Know Your Elected Officials, Demand Accountability

By Trustee Rowena Akana
January 2003

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA


Last month’s article focused on the hope that we would see significant changes on the OHA Board that would be beneficial to our beneficiaries. Well… all I can say is we all have to pray hard, very hard.

First of all, there were no changes in terms of the Chairmanship of the Board or the Financial Chairman. Let me re-cap what occurred with regard to our financial management under this present budget chair. We lost almost $100 million of trust dollars by not paying attention to business. If that was not devastating enough, in July and August of 2002, the Committee on Land accepted an offer from a developer to receive 200 acres of free land in Maili worth $2, 881,500.00. This action item was then forwarded to the Budget & Finance Committee in September where it sat with no activity for three months. As a result of this negligence, the Developer sold the land in December 2002. These kinds of mis-opportunities are beginning to be common place under this leadership team. Can we as Hawaiians in this time of crises afford to miss opportunities such as these.

In January the Board must concern itself with choosing a new Money Management Team. The Budget Chairman is pushing one candidate with great zeal. What is disconcerting is that he wants to close the door to other possible applicants. What’s up with that???  How can beneficiaries expect accountability from those who they elect?

May I offer some suggestions:

*Know the candidates, find out as much as you can about them, who they are aligned with, etc.
* What has been their contribution to the community?
* Do they work in non-profit organizations for profit?
* Are they friendly with or in business with any of the present Board members?
* Do they have any other connections to seated Board members which would constitute a conflict and cause their block voting to be NOT in the best interest of the people, or the Trust.

While this process may appear to be a lengthy one, it is important when selecting candidates for any public office. The good thing about electing officials is that the voters can remove them in the next election. What you don’t want is a process that excludes the people, such as appointing trustees rather than electing. Although the election process is not perfect it still remains the most fair and just way to select our leaders. The solution to elect responsible leadership is to be educated as best as we can be about the candidates, what they stand for and their past experience in working with the community that they hope to represent. As a voter you too have a responsibility to get involved and to demand accountability of those whom you have elected.

In 2003 our goal must be to work with the new administration on settling ceded land claims and to also pursue a recognition process. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming year.  HAVE A HAPPY AND SAFE NEW YEAR!