UH should not be managing Mauna Kea

`Ano`ai kakou…  On May 26, 2015, Governor David Ige announced that he would “protect the rights of the builders” of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea.   He also admitted that the state has failed the mountain in many ways and he wants to change the management of the summit to give more consideration to culture and natural resources. (Star Advertiser, 5/27/15)

The Governor has asked UH, which subleases the summit area from the state, to make ten changes to improve its stewardship of Mauna Kea.  His requests included making the TMT the last telescope on the mountain; getting rid of at least 25 percent of the telescopes by the time TMT is ready for operation in the 2020s; and returning more than 10,000 acres not being used for astronomy.

Governor Ige’s proposal provides us a positive first step in revising the way Mauna Kea is safe-guarded, but he needs to go much further.  The 11,300 acres of land within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve are public land trust lands classified under section 5(b) of the Admissions Act.  The revenues from public trust lands must be dedicated to specific purposes including the betterment of Native Hawaiians.

OHA receives a portion of revenues generated from the use of these public land trust lands.  The State should ensure that OHA and its beneficiaries receive adequate compensation for any future subleases.

To avoid possible fiscal impacts to the UH’s educational mission, any proposed general lease for Mauna Kea lands should require UH to charge a more appropriate rent for the sublease or use of such lands.  This would ensure that OHA beneficiaries and the State receive appropriate compensation for the use of these public land trust lands, and ensures that UH also receives adequate revenues to support its broader educational mission.

UH should be required to conduct a financial review of all public land trust revenue it receives.  This will help to identify gaps in revenue from public land trust lands, as well as clarify what revenues may be generated from specific lands, such as Mauna Kea.

The state should also require UH to develop a Master Plan that will return Mauna Kea to its original, pristine state once all of the current telescope leases expire and the lands are returned to the people of Hawaii.

Finally, UH’s authority to manage public trust lands must be reevaluated because of its continual abuse and mismanagement of our precious lands.  The state and the legislature should revisit the autonomy that they have given to the UH.  At the very least, they need to pull back some of its power.  They frequently complain about crumbling infrastructure and the need to raise tuition.  It’s should be clear to everyone that UH is not a fiscally sustainable institution, and such a desperate organization should not be in charge of Mauna Kea.

UH has failed to live up to its commitments and it is OHA’s responsibility as advocate for our beneficiaries to take whatever actions are necessary, legal or otherwise, to make things right on their behalf.

The mountain means many different things for many different people, but the bottom line is if you’ can’t manage it properly then the state should give it to someone else who can.

Moving a Mountain: The Real Problem

`Ano`ai kakou…  For the past several months, there has been a tremendous focus on Mauna Kea.  OHA, as a Hawaiian agency created to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians, is tasked with administering ceded land revenues to address this mandate.

Because of this responsibility, OHA is frequently asked by the state agencies such as the University of Hawaii (UH), nonprofits, and even private entities to comment, help, or, in some cases, take legal action on issues important to Native Hawaiians.

Hawaiians are not against science

Today, Mauna Kea is an issue that has gone global with Hollywood celebrities joining the protest to stop the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) at the summit.  The Star Advertiser says OHA lacks leadership because we are not telling Hawaiians to stand down because the state needs revenue and everyone benefits from science.  They also feel we need to stand by our previous decision.  The newspaper needs to do their homework before making blanket statements.

Six years ago, the majority of the Board of Trustees accepted Mauna Kea as the sight for the TMT.  OHA also weighed in on a contested case hearing asking UH and the Mauna Kea Management planners to force them to do an Environmental Impact Statement and ensure they do what was necessary to culturally protect the site for future generations.

OHA lost the lawsuit and, when approached again last year, the Board took no action for many reasons.  The most critical being we no longer had standing to sue since we lost the first case and two Native Hawaiian workers on the Big Island testified that they needed the jobs the telescope construction would provide.

The real problem

The bigger issue here is UH and the state legislature.  The state has been a poor trustee of our ceded lands.  They are leasing our lands for only a $1 per year and it allows UH to sublease the lands for millions, perhaps billions of dollars.  Why isn’t UH making the builders of the telescope give something back to our community for the desecration of our sacred mountain?  Why isn’t UH requiring the builders to clean-up their mess and take down their telescopes that aren’t operational?

Where is all of this money going?  Is it really going to science?  Has the state ever conducted an audit of the University to verify where all of the millions generated on Mauna Kea each year are truly going?  UH is frequently complaining they are broke.  Where is the accountability?  Revenues generated on Mauna Kea are both Hawaiian and taxpayer monies and yet who really knows how the dollars are being spent?

The state and the legislature needs to revisit the autonomy that they have given to the UH and pull back that power.  UH should not have the power, in the name of science, to do anything they want with our aina.

Hawaiians are concerned about access to worship afforded to them by the PASH Law.

UH does not own the mountain and the state should make them return it to the people of Hawaii in the same pristine condition it was in when they took it from us.

2014 Legislative Wrap-up & the OHA Primary Election

`Ano`ai kakou… We were deeply disappointed with the state legislature this year when they failed to pass Senate Bill 3122, which would have allowed residential development on three of OHA’s Kaka‘ako Makai properties. SB3122 would have added significant value to our properties and provided much needed revenue for our Nation.

Because of opposition from the “Save Our Kakaako” groups, theState House, led by Representative Scott Saiki, killed our bill. OHA wanted to increase our building height limit in order to allow for more middle income condos. Our plan was to build a Hawaiian sense of place and community allowing for open space and ease of access to the waterfront. However, the Save Our Kakaako groups fought against our plan, saying that they were against the building of any kind of housing.

What they didn’t understand was that, under the present law, OHA could exceed its height limitations if we built “commercial” buildings. By developing commercial buildings, OHA’s footprint across its Kakaako lands would be larger and it would not leave enough open space for any kind of community access.

It is tragic that when members of certain groups are allowed to influence decisions that will affect millions of people in a very negative way for many generations to come. Why is it that vocal minorities always seem to prevail over the majority of folks? In any case, OHA will now proceed with the development of a Master Plan for our Kakaako lands.

ON ANOTHER NOTE – OHA PRIMARY

For the first time in OHA’s 30-year history, the general public will get to vote in a Primary Election for OHA Trustees. Since more than seven candidates have signed-up for the three seats in the at-Large OHA race (as of late-April) we will need to have an OHA Primary Election to bring that number down to six for the General Election. Candidates running for OHA seats will now have to spend a lot more money to win their statewide elections.

PERMANENT ABSENTEE VOTING

I encourage all OHA voters to consider Permanent Absentee Voting, which allows registered voters to receive their ballots by mail permanently for future elections. As a permanent absentee mail voter, you will no longer have to apply for future elections. A ballot will automatically be mailed to you for each election in which you are eligible to vote.

HOW DO I REQUEST TO VOTE BY PERMANENT ABSENTEE BALLOT?

You must be a registered voter in order to receive your absentee ballots permanently. Applications for Permanent Absentee Ballots (known as the Wikiwiki Voter Registration & Permanent Absentee form) are available at the following locations:

  • City/County Clerk’s Offices
  • Hawaii State Libraries
  • Office of Election’s website: www.hawaii.gov/elections
  • Satellite City Halls
  • U.S. Post Offices

Submit your completed application directly to the Office of your City/County Clerk no later than 7 days before the election. Permanent Absentee Applications will be accepted until:

2014 Primary Election:       Saturday, August 2, 2014

2014 General Election:       Tuesday, October 28, 2014

If you have any questions, please call the Office of Elections at (808) 453-VOTE (8683).

UH needs to pay their fair share

`Ano`ai kakou… Here are two important issues affecting Native Hawaiians that require special attention:

MAUNA KEA

The 11,300 acres of land within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve are public land trust lands classified under section 5(b) of the Admissions Act. The revenues from public trust lands must be dedicated to specific purposes including the betterment of Native Hawaiians.

House Bill 1689 requires the University of Hawai’i to use the fair market value for the lease of lands when calculating the amount of funds that it must transfer to the public land trust fund.

OHA receives a portion of revenues generated from the use of these public land trust lands. HB 1689 will ensure that OHA and its beneficiaries receive adequate compensation for any future subleases.

Mauna Kea lands have long been mismanaged by UH. Sacred cultural lands have been industrially developed without any payment or clear benefit to Native Hawaiians.

At the same time, UH has been receiving a substantial benefit from its lessees in the form of telescope time, which has been valued in some cases at more than $100,000 a night. This benefit has mostly gone only to the astronomy program at UH; since none of this value is seen as sub-lessee rent. OHA beneficiaries and the State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) have not received a fair share of this substantial revenue.

To avoid possible fiscal impacts to the University of Hawai’i’s educational mission, any proposed general lease for Mauna Kea lands should require UH to charge more appropriate rent for the sublease or use of such lands. This would ensure that OHA beneficiaries and the State receive appropriate compensation for the use of these public land trust lands, and ensures that UH also receives adequate revenues to support its broader educational mission.

It should also be noted that the requirement for UH to conduct a financial review of all public land trust revenue will help to identify gaps in revenue from public land trust lands, as well as clarify what revenues may be generated from specific lands, such as Mauna Kea.

In the meantime, OHA should also propose a financial audit of all revenues UH derives from its use of public trust lands. This will allow OHA to ensure more appropriate level of benefits flow to public trust beneficiaries for the use of our sacred mountain. Finally, UH’s authority to manage public trust lands must be reevaluated because of its continual abuse and mismanagement of our precious lands.

NIIHAU KONOHIKI

Senate Bill 180 SD2 proposes to give one individual resident on Niihau the exclusive konohiki rights to regulate fishing around Niihau. The konohiki will be appointed by the Chairperson of BLNR, in consultation with the private owner of Niihau.

While I understand the arguments in support of this proposal, I believe that we must be very careful about setting a precedence of having only one person making all of the fishing rules for an entire island. Especially if that person may have vested interests to protect and could abuse their power as Konohiki to lock out any competition.

2014 will bring the first OHA Primary Election

`Ano`ai kakou… During the 2013 legislative session, Senate Bill 3 was signed into law as Act 287. The new law established Primary elections for OHA Trustees, beginning with the 2014 elections.

Since this will be the first time in OHA’s 30-year history that the general public will vote in a Primary Election for OHA Trustees, I became very concerned about whether OHA voters might get confused.

Late last year, I wrote a letter to the State’s Chief Election Officer asking him about his preparations. With less than 7 months before the Primary Election on August 9, 2014, I explained to him that I am deeply concerned that I haven’t witnessed any serious efforts by the Office of Elections to educate the public. They should already be placing public service announcements in the media to properly familiarize everyone regarding the new OHA voting process.

According to the new law whether or not OHA will need a Primary Election depends on how many candidates sign up. For example, in the case of OHA’s Three At-Large Seats without a Residency Requirement:

(1) If there are only three or less candidates that sign up for the three seats, the Chief Election Officer will declare those candidates to be legally elected and their names won’t appear on the primary or general election ballot;

(2) If four, five, or six candidates sign up for the three seats, the Chief Election Officer will automatically put their names on the general election ballot and they won’t appear on the primary election ballot; and

(3) However, if seven or more candidates sign up for the three seats, their names will be listed on the Primary Election ballot. The names of the top six candidates receiving the highest number of total votes in the Primary Election will be placed on the General Election ballot.

Also, if any candidate receives more than 50% of the total votes cast for the Primary election, the Chief Election Officer will declare that candidate to be legally elected and the name of that candidate won’t appear on the General Election ballot.

As most of us can remember, we were all very disappointed about the lack of ballots during the 2012 General Election. The Office of Elections has assured me (in a response letter) that, for the 2014 Elections, they will be printing a ballot for each registered voter. However, based on their past performance, I am not very confident that something else won’t go wrong. I am hoping that the Office of Elections will do their jobs meticulously and not leave anything to chance.

I believe that publishing a sample ballot to show the public exactly where to find the OHA candidates (because this is new) on the Primary Election ballot would go a long way to lessen any confusing over the new voting procedure and will help potential candidates to feel more secure about the process. Otherwise, there will surely be challenges to the OHA elections by losing candidates which will prevent elected candidates from taking office.

If you vote in the OHA elections and you too have concerns, please write to the Office of Elections, State of Hawaii at 802 Lehua Avenue, Pearl City, 96782. You may also call (808) 453-VOTE (8683) to voice your concerns. Mahalo nui.

HCDA will not compromise with OHA on their plans for Kewalo Basin, even though OHA is a major stakeholder (HCDA PART 2)

On March 1, 2009, the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) assumed the management of the Kewalo Basin Harbor from the Department of Transportation and hired ALMAR Management, Inc. (a California-based marina operator), to oversee day to day harbor operations.

On June 7, 2012, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that HCDA agreed to lease the 143-slip harbor in Kakaako for 50 years to Almar Management Inc. and a partner doing business as KB Marina LP.  The Almar partnership would finance $22 million in repair work to replace all piers and docks and would increase boats slips from 143 to 243.

Almar anticipates the upgrades taking five years to complete and would pay HCDA about $45 million in rent over 50 years.  Is this what the State considers a fair price?  These are ceded lands and OHA beneficiaries & state stakeholders will end up losing out.  Who is benefiting from this deal?

As I mentioned in my last column, OHA received a letter from HCDA on August 6, 2013, stating HCDA will not compromise with OHA on their plans for Kewalo Basin, even though OHA is a major stakeholder.

The HCDA and their many controversial plans for Kakaako have made frequent headlines in the media lately, but most of us are in the dark about what exactly the HCDA is and who is really in charge.

WHAT IS THE HCDA?

The 1976 State Legislature created HCDA to revitalize urban areas that were underused and deteriorating.  The Kaka‘ako Community Development District covers 600 acres within Piikoi, King, and Punchbowl Streets and Ala Moana Boulevard, as well as the waterfront from Kewalo Basin to Forrest Avenue.  (Source: http://dbedt.hawaii.gov/hcda/about-hcda/)

HCDA is attached to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) for administrative purposes and their mission is to create “vibrant” communities within Kakaako and encourage new investment by building essential public infrastructure such as roadways, utilities, and parks that are necessary for redevelopment.

WHO ARE ITS MEMBERS?

HCDA’s Kakaako Authority is composed of members from the public and private sectors.  They include:

Four “ex officio” voting members from State departments:

  1. Dean Seki, Comptroller, Accounting and General Services;
  2. Kalbert Young, Director, Budget and Finance;
  3. Richard Lim, DBEDT Director ; and
  4. Glenn Okimoto, Director, Transportation.

The Governor also appoints members from a list of names submitted by the Honolulu City Council, the Senate President and the House Speaker.

At-large member:

  1. Brian Lee, Director of Research and Communications, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Community members:

  1. Miles Kamimura, President, Pacific Property Group;
  2.  Lois Mitsunaga, CFO, Structural Engineer at Mitsunaga & Associates. INC.; and
  3. VACANT.

Cultural specialist: 

  1. VACANT.

An Executive Director serves as the CEO and is appointed by HCDA members.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE

What is sorely missing here is disclosure.

  • Do the members of the Authority, especially those from the private sector, have any conflicts of interest?

 

  • Do they represent any clients that would benefit from any development projects being considered for Kakaako or are they themselves in a position to benefit from any developments?

 

  • Are they contributing to any political campaigns in 2014?

 

  • Should HCDA have sole power over planning, zoning, and directly promoting economic development in Kakaako?

These are the questions the community should be asking this Authority.

HCDA PART 1 — HCDA is not a good neighbor

`Ano`ai kakou… In 2012, when OHA received it’s Kakaako lands in our settlement with the State over past-due ceded land revenues, OHA was not appraised that the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), which has jurisdiction over development in the area, planned to lease the harbor in Kakaako for 50 years to a California-based marina operator and increase the boats slips to 243.

For the past year, OHA has been negotiating with the HCDA to get them to compromise on their plans to put “finger piers” in front of our Fisherman’s Wharf property.  On August 6, 2013, OHA received a letter from HCDA stating they will not make any compromises to their plans and expects OHA to be a “good neighbor” and accept their plan for our property.

Here are some of the specific concerns I have with the HCDA’s August 6, 2013 letter:

  • HCDA considers OHA a “sister agency” but they are forcing OHA to accept a plan in which we have no opportunity for providing input.  If HCDA wants OHA to be a “good neighbor” they should first recognize OHA as an equal partner in developing the harbor area in front of Fisherman’s Wharf.
  • OHA would be willing to go along with the HCDA’s Finger Pier plan if we could have at least two slips in front of our Fisherman’s Wharf property.  However, the HCDA responded that the lands of Kewalo Basin are submerged lands and the State is unable to convey fee simple interests in any of the slips.  The HCDA needs to realize that all submerged lands are “ceded” and that Native Hawaiians are a part-beneficiary under the State Constitution.  The Kakaako lands conveyed to OHA are on submerged lands – it’s all land-fill.  It appears the HCDA doesn’t have a true understanding of Native Hawaiian rights and who OHA represents.
  • The HCDA said they are concerned about the views of our community.  If this were true, they would agree with OHA’s plans to minimize the impact of large boats docking in front of our property and allow OHA to design its own culturally appropriate sense of place that would be acceptable for everyone.  When OHA conducted community meetings regarding the Kakaako land acquisition, the community was supportive in strong part due to OHA’s commitment to develop the area using Hawaiian concepts and sense of place.

NEXT STEPS

OHA must continue to object to the current finger piers design and not fall victim to HCDA’s threats.  If HCDA goes forward with signing any lease, OHA should consider suing the HCDA.

OHA should also appeal to the State legislature to revisit the powers it has given to HCDA and, if necessary, start a community-based campaign to reform the HCDA and prevent any further irresponsible development.

HCDA doesn’t appear to understand true Hawaiian values and the desires of the broader community regarding Kakaako.  All they seem interested in is making the most money they can out of Kewalo Basin – with or without OHA.

If HCDA is really concerned about getting the maximum dollars for Kakaako, they would not be leasing the whole harbor to a mainland developer for 50-years for only $45 millionThis measly figure is criminal!  The State will lose out as well as OHA beneficiaries.  So who is really benefiting from this deal?  Time to ask questions of the HCDA and the State!

Divide and conquer is mission of the “Grassroot” folk

`Ano`ai kakou… After reading Andrew Walden’s article in his Hawaii Free Press (HFP) blog, accusing OHA of investing in a geothermal “scheme,” I feel it is very important to point out that Walden can easily be grouped with the following anti-Hawaiian of conservative groups that do everything they can to divide the Hawaiian Community.

THE GRASSROOT INSTITUTE OF HAWAII

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a conservative think tank, states that their mission is to “promote individual liberty, the free market and limited accountable government,” but what they have actually done is write anti-Hawaiian letters to Congress and the Civil Rights Commission.  They have testified vigorously before Congressional hearings against the Akaka bill.  Richard O. Rowland serves as Chairman of the Board and President and co-founded the Institute with Malia Zimmerman.

MALIA ZIMMERMAN

Malia Zimmerman is the secretary of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii’s board of directors and has authored of many articles that helped to polarize the Hawaiian community.  Zimmerman was fired from Pacific Business News for “unspecified reasons” and then went on to co-found the “Hawaii Reporter.”  (Source: Sourcewatch.org)

SAM SLOM

Sam Slom is Hawaii’s only Republican State Senator and is the executive director of Small Business Hawaii.  Slom has been vocal opponent of the Akaka bill and OHA’s sovereignty efforts locally and in Washington, D.C.

Small Business Hawaii, where Senator Sam Slom (R-HI) and Richard O. Rowland are on the board of directors, has given reporting awards to the Hawaii Reporter.  (Source: Sourcewatch.org)

H. WILLIAM BURGESS

Attorney H. William Burgess, who has sued OHA on multiple occasions, has been working to cripple OHA for over a decade.  He is married to Sandra Puanani Burgess, who is also a strong opponent of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and of government programs that benefit Native Hawaiians preferentially.  Burgess led the efforts to bring two frivolous lawsuits seeking to have such programs declared unconstitutional. (Source: Wikipedia)

ALOHA FOR ALL

In 1999, H. William Burgess and his wife created the Aloha for All website, www.Aloha4all.org to spread their disingenuous message that “Aloha is for everyone” and that “every citizen of Hawaii is entitled to the equal protection of the laws whatever his or her ancestry.”  In 2003, former Honolulu Advertiser publisher Thurston Twigg-Smith, who funded the lawsuits against OHA, founded a company called “Aloha for All.” (Wikipedia)

An August 14, 2005 Honolulu Advertiser article reported that H. William Burgess was both lead attorney for Aloha for All and legal counsel for the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.  Grassroot later responded that Burgess is a member but has never been their legal counsel.

KENNETH R. CONKLIN

Their group also includes Kenneth R. Conklin, a retired schoolteacher who moved to Hawaii from Boston in 1992 and currently lives in Kāneʻohe.  (SOURCE: Wikipedia)  He is a vocal opponent of the Hawaiian sovereignty movement and has sued OHA in the past.

WE MUST BE MAKA‘ALA

Again, let me reiterate, the negative articles being written about OHA in the newspapers and online should be taken with a grain of salt.  We must also remember to consider the source from which it comes.

Hawaiians cannot allow these Right-Wing, Ultra-Conservative Extremists to divide us.  Please let us be “Makaala” (alert, aware, vigilant, watchful, and wide awake) and know who our true enemies are.

Cultural sensitivity and the media

`Ano`ai kakou… My office has recently received several complaints from beneficiaries outraged about a commercial using our Hawaiian language and iconic Hawaii landmarks such as Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head to promote their alcoholic beverage.

The commercial portrays a “local” couple who have set up a cooler on Waikiki Beach (in view of Diamond Head) in the middle of the day to openly consume alcohol.  The commercial ends with the phrase “E ‘imi kou wahi kahaone/Find your beach” appearing across the screen.

It is my understanding that the company’s local distributor was looking for a “fun and effective way” to promote their beer and they were trying to maintain elements of their national advertising campaign (“Find Your Beach”) while including “strong geographical cues that would suggest this commercial was a local production that was focused on reaching local audiences.”

However, after viewing the commercial, I found it to be offensive, misleading and culturally insensitive for the following reasons:

(1) DRINKING ALCOHOL ON WAIKIKI BEACH IS ILLEGAL – Everyone knows you can’t set-up a cooler on Waikiki Beach and start drinking.  Not only is it blatantly illegal, it irresponsibly gives the mistaken impression that this type of behavior is tolerated by the local community.  Let’s hope that any tourist who saw the commercial doesn’t get the wrong idea.

(2) WAIKIKI BEACH IS FOR FAMILIES – The reason why alcohol is banned from Waikiki Beach is that Waikiki is primarily promoted as a family destination and attraction.  No parent wants their child to have to watch young adults dragging huge coolers through the sand and partying drunk while half naked.  Waikiki Beach is not a spring break party destination like Cancun (and we would never want it to be).

(3) NEGATIVE STEREOTYPE – Portraying locals drinking on the beach in the middle of the day also promotes and perpetuates the negative stereotype that all “local” people (Hawaiians) do all day is get drunk on a beach.

The beer commercial is reminiscent of the controversial 2006 ad in a magazine that depicting King Kamehameha’s statue holding a glass of champagne to promote cruises to Hawai’i.  While the beer commercial is nowhere near as offensive, it nonetheless shows that there is a lack of cultural sensitivity within the media, both here and on the mainland, and that OHA must be vigilant and vocal in speaking out against them.

I highly recommend that any ad agency or marketing firm thinking about using the Hawaiian language, culture, or historical figures in their advertisement to show some basic courtesy and take the time to consult a respected Native Hawaiian Cultural Practitioner first.  At the very least, they could call OHA and we will be happy to assist them.

I have sent a letter to the beer company’s local distributor asking that they please show some consideration and courtesy to the Hawaiian Community by immediately ceasing all future broadcasts of the beer commercial.  I also asked them to remove the commercials from video websites such as YouTube.

Let your voices be heard on this subject.  If you have comments to share, please write to our editor or call the local distributor.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely

`Ano`ai kakou…  As a senior Trustee, I have managed to live through some very difficult times within the walls of OHA over the past 23-and-a-half years.  As Trustee and staff members come and go, it never fails to amaze me about how they both come into our institution thinking that OHA began with them and they try to re-invent the wheel.  They didn’t bother to learn OHA’s history and the difficult ground we had to cover over the past 30-years to be where we are today.

SCHEMES TO STIFLE TRUSTEES

Like other political offices, when some Trustees take over the power structure here, they manage to bring their “own” people into the organization and place them in strategic places throughout our offices, like the fiscal department, the legal office, and so on.  Consequently, even when they are no longer in the “driver’s seat,” they can still control the board through these staff.  This has become a debilitating factor for OHA Trustees who want to do their best to manage the Trust since these staff members who are loyal to just a few Trustees can put up stiff opposition almost at every turn.

Now, we can’t write anything specific about what goes on within the offices of OHA.  A Trustee is prevented from printing their columns in our newspaper because OHA’s “legal eager beavers,” who want to please those who keep them employed here, will find every excuse to stifle a Trustee and prevent them from talking about things that go on here.

OHA’s leadership will also go so far as to pass a specific policy to stop certain Trustees from calling attention to something they don’t want the public to know.  The kicker is, in my opinion, those rules are made up by lawyers who work for us, but are loyal to only a few Trustees.  This strategy works against Trustees in the minority who usually do not agree with the power structure.

Another trick is to put items on the agenda in an executive session instead of open session, thereby excluding the general public from listening to the discussion.  If this isn’t enough, they further silence the Trustees by telling them that they can’t speak about what was discussed, and then they lock-up the minutes, so that even the Trustees do not have ready access to them.

Even when a super majority of six Trustees vote and approve a money appropriation, the staff members are prevented from acting on the action because they are being instructed to throw up road blocks and make excuses to slow the process or prevent it from happening at all.

For a very long time now, OHA has not been able to really function as a Trust.  It has become a political entity, where power is more important than fulfilling our mission to better the conditions of OHA beneficiaries.  You might say OHA looks more and more like the dysfunctional Congress.

Until the public elects people to the board who truly want to serve OHA’s mission and who have the best interests of the Trust and our beneficiaries in their heart, OHA will continue to function at half-speed instead of full-speed ahead.