By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: January 2004 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
`Ano`ai kakou… OHA spent more in 2003 than any other year. We spent a million on Federal Recognition and tens of thousands of dollars on preparations for ceded land negotiations, but what were the results? What happened to our ongoing programs that were established to improve the lives of our Hawaiian people?
CEDED LANDS NEGOTIATIONS
OHA’s Ceded Lands Negotiation Team currently consists of Trustees Mossman (Chair), Apoliona, Stender, and Carpenter. Although the team met in 2003, no negotiations with Governor Lingle’s Administration ever took place.
The Negotiation Team hired a “technical support team” of four experts to assist in preparations. So far, I have not seen any formal report of their plans nor have they made any recommendations on our general strategy to the Board. These experts have already cost OHA approximately $100,000 (and counting) with no end in sight.
We missed our opportunity for Federal Recognition in 2003. The Akaka-Stevens Bill (S.344) did not even make it to the floor of Congress for a vote. Part of the problem is that OHA’s leadership waited too long to hire a reputable Washington D.C. lobbyist to advocate for the bill’s passage. By the time a lobbyist was hired, it was already midway through the year. Once they were onboard, the Trustees never knew what they were doing for us, despite the fact that they were in contact with the Chair’s office on a weekly basis. This secrecy kept many of us out-of the-loop.
In December of 2002, the Chair consolidated our five committees into just two. This left Trustee Stender to oversee all of OHA’s fiscal, policy, economic development, and administrative matters, while Trustee Machado was given responsibility over all federal and state legislation, on-going programs in health, housing, education, land, the revolving loan fund, and then some. The Chair’s rationale was that this would foster efficiency.
Anyone can see that two Trustees can’t possibly do the work that kept five Trustees busy all year. One can argue that this was simply an attempt to consolidate power under just three Trustees and shut out the remaining six from making any meaningful contributions.
There are clear signs that the two committees are overwhelmed. Last year, virtually no new programs were proposed and none of our long-standing programs showed any progress. In fact, our Aha Kupuna program was dropped altogether for 2003. Programs that were helping the everyday lives of Hawaiians fell by the wayside, apparently to make way for our nationhood efforts.
A total of $1.2 million was spent on nationhood in 2003 and another $2.2 million has been committed for 2004. With such large amounts of funds being expended, it is imperative that the Hawaiian Community be kept informed of our intentions, so that they can have faith in our leadership and feel certain that their trust funds are being spent wisely and prudently.
While building a nation is critical, OHA cannot afford to neglect the various long standing successful programs that have assisted many Hawaiian individuals and organizations. A healthy and well-educated Hawaiian population is what we will depend upon for building a strong nation.
We have much to accomplish in 2004. I will continue to work with Governor Lingle, the State Legislature, our Congressional Delegation, and my fellow Trustees to overcome the many challenges we face. However, our efforts cannot succeed without the support and confidence of our people.
This is a critical time for our Hawaiian people. I urge those of you who believe in open government, fostering teamwork, and empowering others through the sharing of power to consider becoming a candidate for OHA Trustee in the 2004 elections. Imua Hawaii! Hauoli Makahiki hou!