No Progress Since February 2002

By Rowena Akana
June 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

The Legislative session ended on May 2, 2002. OHA had some victories and some disappointments. I am happy to report that the bill fixing the legislative problems which held up our ability to give grants passed the legislature and is on the Governor’s desk for approval. With his approval, OHA will be able to release a substantial sum of monies, which had been tied up, for grants to various Hawaiian entities.

I am also happy to report that the legislature passed the bill which allows OHA trustees to join the State Retirement System. Finally, making Hawaiian elected officials equal to other state elected officials.

The disappointment came with OHA’s revenues. Although OHA put forth a bill asking for interim revenues until the ceded lands issue is resolved, and kept it alive until the very end, the legislature found that it did not have the funds to pay the interim revenue, even though this same legislature gave the Japanese Cultural Center $8 million to bail them out of their money problems.

The Hawaii Supreme Court made it very clear to the State that it is its fuduciary obligation to the Hawaiians. We must continue to ask for our fair share of the ceded lands, whether it be through interim revenue, another revenue stream formula, or some sort of settlement. It ultimately may be necessary to take the State to court to force them to pay the Hawaiians their fair share of the ceded lands.

Since the new leadership took over the OHA board in February, there has been NO discussion on how to make up lost revenues or what the strategy will be to stop the bleeding. The lack of leadership of OHA is disappointing not only to those of us who have worked hard to try and resolve these land and revenue issues, but also to beneficiaries. Where is the plan? There has been no direction from this Chair on how to proceed or to plan for the future. All programs being worked on now were from the previous leadership. So, what’s new?

The issue of tying the ceded lands resolution to the ceded land inventory surfaced this past session, again. OHA and the State already know what lands produce income. Requiring a full inventory is only a stall tactic to withhold payment to the Hawaiians. Fortunately, this bill died, but we must be ever virgilant to make sure it does not resurface or gain momentum in the next session.

On another note, I am pleased to report that our FANNIE MAE loan program is progressing and with workshops to educate our beneficiaries more Hawaiians will become homeowners. We hope to have the kick off for the loan program on May 29th with a full press conference. It is anticipated that we will be able to help many of our Hawaiian beneficiaries by leveraging our monies through FANNIE MAE. This, in conjunction with our efforts to produce reasonable manufactured housing should put many of our low to middle income Hawaiian famiies in homes. I thank Doug McWilliams of FANNIE MAE for his tireless efforts in helping our Hawaiian community, and our OHA staffer, Patti Tancayo, for all her hard work with the FANNIE MAE project.

A big Mahalo to the leadership of the state legislature for taking the time to speak to me and our Administrator about our bills. In particular, Speaker Calvin Say, Chair Dwight Takamine, Chair Eric Hamakawa, Senate President Bobby Bunda, Chair Brian Taniguchi, Chair Jonathan Chun, Rep. Joseph Souki, Senator Colleen Hanabusa, the Hawaiian Caucus and the Republican Caucus for their efforts in getting our two bills passed. However, the bigger picture is our ceded lands revenue and getting the Akaka Bill passed by Congress. For without federal recognition the suits against OHA will not be resolved.

Thank you for all of your support–those of you who have continued to be supportive in the Community.

OHA’s 2002 Legislative Package

By Trustee Rowena Akana
January 18, 2002

Source Letter to Editor

On September 12, 2001, the Hawaii State Supreme Court delivered a devastating blow to the Hawaiians when they struck down Act 304, which gave OHA 20% of the ceded land revenues collected by the State to be used for Hawaiian beneficiaries.

Without a steady flow of income to sustain all of our programs, we trustees must now reassess our current programs and look at ways to down size to preserve our trust assets.

While the Supreme Court may have struck down the mechanism for payments to Hawaiians, they did declare that the state still must fulfill its constitutional obligation to the Hawaiian people. They also gave the legislature the charge of amending Act 304. Until this is completed, there will be NO payments made to OHA by the state.

OHA will ask the legislature this year for an interim revenue amount until Act 304 is resolved. Because a formula based on revenues has been so problematic for OHA and the state, we must consider, in the very near future, to settle the ceded land claims with the state. This would allow the Hawaiian people the opportunity to have a land base on which to build our nation.

The second OHA bill asks the legislature to adopt a waiver from the state procurement laws. Because of an attorney general opinion, OHA is no longer able to give money to 501 C 3 programs. OHA is unable at this time to give any grants out to anyone. This opinion has basically stopped all flow of money from OHA to any organization or group asking for funds.

The third bill addresses the need to revisit Act 304 as directed by the Supreme Court of Hawaii.

The fourth bill allows the OHA trustees the ability to join the State Retirement System. For 20 years the trustees have NOT been allowed to join the State Retirement System.

At the Federal level: the Federal piece of legislation known as the Akaka Bill is slated to be heard in the Spring of 2002 in the Congress. While there may not be total agreement on the language of this bill, it is very important that Hawaiians receive federal recognition from the United States. Without this recognition we cannot proceed to nationhood.

On another note: I am happy to announce that within the next 30 days OHA will:

1. Increase out business loan amount to $250,000.

2. Partner in building 45 housing units in Kapolei.

3. Develop a partnership with FANNIE MAE to allow ALL Hawaiians to borrow money for home mortgages for down payments and closing costs at a reduced interest rate below the prime rate.

4. We will continue to work to develop a health initiative for our kupuna.

We ask for your kokua, this legislative session, to help us resolve some very critical issues for our people. Mahalo Ke Akua