City and County of Honolulu Liquor Commission - Government - Local Government

Local Government

Originally governed by a Board of Supervisors, the City and County of Honolulu is administered under a mayor-council system of governance overseeing all municipal services: civil defense, emergency medical, fire, parks and recreation, police, sanitation, streets, and water, among others. One of the largest municipal governments in the United States, the City and County of Honolulu has an annual operating budget of US$1 billion.

The government of the City and County of Honolulu is simplified and streamlined and coalesces at three major divisions of municipal power.

  • The mayor of Honolulu is the principal executor of administrative authority and wields highly centralized abilities which in most cities are weighted more equally between the mayor and legislature. Because of the nature of these abilities, the mayor of Honolulu is often considered by political scientists as one of the most powerful mayors in the U.S. The mayor is elected on a non-partisan basis to a four-year term.
  • The Honolulu City Council is the unicameral legislative body. Its elected members are responsible for drafting and passing laws, as well as proposing budgets for various departments. Unlike other cities in the United States, the council is absolutely independent of the mayor, who does not make any appearances during any of the council sessions. The nine council members each represent one of nine districts, and are elected on a non-partisan basis to staggered four-year terms.
  • The Prosecuting Attorney of Honolulu is absolutely independent of the other two major divisions of municipal power, and is not charged with providing counsel to those bodies; that duty is a responsibility of the Department of Corporation Counsel under mayoral jurisdiction. The prosecuting attorney is elected on a non-partisan basis to a four-year term.

The City and County of Honolulu is one of only a handful of U.S. cities with an extensive neighborhood board system. With 36 neighborhood boards, the system is perhaps the largest of its kind. Members are elected to two-year terms. The office of neighborhood board member is an advisory position for public policy and civil investment.

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