By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana
Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, December 2004
‘Ano’ai kakou… OHA’s spending policy was recently changed and now all of the Ceded Land revenues we get from the state will go straight into our operating budget. In other words, instead of depositing our income into a savings account, we’ll be putting it straight into our checking account to spend. OHA’s budget chairman wanted to find a way to get OHA to spend more money, so he called a committee meeting on August 18, 2004 and had high-powered experts do a presentation to the Board. These experts argued that the OHA’s spending policy favored future beneficiaries over current beneficiaries by allowing Ceded Land revenues to grow in the Trust. They explained that we were unfairly saving the money for future beneficiaries and not spending enough on today’s beneficiaries.
The presentation worked and on September 15, 2004, the Board passed a new spending policy. Now the $9,446,922 in Ceded Land revenues OHA will get from the state in 2005 will be spent and not saved. Theoretically, OHA should now be able to fund many new programs and help many more beneficiaries with that money.
Unfortunately, not all of the money is going directly to our beneficiaries. It appears leadership will use some of the $9.45 million to cover massive budget short-falls, which mostly included lawyers’ fees and costs relating to our lobbyist for the federal recognition campaign.
As you can imagine, the Trustees had many questions about what exactly the $9.45 million was going to be spent on. These questions finally forced the budget chair to hold a workshop on October 12th & 13th. Even after the two-day workshop, not all of the Trustees were convinced that the $9.45 million was being spent for its intended purpose – helping our beneficiaries. Despite our concerns, the revised Budget finally passed with the minimum required six-votes on November 1, 2004.
Budget workshops should be made mandatory to avoid problems like this in the future. Past budget committee chairs always held workshops before bringing a new budget to the Board. Workshops would give Trustees the time needed to have their questions answered in detail before they had to vote in committee. Right now, all of OHA’s committee chairs distribute materials for their meetings just a few days in advance. This hardly gives Trustees enough time to meet with administrative staff and ask questions, much less receive the answers we need to make prudent decisions.
The current regime could have shown true leadership if they had spent the time necessary to justify their proposal to spend the $9.45 million instead of hiring an attorney and high powered presenters to make their case and rush it through for a vote. Building a consensus with Board members eliminates mistrust and in the end, everyone is more comfortable with the decision they made, decisions based on current information and not hype artists.
I pray that the New Year will bring constructive and meaningful change, despite the fact that the Board remains unchanged after the November election. It is my hope that we will no longer need to engage in political gymnastics to get things done. We shouldn’t have to duel with leadership in order to make sure we are working in the best interest of our beneficiaries.
If leadership can work towards building a consensus and abandons its “win-at-all-cost” mentality, I feel that a more positive and productive Board will emerge. Perhaps my sentiments can best be summed up by St. Paul, who in a letter to Timothy wrote:
“We know the law is good if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but those who are lawless, the ungodly, the immoral, liars… and whatever else that is contrary to sound teaching.”
– Timothy, 1st Verse
Have a happy and safe holidays and God bless!