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La‘akea Chun nominated to Charter Commission

LIHU‘E — Local resident Alice Parker was so overwhelmed by the nomination of La‘akea Chun to a seat on the Charter Commission on Wednesday, she forgot the protocol of testifying before the Kaua‘i County Council.

Instead, she stood up and openly expressed her joy at the nomination of the senior from the Kawaikini New Century Public Charter School during the meeting.

Ellen Ching, Administrator for the Office of Boards and Commissions, received support from Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami and Council Chair Mel Rapozo, in nominating the 18-year-old student to a seat on the Charter Commission.

“You may be wondering why she is being nominated for a position on the Charter Commission when the commission is in the middle of formulating the ballot questions and La‘akea will be leaving for college soon,” Ching said. “Here’s the exciting part.”

In October 2023, La‘akea proposed a charter amendment to create student ex-officio positions on the Public Access, Open Space and Natural Resources Preservation Fund Commission and the Charter Commission.

“Since then, she’s worked in collaboration with the Charter Commission and the ballot question being formulated and considered has been expanded to generally include all boards and commissions,” Ching said.

“Working with La‘akea, the commission is hopeful that this ballot question will pass the legal muster and be included on the ballot. However, the commission also recognized that should the charter amendment be adopted by the voters, she would not be able to participate or benefit from it.”

“It was at the urging of the commission, and with the mayor’s strong support, since La‘akea turned 18, that she be nominated and have the opportunity to participate on the commission, if only for the few remaining months before she leaves for college,” Ching said.

Rapozo said if the council had its way, they would vote on the nomination, immediately. However, in the interest of transparency, the council will vote on this matter on April 24.

The two-week period is to allow people time to provide feedback to the council. Testimony can be emailed to counciltestimony@kauai.gov with a copy to the mayor at mayor@kauai.gov. Testimony can also be done orally during the April 24 meeting.

Mahina Nakea, La‘akea’s teacher at Kawaikini School, said the nomination is a result of her senior capstone project that was to develop and research questions dealing with the community.

La‘akea questioned how to get youths more involved in government, and had a concern about educating the council on Hawaiian matters, Nakea said. She spent a lot of time developing the language for the proposed charter amendment.

Ching said La‘akea Chun was born and raised on the westside of Kaua‘i to Kimo and Malia Chun. She plans to attend Windward Community College with plans to study Hawaiian Language and Hawaiian Studies.

“She will be following in the footsteps of her older sister, Leiohu who is already matriculating at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. … At age 18, La‘akea has already demonstrated her interest, knowledge and experience, and I look forward to hearing her unique perspective on the Charter Commission,” Ching said.

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Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 808-245-0453 or dfujimoto@thegardenisland.com.
Source: The Garden Island

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