My hope for change at OHA and the legislature

February 2011 KA WAI OLA COLUMN

`Ano`ai kakou…  Happy Year of the Rabbit!  I would like to wish newly-elected OHA Chairperson Colette Machado the best in 2011.  Colette has a strong community and grass-roots background and I am hopeful that she will take the Board of Trustees in this direction.

In this New Year, I continue to hope that there will be changes at OHA to make things better here for everyone.


I believe that being a trustee is not about simply showing up at a few monthly meetings.  OHA cannot afford to maintain a
system which encourages passive trustees, as we have experienced in the past.

Currently, there are only two subject-matter committees under the Board of Trustees: (1) Trustee Oswald Stender oversees all of OHA’s fiscal, policy, economic development, and administrative matters, and (2) Trustee John Waihe’e IV, for the first time in 9 years, has responsibility over all federal and state legislation, on-going programs in health, housing, education, land, and the
Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund.

The problem is that each committee is too broad in scope and can easily become overwhelmed.  I’m hopeful that Trustees Stender and Waihe’e will form “Ad Hoc” sub-committees to allow other Trustees to concentrate on more specific issues such as land, policy & planning, program management, legislative & government affairs, and budget & finance.  Creating sub-committees will get more Trustees actively involved and ensure less things “fall through the cracks.”


Today, OHA mostly operates like a charitable foundation that hands out grants.  Most of the successful OHA-run programs, like
Aha ‘Opio and Aha Kupuna, which took years of hard work by past trustees to develop, have been contracted out or quietly discontinued.  While farming work out to nonprofits is appropriate in some cases, I believe OHA has gone too far.

I believe that OHA should do much more for our beneficiaries in terms of programs and services.  Grants are ineffective in solving long-term problems since grant monies eventually run out.  Even successful services end up getting cut if they can’t raise any money.  That’s why we need on-going OHA programs that are closely monitored by the trustees.


Despite many requests, OHA meetings are not televised like the City Council or the State Legislature.  Cost has always been an issue, but with today’s technology, it shouldn’t cost that much – Olelo and YouTube are free!  Broadcasting our meetings would make Trustees more accessible and keep us honest.


Congratulations to newly–appointed Big Island State Senator Malama Solomon, who previously served as an OHA Trustee and State Senator.  Now, with Senator Clayton Hee, OHA has two former trustees it can count on in the Senate.

We will certainly need their help to finally resolve the claims relating to OHA’s portion of income from the public land trust between 11/7/1978 and 7/1/2009.  In the 2009, Senator Hee introduced Senate Bill 995, which offered OHA $251 million in cash and 20 percent of the 1.8 million acres of ceded lands.  The proposal died in the House and went nowhere in 2010.

Even a few of these properties could generate all of the revenue OHA needs to operate and would give our future nation the assets it needs to serve our beneficiaries.  Let us hope that we can successfully lobby the State House to have a change of heart.

Aloha Ke Akua.