By Rowena Akana
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.