Broken Promises by the Legislature


Source: April 2010 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

There is no question that from the Territorial Government to the present, the state has consistently mismanaged our ceded lands.  Politicians have leased thousands of acres to their friends for as little as a dollar a year through insider deals.  A previous Governor even suspended landing fees at the airport, which sits on ceded lands, for two years to allow airlines to bring in more tourists.  We all know that didn’t happen.  And they wonder why they don’t have any money!

These same politicians are now forced to come up with “creative” ways to supplement their shortfalls during these tight economic times such as legalized gambling, raising taxes and, worst of all, selling ceded lands.  They wouldn’t have to look far if they simply managed our ceded lands properly.

The state’s failure to manage ceded lands should not be used as an excuse to sell a resource that is so critical to the future success of our future nation.  Just a year ago, state legislators agreed with us and voted to preserve ceded lands.  Act 176, 2009, established that the state cannot sell any ceded lands unless they get a two-thirds majority vote in both the State House and State Senate.  Now they’re going back on their word and trying to sell ceded lands.  How can we trust these people?

This election year, let’s elect responsible leaders who will make the tough decisions needed to get our economy out of the toilet.  We do not need more politicians to think of even more creative ways to tax us or squander our resources.


On February 10, 2010, OHA’s money committee decided to stop investigating whether we should keep or replace our investment managers.  According to the minutes of the meeting, after considering all factors involved, all trustees present at the meeting came to a consensus that our staff would “cease all due diligence efforts at this time and retain the current investment advisors.”

The decision to postpone the evaluation of our investment managers is very shortsighted [I was not at the meeting and did not join the discussion].  It disregards the criticisms that the State Auditor had in her recent audit regarding OHA’s management of the trust.  It also disregards what Trustees Lindsey, Mossman, Heen, Stender and I learned from the Mercer Investment Forum on January 28-29, 2010 in San Francisco. 

The Forum stressed the need for investors to look for managers who are specialized in each field of investment.  More importantly, they recommended that we evaluate whether our managers are able to handle the new requirements of “opportunistic” investing.

Trustee Stender later informed the trustees that our fiscal staff would continue to monitor the top five money managers we are considering and bring this matter back to the committee within a year. 

One year is long time to wait.  At the very least, our staff should report to the committee on a quarterly basis to keep us informed.  In these volatile times, we do not have the luxury to “take our eyes off the ball” for such an extended length of time.

Until the next time.  Aloha pumehana.

Broken Promises by the Legislature

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Letter to the Editor, Honolulu Advertiser, February 23, 2010

From the Territorial Government to the present, politicians have consistently overspent.  This forces them to come up with “creative” ideas to supplement their shortfalls when the economy eventually sours. 

They wouldn’t have to look far if they simply managed ceded lands properly.  Thousands of acres have been leased by politicians to their friends for as little as a dollar a year.  A previous Governor even suspended landing fees at the airport, which sits on ceded lands, for two years to allow airlines to bring in more tourists.  We all know that didn’t happen.  It was just another sweetheart deal.

There is no question the state has mismanaged ceded lands.  However, this rationale should not be used as an excuse to sell such a precious resource.  A year ago, legislators voted to preserve ceded lands.  Now they’re trying to sell them.  How can we trust these people?

We need leaders who can balance budgets.  Then they wouldn’t have to raise taxes, legalize gambling or sell ceded lands.  This election year, let’s vote for people who will make the tough decisions needed to revitalize our economy.  We definitely do not need more creative ways to tax us or squander our resources.

Thanks for trying, Senators Hanabusa & Hee


Source: July 2009 Ka Wai Ola Column

I want to send out a Big Mahalo to all of the state senators who tried to resolve the ceded land revenue issue once and for all, especially Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and Senator Clayton Hee. 

Senator Hee introduced Senate Bill 995, which attempted to resolve the claims and disputes relating to OHA’s portion of income from the public land trust between 11/7/1978 and 7/1/2009.  Senator Hee’s proposal offered OHA $251 million in cash and 20 percent of the 1.8 million acres of ceded lands to be determined in negotiations between the agency and the Lingle administration.

SB995 would have given OHA the right to choose from the following properties, among many others:

(1)  Kaka’ako Makai;

(2)  Kahana Valley and Beach Park;

(3)  La Mariana and Pier 60;

(4)  Heeia meadowlands;

(5)  Mauna Kea: Mauna Kea Scientific Reserve;

(6)  Waikiki Yacht Club;

(7)  Ala Wai Boat Harbor Complex;

(8)      Kalaeloa Makai; and

(9)      Any and all other lands, together with the State’s interest in any and all improvements thereon, that the State may agree to convey to OHA;

Even a few of these properties could generate all of the revenue OHA needs to operate indefinitely and would have given our future nation the concrete assets it needs to serve the Hawaiian population. 

OHA can never be a self-sufficient organization as long as our leadership is content with begging the legislature for a 20% share of ceded land revenues every year – funds which can be taken away from us at anytime.  SB995 would have made Native Hawaiians self-sufficient (the very essence of sovereignty) and relieved the State of Hawaii of a large burden on their budget.  Unfortunately, this opportunity has once again slipped away from OHA’s hands.  AUWE!

So why did SB995 fail to pass during the last days of the legislature?  According to an article written by Advertiser Staff Writer Gordon Y. K. Pang on May 2, 2009, “key House members” declined to support the bill, but everyone knows that all of these key members are directed by House Speaker Calvin Say.  It doesn’t surprise me that Speaker Say killed the bill since he has not supported many Hawaiian issues.  Rumor has it that he had help from certain Hawaiians who conducted some hard, backdoor lobbying.  Speaker Say has also told OHA’s administration that he doesn’t want to see another settlement bill next year.

Pang’s article also stated that the OHA trustees were “lukewarm” in their support of SB995.  I am baffled by this statement since the board voted unanimously to support the bill with a few technical changes by our attorney, Bill Meheula.  When I later spoke with Pang, he said that Trustee Stender told him that the board did not formally support the bill, which is funny, since I remember Stender voting for it.  The lack of any coherent vision offered by our current leadership has been a set-back for OHA for the last seven years.  The mixed signals that are given on the boards’ behalf have also been less than honest.

I believe that if SB995 passed, the Governor would have vetoed it.  For all the praises she sang about helping the Hawaiian Community, at best it appears the Governor and her Attorney General have done everything they could to limit their support for OHA and its beneficiaries.

The Attorney General’s latest betrayal to Native Hawaiians is to remove his support for the Akaka bill if the original version from the year 2000 is introduced.  According to him, it is unconstitutional.  This has forced our congressional delegation to pullback the 2000 version and re-introduce last year’s bill that Republicans in Congress bastardized.  I say why rush this bill through now?  The Lingle administration will be gone next year.  At the same time, the democratic controlled Congress and a President who has pledge to sign the bill when it reaches his desk should be a better fit for us.


The Kawaiaha’o Church Multi-Purpose Center Construction Project

In early May of 2006, OHA contributed $1 million to help rebuild Likeke Hall at Kawaiaha’o Church.  However, reconstructing Likeke Hall has now turned into a “Multi-Purpose Center,” which will house offices, a nursery, archives, meeting space and a kitchen.

As many of you have certainly heard in the media, construction of the Multi-Purpose Center was put on hold in April after 69 sets of human remains were discovered by workers.  On May 27, 2009, OHA sent a letter to the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) regarding our serious concerns about the ongoing discovery of remains and the treatment of unmarked burial sites on the Kawaiaha’o Church property. (NOTE: At the time of this writing, we have not heard from SHPD).

State law requires that any discovered skeletal remains that appear to be over 50-years-old cannot be moved without the state Department of Health’s (DOH) approval.  However, since the church didn’t have names for the deceased, which DOH requires, the issue fell under the jurisdiction of SHPD.

OHA feels that a “good faith interpretation of the law” would require inventory level testing of any area proposed for construction.  OHA also stresses that if any remains are identified, that they be treated in accordance with the law as in previously identified burial sites.  The Oahu Island Burial Council also needs to be allowed to determine the ultimate disposition of the remains in consultation with identified lineal and cultural descendants; and this time, be given AN ACCURATE MAP of where the graves are located.

Since the area of Kawaiaha’o Cemetery and the surrounding area headed makai hold hundreds of unmarked ancestral Native Hawaiian burial sites, OHA strongly advised against removing or redesignating portions of Kawaiaha’o Church Cemetery just to make the Multi-Purpose Center easier to build.

OHA also reminded SHPD that construction workers need to remember that the surrounding soil contains fragments of our iwi kupuna that are too small to be noticed or properly recovered.  Given the powerful reverence for iwi kupuna within our Native Hawaiian community, the soil should also be treated with the utmost respect.  There should also be no utility lines, sewer lines or grease trap within the vicinity of human burial sites.

I strongly believe that construction should have been halted as soon as the first group of iwi was unearthed.  A REPUTABLE archeologist should have immediately contacted the Oahu Island Burial Council.  Instead, what seems to have occurred is that many of the iwi kupuna were placed in lauhala baskets and stored under the church.  The workers then destroyed all of the caskets, making the iwi almost impossible to identify.  This is a flagrant act of desecration no matter what culture a person comes from and it is unbelievable that it was allowed to occur at Kawaiaha’o Church.  The people responsible for this egregious act should be called upon to explain how this could have happened.

It is also unfathomable to me that a construction firm could possibly get a permit to desecrate such a sacred burial site in this manner without proper authorization.  One has to question if they even had all of the proper permits to proceed.  It is my understanding that the graves were unearthed with only a grading permit!  I believe that all of this could have been prevented if they had simply taken the time to do things right before construction started.  Now they are forced to work backwards to fix their mistakes after the damage has been done.

This project must not be allowed to continue until a plan can be agreed upon by all parties, including lineal descendants.  Let us pray that all sides can work together to care for the iwi kupuna in a pono way.  Aloha Ke Akua.

The State’s obligation to all Hawaiians


Source: June 2009 Ka Wai Ola Column

Towards the end of this past legislative session, the OHA general funds budget was completely cut by the Senate Ways and Means (WAM) committee chair Senator Donna Mercado Kim.  While it is still possible that the funding will be at least partially restored (the legislative session will not be over at the time of this writing), I was disappointed to hear the reasons why the WAM Chair felt the cuts could be justified.

The WAM Chair argued that: (1) OHA has $300 million in its trust fund; (2) OHA has $15 million in its fiscal reserve fund; (3) OHA receives $15.1 million a year in ceded lands payments; and (4) OHA received $2.03 million for a legal settlement from the Hokulia case from the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC).  However, the WAM Chair did not take into consideration other circumstances such as:

  • OHA’s trust fund has lost almost $150 million, or 30% of its value, from its peak in late 2007.
  • OHA’s Spending Policy puts an annual cap of 5% on withdrawals from our trust fund, so there can be no further withdrawals.
  • OHA had already agreed to reduce its budget by 20%, like all other state agencies, at the legislature’s request.  Now they are proposing to cut 100% of our budget.  Where is the fairness in that?
  • The OHA Fiscal Reserve Fund is not a “rainy day” fund and is actually part of our trust fund.  It was never meant to be used to make-up budget shortfalls.
  • OHA’s matching funds for the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation only entitles us to about half of the total $2.03 million the NHLC received for the Hokulia settlement.  Therefore, OHA will only receive about $1 million.

In addition, the $15.1 million ceded land payments that OHA receives annually are part of the state’s legal obligation to pay OHA for its 20% pro rata share of income from ceded lands.  The Attorney General has made it clear that the Hawaii Constitution makes OHA trustees, not the legislature, responsible for determining how the Native Hawaiians’ portion of ceded land revenues is spent.  The Attorney General has also stated that OHA’s share of ceded land revenues belongs to Hawaiians and is not “public money.”

The WAM Chair also ignores the fact that the OHA budget was designed more than 16-years ago by the Governor and the State Legislature to contain both general funds and trustee approved matching trust funds so that it can better the condition of all classifications of Hawaiians:  (1) those with at least 50% blood quantum under the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 and (2) any descendants of the aboriginal peoples inhabiting the Hawaiian Islands in 1778.  This blending of funds was thought to be the most effective way to allow OHA to serve the entire Hawaiian population, estimated at the last census to be 400,000 nation-wide.  OHA will not be able to provide the same level of services to such a large population without the assistance of additional general funds from the state.

The WAM Chair needs to realize that OHA funds a wide range of programs relating to Education, Health, Human Services, Housing, and Economic Development, just to name a few.  For the sake of comparison, while OHA may have $300 million in its trust fund, Kamehameha Schools spend more than that in just one year — only on education!

OHA has also subsidized the loss of legislative funds to the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, which by law must be funded by the Governor’s budget.  Other state departments that have been funded by OHA include the state departments of Education and Health.

Finally, cutting the funding to Na Pua No’eau is simply cruel and would destroy a leader in Hawaiian culture-based education.  The WAM Chair needs to think about the 1,500 Hawaiian students, their families, 80 teachers that will be adversely affected.

The actions by the WAM Chair shows why OHA needs to constantly educate the legislature on Hawaiian history and culture and Hawaiian rights.  But it wasn’t always this way — There was time when legislators made it a point to be educated on Hawaiian issues and were all well aware of why OHA was created during the 1978 Constitutional Convention. 

It was very clear to the legislators and the governors who served from 1978 to 2000 that the legislative funds that OHA was to receive were to serve the Hawaiian population with less than 50% blood quantum.  This promise was made because the law, Chapter 10 of the Hawaii Revised Statues, made it clear that the ceded land revenues are to serve Hawaiians with a 50% blood quantum.  The law ended up creating two classifications of OHA beneficiaries, but funded only one of those beneficiaries.  This is why legislative funds have been sought since 1980.

It is clear that the across the board “slash & burn” of OHA’s budget by Senator Donna Mercado Kim is without conscious or careful thought regarding the special circumstances that governs the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.  If you are outraged by this action, please write to Senate President Colleen Hanabusa and your state senators and representatives.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Shapiro wrong on ceded lands

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Letter sent to the Honolulu Advertiser Editor, January 8, 2009

I take issue with Mr. David Shapiro’s December 10, 2008 statement that, “No state can operate effectively with its ability to manage its resources in indefinite limbo.”

I agree with the principle of his statement but he cannot compare Hawaii with any other state.  No state other than Hawaii relies on native lands to function.  It is a shame that this state cannot find other sources of revenues to meet its needs and has to continually rob “native” resources.  It has been too easy for this state to use our native resources to balance its budget.  We acknowledge the right of the state to use ceded lands to satisfy other purposes mentioned in the Admissions Act, OHA has never disagreed with that fact.  However, we do disagree that the state has a right to sell ceded lands that satisfy the Hawaiian requirement of the Admissions Act.

A whole new attitude of respect must be initiated at the state level regarding ceded lands so that Hawaiians are not short changed.  Only then can the state expect to have the cooperation of the Hawaiian community.

The state must also change its stance that it has the legal right to all of our native lands, which is clearly not the case.  Hawaiian Home Lands are ceded lands and its mandate was created by federal law.  For the state to say that “they” have the legal right to all of our lands while we only have a moral one is not only arrogant but also ignorant.

2006 Legislative Wrap-up


Source: June 2006 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  I had high hopes of a productive legislative session back in January, but my hopes were dashes by mid-session when several bills that were dear to me died in committee.  Here is a brief run-down of three bills that I strongly supported:

Interim Revenue.  Senate Bill 2948 establishes the amount of interim revenue to be transferred to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs from the public land trust, each fiscal year beginning with fiscal year 2005-2006, at $15,100,000.  The bill also appropriates $17,500,000 as the amount of revenues owed to OHA for the underpayment of OHA’s pro rata share of the public land trust revenues between July 1, 2001 and June 30, 2005.  As of this writing, the bill is awaiting signature from the Governor to be enacted into law.

OHA Retirement Bill.  SB916 would have allowed trustees with at least five years of service with the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) to buy-back credit for their prior service.  SB 916 was just a housekeeping measure that would correct an oversight in a previous bill passed in 2002.  Unfortunately, for the past three years, the ERS board, through its Administrator, has lobbied the House not to pass the bill.  For this reason, the House Hawaiian Affairs Committee Chair, Representative Scott Saiki, refused to even give the bill a hearing.

Property Tax Exemption for Kuleana Lands.  SB914 would have exempted Kuleana lands from real property taxes if the land has been continuously occupied by the original titleholder.  Commercial developments have led to sharp increases in taxes on real property, including Kuleana land, throughout the State.  These increases have adversely affected many Hawaiian families who live on kuleana lands because they are unable to pay for the taxes.  Hawaiian families living on kuleana land now face the loss of their land and legacy that took generations to establish and must confront the possibility of homelessness.

SB914 got a hearing on the Senate side, thanks to the Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs committee chairman, Senator Colleen Hanabusa, but the bill came up one-vote short of passing.  I tried to convince Senator Donna Mercado Kim, who voted “no,” to change her mind and support the bill.  Unfortunately, she refused to budge from her position that we should first get each county to agree to it.

I am currently working to get a city ordinance passed at the Honolulu City Council.  Bill 25 was introduced on March 15, 2006 and was passed unanimously by the Council’s Budget Committee on April 26, 2006.  It is scheduled to be heard and voted by the full Council on May 17th

Ceded Land Revenues.  HB 459 would have clarified the lands comprising and the revenue derived from the public land trust under the state constitution and what is owed to OHA.  Like in past sessions, this bill went no where.  Ever since 2001, when Act 304 was repealed, OHA has tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation that would reestablish the continued funding of OHA from ceded land revenues.  We almost got the bill passed in 2003.  It was passed unamended in the Senate but died in the House Finance committee after the committee changed the bill to leave out money from improvements to the land.

As the campaign season heats this fall, I ask that you question the candidates in your district about their positions on important Hawaiian issues.  It’s time to take a stand against politicians who patronize Hawaiian issues with meaningless words and no positive action.  Politicians like Representative Scott Saiki, who are influenced by lobbyists instead of their constituents, don’t deserve to be re-elected.  In the last election, Rep. Saiki won by only 5,006 votes, while OHA trustees typically win with over 100,000 votes from all voters (not just Hawaiians) state-wide.  It should be obvious who really represents the people.

Let’s remind all elected officials that our issues are important and should never be pushed aside and ignored.  Hawaiians make up 20% of the population and in the last several elections have had a high voter turn-out rate of 75%, despite the fact that Hawaii has one of the lowest voter turn-out rates in the country.  This should be a wake-up call for all elected officials that Hawaiians are aware of their political power at the ballot box.  Imua e Hawai’i nei…

Setting the Record Straight – Ceded Land Revenues


Source: March 2006 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  As you have probably already heard, the Governor and the Board of Trustees have agreed upon an amount that the state will pay OHA from its pro rata share of ceded land revenues.  Legislation to make it law is currently making its way through both the state House and Senate and it looks as if it will pass without difficulty.

For the record, despite what you may have heard in the media, I am not opposed to the proposed amounts that were negotiated.  I do, however, have serious concerns about how the amounts were calculated.  I also question whether OHA’s negotiation team considered all of the facts and figures that were available to come up with a fair and justifiable amount.  The last discussion that I am aware of was in December, when our attorney told us that the state owed a past due amount between $17-$30 million.  Despite my inquires, I have not gotten a satisfactory answer on how the final $15.1 million figure was calculated nor why this amount is lower than the $17-$30 million range that was discussed.

Over the past six months, I have received bits-and-pieces of information from the negotiation team from time-to-time.  However, even very important information, such as the calculations and figures compiled by OHA’s accountant in the past, has changed over the years and I question whether they were even considered.  There also did not appear to be a clear formula by which the negotiators calculated the amounts owed or even the future payments to be paid to OHA.  Let me be absolutely clear – at no time was I ever privy to the formula which the negotiation team used to calculate the settlement with the Governor’s office, nor was I given any real numbers that showed exactly how the team had arrived at the numbers that they were suggesting.  Much of the specific details of the negotiations were kept a closely guarded secret.

By the time I found out that the negotiating team and the Governor’s office had come up with a deal, it was too late for me to express my other concerns.  For example:

  1. By what method was the past due amounts determined to be $17 Million?
  2. Was inflation factored into the equation?
  3. Did they consider the fact that the state has been re-negotiating leases every year and, consequently, the revenue stream is now much higher?  The $15.1 million figure goes way back to 1995.
  4. What about the interest that is owed to OHA on the unpaid amounts?

What’s really egregious is that during a recent board meeting, Trustee Carpenter asked the board to take a vote (which was not listed on the agenda) to deny me the formulas and numbers that I requested from the negotiation team.  To my knowledge, not only should this information be public, the vote goes against state “sunshine” laws.

On February 1st, the State House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs had a hearing on the proposed legislation.  During the questions and answers period, committee members asked the State Attorney General about where the revenue would come from.  The AG replied that they were looking at receipts from the airport shops, the University of Hawaii Bookstore, U.H. parking, etc.  State Representative Ezra Kanoho asked if those sources were included in the $15.1 million and the answer was yes.  This was confusing since those revenues have been in dispute with the state since the Heely case.  This begs the question – Is the state now settling a part of the Heely case with this settlement?

Again, I’d like to stress that I am not opposed to the negotiated revenue stream from the ceded lands.  The increased revenue will definitely strengthen OHA’s ability to assist its beneficiaries and the Governor should be commended for her work to address this issue.  I just feel that our negotiating team was too secretive about how they came up with the final $15.1 million figure.  I also haven’t heard a convincing argument that justifies the amount.  Perhaps they thought it was an amount that everyone could live with.  If so, they haven’t admitted it publicly.  Given their lack of trust for their fellow trustees and ambiguous explanations, on a personal level, I sure wouldn’t want them negotiating for anything on my behalf.

A non-Hawaiian who appreciates the Aloha of the host culture

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source Ka Wai Ola o OHA, October 2005

‘Ano’ai kakou… While the Arakaki plaintiffs may see the recent 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision regarding their lawsuit as a victory, we here at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs were pleased that the 9th Circuit actually denied them any standing regarding the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands and ceded land revenues. That just leaves OHA’s matching funds from the state, which I feel is a pretty ridiculous argument since OHA is a state agency and uses those funds to operate — just like any other state agency.

I believe the Arakaki lawsuit is just another one of a long series of challenges that Hawaiians have had to overcome since 1893. As with those many hurdles in the past, so shall the Hawaiian community come together once again and work diligently to overcome it.

In these challenging times, I truly appreciate the non-Hawaiians who have had the courage to step forward and speak in support of their Hawaiian friends and neighbors. People like Robbie Alms, who thoroughly impressed me with his speech during the Kamehameha Schools’ Unity Rally on Saturday, August 6, 2005 at ‘Iolani Palace.

Alms spoke from the heart when he said that he has never felt deprived because he could not attend the Kamehameha Schools. He sincerely felt that his friends who were able to attend were blessed, but their blessing involved no loss on his part. He knew that there were plenty of other options available to him.

Alms talked about how he was taught by his parents that “we all receive gifts but not necessarily the same gifts, and that we should celebrate the gifts we receive, not covet the gifts of others.” I feel it is a real shame that none of the Arakaki plaintiffs seem to have learned this from their parents. Alms felt that the 9th Circuit Court decision forces Kamehameha Schools to give him a very special gift that he was not intended to receive. He emphatically said that he does not need or want it.

Alms stressed that he does not feel “trammeled” by the Kamehameha Schools admissions policy; but he does feel trammeled when such legalisms “take precedence over the health of our islands’ social fabric.”

Alms also showed great insight when he said that laws designed to “lift the yoke of slavery from black Americans” are now being used as weapons to harm Native Hawaiians. I absolutely agree with his point that the law is being used to condemn our special heritage with the harsh and ugly words of “civil rights violation.” Another excellent point he made is that the 9th Circuit seems to erroneously think that diminishing Native Hawaiians will somehow build a healthy and pono society.

Alms ended his speech by encouraging Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians to call upon our court system to live up to its highest purposes and values, and to call upon our community to stand up for Kamehameha Schools. He said that our very future depends upon honoring our unique history and the very special institutions that that heritage has given us. In his words, “We all need to honor the Princess’ gift just as she meant it to be honored.”

I would like to send out a warm mahalo nui loa to all of the non-Hawaiians out there, like Robbie Alms, who continue to speak out for the Hawaiian community in its time of need. As for the Arakaki lawsuit, make no mistake, none of the programs currently working to assist disadvantaged Native Hawaiians will ever fall victim to its terrorization by the likes of Thurston Twigg-Smith, H. William Burgess, and their ilk. Imua e Hawai’i nei…

2005 OHA legislative package needs your support


Source: February 2005 Ka Wai Ola Article

`Ano`ai kakou…  The State Capitol is buzzing with activity so it must be that time of the year again.  Here are some important bills from our 2005 legislative package that really need your support at the legislature:

Ceded Land Revenues.  Ever since 2001, we’ve tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation that would reestablish the continued funding of OHA from ceded land revenues.

Act 304, which was passed by the legislature in 1990 to clarify and the State’s obligation to transfer ceded land revenues to OHA, was repealed by the Hawaii Supreme Court in the Office of Hawaiian Affairs vs. State of Hawaii (2001) case involving ceded land revenues derived from the Honolulu International Airport.  

We almost got the bill passed in 2003.  It passed unamended in the Senate but died in the House Finance committee after the committee changed the bill to leave out money from improvements to the land.  In other words, if someone was leasing ceded lands for a dollar, but they built a building on it and was making millions of dollars from it, all OHA would get is 20% of just one dollar (20 cents).  In the end, we were forced to oppose our own bill.

The Legislature must define, once and for all, the revenue stream from public trust lands that is to be given to OHA for the benefit of Hawaiians.  Only by this action will the State finally move towards fulfilling its constitutional obligation to our people.

Hawaiian Representation on State Boards and Commissions.  We have submitted individual bills that would ensure Hawaiian representation on the Board of Land and Natural Resources, the Land Use Commission, the public advisory body for the Coastal Zone Management Program, and the Commission on Water Resource Management by specifying that one member of each body shall be appointed from a list of nominees submitted by OHA. 

The board, commission, and advisory body mentioned above regularly make decisions impacting the rights of Hawaiians.  These decisions often have immediate and lasting impacts on matters relating to Hawaiian cultural, economic, social, religious, political and historical concerns, all of which State law recognizes as being attached to the use and management of Hawaii’s natural resources. 

Despite this recognition under State law, Hawaiians have had no more of a voice on these bodies than any other member of the general public.  Our bill addresses this deficiency in the State’s regulatory scheme with respect to issues involving Hawaii’s land and natural resources.

Kuleana Lands.  Commercial developments have led to sharp increases in taxes on real property, including Kuleana land, throughout the State.  These increases have adversely affected many Hawaiian families who live on kuleana lands because they are unable to pay for the taxes.  Hawaiian families living on kuleana land now face the loss of their land and legacy that took generations to establish and must confront the possibility of homelessness.

OHA’s Kuleana land bill proposes to end this injustice by exempting Kuleana lands from real property taxes if the land has been continuously occupied by the original titleholder.

OHA Budget.  The following organizations have received significant boosts in their proposed budgets:  (1) Na Pua Noeau has gone from $581,948 in fiscal year 2005 to $707,208 in fiscal year 2006 – an increase of $125,360; (2) The Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation’s budget has jumped from $776,603 in fiscal year 2005 to $1,184,604 for fiscal year 2006 – an increase of $408,001; (3) Alu Like, Inc.’s budget has increased from $596,000 in fiscal year 2005 to $730,000 for fiscal year 2006 – an increase of $134,000.

I encourage all of you to call or write your legislators and let them know where you stand on all of the issues near and dear to us.  Also, your personal testimony will be very much appreciated when our bills are up for consideration in legislative committee hearings.  I look forward to working with all of you during this session of the legislature.  Imua e Hawai’i nei…

Building a consensus with Board members eliminates mistrust

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, December 2004

‘Ano’ai kakou… OHA’s spending policy was recently changed and now all of the Ceded Land revenues we get from the state will go straight into our operating budget. In other words, instead of depositing our income into a savings account, we’ll be putting it straight into our checking account to spend. OHA’s budget chairman wanted to find a way to get OHA to spend more money, so he called a committee meeting on August 18, 2004 and had high-powered experts do a presentation to the Board. These experts argued that the OHA’s spending policy favored future beneficiaries over current beneficiaries by allowing Ceded Land revenues to grow in the Trust. They explained that we were unfairly saving the money for future beneficiaries and not spending enough on today’s beneficiaries.

The presentation worked and on September 15, 2004, the Board passed a new spending policy. Now the $9,446,922 in Ceded Land revenues OHA will get from the state in 2005 will be spent and not saved. Theoretically, OHA should now be able to fund many new programs and help many more beneficiaries with that money.

Unfortunately, not all of the money is going directly to our beneficiaries. It appears leadership will use some of the $9.45 million to cover massive budget short-falls, which mostly included lawyers’ fees and costs relating to our lobbyist for the federal recognition campaign.

As you can imagine, the Trustees had many questions about what exactly the $9.45 million was going to be spent on. These questions finally forced the budget chair to hold a workshop on October 12th & 13th. Even after the two-day workshop, not all of the Trustees were convinced that the $9.45 million was being spent for its intended purpose – helping our beneficiaries. Despite our concerns, the revised Budget finally passed with the minimum required six-votes on November 1, 2004.

Budget workshops should be made mandatory to avoid problems like this in the future. Past budget committee chairs always held workshops before bringing a new budget to the Board. Workshops would give Trustees the time needed to have their questions answered in detail before they had to vote in committee. Right now, all of OHA’s committee chairs distribute materials for their meetings just a few days in advance. This hardly gives Trustees enough time to meet with administrative staff and ask questions, much less receive the answers we need to make prudent decisions.

The current regime could have shown true leadership if they had spent the time necessary to justify their proposal to spend the $9.45 million instead of hiring an attorney and high powered presenters to make their case and rush it through for a vote. Building a consensus with Board members eliminates mistrust and in the end, everyone is more comfortable with the decision they made, decisions based on current information and not hype artists.

I pray that the New Year will bring constructive and meaningful change, despite the fact that the Board remains unchanged after the November election. It is my hope that we will no longer need to engage in political gymnastics to get things done. We shouldn’t have to duel with leadership in order to make sure we are working in the best interest of our beneficiaries.

If leadership can work towards building a consensus and abandons its “win-at-all-cost” mentality, I feel that a more positive and productive Board will emerge. Perhaps my sentiments can best be summed up by St. Paul, who in a letter to Timothy wrote:

“We know the law is good if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, but those who are lawless, the ungodly, the immoral, liars… and whatever else that is contrary to sound teaching.”
– Timothy, 1st Verse

Have a happy and safe holidays and God bless!