Change is good – or is it?

June 2010 Ka Wai Ola Column

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: June 2010 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

Sometimes, even the best of intentions can go amiss.  This past February through April, OHA underwent a massive reorganization.  The purpose of the restructuring was to make OHA better able to implement the recently passed 2010-2016 OHA Strategic Plan.  While I appreciate all of the hard work that our Administration put into reorganizing OHA, I have the following concerns:


Prior to the recent re-organization, OHA had a simple structure that was easy to understand.  The Board of Trustees set the policy for the Administrator and he would oversee the day-to-day operations of OHA.  He had two Deputies helping him, one in charge of beneficiary advocacy & empowerment and another for OHA operations.

Now, OHA has been split into three levels.  The top level is the Board of Trustees.  In the second level, the “Chief Executive Officer” (CEO) oversees the “Chief Operating Officer” (COO) with the help of the “Corporation Counsel” and the “Chief Knowledge Officer.”  The CEO also directly oversees OHA’s Nonprofit, Hi’ilei Aloha, LLC.  In the third level, the COO oversees four “Line of Business” managers that have direct control over their respective divisions.  They include:  (1) the Resource Management Director/Chief Fiscal Officer, (2) the Community Relations Director, (3) the Chief Advocate, and (4) the Research Director.

The new structure has made it difficult for Trustees and their staff to assist our beneficiaries.  For example, if someone calls my office and needs help with ceded land maps, do I call the “Chief Knowledge Officer” or the “Resource Management Director” or the “Research Director?”  The answer is the “Research Director.”  So now, what happens to the unwritten rule that “employees are not to consult with trustees?”


According to COO, the Administration is planning to conduct a large amount of research so that OHA can operate based on hard data.  Unfortunately, they also plan to contract much of this work to outside companies instead of doing it “in-house.”  Given the many expert managers and advocates that we have hired, such as the “Chief Knowledge Officer,” the question is — Why?  OHA is paying these new managers generously high salaries (compared to similar state employees) and I believe they should be doing more to earn it.  Trustee Machado’s concern that OHA may be too “top-heavy” at a recent meeting appears to be correct.  Also, Hawaiians have been studied to death on almost every subject, whether it’s culture, health, housing, history, land, legends, rights — you name it and there are studies and books full of data on it.  So why are we re-inventing the wheel?

(3) GRANTS: 

The Administration is currently revising the new guidelines for approving OHA grants, but there is no word yet on when it will be completed.  My concern is that the guidelines won’t be stringent enough to prevent abuses by certain trustees to “fast tracking” grants for favored nonprofit organizations.


Many of the new positions have ridiculous titles that seem to be either too vague or too broad and the staff members who will be responsible for completing the tasks have yet to be completely identified to the trustees.  We are a Hawaiian governmental agency formed to serve our Hawaiian and native Hawaiian beneficiaries.  We are not a private corporation.  I believe the titles of the new positions and divisions need to clearly reflect the tasks and duties they are charged with.  At present, they make no logical sense at all.  My fear is that we are creating layers of bureaucracy that in the end will not produce many benefits for our beneficiaries.  So is this change good?  We shall have to wait and see.

If you have a comment to share or if you have subjects that you would like to know more about, please send it to my office or write a letter to the editor of the Ka Wai Ola o OHA.  Aloha pumehana.

How can we get the PUC to be more responsible to our Hawaii residents?

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, October 2009

On July 9, 2009, the Honolulu Advertiser reported that Oahu electric bills would rise at least 4.7 percent so that the Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO) can pay for more than $200 million in new “capital investment projects.”

I found HECO’s justification for their Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approved rate hike disingenuous because nowhere did it mention that HECO has accumulated $1.4 billion worth of debt. In fact, the Advertiser later reported on July 21 that Moody’s Investors Service has lowered its rating outlook for Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc.’s debt from stable to negative.

The public should not have to suffer because of HECO’s failed investments. How can Oahu residents be sure that the rate hike will be used for new capital investment projects and not to help pay down HECO’s debt? In the meantime, all of us will have to take on this added burden at a time we can least afford it. The PUC has really let us down.

Most people have no idea what the PUC is or who is in charge of the organization. I believe that anonymity allows them to make these kinds of detrimental decisions. Therefore, in an effort to bring transparency to the PUC, here is a brief summary of the agency:


According to the PUC’s Annual Report, Fiscal Year 2006-07, the PUC is responsible for regulating 221 utility companies or entities (four electric, one gas, 179 telecommunications, and 37 water and sewer companies), four water carriers, 590 passenger carriers and 521 property carriers in the State.

The PUC was established in 1913 as a part-time, three-member body with broad regulatory oversight and investigative authority over all public utility companies in the Territory of Hawaii.

Today, the PUC is comprised of three full-time Commissioners appointed by the Governor with the consent of the State Senate. They each serve six-year terms on a staggered basis.


Carlito P. Caliboso, Chairman – Appointed and named Chairman by Gov. Linda Lingle on April 30, 2003. He earned a B.A. in business administration and a law degree from the University of Hawaii. In 2004, he was reappointed to the Commission for a term to expire on June 30, 2010.

John E. Cole, Commissioner – Appointed by Governor Lingle on April 24, 2006, for a term to expire on June 30, 2012. Prior to his appointment, Commissioner Cole served as Executive Director of the Division of Consumer Advocacy of the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. He has a B.A. in biology from UH and a law degree from Washington University.

Leslie H. Kondo, Commissioner – Appointed by Governor Lingle on July 3, 2007, to replace Commissioner Wayne Kimura for the remainder of the six-year term that expired on June 30, 2008. He was later reappointed for a term to expire June 30, 2014. Mr. Kondo was the past director of the Office of Information Practices and is an attorney with an educational background in industrial engineering.


As of June 30, 2007, the PUC had a staff of 35 employees, including an administrative director, attorneys, engineers, auditors, researchers, investigators, neighbor island representatives, documentation staff and clerical staff. The PUC has four offices located throughout the State:

* OAHU: Public Utilities Commission, Kekuanaoa Building, 465 South King St., #103, Honolulu, HI 96813, Phone: (808) 586-2020, Fax: (808) 586-2066.

* MAUI: PUC Maui District Office, State Office Building #1, 54 S. High St., #218, Wailuku, HI 96793, Phone: (808) 984-8182, Fax: (808) 984-8183.

* KAUAI: PUC Kauai District Office, 3060 Eiwa St., #302-C, Lihue, HI 96766, Phone: (808) 274-3232, Fax: (808) 274-3233.

* HAWAII: PUC Hawaii District Office, 688 Kinoole St., #106-A, Hilo, HI 96720, Phone: (808) 974-4533, Fax: (808) 974-4534.

* PUC e-mail:

* PUC web site:


The PUC regulates all four electric companies in the State: (1) HECO on Oahu; (2) MECO on Maui, Lanai and Molokai; (3) HELCO on the island of Hawaii; and (4) Kauai Island Utility Cooperative (“KIUC”) on Kauai. MECO and HELCO are subsidiaries of HECO, which is in turn a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries Inc.


The PUC’s main job is to make sure that the companies they regulate provide their customers with “adequate” and “reliable” services at reasonable rates in a way that is efficient and safe. They also have to allow them a “fair opportunity to earn a reasonable rate of return.” Question: What is the “reasonable” rate of return?


I am encouraged that the PUC has stated that their short-term goal is to “increase the transparency of the regulatory process and public access to the Commission to ensure that the Commission efficiently, independently, fairly, and impartially regulates public utilities.”

Certainly a step in the right direction. The Question is though, when does this goal become a reality? Let’s work together to make sure the PUC keeps its word.


On Sept. 10, 2009, the County of Maui adopted a kuleana land tax-exemption ordinance. After five years of hard work by OHA trustees and staff, kuleana lands are now protected from the threat of rising property taxes in all four counties!

Until the next time. Aloha pumehana.

Layoffs vs. furloughs

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, August 2009

Everyone knows our state economy is suffering. Despite this fact, the Governor plans to lay off as many as 2,500 state employees to try and balance the state budget. Although OHA is autonomous from the Governor’s control, OHA still plans to lay off as many as 24 employees. In order for our economy to recover, it is important for people to have jobs.


* Thirty Meter Telescope on Sacred Mauna Kea

On June 30, 2009, our Administrator sent a letter to the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Observatory Project at the University of Hawaii (UH) at Hilo regarding their Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Here are some of his many concerns:

(1) The TMT would be the largest telescope on Mauna Kea. It will be 180 feet high and take up 5 acres. They also need to build an access way to the observatory and major renovations to the Hale Pohaku Mid-Level Facility.

(2) OHA believes the Draft EIS is premature because the state Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) has not yet received or approved the following four sub-plans it required of UH in April of 2009: a Cultural Resources Management Plan, a Natural Resources Management Plan, a Decommissioning Plan, and a Public Access Plan.

(3) Past subleases for other Mauna Kea observatories have been issued at a reduced rate of $1 per year with UH getting “in-kind” viewing time at the observatories. This only benefits UH and prevents both the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and OHA from receiving substantial amounts of money that is sorely needed during these difficult times. Public Education is only one of the five purposes of Ceded Lands established by the Hawaii Admission Act.

(4) The Draft EIS needs to stress that there are alternative sites available, such as the Chilean site at Cerro Armazones.

(5) Finally, the Administrator wrote that the cultural resource analysis of the Draft EIS is “wholly flawed” and does not properly examine the impacts of siting what would be the largest telescope on Mauna Kea.

Despite these serious concerns, instead of OHA suing the University of Hawaii for mismanagement of sacred ceded lands, on July 2, 2009, the board of trustees voted in favor of an OHA resolution supporting the selection of Mauna Kea as the site for the proposed TMT project. The question is why?

Trustees Cataluna, Waihee and I were excused from the meeting and did not vote for the measure.

* Quid pro quo for San Diego Charter School?

On May 27, 2009, a proposal to give a San Diego Charter School, Pacific American Academy (PA’A), $100,000 as a pilot project for supporting mainland charter schools with Hawaiian students was included on page 12 of the OHA Fiscal Biennium 2010-2011 Budget Realignment #1 action item. I found this deceptive since there was no way for the trustees to know from reading the board agenda that this proposal would be considered.

The whole idea of trying to sneak what should have gone through OHA’s grant program into our budget was totally inappropriate. One of OHA’s deputy administrators explained that they recommended giving assistance to the Charter School since the group had helped the administration when they traveled to San Diego for Kau Inoa sign-ups. This explanation was defended by the Chairperson, Haunani Apoliona.

Due to serious concerns from trustees, including the fact that the grant request did not go through proper procedures for consideration and the fact that too many critical details were missing from the proposal, the trustees removed it from consideration. I was personally assured that this $100,000 grant would not find its way back to the board.

However, less than a month later on June 24, 2009, the grant was listed on the board agenda as one of the Fiscal Year 2009 Grant Recommendations. The trustees approved giving the San Diego-based Pacific American Academy a $100,000 grant. Trustees Cataluna and I were excused from the vote. Trustee Mossman voted against the proposal.

There are a hundred reasons why this grant should have been deferred indefinitely. This is a pilot program. It was never clearly identified as to how many Hawaiian children would be enrolled. No itemized budget was submitted. This was certainly not a prudent decision to make in these tough economic times. Grants should be judged on its sustainability. This grant had none.

This San Diego grant was able to rush through the grants process, within 30 days while other local grant applicants are sometimes forced to wait for years due to “lack of funds.” Fast-tracking the grant is especially baffling to me since there wasn’t $100,000 left in the grants budget at the time. Trustees need to be concerned that this sends a very misleading message to future grant applicants – That a grant application can be fast-tracked if you have helped certain OHA personnel or trustees in the past.

* The Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. Giveaway

Without regard to Trust Assets, OHA transferred $863,361.77 from OHA’s Fiscal Reserve Account to the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. (NHLC) for the balance of attorney’s fees collected, including interest, originally paid to OHA regarding the Hokulia case.

Trustees voted to approve this at our June 24, 2009, board meeting. Trustees Cataluna and I were excused from the vote. In a written memo to the BOT, I opposed the transfer for the following reasons:

(1) The NHLC is not entitled to the $863,361.77 since OHA is not a client of the NHLC and therefore should not have to pay “attorney’s fees.”

(2) A large portion of the NHLC’s operating budget comes from OHA. For many years, NHLC was actually listed by name within OHA’s budget bill passed by the Legislature. Currently, the OHA budget bill that was recently singed by Governor Lingle includes $491,981 in general funds and $491,981 in OHA trust funds for fiscal year 2009-2010 that can be used by NHLC to provide legal services for our beneficiaries. For fiscal year 2010-2011, the amount is $473,080 in general funds and $473,080 in OHA trust funds. In other words, we pay their salaries. If they win a case, then we are entitled to half of the award.

(3) The NHLC has not paid their share of funds from the Hokulia case to the State of Hawaii, which claims they were entitled to half of the award. Instead, OHA paid over $1 million to the state, which included NHLC’s portion.

(4) Unlike other organizations that OHA funds, the NHLC was never forced to make any sacrifices to their budget, unlike other nonprofits that had to suffer a 20 percent budget reduction.

(5) The OHA Fiscal Reserve is to be used for unforeseen emergencies ONLY and not to “seed an endowment,” as NHLC plans to do with the money. I am certain our investment policy has no such provision for that kind of expenditure.

Finally, it makes little sense to release employees because of budget cuts and yet be able to give $100,000 to a group in San Diego, and another three-quarters of a million dollars to another organization at the same time.  Until the next time.  Aloha pumehana.

U.S. Supreme Court, legislative update

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, May 2009

At the writing of this column, 15 days before it goes to print, Senate Bill 1677 is the only surviving bill that would provide any protection to ceded lands from being sold or exchanged. While it does not provide the complete moratorium that we wanted, it does require a majority vote of both the House and Senate to disapprove the sale or exchange of ceded lands. It also requires that the community be briefed regarding the location of the lands prior to its sale or exchange.

Unfortunately, State Attorney General Mark Bennett and House Speaker Calvin Say are now holding the bill hostage in an attempt to browbeat the OHA trustees into dropping our lawsuit to stop any further sale of ceded lands. SB 1677 has been deferred from the final vote on third reading for four days in the House. Governor Linda Lingle has made it clear that she will not sign the bill unless we drop our case.

Both Lingle and Bennett do not have any interest in doing what is right for Native Hawaiians. If the Lingle administration truly won the recent Supreme Course case, like Bennett has bragged about in the media, why do they want us to drop the case while it’s being reconsidered by the Hawaii Supreme Court? Also, if they really don’t intend to sell or exchange any ceded lands in the near future, why won’t they just pass SB 1677 instead of threatening to kill it? So much for the Governor’s commitment to Native Hawaiians.

There is NO reason for OHA to drop the case at this point because the Senate will most likely not accept the House’s changes to SB 1677 and we would just end up dropping the case for nothing. And settling the case with the Lingle administration without a moratorium on the sale of ceded lands would only anger our beneficiaries. We would also be sending the wrong message to the Hawaii Supreme Court.


In its recent decision on March 31, 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court sent the ceded-lands case back to the Hawaii Supreme Court for further deliberations. Many assertions have been made in the media, and I want to clarify all of the misinformation out there. Here is exactly what the U.S. Supreme Court said:

1) The federal Apology Resolution did not impose a duty on the State of Hawaii to refrain from selling ceded lands.

2) OHA had argued that the Hawaii Supreme Court’s ruling relied mainly on state law and only referred to the Apology Resolution for its facts concerning the ongoing reconciliation process. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with OHA and concluded that the Hawaii Supreme Court did in fact rely on the Apology Resolution when it prohibited the sale of ceded lands.

3) However, the U.S. Supreme Court did recognize that existing state laws could serve as the basis for the Hawaii Supreme Court’s decision to prohibit the sale of ceded lands.

4) The Court also recognized that the Hawaii State Legislature has the authority to resolve the status of the ceded lands.

5) They also said that the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t have the authority to decide whether, as a matter of state law, Native Hawaiians have rights related to ceded lands. In other words, they said they don’t have the right, under Hawaii Constitution, to prohibit the sale of ceded lands until the status of those lands is definitively resolved through the state political process.

It is difficult for me to understand how the State Attorney General can claim this decision is a victory for the Lingle administration. If the Hawaii Supreme Court decides that state law provides an independent basis for the prohibition on the sale of ceded lands, and I am confident they will, there will be no reason for us to go back before the U.S. Supreme Court and this lawsuit will finally come to an end ñ with OHA and its beneficiaries winning in the end.


In my last column, I wrote about Senate Bill 995 and House Bill 901, which attempts to resolve claims and disputes relating to the portion of income and proceeds from the lands of the public land trust for use by OHA between Nov. 7, 1978, and July 1, 2009. I wrote that I favored the Senate’s version of the bill because it would convey Mauna Kea to OHA, along with several other parcels of land. The House version did not include Mauna Kea. At the time of this writing, is seems that HB 901 has died and only SB 995 will survive to the final conferencing stage of the legislative process.

House Settlement Proposal

On March 18, 2009, the House Committee on Hawaiian Affairs amended the Senate’s bill by (1) deleting the conveyance of all parcels to OHA except those in Kaka’ako Makai; and (2) inserting $200 million as the amount owed by the State to OHA.

On March 23, 2009, the joint House Committees on Water, Land & Ocean Resources and Judiciary amended this bill by deleting the requirement to transfer the management and control of the conveyed parcels to a sovereign native Hawaiian entity upon its recognition by the United States and the State.

Senate Settlement Proposal

On March 27, 2009, the Senate Committee on Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs amended the House’s version of the bill by adding language that would allow OHA and the State to reach a “global settlement” of the past and future obligations of the State to Native Hawaiians. The Committee felt that the proposal made by Gov. Ben Cayetano back in March 31, 1999, is a sensible and appropriate approach toward a “global settlement” and that it should be re‑offered to OHA.

Please note that a global settlement DOES NOT include natural resources, water and gathering rights or any other rights. The settlement would include both land and money. In my view, it would be a great opportunity for us to finally have the resources to build a strong nation.

The Senate’s “global settlement” offer includes: (A) Monetary payment to OHA of $251 million; (B) Conveyance of public lands from the State to OHA equal to 20 percent of the 1.8 million acres of ceded lands already inventoried; and (C) The suspension of the $15.1 million in annual payments to OHA effective upon a date to be agreed upon in good faith between the State and OHA.

OHA has to make a decision to accept or reject the “global settlement” (which means land and money only ñ this does not include rights to natural and mineral resources, gathering rights, etc.) and notify the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of its decision in writing on or before Jan. 1, 2010. Any failure to properly and timely respond to the “global settlement” offer shall be deemed to be a rejection of the “global settlement.”

If a “global settlement” cannot be reached, Part II of the measure sets forth the Legislature’s approach to alternatively address the issue regarding past obligations only. The dollar value of $200 million represents the amount agreed to between OHA and Governor Lingle regarding the resources that should be provided for the period between Nov. 7, 1978, and July 1, 2008. The Committee felt that $200 million for the past obligations is a fair and reasonable payment.

At the discretion of OHA, payment of the $200 million may be accomplished by either: (A) A $200 million monetary payment; (B) Conveyance of properties in the public land trust with a combined tax assessed value of $200 million; or (C) A combination of cash payments and conveyance of properties totaling $200 million.

If OHA chooses to accept a $200 million monetary payment, it must notify the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of its decision in writing by Jan. 1, 2010. Failure of OHA to respond to the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House by Jan. 1, 2010, shall be deemed to be a rejection of OHA’s right to accept the $200 million monetary payment option.

The current $15.1 million in annual payments from the State to OHA shall remain uninterrupted for FYs 2009-10 and 2010-11.

In either settlement option, the specific public lands that are to be conveyed by the State to OHA is to be determined by negotiation between the Governor and OHA with reasonable diligence, in good faith, and shall be completed on or before Jan. 1, 2015, unless mutually extended by the State and OHA. OHA and the Governor’s Office are required to submit a report on the status of the negotiations to the Legislature no later than 20 days prior to the convening of the 2010 regular session.


While the legislative session will be over by the time of printing, I still encourage all of you to let your elected officials know that you support Senate’s version of the settlement bill and that you want a complete moratorium on the sale or exchange of ceded lands. The legislative process is a long one and if the bills fail to pass this year, they will still be alive and will come up again next year. It is truly unfortunate that some of our elected officials need to be constantly reminded about doing the right thing.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Recent Polls show people of Hawaii believe in fairness for Native Hawaiians

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source Ka Wai Ola o OHA, November 2007

‘Ano’ai kakou… According to a poll conducted by Ward Research for OHA, 70% of residents surveyed favored the Akaka Bill, while nearly two-thirds of those polled also believe that the issue of race should not be a reason to deny federal recognition to Hawaiians.

However, anti-Akaka bill groups like the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii (with a membership of a handful of people) and some of the members of the newly formed Hawaii Civil Rights Advisory Committee are trying to re-write our Hawaiian history. Like other racist groups who say the Holocaust never happened, the Grassroots Institute would not be happy until Native Hawaiians no longer exist or are driven out from our Aina. They keep hoping that, if they keep repeating the same non-truths over and over again, people will start believing their nonsense.

The poll was conducted by telephone from August 15-27, 2007 from a sampling of 380 residents statewide. The sample is representative of the Hawaii population by age, ethnicity, and island of residence and carries a maximum sampling error of plus or minus 5 percent.

Those surveyed were asked, “Do you think that Hawaiians should be recognized by the U.S. as a distinct indigenous group, similar to the recognition given to American Indians and Alaska Natives?” A solid seventy percent responded, “Yes,” while 18 percent said, “No” and 12 percent didn’t know.

I have always had faith that the people of Hawaii truly understand the issue of federal recognition for Hawaiians and could not be easily fooled by all the negative doomsday rhetoric of the anti-Akaka bill naysayers. The poll showed that 84% of those surveyed heard of the Akaka bill and 79% were aware of the lawsuits against OHA, DHHL and Kamehameha Schools.

Sixty-seven percent of those polled also said that Hawaiians have the right to make decisions about their land, education, health, cultural and traditional practices, and social policies. Eighty-three percent of those surveyed believe that over 100-federally funded programs for Hawaiians should continue.

The vast majority of Hawaii residents want organizations such as the Kamehameha Schools, DHHL and OHA, which are under the constant threat of lawsuits, to be protected through federal recognition. They believe in the fundamental question of fairness and that Hawaiians should be treated equally like other indigenous people, including American Indians and Native Alaskans.

So, to the naysayers, I say – Stop embarrassing yourself and wasting your time, energy, and money on fruitless efforts. You cannot change or re-write history. OHA only has to educate 18% of Hawaii residents on the merits of the Akaka bill, while opponents need to somehow mislead a whopping 64%. It takes so much more energy to confuse and mislead people, while it is much easier to just speak the truth.

All these years of spreading lies and misleading people haven’t gotten people like H. William Burgess anywhere. People of Hawaii know what is right, fair and just. After all, isn’t fairness and justice the American way?

Imua e Hawai’i nei…

Hawai’i’s Hijacked Civil Rights Advisory Committee

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, October 2007

‘Ano’ai kakou… As impossible as it sounds, the anti-Akaka racists have reached a new low. As most of you may have heard, the Hawai’i State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (HISAC) has begun hearing testimony on the proposed Akaka bill.In a move that shows just how ignorant the Bush administration is about Hawaiian history and culture, new members of the advisory committee include H. William Burgess, James Kuroiwa Jr., and lawyer Paul Sullivan – all of whom have publicly stated their strong opposition to the Akaka bill. These bozos are now using the Commission to give their preposterous arguments the illusion legitimacy. The fact that the Civil Rights Commission is against the Akaka Bill is an irony of the highest order. The leaders of the Civil Rights Movement who bled for equal rights in the ’60’s must be rolling in their graves!

HISAC had a public briefing in the state capitol auditorium on August 20th. State Attorney General Mark Bennett spoke in strong support of the Akaka bill, while Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal Opportunity in Virginia spoke in opposition. Bennett must be commended for his expertise on the issues and using his quick wit to make Clegg look like a fool.

Clegg kept insisting that the Akaka bill is unconstitutional, as if saying it over and over would make it a reality, but Bennett made it clear that Congress has the (plenary) power to pass the bill into law.

Clegg, admitted (several times) that he wasn’t familiar with Hawaiian history and culture and it showed. He argued that the “one drop rule” for Hawaiians to be considered Hawaiian wasn’t enough to qualify them to help rebuild a Hawaiian Governing Entity. He clearly didn’t know that the United States Congress created the blood quantum percentage in the 1920 Hawaiian Homes Act to limit the number of Hawaiians who qualified for homelands. It had nothing to do with defining whether a person can be considered Hawaiian or not.

Clegg also argued that the islands were not united as a single distinct nation prior to the arrival of Europeans and, therefore, don’t qualify to rebuild their government. This statement is also mistaken since the islands were still occupied by Native Hawaiians who were governed by a feudal system of Island Chiefs. Bennett had to remind him again that the argument is moot since Congress clearly has the power to make it happen.

Clegg argued that Hawaiians can’t rebuild their government under the process set-up for Native American tribes because the Hawaiian government hasn’t continued to function over the 100+ years since the overthrow. Bennett responded that it is ridiculous for the United States, who helped to overthrow the Hawaiian Government, to now say that Hawaiians can’t rebuild their government because it doesn’t exist today.

Finally, Clegg argued that if the Akaka bill passed, it could encourage other people to ask for nationhood, such as the Native peoples living in Texas. Bennett said it best when he reminded the audience that people usually go to “slippery slope” and “what if” arguments once they run out of good ones. This got more than a few chuckles from the audience.

I believe Clegg showed his true intentions when he mentioned that Hawaiians number more than 400,000 people across the nation and asked whether it would be wise to give so much power to such a large group within the U.S. He stressed that no American Indian or Alaska Native tribe even comes close to our numbers. If he had done his research, he would have known that the Navaho, the largest Native American tribe, have close to 500,000 members.

Clegg and the racists that invited him here to speak obviously fear that the Akaka bill would give us the power to finally help ourselves to forge a brighter future. They obviously want to keep Hawaiians and other native peoples from being self-sufficient. We need to fight harder now to preserve, not only our rights as natives of this land, but to show these racists Americans that we are not just poor Hawaiians but savvy Americans as well. We will attain sovereignty no matter how long it takes.

Dan Boylan of Midweek said it best: “The GOP Insults Hawaii’s Host Culture,” by stacking the deck of the Civil Rights Commission with Republican ideologues.

Imua e Hawai’i nei

What happens to Injured Guardsmen Returning Home from Iraq?

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, June 2007

Last month, I met with several injured beneficiaries in the Hawaii Army National Guard who called my office about problems they were having with their medical care in the Army’s new Medical Retention Processing Unit (MRPU). After listening to the shocking treatment that they were receiving, I called the offices of Senator Daniel Akaka and Congressman Neil Abercrombie and together we coordinated a meeting between the Guardsmen and the Brigadier General of the Hawaii Army National Guard. During the meeting, a disturbing pattern emerged.


After a Hawaii Army National Guardsman gets injured in Iraq, he is sent to Tripler for treatment and assigned a case manager to help coordinate his care under the MRPU Plan. The problem is that the case managers are not following the plan’s guidelines. According to the soldiers, there is a huge disconnect between the medical personnel and their patients. Army doctors and case managers contradict each other and confuse soldiers over their treatment plan. Some soldiers are told they will be having corrective surgery, and then later told they will only be given medication.

Two Guardsmen who had the same case worker complained that she was condescending and culturally insensitive. When there was a misunderstanding, this case worker refused to make appointments or prolonged their wait for treatment. When they asked for a different case worker, they are denied and later harassed by hospital personnel for complaining. This is especially hard for local Guardsmen who feel that their communication skills may not be the best.

To make matters worse, the MRPU regularly loses or mixes-up the soldiers’ files and doesnít allow soldiers to make copies. They are also not given their medical records upon release to take to Veteran Affairs (VA).


The biggest problem with the MRPU seems to be an “unwritten” rule in the plan to rotate soldiers out after they have received 365 days of medical care. Some are rotated out without a doctor’s approval while they are still in need of operations and therapy. In several cases, a case worker’s signature appears where a doctor’s signature should be, which goes against MRPU regulations. Non-medical personnel should not be prescribing treatments.

Although an Army doctor may sign an extension for a soldier to continue his treatment beyond 12-months, this is rarely done. Soldiers are left with nowhere to go except the Veteran’s Hospital. Rotating National Guard soldiers out of the MRPU and sending them on to the VA appears to be an expedient way of getting rid of those wounded soldiers.

These soldiers are suffering from serious injuries such as dislocated shoulders and blown-off kneecaps which haven’t received all of the medical care they need to fully recover. Fixing half-a-soldier and sending them on to the Veteran’s Hospital for the rest of their medical care is simply inhumane.


To add insult to injury, because of the tremendous strain on the Veterans’ hospitals due to the many soldiers and Army National Guardsmen returning from Iraq with serious injuries, there is an 18-month wait to be processed by the VA for treatment. This leaves the Guardsmen without medical treatment for almost two years and takes a huge physical and psychological toll for the Guardsmen and their families, many of whom cannot afford expensive surgeries on their own. All of these Guardsmen are also suffering from psychological problems such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and trouble sleeping from sleep apnea and are in desperate need of continued treatment.


The Guardsman assert, and rightly so, that they were wounded in combat and therefore should be treated by the Army until they can return to duty or are able to go back to some sense of a normal life. Guardsmen being rotated out with only a meager 10-20% disability pay cannot support their families when they go back to civilian life or expect to get a job that can. The Army should at least get them back into the best physical shape possible.

There is a huge disparity between the treatment of National Guardsman and a full-time Army soldier when there should be none. They both face the same dangers on the front lines and received the same horrific injuries. They deserve the same medical attention. In fact, we need to help them more since they need to re-enter the civilian workforce when they get back home.

The following needs to happen to improve their situation:

* Either disband the MRPU or treat National Guardsman the same as full-time Army soldiers if they have been injured or wounded as a result of being activated for combat duty.

* Launch an investigation of the MRPU, Tripler, and the procedures of the medical personnel and administrative staff as soon as possible.

* Establish, in Army regulations, that Army National Guardsmen can receive treatment from the MRPU until they are either ready to return to duty or ready to return to civilian life.

* Establish stricter oversight over the Army’s medical treatment system regarding wounded soldiers.

I am very happy to report that since my initial meeting with these Hawaii Army National Guardsmen, there have been some positive results. Both the offices of Senator Daniel Akaka and Congressman Neil Abercrombie have been diligent in addressing these issues with highest levels at Tripler Hospital. On the national level, Senator Akaka is looking at ways to address the Guardsmen’s concerns so that all Army National Guardsmen everywhere can be treated with parody equal to any member of the armed services who serves on active duty.

If you believe that our Hawaii Army National Guardsmen, when injured in Iraq or Afghanistan or anywhere else while serving on active duty should be extended the same kind of medical treatment as our regular forces, I urge you to write to your local and federal elected officials to express your support for these soldiers.

The Hawaiians’ Phantom Menace

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, August 2006

In early June, the trustees traveled to Washington D.C. to witness the long awaited vote on S. 147, also known as the Akaka Bill, in the U.S. Senate. What should have been a historic event quickly turned into a frustrating experience. Listening to Senators from the South speak against the bill, calling it “racist legislation,” made me want to jump out of the gallery and scream, “HYPOCRITES!” Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) shockingly said that granting federal recognition for Native Hawaiians could lead to Mormons, the Amish, and Hasidic Jews seeking their own federal recognition! It was clear that his goal was to lump all Hawaiians together with other minorities so he could argue that we all need to be treated equally. The problem with this argument is the undisputed fact that Hawaiians are indigenous people, similar to Native Americans and Native Alaskans who are already recognized. Senator Alexander is clearly discriminating against Hawaiians. So who’s the real racist?

When the vote was finally taken, we were shy by four votes. Two Democratic Senators were out sick and thanks to arm-twisting by Senate Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) at least three Republicans switched their vote at the last minute. Senator Frist told them that their leadership positions would be in jeopardy if they supported the Akaka bill and they choose to protect their political careers rather than keep their promises to Senators Akaka and Inouye.

At the end of that sad day, I was assured of two things: First, racism and ignorance is alive and well in the U.S. Senate. Second, partisan politics has ruined Congress. The trustees later learned that the Republicans were bitter with the Democrats for voting against their Estate Tax bill the day before. Killing the Akaka bill was just payback. I left Washington with a feeling of disgust and disdain for our so-called leaders of America.

With so many important issues that need to be dealt with in the world and at home, these career politicians proved they are only preoccupied with keeping the status quo and furthering their political careers. They use inflammatory issues like gay rights, flag burning, and immigration to detract us from the real issues of importance like New Orleans, North Korea, Iran, and Iraq. Is it any wonder why Americans are losing respect for their leaders and canít believe a word they say?

As bad as the Southern Senators were, nothing was worse than seeing Clarence Ching, a former OHA Trustee, sitting next to William Burgess, the lawyer who has consistently sued OHA, the State, and Hawaiian Homelands to break up all Hawaiian entitlements. The same William Burgess who has lobbied Congress to kill the Akaka bill and has called Hawaiians who favor federal recognition “racists.” And let’s not forget about State Senator Sam Slom, the only member of the State Legislature to vote “no” on the Akaka Resolution (HCR 56, SD1) of 2005. He was also there with Burgess. It is just bizarre that a Republican state senator would so vigorously oppose a bill that the Republican Governor so strongly supports. Not to mention the fact that all of Hawai’i’s other elected officials including the Mayors from all counties and the state legislature also supported federal recognition in a non-partisan effort. It is egregious that one elected official felt his opinion was more important than all of the state’s other elected officials. Since when does a single opinion become more important than the will of the people?

Where and when did this opposition to Hawaiian sovereignty begin? Some rumors have been circulating that it was started years ago by a prominent Kama’aina who called a meeting of other like-minded people to his home to discuss how they could band together and prevent the Bishop Estate, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, and OHA from becoming too powerful. After all, with control over vast tracts of land and revenues from ceded lands, Hawaiians could one day dominate the State, and this is a frightening thought for some. While I have no evidence that this long standing rumor is true, I have been thinking very seriously about it lately, especially after what I witnessed in Washington.

After the fall of the Bishop Estate Trustees, all of their cases were later thrown out of court, but it was too late to save most of their reputations. Now we find ourselves embroiled in more lawsuits to take out OHA and Hawaiian Homes. So, could the rumor be true? I think the question to ask is who is paying for all of the lawsuits that Mr. Burgess has filed? Perhaps then we may have the clues to who is behind the movement to ensure Hawaiians never regain sovereignty and that all Hawaiian entitlements are erased.

Setting priorities and developing a plan should be our goal for 2006

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, January 2006

‘Ano’ai kakou… In her State of OHA speech this past December, Trustee Apoliona highlighted what OHA has done for our beneficiaries in 2005. She proudly stated that OHA handed out millions of dollars in grant money, defended itself against lawsuits, and worked vigorously to pass the Hawaiian Federal Recognition (Akaka) bill. While she may feel that this is all well and good, I would like to offer my views.

OHA has completely changed from just a few years ago. Instead of a proactive agency with a variety of programs to help our beneficiaries, OHA now operates more like a charitable foundation that just hands out grants. While the grants that were awarded last year did go to worthwhile causes, I can’t help but feel that OHA is just passing the buck. I’m not saying that OHA should or could do everything, but I do believe that OHA can do much more for our beneficiaries in terms of programs and services. We have nine trustees and over a hundred staff members who are eager to make a difference. The problem is that OHA doesn’t seem to promote initiative.

Currently, we just wait for problems to come to us and then throw money at it. Just look at the words that Apoliona used to describe what OHA has done in the past year: We “awarded” grants, we “maintained” programs, we “distributed” funds, we “responded” to requests, and we “defended” against lawsuits. When is OHA going to start building or creating something?

Many of our people are forced to live on the beach because of the lack of affordable houses and rentals. OHA should be setting up programs to help our homeless beneficiaries get into shelters and transitional housing. What’s happened to OHA’s housing division? Apoliona’s speech mentions the OHA 103 Home Loan program administered by First Hawaiian Bank and Bank of Hawaii but OHA has done nothing to improve the program after both banks told us a year-and-a-half ago that only a few people have taken advantage of the program. I should also mention that you can’t just distribute a bunch of business loans and call it “economic development.”

The biggest problem with handing out grants to deal with long-term problems is that grant monies eventually run out and services get cut. That’s why we need on-going programs that are properly funded and monitored by the trustees. So why isn’t OHA developing any new programs? It should be obvious to anyone who was listening to Trustee Apoliona’s speech – that OHA focused more on lobbying Congress than on anything else.

One issue shouldn’t be allowed to overshadow everything else we do. Perhaps it is time for OHA to start seriously rethink its priorities, vision, and strategy for the future. I supported the previous versions of the Akaka bill, warts and all, because I believed that it would help us form a strong Hawaiian nation. I still think that federal recognition is crucial for us to begin the process of nationhood.

However, over the past year, Republican Senators and members of the administration have managed to change our bill significantly and we haven’t gotten anywhere with the White House. All of this happened despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we have paid to a powerful and well-connected Washington D.C. lobbying firm to get the bill passed. My personal opinion is that we may need to wait for a friendlier administration to take office before the bill goes anywhere.

Handing out millions of dollars in grants is just a band-aid solution to the many problems that we need to address in a serious manner. Developing good programs won’t be quick or easy, but they will do much more to serve the needs of our beneficiaries over the long haul. Setting priorities and developing a plan to meet those priorities is desperately needed at OHA. This should be our goal for 2006.

Imua e Hawai’i nei…

Wrapping-up 2005

By: OHA Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA, December 2005

‘Ano’ai kakou… Another challenging year for OHA has comes to an end. As we look forward to the coming year, I’d like to take this time to reflect on issues and events from the past year.


Although OHA was able to help Na Pua Noeau, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, and Alu Like, Inc. boost their budgets, several of our most important bills ended up dying. For example, ever since 2001, we’ve tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation that would reestablish the continued funding of OHA from ceded land revenues. The Legislature needs to define, once and for all, the revenue stream from public trust lands that is to be given to OHA for the benefit of Hawaiians.

We must also do something to save our Kuleana Lands. For the past two years, I have submitted bills that would exempt Kuleana lands from real property taxes if the land has been continuously occupied by the descendants of the original titleholder. I am determined to give struggling Hawaiian families living on kuleana lands the tax relief they desperately need to hold on to their homes and legacy.


I brought up two concerns when Goldman Sachs and Frank Russell were hired to serve as OHA’s two financial managers on January 16, 2003. First, I felt that their fees were too high. Secondly, I argued that we should hire an independent consultant to make sure they were doing their jobs. Unfortunately, OHA’s leadership at the time didn’t agree with me and the contracts were approved. I finally got some vindication when State Auditor Marion Higa came out with her April 2005 audit of OHA and found that our money managers’ fees were too high and that we should have hired an independent consultant to help us evaluate them (which still has not occurred).


For years now, I have been calling for OHA to create a Land Division to be headed by a “Land Konohiki,” an expert specializing in land acquisition, management, and investment and ceded land claims. The Land Konohiki would be able to quickly consider private lands for acquisition. The Administration is now beginning to look at addressing this concern.

Also, back in April, I strongly opposed a proposal to establish two censors to control what trustees could print in their Ka Wai Ola columns. Thankfully, this threat to free-speech was quickly dropped after I brought up my concerns in an editorial to the Honolulu Advertiser and in my Ka Wai Ola Column. While the Chairman has publicly stated that there was no attempt to implement the censors, I have a copy of the written recommendation that was given to the trustees.


We made some progress in the Arakaki Lawsuit. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ denied the Arakaki plaintiffs 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 pretty ridiculous since we are a state agency.

I was most disappointed by the October lawsuit filed by Virgil Day, Mel Hoomanawanui, Josiah Hoohuli, Patrick Kahawaiolaa, and Samuel Kealoha, Jr. against OHA. They want OHA to stop serving Hawaiians with less than 50% blood through programs such as Na Pua No’eau and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation. They also want us to stop supporting the Akaka bill. When will we learn that a people divided cannot stand? The only people that will gain from our bickering are those who do not want to see Hawaiians prosper in their own homeland.


We learned in late July that the previously unheard of Grassroot Institute of Hawai’i, led by Richard Rowland, had joined Thurston Twigg-Smith and H. William Burgess in opposing the Akaka bill. These people fed Congress false and misleading information in an effort to confuse the issue. They say that they are fighting for equality, but I believe they are really motivated by racism.

Urgent matters, such as Hurricane Katrina, ended up postponing the Akaka Bill. As of this writing, OHA is planning to lobby the Senate in the week before Thanksgiving. I believe it will be our last chance to get the bill passed this year.


On a positive note, I was very pleased that on June 23, 2005, the Board of Trustees approved a grant of $300,000 to help fund the Kupuna Continuing Care Assurance Program which will be administered by Lunalilo Home over the next two years. The program is designed to help make residential care, respite care, adult day care, and outreach nutritional services more affordable for Native Hawaiian kupuna.

Your prayers and guidance, for those of us in hardship in 2006, will help to make our journey successful. May the Lord bless and keep you all safe this holiday season. Aloha pumehana.