December 24 – Former Governor Neil Abercrombie on Thursday joined a small group of neighborhood council members and concerned residents outside the State Capitol to voice their opposition to the redesigned electoral district map of ‘Oahu by the Hawaii State Redistribution Commission.
The redistribution of elected seats in states and Congress takes place every 10 years based on the latest US Census data.
The two main issues for the nearly 20 people attending the rally were with dividing Mililani into four separate house districts and creating a new 51 house district, which would combine parts of Hawaii Kai with Waimanalo and Kailua.
Abercrombie began the rally with a quick criticism of the Reassignment Board’s lack of transparency, as it was able to avoid public meetings by forming an “authorized technical interaction group” which is allowed to meet in private.
“The technical group of four commissioners behind closed doors with a total lack of transparency violated every element required by the Constitution and by law to put in place this so-called plan,” he said.
“What we are asking is that this plan be rejected, that the members of this commission understand that they have a constitutional duty to the people of this state to act independently and objectively and not to carry out the will. of their political masters. “
Mililani / Waipio / Melemanu board member Trish La Chica said she was concerned about the number of lawmakers who would represent different parts of Mililani.
“We are going to be one of the many families where I will be represented by someone while my son will go to a Mililani school represented by someone else and my daughter will again go to a nursery school represented by someone else. one else, “she said.
“I don’t see how this is going to be an effective way to unify and be a strong voice for our community.”
La Chica acknowledged that it was not possible to keep all of Mililani intact for redistribution, but pointed out that according to the proposed map, part of the town of Mililani would be regrouped with parts of Mokuleia via Kaena Point, and a other part of the town of Mili lani would be regrouped with Wahiawa.
“This will only fragment our community and continue to weaken our voice in the Legislature,” she said.
Members of the Kailua, Hawaii Kai and Waimanalo neighborhood councils have expressed opposition to the House District 51 commission’s version that would combine their three zones.
Waimanalo Ward Board Chairman Kimeona Kane feared the district was marginalizing Native Hawaiians in his community.
“As a large native Hawaiian population in Waima nalo, there are tremendous concerns, concerns that no one has yet been able to address,” he said. “Concerns that no one has been able to bring to the forefront of our conversations and say, ‘Waimanalo, your native Hawaiian people and those inside, you are fine, you will be protected. “”
At Wednesday’s Redistribution Commission meeting, Commissioner Diane Ono pointed out that on the map as currently proposed, residents of Waimanalo would represent around 40% of the district while 35% would be residents of Kailua and 25% of Hawaii Kai residents.
But Kane was not moved, saying neighborhood council members from Hawaii Kai and Kailua also did not approve of the current version of the redistribution map.
“Recognizing that we are now much more diverse than just an indigenous Hawaiian community, we need to align with the needs of everyone within our communities,” he said.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Commissioner Charlotte Nekota explained that the new District 51 would correspond to the current Senate District which has been in place for 20 years.
Roberta Mayor, president of the Hawaii Kai Neighborhood Board, objected to this reasoning.
“Instead of trying to change the House districts to conform to the mistake that was made for the Senate, they need to reestablish Makapuu Point (as the border) for the Senate districts,” she said. . “It has been done in the Senate for a long time. Well, that doesn’t make the problem worse. So now is the time to solve it. “
All of the speakers at the rally pointed to a map developed by Kailua Neighborhood Board Chairman Bill Hicks that separates Hawaii Kai from Waimanalo and has a better population gap of around 2.5% from the map. commission at 8%.
When making changes to maps, commissioners must adhere to the one-person-one-vote rule that requires each district to have roughly the same number of people. Since exact compliance can be problematic, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that a deviation of less than 10% is acceptable.
Asked to address concerns raised at Thursday’s rally, Commissioner Dylan Nonaka, who also served on the commission in 2011, explained that it was impossible to please all communities in Oahu and that the District 51 change would only trigger changes in the districts across the Island.
“No matter what you do, when you make a change there is a cascading effect that changes the numbers in the surrounding districts,” he said.
“We fixed the map and satisfied 90% of the people, but the one area that we don’t fix, that we can’t fix to satisfy everyone, is also affected and I understand. that you are not going to satisfy everyone. “
Hicks contends that even though he adjusted the Districts in East Honolulu, it didn’t affect any of the other districts and that people who think it can’t be done are wrong.
The redistribution committee will have to vote on a map by February 27 and will hold two more meetings on January 3 and 6.