Charter Schools are shortchanged by the State

`Ano`ai kakou…  Since 2005, the OHA has been a supporter of the charter school movement, and has collaborated in partnership with the Kamehameha Schools’ Hoꞌolako Like program, ꞌAha Pūnana Leo, Hoꞌokākoꞌo Corporation and other non-profit organizations supporting 15+ Hawaiian-focused charter schools statewide, where Native Hawaiians make up a high portion of the student population.

Most of Hawai’i’s start-up and conversion public charter schools are Hawaiian-focused charter schools and more than 3,000 Native Hawaiian children are enrolled in these schools.  These schools lack sufficient funds for facilities and infrastructure, capital improvements and repair and maintenance costs.  Difficulties in securing adequate long-term and affordable facilities that are academically appropriate are resulting in a financial crisis for some Hawaiian-focused charters.  This threatens the long-term viability of Hawai’i’s public charter school system and the well-being of our Hawaiian children and families.

In spite of the challenges and severe under-funding, Hawaiian-focused charter schools have demonstrated their effectiveness in serving our Hawaiian children, who are more engaged and attain greater gains in the educational process as compared to their peers in conventional public schools.  Our children are succeeding in the Hawaiian-focused charter schools because they are grounded in Hawaiian language, culture and values.  The well-being of our Hawaiian families and communities are also enhanced by the positive gains made in our Hawaiian-focused charter schools.

The Trustees, the Administration and the staff of OHA are committed to fulfill its education mission to facilitate culturally sound educational opportunities for Native Hawaiians by promoting academic success and life-long learning.  The Trustees have authorized and allocated millions of dollars over the years leveraging other potential resources to fund Hawaiian-focused public charter schools.  The State is the largest stakeholder and is charged with the greatest responsibility or “kuleana” to make this possible.

Section 5(f) of the 1959 Hawaii Admission Act established that the State holds lands as a public trust be used for: (1) The support of public schools and other public institutions; (2) For the betterment of conditions of native Hawaiians; (3) The development of farm and home ownership; (4) Public improvements; and (5) The establishment of lands for public use.

Hawaiian-focused public charter schools are getting shortchanged by the State.

Hawaiian-focused public charter schools should be getting a much greater share of the ceded land revenues than they do now.  They should be drawing from a pool of 40% of the ceded land revenues (support of public schools at 20% and public use of lands at 20%).  The State’s share of the ceded land revenues is 80% (minus the 20% for the betterment of native Hawaiians that goes to OHA) and yet they give nothing (0%) to the Charter Schools for infrastructure.  This causes a huge disparity between Charter Schools and the Department of Education.  Paying for their facilities is a huge burden for charter schools and the State needs to start paying up.  Things are so bad that many charter schools would be in dire straits if it weren’t for OHA’s yearly $1.5 million in grants.

It is not enough to make possible the opportunity for our children to attend charter schools.  It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the learning environments we create for our children, and indeed for all children, must be reflective of the promising future that we envision for them and for our society.  I urge all of my readers to support the ongoing success of Hawaiian-focused charter schools.  Write and email your OHA Trustee, State Representative, and State Senator to do something about this disparity.  Aloha Ke Akua.

The Time Has Come Again For Solidarity

Let us make room for all voices and respect each other’s views no matter how different they are from our own.

`Ano`ai kakou…  Many of us still mark August 20, 2003 as a black day in Hawaiian history when a federal court judge forced Kamehameha Schools to enroll a non-Hawaiian student.  This act was so egregious that on September 7, 2003, the Trustees and staff of OHA marched side-by-side down Kalakaua Avenue with more than 5,000 supporters of Native Hawaiian rights in a powerful show of unity.

The marchers included representatives from Kamehameha Schools, Hawaiian Ali’i Trusts, Royal Benevolent Society members, and sovereignty advocates.  Also showing their support were many non-Hawaiians.  The march was organized by the ‘Ilio’ulaokalani Coalition and ended in a rally at the Kapi’olani Park Bandstand.  It was encouraging to see that people who often found themselves on opposite sides regarding nationhood could come together to support justice for all Native Hawaiians.

THE ‘AHA

On February 26, 2016, the majority of the Na‘i Aupuni ‘aha participants voted to adopt The Constitution of the Native Hawaiian Nation.  Again, it was moving to see people who were often on opposite sides of an issue come together for the good of the whole.  There were several participants that frequently came to OHA to protest our positions on nationhood and yet we were all able to put those differences aside and finally draft the governing documents needed to restore our nation.

The governing documents drafted during the ‘aha must be voted on and approved by the Hawaiian people before they can be implemented.  The Hawaiian people currently have the opportunity to examine the documents before deciding whether to accept them.  Once the provisions of the governing documents are ratified, they can finally be implemented and the officers and legislative arm of the nation will be selected.

MOVING FORWARD

What we face today as Hawaiians, the indigenous people of our lands, is no different than what occurred over 100 years ago. We are still fighting to protect our culture, rights to our lands, and our entitlements.  Times may have changed but people are still the same.  Greed is still the motivation behind efforts to relieve us of whatever entitlements we have left.  The fight is even more difficult now that our enemies have become more sophisticated in ways to manipulate us and the law.

We are one people. We cannot afford to be divided, not when so much work remains to be done. The struggle to regain our sovereign rights requires unity and the strength of numbers.

As the federal court decision regarding Kamehameha schools proved, the future of OHA and other Hawaiian Trusts are certainly at risk.  Hawaiian leaders will have to work together and use whatever resources that are necessary to protect that last remaining Hawaiian Trusts.

Let us work together for the cause of nationhood.  Let us agree on the things that we can agree to and set aside the things we differ on and move forward together for the future generations of Hawaiians yet to come.

We cannot continue to let others decide our future.  We will be one nation and one people.

“I appeal to you….that there be no division among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose.”  I Corinthians 1:10

Let us embrace each other’s views no matter how different they are from our own.  Only then can we be as our Queen wished… ONIPA’A, steadfast in what is good!  Aloha Ke Akua.

Protect iwi kūpuna: Sand mining in central Maui must stop!

`Ano`ai kakou…  On June 14-15, 2017, the Trustees held community and Board meetings on Maui.  Several community members who attended the meetings shared their deep concerns about iwi kūpuna being disturbed by sand dune mining in central Maui.

According the OHA’s administration, the sand dunes have “immense cultural value” and are known to contain iwi of kūpuna from numerous historic battles and from ancient burials.  The State Historic Preservation Office within the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Maui and Lāna’i Island Burial Council has primary jurisdiction over the discovery of ancestral remains and their disposition.  However, in 2009, the Maui Lanai Islands Burial Council reportedly asked for an accounting of burials affected by the sand mining, but nothing came from it.

The testifiers informed us that the recent movement of the sand for grading and mining has exposed even more burials.  In her testimony, Clare Apana asked the Trustees to support a moratorium on sand mining and to formally recognize the entire sand dune as a protected area and a known burial site.  Apana said that more than 1,000 iwi kūpuna have been disturbed in the sand dunes and more will be disturbed with every day that sand mining is allowed to go on.

A recent Star-Advertiser article by Timothy Hurley (dated July 2, 2017) reported that “sand has been mined on Maui since before World War II, but the activity increased in the 1970s as Maui’s inland dunes became the source of sand for concrete used to fuel a construction boom.  By 1985, Maui sand started being barged to Honolulu, and over a couple of decades 5.5 million tons were shipped to Oahu for use in construction, according to a 2006 report compiled for the county Department of Public Works and Environmental Management.  The report had estimated the sand could be depleted in less than 10 years.”

Even more disturbingly, the same Star-Advertiser article also stated that the sand mining on Maui has reportedly been a source of sand for the concrete used to build the pillars and guide ways of the Honolulu rail project now under construction.  My suggestion to the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation is that they better look into it because I’m sure it will affect ridership.  Who wants to ride a cursed train?

OHA’s 2015 iwi kūpuna policy calls for the care, management and protection of iwi kūpuna.  Many of the Trustees feel passionately about this issue and some even suggested that OHA go to court.  The consensus was clear that we have to do something now and we can’t wait any longer.

On June 29, 2017, the Board approved the following motion — The Office of Hawaiian Affairs calls upon Maui Lani Partners to cease all sand and other resource extraction and grading to allow:

  •  The Maui Department of Planning to determine if sand extraction violates the Maui Zoning Code;
  •  The Maui Department of Public Works to determine if revocation or suspension of the Phase IX grading permit is appropriate; and
  • The State Historic Preservation Department and the Maui Lānaʻi Islands Burial Council to properly investigate the discovery of burials and whether historic preservation laws and conditions have been fully complied with and enforced.

If you care about our ancestral bones say something, do something.  Call the Maui County Council.  No more shipments of sand from Maui to build rail columns!  Aloha Ke Akua.

Saying a final farewell to former OHA Trustee Moanikeꞌala Akaka

`Ano`ai kakou…  It is with sadness I say aloha to former OHA Trustee Moanikeʻala Akaka who passed away in Hilo on Saturday, April 15, 2017, at the age of 72.  I had the distinct honor of serving with Moani on the OHA Board from 1990 to 1996.

Trustee Akaka was a prominent figure in the early days of the Hawaiian Renaissance, and her outspoken and passionate activism on behalf of Native Hawaiians and the disenfranchised continued throughout her entire life.  Trustee Akaka strongly opposed the militarization of Hawaiʻi and the use of Kahaoʻolawe and Pōhakuloa as bombing and munitions training areas and she was also a passionate advocate for the protection of Mauna Kea.

In February, 2004, Trustee Akaka came to ask OHA if she qualified for state retirement for her past service as an OHA Trustee from November 28, 1984 to November 15, 1996.  The administration let her know that she did not qualify for state retirement under the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS).

From November 26, 1980 through 1993, OHA Trustees served without a salary.  Trustees received a stipend of $50.00 per day for each meeting they attended and travel expenses.  So back then, Trustees were considered part-time workers but we worked full-time.

In 1993, the OHA Trustee Salary Commission was established and Trustees started to receive an annual salary of $32,000, but we were not included in the ERS so we didn’t qualify for state retirement benefits.

In 2002, the law was changed to allow OHA Trustees, in service on or after July 1, 2002, to participate in the ERS.  Although we tried to grandfather in the past Trustees, the new law ended up excluding past Trustees that served before July 1, 2002.  The law only gave retirement benefits to Trustees elected after July 1, 2002.

In February of 2015, Trustee Akaka renewed her request for retirement benefits from OHA.  As Chair of the Budget Committee, I asked the Administration to draft an action item proposing to make a single, lump sum payment to former Trustee Akaka, which would equal a Trustees’ one year’s salary in 2015, excluding fringe benefits.  Although some Trustees had some concerns, this proposal passed with no objections on May 14, 2015.

For too many years, OHA Trustees were treated as “step children” of the State.  Yet we are elected statewide and serve all year long.  We are also fiduciaries which no other elected officials are.  Our responsibilities are much greater than a state legislator.  Yet it took 13 years to get a salary, which comes from Trust Funds, and 22 years to be allowed retirement benefits.  The legislature can give itself raises while OHA has to wait for the Governor to appoint a salary commission every four years to see if we deserve a raise.  It’s been eight years and two Commissions who have said no to raises.  What is wrong with this picture?  We are still being treated as second class citizens.

On May 25, 2017, the Trustees adopted a resolution honoring the life and contributions of Trustee Akaka and extended its deepest condolences to her ʻohana.  If you are interested in making a donation to the ‘ohana, checks can be made payable to Trustee Akaka’s daughter.  Here is her contact information:  Ho‘oululahui Erika Perry, 80 Alahelenui Street, Hilo, HI 96720.

Mahalo nui and Godspeed Moani.

Legislative Update (2017)

`Ano`ai kakou…  The legislature is about ready to wrap things up.  Here are two of the most harmful pieces of legislation that is currently threatening OHA and the Native Hawaiian Trust:

APPOINTING OHA TRUSTEES THREATENS THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE

The House (HCR94/HR56) and Senate (SCR85/SR33) introduced resolutions that would ask OHA to convene a group of Hawaiian leaders, legal scholars, and Hawaiian community members to review whether it’d be better to appoint OHA Trustees rather than elect them.  The group would consider what the appropriate appointing authority would be and how to develop a list of the best qualified potential trustees.

OHA has always been an independent agency built on the goal of Native Hawaiian autonomy and self-determination.  Appointing Trustees would kill any hope of true self-determination and make OHA just another part of the state.

An appointed Trustee would only be loyal to whoever appointed them.  Elected Trustees are loyal to their constituents.  Would the people of Hawaii accept Senators and Representatives that were appointed by the Governor?  OHA should be no different.

Elected Trustees have built OHA into the impressive institution it is today.  We did it on our own, without someone above us second-guessing our every move.  An appointed Board of Trustees could never match our vision, determination, and drive to tackle the many challenges our beneficiaries face.

OHA COLLECTIVE BARGAINING?

HB865 threatens to undermine the autonomy of OHA Trustees as OHA’s independent decision makers and fiduciaries of the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund.  Amendment to HRS § 89-6 could result in the OHA Board of Trustees holding only 1 of 14 votes when negotiating a collective bargaining agreement involving OHA employees, whose salaries make up a significant portion of OHA’s operating budget.

Together with the requirements of the Civil Service Law, HRS Chapter 76, the Trustees’ ability to oversee and plan for personnel expenses would depend in large part to the decisions of the executive branch and Governor, who would hold 7 votes in collective bargaining negotiations involving OHA employees.

Such a voting imbalance would effectively require the OHA Board of Trustees to hand over control over some of its key expenditures to the State.  The requirements of civil service and collective bargaining would force OHA to change the way it hires, compensates, and maintains its workforce.

Representative Kaniela Ing

So what do both of these measures infringing on OHA’s autonomy have in common?  They were introduced in the House by Representative Kaniela Ing.  This isn’t the first year he’s introduced them, but this has to stop.  This is the third year in a row he’s done this!

Whatever Rep. Ing’s intentions may be, it’s clear his proposals would end OHA’s autonomy and make us a part of the state.  Hawaiians have been struggling for many years to restore our sovereignty and self-determination, whether it’s through nation-within-a-nation model or full independence.  A state-controlled OHA would cripple those efforts and threaten the resources OHA is holding for the new nation.

The Board of Education is now appointed by the Governor.  Are things better with public schools?  The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands has commissioners appointed by the Governor.  Are you satisfied with how it’s performing?  I pray that the young Representative from Maui would put more thought into his proposals; otherwise we need to convince his constituents to look for someone else to represent them.  Aloha Ke Akua.

No more taking of Native Lands

`Ano`ai kakou…  One issue that has been near and dear to my heart over the past few years is passing a law that would exempt Kuleana lands from property taxes.  Hawaiian families, who have been caring for their Kuleana lands for generations, were facing sky-rocketing property taxes.  They could have ended up losing everything if something wasn’t done to offer them some sort of tax relief.

After four years of countless meetings with City officials and testifying before an endless parade of committees, Kuleana Lands finally became exempt from real property taxes on Oahu in 2007 and it is now known as Revised Ordinances of Honolulu Section 8-10.32 Exemption—Kuleana land.  All of the neighbor island counties established their own Kuleana property tax exemptions soon after Oahu.  If the exemptions didn’t pass when it did, more Kuleana lands would have fallen out of Hawaiian hands.

Now Kuleana lands are under threat from rich mainlanders who want to force Hawaiian families off their land, all for the sake of their privacy.

A brief history of Kuleana Lands:  In 1848, as a result of the Mahele, all land in the Kingdom of Hawai‘i was placed in one of three categories:  Crown Lands (for the occupant of the throne); Government Lands; and Konohiki Lands (Kuleana Act, 1850).  (www.kumupono.com)

After native Hawaiian commoners were granted the opportunity to acquire their own parcels of land through the Mahele, foreigners were also granted the right to own land in 1850, provided they had sworn an oath of loyalty to the Hawaiian Monarch.  In order to receive their awards from the Land Commission, the hoa‘aina (native tenants) were required to prove that they cultivated the land for a living.  They were not permitted to acquire “wastelands” (e.g. fishponds) or lands which they cultivated “with the seeming intention of enlarging their lots.”  Once a claim was confirmed, a survey was required before the Land Commission was authorized to issue any award.

The lands awarded to the hoa‘aina became known as “Kuleana Lands.” All of the claims and awards (the Land Commission Awards or L.C.A.) were numbered, and the L.C.A. numbers remain in use today to identify the original owners of lands in Hawai‘i.  By the time of its closure on March 31, 1855, the Land Commission issued only 8,421 kuleana claims, equaling only 28,658 acres of land to the native tenants (cf. Indices of Awards 1929).

According to the Overview of Hawaiian History by Diane Lee Rhodes, many of the kuleana lands were later lost.  The list of reasons include:  (1) Native tenants mostly received lands that lacked firewood or were too rocky and unsuitable for farming.  (2) A number of kuleana were sold by dishonest land agents before the farmers could get a survey.  (3) The land commissioners delayed getting notices to landholders.  (4) Prices were out of reach for commoners.  (5) Finally, foreigners evicted legitimate kuleana owners without due process.

We must put an end to the injustices done to the caretakers of Kuleana lands for the past 150-years once and for all.  If something is not done soon, the very last Kuleana lands that have survived will finally fall out of Hawaiian hands.  Protecting what’s left of Kuleana Lands will help preserve Hawai’i’s rich history and culture.

OHA and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation will partner to stop outsiders, or anyone, who try to “quiet title” Hawaiian lands.

Wrapping-up 2016

Congratulations to all of the candidates who were elected to office in 2016.  Campaigning is a grueling process but the real work is about to begin.  I look forward to working with all of you in the 2017 Legislative Session to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians.

The Constitution of the Native Hawaiian Nation

On February 26, 2016, the majority of the Na‘i Aupuni ‘aha participants voted to adopt The Constitution of the Native Hawaiian Nation.  As one of 154 individuals that participated in the ‘aha, it is very difficult to put into words what an awesome experience this was for me.  Not only was this an important historical turning point in our history, but it was moving to see people who were often on opposite sides of an issue come together for the good of the whole and finally draft the governing documents needed to restore our nation.

Forced Land Sales Bills

During the 2016 legislative session, Kamehameha Schools led the charge against legislation that would have forced Hawai‘i’s landowners to sell leasehold lands to their lessees.  If HB 1635 or HB 2173 had become law, private land developers could have moved in to condemn and redevelop historical lands that were passed down from generation to generation of Hawaiians.

Thankfully, on February 8th, KS announced that the House cancelled the hearing for HB 1635 and HB 2173, which effectively killed the bills.  However, 2017 brings a new legislative session with new legislators who are unfamiliar with the issue.  Let us all be makaꞌala (watchful).

Wishing our dear Princess a very happy 90th birthday

It was with great admiration and respect that I dedicated this column to honoring Her Royal Highness Princess Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawananakoa who celebrated her 90th birthday on April 26th.  Age has not slowed her efforts to help the Hawaiian people and to preserve and protect in perpetuity the legacy passed down to the present generation.

One Voice, One Message

On August 24th, the BAE Committee and OHA’s CEO proposed a new policy called “One Voice, One Message,” which required that all external communications be submitted to the CEO for review and approval prior to execution or engagement.

If this policy were to be approved, Trustees will no longer be able to publically voice their opposition to any board decision without facing severe sanctions for speaking out against the majority.  Thankfully, the proposal was deferred due to concerns about it being unconstitutional.  I will continue to strongly oppose this undemocratic policy if it returns to the board table.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announces a pathway to nationhood

On September 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a “final rule to create a pathway for reestablishing a formal government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.”  It is now time for all of us to work together for the cause of recognition.  While the board has NOT voted to accept the rules as written, let us begin to agree on the things that we can agree to and set aside the things we differ on and move forward together for the future generations of Hawaiians yet to come.

Merry Christmas

May each of you have a joyful and merry Christmas surrounded by family and friends.  Stay safe out there.  Aloha Ke Akua.

The U.S. Department of the Interior announces a pathway to nationhood

`Ano`ai kakou…  Let me begin by expressing my warmest aloha to all the candidates who had the courage and commitment to participate in this year’s election.  Campaigning can be a blood sport, but now it is time to put aside our differences and get back to bettering the lives of our constituents.

On Friday, September 23, 2016, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) announced a “final rule to create a pathway for reestablishing a formal government-to-government relationship with the Native Hawaiian community.”  “The final rule sets out an administrative procedure and criteria that the U.S. Secretary of the Interior would use if the Native Hawaiian community forms a unified government that then seeks a formal government-to-government relationship with the United States.”

According the DOI, “The final rule builds on more than 150 Federal statutes that Congress enacted over the last century to recognize and implement the special political and trust relationship between the United States and the Native Hawaiian community. It also considered and addressed extensive public comments during the rulemaking process, which included public meetings in Hawaii and the mainland United States.”

The time has come for all us to come together in spirit and put some meaningful effort into re-establishing the political relationship between Native Hawaiians and the Federal government to re-organize our Native Hawaiian Governing Entity.  Once done, we will be able to protect all of our Hawaiian trust assets from the constant threat of lawsuits.  This is why I have always supported state and federal recognition.

As I traveled around the state, I spoke to many people who were confused about the process towards nationhood.  I can only conclude that OHA has not done enough to educate the public.  This situation has to change.  Trustees are going to have to speak up about the many positive results that Hawaiian Nationhood would bring for both Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians.  I assure all of you that, after listening to your mana’o, I will do everything that is humanly possible to address your concerns.

What is also needed is your participation.  You must challenge EACH Trustee to be accountable to you.  It is unfortunate that you cannot assume that Trustees will do this on their own.  Like any organization, from time to time, especially when one faction has been in power for too long like it has been at OHA, “the people” need to become actively involved.  Otherwise we will risk having to deal with complacency and the abuse of power.

What we face today as Hawaiians is no different than what has occurred over the past 100 years.  We are still fighting off assaults on our culture, the deterioration of our rights to our lands, and attacks from racist organizations.

Let us begin to work together for the cause of recognition.  Let us begin to agree on the things that we can agree to and set aside the things we differ on and move forward together for the future generations of Hawaiians yet to come.

As we approach the close of 2016, I would like to wish each of you a very safe and happy holiday season, and may the Lord in his grace bless each of you and your families and take you safely into 2017.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Aloha pumehana.

Are you satisfied with the status quo?

`Ano`ai kakou…  After serving on legendary boards that worked hard to build OHA and strengthen its ability to serve our beneficiaries, it frustrates me that we’ve become so stagnated in the last few years.  If you don’t agree that OHA is standing still, ask yourself this – When’s the last time you’ve seen OHA in the news?

In the past, OHA accomplished big things with less staff and less money.  OHA was frequently in the news doing important things that mattered like establishing a state-wide property tax exemption for Native Hawaiians living on Kuleana lands (an effort which I spearheaded); providing $4.4 million in grants to Hawaiian Focused Public Charter Schools; preserving 25,000 acres of Native Hawaiian rainforest known as Wao Kele o Puna on Hawaii Island; and saving the 1,875-acre Waimea Valley.

We also haven’t been getting anywhere at the state legislature.  This was one of the first years I can think of that none of the bills in the OHA legislative package passed.  This should be a cause for concern that OHA’s clout at the legislature is waning.

OHA is the only advocate at the legislature for all Native Hawaiian issues, such as water rights, gathering rights, or land rights.  Few organizations have the resources, staff and expertise to speak to legislators on our beneficiaries’ behalf.  If OHA doesn’t do something fast to reverse its shrinking clout at the legislature, caused in no small part by inconsistent decisions and our Administration making decisions for Trustees, we will be in danger of becoming inconsequential, insignificant and insolvent.

There is so much we can do to help our beneficiaries who are suffering under the lack of affordable housing, the high cost of living, lack of fresh local produce, and the continuing degradation of our fragile environment.  We just seem to lack the will to do anything.  I miss the passion and drive that previous Trustees had in years past.  Sure we got into a few scraps with each other, but we got things done and our hearts were always in the right place.  Everything we did was for the benefit of our people.

The Board of Trustees needs new energy

We must not be content with just sitting back and letting the Administration plod along without any direction.  We need to get the fire back in our bellies and go back to doing big things.  If we don’t, we will no longer be relevant to our beneficiaries and the state might decide to get rid of us by transferring all of our assets to the general fund.

So this election, seek change and elect new blood!  Don’t be satisfied with the status quo.  Elect New People!  Electing the same Trustees will not bring any meaningful change to OHA!  Aloha Ke Akua.

Help OHA reach its full potential: Look for Change

`Ano`ai kakou…  As the longest serving Trustee, it saddens me that OHA is no longer the proactive advocate for our beneficiaries that it once was.  When I was first elected to the board in 1990, OHA was at the forefront of many issues involving native rights, housing, education, and health.

Past Trustees were actively involved, spearheading major projects, and holding OHA’s Administration accountable.  Now everything seems, for want of a better term, “stagnant.”  While I’m sure the Board Chair can produce a long list of “great” things happening at OHA, to me it’s just all public relations fluff.  Make no mistake – This is not the OHA of old that used to get results.  I’m sure that every Trustee would agree that OHA could do more for our beneficiaries.  Much more.

So what’s the solution?  It’s simple: Restore the Board’s oversight over the Administration.  Right now, there are only THREE Trustees that are holding the Administration accountable:

  • The Asset & Resource Management Committee Chair, who oversees all of OHA’s fiscal, policy, economic development, land, and administrative matters;
  • The Beneficiary Advocacy & Empowerment Committee Chair, who has responsibility over federal and state legislation, on-going programs in health, housing, and education; and
  • Last, but not least, the Board Chair, who basically just acts as the liaison between the Administration and the Board instead of providing oversight and direction. In fact, the CEO has BANNED Trustees without committees from having direct contact with Administrative staff. All requests for information must go through the Chair’s office.

So basically, the rest of the Trustees have to depend on the three Trustees above for updates and reports at the board table – There are no other opportunities for us to get information.

We could easily increase the amount of Trustees providing oversight over the Administration by going back the five committee system.  Subject matters included (1) Land, (2) Policy & Planning, (3) Program Management, (4) Legislative & Government Affairs, and (5) Budget & Finance.  Bringing back these five committees would instantly double the amount of Trustees overseeing the Administration from three to six.

The increased oversight over the Administration would finally put an end to the frequent complaints by Trustees that they are not being kept in the loop or getting regular updates on important issues.

As many of my long time readers know, this is not a new proposal.  I pushed for this change last year but the current Board Chair decided to go in the opposite direction.  He actually got rid of the Land and Property committee!

OHA is simply too big for three Trustees to control the organization.  And, as a result, crucial information is able to stay hidden.  For example, under the old five committee structure, the Budget & Finance committee chair actually had the time to take our budget out to the community for comments and suggestions.  Every line litem of the budget was presented and none were hidden in “cost centers.”  Nothing could stay hidden in the budget with that much scrutiny.

So this election, seek change and elect new blood!  Ask OHA candidates what they think about how OHA is run.  Question them on their ideas to improve the office and the services we provide.  Vote wisely or we’ll continue to be stuck in the same stagnation for years to come.  Our beneficiaries deserve better!  Aloha Ke Akua.