority to be able to do something now to restore a little faith in government can act immediately.
Mayor Kirk Caldwell, for example, should remove Leong and install someone less tainted to run the city’s legal team. In case anyone has forgotten, a second investigation by the feds — this one into the rail project — also continues to cloud our skies (and drain our resources for attorney fees).
Just to think that it all began with a “stolen” mailbox.
It’s hard to hold one’s head high as a citizen of a city that has been so disgraced by Katherine Kealoha, the former deputy prosecutor, and her husband, former police chief Louis Kealoha.
But 2020 offers a shot at redemption, if only our voters and leaders do what is right.
Sign up for our FREE morning newsletter and face each day more informed.
Support local journalism
Studies have shown that when local journalism disappears, government financing costs go up, fewer people run for public office, elected officials become less responsive to their constituents, and voter turnout decreases. Our small nonprofit newsroom works hard every day to present local news in a deep and transparent way, without fear or favor. We also rely on donations from readers like you to keep us afloat. The more support we receive; the stronger, more sustainable our journalism becomes; the more accountable we are to you. Please consider supporting our Honolulu Civil Beat with a tax-deductible gift.
The members of Civil Beat’s editorial board are Pierre Omidyar, Patti Epler, Jim Simon, Richard Wiens, Chad Blair, John Hill and Jessica Terrell. Opinions expressed by the editorial board reflect the group’s consensus view. Chad Blair, the Politics and Opinion Editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.