Political showdown brewing after 64% pay raises are approved for councilmembers

A proposed 64% pay raise is leading to a political showdown at Honolulu Hale.
Published: Apr. 26, 2023 at 5:44 PM HST|Updated: Apr. 26, 2023 at 5:55 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A proposed 64% pay raise is leading to a political showdown at Honolulu Hale.

Two of the nine councilmembers plan to oppose the raise, which will take effect automatically if it is not voted down. Andria Tupola and Augie Tulba said it was just too much money all at once.

They added they would support a raise if the amount was lower.

Tulba fired the first salvo in opposition to his 95,000 followers on Instagram.

“Another way to put it ― over $400,000 of taxpayer money going to raises for nine council members,” Tulba said, in the post. “When was the last time you heard of anybody getting a 64% raise? Never.”

Tulba and Tupola plan to jointly introduce a resolution to reject the $44,000 raise for council members.

They do not oppose a 12.6% raise for the mayor and other city executives.

But Council Chair Tommy waters is a big advocate for the raise because he feels council members should be full-time and dedicated to that job alone.

“The really scary part is that in order to earn enough money, you have to devote that time to another job, when in fact, we’re asked to contemplate and make decisions over some very, very, very important issues,” Waters said.

That was the logic of the salary commission, too.

It’s made up of six volunteers appointed by the mayor and council. Even though he supports the raise, Waters agrees voters, through a charter amendment, should clearly determine if they want a full or part-time council.

“And let the people decide whether or not the council members should have only one job,” Waters said.

“I’m totally open to that idea.”

But that would be next year, during the statewide general election.

The raise, by comparison, will take effect automatically in about eight weeks.

But Waters is concerned that if forced to vote, those who vote to give themselves a raise risk a voter revolt.

“I think that’s why you had frozen salaries in 19 out of the last 33 years,” Waters said.

“Because people are elected. And they’re afraid that that if they accept a Salary Commission’s recommendation that they may not get elected again.”

Meanwhile, Tulba is using his social media reach to get the revolt started now.

“If you’re watching this, and you have strong feelings about the race, contact your council member let them know how you feel,” he urged on Instagram.