Bring back the Land Committee

`Ano`ai kakou…  By the time you read this article you will have voted in the Primary Election.  I hope you took my advice and voted for new people.  Let me tell you why this is important, especially in the OHA races.

About a year ago, at the urging of the current Board Chair, two committees were collapsed into one.  The Budget Committee and the Land Committee became the Committee on Resource Management chaired by Trustee Colette Machado.   The excuse was to save time and effort, but the real reason was to consolidate power.

Since that time very little, if anything, has happened in the new combined committee.  Trustees have received little or no information on our land negotiations.  For instance:

  • MAUNA KEA: On May 26, 2015, Governor David Ige announced that he asked UH, which subleases the Mauna Kea summit area from the state, to make ten changes to improve its stewardship of Mauna Kea.  One of the changes included UH voluntarily returning to the state more than 10,000 acres that are not specifically needed for astronomy.  I believe UH should turn the lands over to OHA, since all 11,300 acres of land within the Mauna Kea Science Reserve are public land trust lands classified under section 5(b) of the Admissions Act.  What better solution could there be than to put Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian hands?  OHA has now put the State and UH on notice that we are considering legal action against both.
  • KAKAAKO MAKAI: In 2012, when OHA received Kakaako lands in our settlement with the State over past-due ceded land revenues, none of us knew that the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), which has jurisdiction over development in the area, planned to lease the harbor in Kakaako.  OHA has been negotiating with the HCDA to get them to compromise on their plans to put “finger piers” in front of our Fisherman’s Wharf property.
  • LEGISLATIVE THREATS: Earlier in the year, the legislature tried to pass a “forced land sales” bills.  If HB 1635 and HB 2173 had become law, developers could use it to forced Hawai‘i’s landowners to sell leasehold lands to their lessees.  Kamehameha Schools led the charge against the legislation since nearly 80 percent of their commercial properties are leased.  Also, our ceded lands controlled by DLNR could have been threatened and it would have also hurt the ability of Native Hawaiian organizations and trusts to fulfill their missions.

No matter what explanation is given for all of the missed opportunities that OHA has had this past year to fulfill its mission, it all comes down to leadership and the lack of it.  To top all of this off, a five to four vote is hardly a vote of confidence to hire back an OHA Administrator who many Trustees feel lacks the business and economic development experience to move OHA forward in the black column instead of the steady red.

These are the reasons OHA needs a breath of fresh air.  VOTE FOR CHANGE.  IMUA!

Looking back at 2015 and welcoming the New Year

`Ano`ai kakou…  Happy Year of the Monkey!  I began 2015 on a high note as the new Chairperson of the Asset & Resource Management (ARM) Committee and oversaw OHA’s budget, fiscal operations and Trust Fund.

From January to July, the ARM Committee was incredibly productive.  We had a total eleven (11) ARM meetings; two (2) joint meetings with the Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment Committee; and passed a total of seven (7) ARM Action Items, which included authorizing funds to help support our kupuna at Lunalilo Home.

Despite my ARM committee’s high output, on July 30, 2015, the Trustees voted to consolidate the ARM committee with the Land and Property (LAP) Committee to form a new super-committee called the Committee on Resource Management (RM).

OHA leadership believed that consolidating the committees would lead to greater efficiency in the Board of Trustees, but I was not supportive of the consolidation because the RM committee is simply too broad in scope.  I am still hopeful that the Trustees can go back to our previous system of five committees.  It worked so well to engage the Trustees and allowed us to deal with issues proactively.


I will continue to push for more fiscal responsibility within OHA on issues such as:

  • Changing our spending policy limit to 4 ½ percent of the Trust Fund given the state of the current economy;
  • Conducting a full forensic audit of how every penny is spent at OHA; and
  • Making sure the Administration keeps its promise to get rid of the “Fiscal Reserve” slush fund.


If you haven’t already heard, you may now go to OHA’s website at to watch live meetings of the OHA Board of Trustees.  Be sure to tune in on the days we have our meetings.  For a meeting schedule, please call me at (808) 594-0204.


OHA is currently working on plans to develop its Kaka‘ako Makai properties with a truly Hawaiian sense of place that allows for open space and ease of community access to the waterfront.

For the upcoming legislative session, I will be focusing on legislation that will allow OHA to use its Kakaako properties provide our beneficiaries and the community as a whole with affordable housing.

OHA should be allowed to increase its building height limit in order to allow for more middle income condos.  Everyone agrees that Hawaii’s homeless problem is caused in large part due to the lack of truly affordable housing.  Luxury high rises that only millionaire mainlanders can afford are sprouting up all around the Kakaako area.  OHA is one of the few entities that can develop affordable living spaces in the area that specifically targets local buyers.

The lack of affordable housing is not just a Native Hawaiian issues, it’s an issue that affects us all.  This is why we will be counting on the support of the broader community to get this legislation passed.  I have high hopes that, working together, we will all have a successful session.

Hau’oli Makahiki Hou and God bless.

2014 Legislative Wrap-up & the OHA Primary Election

`Ano`ai kakou… We were deeply disappointed with the state legislature this year when they failed to pass Senate Bill 3122, which would have allowed residential development on three of OHA’s Kaka‘ako Makai properties. SB3122 would have added significant value to our properties and provided much needed revenue for our Nation.

Because of opposition from the “Save Our Kakaako” groups, theState House, led by Representative Scott Saiki, killed our bill. OHA wanted to increase our building height limit in order to allow for more middle income condos. Our plan was to build a Hawaiian sense of place and community allowing for open space and ease of access to the waterfront. However, the Save Our Kakaako groups fought against our plan, saying that they were against the building of any kind of housing.

What they didn’t understand was that, under the present law, OHA could exceed its height limitations if we built “commercial” buildings. By developing commercial buildings, OHA’s footprint across its Kakaako lands would be larger and it would not leave enough open space for any kind of community access.

It is tragic that when members of certain groups are allowed to influence decisions that will affect millions of people in a very negative way for many generations to come. Why is it that vocal minorities always seem to prevail over the majority of folks? In any case, OHA will now proceed with the development of a Master Plan for our Kakaako lands.


For the first time in OHA’s 30-year history, the general public will get to vote in a Primary Election for OHA Trustees. Since more than seven candidates have signed-up for the three seats in the at-Large OHA race (as of late-April) we will need to have an OHA Primary Election to bring that number down to six for the General Election. Candidates running for OHA seats will now have to spend a lot more money to win their statewide elections.


I encourage all OHA voters to consider Permanent Absentee Voting, which allows registered voters to receive their ballots by mail permanently for future elections. As a permanent absentee mail voter, you will no longer have to apply for future elections. A ballot will automatically be mailed to you for each election in which you are eligible to vote.


You must be a registered voter in order to receive your absentee ballots permanently. Applications for Permanent Absentee Ballots (known as the Wikiwiki Voter Registration & Permanent Absentee form) are available at the following locations:

  • City/County Clerk’s Offices
  • Hawaii State Libraries
  • Office of Election’s website:
  • Satellite City Halls
  • U.S. Post Offices

Submit your completed application directly to the Office of your City/County Clerk no later than 7 days before the election. Permanent Absentee Applications will be accepted until:

2014 Primary Election:       Saturday, August 2, 2014

2014 General Election:       Tuesday, October 28, 2014

If you have any questions, please call the Office of Elections at (808) 453-VOTE (8683).

Closing out 2013 and welcoming in 2014

`Ano`ai kakou… Happy Year of the Horse! The following are some of the issues that I will be focusing on in 2014.

Kaka’ako Makai

During the 2012 legislative session, Senate Bill 682 proposed to add value to two parcels of our lands in Kaka’ako Makai by giving OHA the right to develop residential structures on them. This would have added significant value to our properties and provided much needed revenue for our Nation. While the bill had the support of key senators, it failed to pass. OHA now needs lay down the groundwork to pass a similar bill in the upcoming legislative session while also working towards a Master Plan for our Kakaako Makai properties.

Kewalo Basin

A continuing concern are the proposed “finger piers” that will front our property at Kewalo Basin. The finger piers are threatening to seriously reduce the value of our land and take away OHA’s right to develop our own piers. However, the HCDA continues to refuse any proposals to change their plan or to make concessions.

OHA must continue to object to the current finger piers design. If HCDA goes forward with signing any lease, OHA should consider suing. Given the major contests coming up in the 2014 elections, perhaps there are other reasons for HCDA’s reluctance to work with OHA. Developers have contributed large sums of cash to gain the support of key candidates who can help them with their development plans. We should all take this into consideration before we cast our votes.

OHA Audit

Also in 2013, the State Auditor came out with her OHA Audit (to see a copy visit: that harshly criticized the trustees’ vote to authorize the purchase of the Gentry building. The action also had serious consequences for OHA’s ability to invest in community projects and has opened us to criticism by the state legislature.

In my opinion, OHA could have avoided much of the criticism if we had received better legal counsel from attorneys who have worked with OHA for a long time. I believe it is time for Trustees to seriously evaluate the quality of their advice.

Looking to the Future in 2014 with International Outreach

Last year, I joined the Board of Directors of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA), which provides Native Hawaiians a great opportunity to network with American Indians and Alaska Natives and to develop programs that will help sustain and strengthen our cultural legacy.

In March 2014, AIANTA will sponsor a pavilion at the Internationale Tourismus-Börse (ITB) Berlin — the world’s leading travel and trade fair — in Germany. ITB provides Native and Tribal tourism departments the opportunity to showcase their cultural programs and tour packages to the multi-billion dollar European tourism market.

I am optimistic about presenting tourism from a Hawaiian perspective. Native Americans and Alaska Natives are successfully doing this and providing economic development for their tribes and also contributing to their states’ tourism dollars. ITB Berlin will give our beneficiaries the opportunity to make valuable contacts with international travel organizations, media and tour operators.

Happy New Year!

I look forward to 2014 and am optimistic about OHA’s future. I wish all of you the very best Holiday Season filled with joy and good health. May God’s Blessings be upon each of you and your families. See you next year!

HCDA will not compromise with OHA on their plans for Kewalo Basin, even though OHA is a major stakeholder (HCDA PART 2)

On March 1, 2009, the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA) assumed the management of the Kewalo Basin Harbor from the Department of Transportation and hired ALMAR Management, Inc. (a California-based marina operator), to oversee day to day harbor operations.

On June 7, 2012, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that HCDA agreed to lease the 143-slip harbor in Kakaako for 50 years to Almar Management Inc. and a partner doing business as KB Marina LP.  The Almar partnership would finance $22 million in repair work to replace all piers and docks and would increase boats slips from 143 to 243.

Almar anticipates the upgrades taking five years to complete and would pay HCDA about $45 million in rent over 50 years.  Is this what the State considers a fair price?  These are ceded lands and OHA beneficiaries & state stakeholders will end up losing out.  Who is benefiting from this deal?

As I mentioned in my last column, OHA received a letter from HCDA on August 6, 2013, stating HCDA will not compromise with OHA on their plans for Kewalo Basin, even though OHA is a major stakeholder.

The HCDA and their many controversial plans for Kakaako have made frequent headlines in the media lately, but most of us are in the dark about what exactly the HCDA is and who is really in charge.


The 1976 State Legislature created HCDA to revitalize urban areas that were underused and deteriorating.  The Kaka‘ako Community Development District covers 600 acres within Piikoi, King, and Punchbowl Streets and Ala Moana Boulevard, as well as the waterfront from Kewalo Basin to Forrest Avenue.  (Source:

HCDA is attached to the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism (DBEDT) for administrative purposes and their mission is to create “vibrant” communities within Kakaako and encourage new investment by building essential public infrastructure such as roadways, utilities, and parks that are necessary for redevelopment.


HCDA’s Kakaako Authority is composed of members from the public and private sectors.  They include:

Four “ex officio” voting members from State departments:

  1. Dean Seki, Comptroller, Accounting and General Services;
  2. Kalbert Young, Director, Budget and Finance;
  3. Richard Lim, DBEDT Director ; and
  4. Glenn Okimoto, Director, Transportation.

The Governor also appoints members from a list of names submitted by the Honolulu City Council, the Senate President and the House Speaker.

At-large member:

  1. Brian Lee, Director of Research and Communications, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Community members:

  1. Miles Kamimura, President, Pacific Property Group;
  2.  Lois Mitsunaga, CFO, Structural Engineer at Mitsunaga & Associates. INC.; and
  3. VACANT.

Cultural specialist: 

  1. VACANT.

An Executive Director serves as the CEO and is appointed by HCDA members.


What is sorely missing here is disclosure.

  • Do the members of the Authority, especially those from the private sector, have any conflicts of interest?


  • Do they represent any clients that would benefit from any development projects being considered for Kakaako or are they themselves in a position to benefit from any developments?


  • Are they contributing to any political campaigns in 2014?


  • Should HCDA have sole power over planning, zoning, and directly promoting economic development in Kakaako?

These are the questions the community should be asking this Authority.

HCDA PART 1 — HCDA is not a good neighbor

`Ano`ai kakou… In 2012, when OHA received it’s Kakaako lands in our settlement with the State over past-due ceded land revenues, OHA was not appraised that the Hawaii Community Development Authority (HCDA), which has jurisdiction over development in the area, planned to lease the harbor in Kakaako for 50 years to a California-based marina operator and increase the boats slips to 243.

For the past year, OHA has been negotiating with the HCDA to get them to compromise on their plans to put “finger piers” in front of our Fisherman’s Wharf property.  On August 6, 2013, OHA received a letter from HCDA stating they will not make any compromises to their plans and expects OHA to be a “good neighbor” and accept their plan for our property.

Here are some of the specific concerns I have with the HCDA’s August 6, 2013 letter:

  • HCDA considers OHA a “sister agency” but they are forcing OHA to accept a plan in which we have no opportunity for providing input.  If HCDA wants OHA to be a “good neighbor” they should first recognize OHA as an equal partner in developing the harbor area in front of Fisherman’s Wharf.
  • OHA would be willing to go along with the HCDA’s Finger Pier plan if we could have at least two slips in front of our Fisherman’s Wharf property.  However, the HCDA responded that the lands of Kewalo Basin are submerged lands and the State is unable to convey fee simple interests in any of the slips.  The HCDA needs to realize that all submerged lands are “ceded” and that Native Hawaiians are a part-beneficiary under the State Constitution.  The Kakaako lands conveyed to OHA are on submerged lands – it’s all land-fill.  It appears the HCDA doesn’t have a true understanding of Native Hawaiian rights and who OHA represents.
  • The HCDA said they are concerned about the views of our community.  If this were true, they would agree with OHA’s plans to minimize the impact of large boats docking in front of our property and allow OHA to design its own culturally appropriate sense of place that would be acceptable for everyone.  When OHA conducted community meetings regarding the Kakaako land acquisition, the community was supportive in strong part due to OHA’s commitment to develop the area using Hawaiian concepts and sense of place.


OHA must continue to object to the current finger piers design and not fall victim to HCDA’s threats.  If HCDA goes forward with signing any lease, OHA should consider suing the HCDA.

OHA should also appeal to the State legislature to revisit the powers it has given to HCDA and, if necessary, start a community-based campaign to reform the HCDA and prevent any further irresponsible development.

HCDA doesn’t appear to understand true Hawaiian values and the desires of the broader community regarding Kakaako.  All they seem interested in is making the most money they can out of Kewalo Basin – with or without OHA.

If HCDA is really concerned about getting the maximum dollars for Kakaako, they would not be leasing the whole harbor to a mainland developer for 50-years for only $45 millionThis measly figure is criminal!  The State will lose out as well as OHA beneficiaries.  So who is really benefiting from this deal?  Time to ask questions of the HCDA and the State!

HCDA’s plan could end up privatizing the Kewalo Basin

HCDA needs to consider all of the Stakeholders involved before signing a 50-year lease with a mainland company!

`Ano`ai kakou…  On April 11, 2012, Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the historic $200 million settlement between the State and OHA.  After many years of negotiations, OHA finally resolved all claims that were raised with the State relating to its portion of income from the public land trust from November 7, 1978 to June 30, 2012.  The State fulfilled its constitutional obligations to Native Hawaiians by providing OHA with fee simple title to lands in Kakaako makai.

However, to our surprise, on June 7, 2012, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that the Hawaii Community Development Authority, which has jurisdiction over Kewalo Basin, had agreed to lease the 143-slip harbor in Kakaako for 50 years to California-based marina operator Almar Management Inc. and a partner doing business as KB Marina LP.

The Almar partnership would finance $22 million in repair work to replace all piers and docks and would increase boats slips from 143 to 243.  Almar anticipates the upgrades taking five years to complete and would pay HCDA about $45 million in rent over 50 years.

OHA owns the property along the Ewa side of the harbor including the former Fisherman’s Wharf Restaurant area.  Late last year, OHA asked HCDA’s board to delay a final decision on the renovation and expansion plans so that we could better understand how the harbor changes would affect our property.

Now OHA is feeling heavy pressure from both the HCDA and the Governor’s office to accept the harbor improvements, which include two “finger” piers that will extend from OHA’s Fisherman’s Wharf site.  It is important to note that OHA was not aware of the HCDA’s commitment to the two finger piers prior to our signing the settlement agreement with the State.  We did not know that there were “strings attached” to the properties.

OHA is counting on the Kakaako lands to someday generate the revenue needed to support our many Native Hawaiian programs.  The properties are crucial to OHA and our future nation becoming completely self-sufficient.

The “Save Kakaako Ohana” is counting on OHA to develop our properties in a responsible and culturally sensitive way while preserving community access to the ocean.

If HCDA gets their way, OHA’s land will surely be devalued.  We need our ocean front not only for its beauty and view, but also to be able to master plan our area as a whole.  The last thing we need is a large cruise ship docked in front of our property.  It is also ridiculous that the State believes $45 million is a lot of money over 50 yearsIn 50-years, the property will be worth a hundred times that amount!

Help us stop this insane plan by showing your support for OHA to retain its rights to its waterfront.  Make your opinions known to the HCDA, your state legislators, and the governor’s office.

Legislative Update

There are several bills introduced in the 2013 legislature that are threatening to cause deep divisions within the Native Hawaiian community.  For example, HB 252 seeks to prevent Native Hawaiians who are not residents and/or Hawaii registered voters from participating in the Native Hawaiian Roll Commission’s enrollment process.  The legislature should refrain from joining the contentious debate about who is a Native Hawaiian.  That decision should be made by Native Hawaiians themselves.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Kakaako Makai properties sidelined by Gentry Pacific Design Center purchase

NOTE: This column that was censored from OHA’s August 2012 Ka Wai Ola Newspaper but later printed in the October 2012 issue.

`Ano`ai kakou…  As reported in the Pacific Business News (PBN) on July 11, 2012, the Gentry Pacific Design Center is being sold to the OHA.  The sale of the 185,787-square-foot center at 560 N. Nimitz Highway is scheduled to close in August.  The article did not disclose the sales price, but it reported that the building and its three parcels were assessed for about $28.8 million. [See “Office of Hawaiian Affairs to buy Gentry Pacific Design Center,” by Duane Shimogawa in the July 11, 2012 issue of Pacific Business News]

I am dismayed at the Trustees who authorized OHA to make this purchase.  Trustee Oswald Stender first brought the proposal before the board almost a year ago and it was quickly dropped because OHA had to move into the building for it to make financial sense.  None of the other Trustees wanted to move our headquarters there.  I thought the deal was dead, but it came back before the board on May 17, 2012.  The proposal failed again because Trustee Haunani Apoliona cited a conflict of interest because she was on the Board of Directors of the bank being considered to finance the purchase.  OHA’s Board Counsel agreed and recommended that she not vote.

Then, on June 7, 2012, the Board Counsel opined that Trustee Apoliona, miraculously, no longer had a conflict of interest because the Fiscal Committee Chairman took out any references to Trustee Apoliona’s bank within the proposal.  She was allowed to vote and together with Trustees Apo, Machado, Stender, and Waihee, authorized the CEO to make an offer to Gentry Pacific.

Trustees Hulu Lindsey, Robert Lindsey, and I voted against.  Trustee Cataluna abstained.  The four of us had serious concerns about the conditions under which OHA was required to make the purchase.  They include:

(1) The Trustees has less than one week to review the preliminary due diligence and never got to see the final due diligence report until after the purchase was made.

(2) The Gentry Center is 80-years-old and could have problematic lead paint and asbestos.

(3) There are several areas that need to be made ADA accessible.

(4) The electrical system needs to be updated.

(5) The cost and resulting disruption of relocating OHA to the Gentry Design Center.

(6) The cost of retrofitting the Gentry Design Center as an office building.

Given these unknowns, I personally felt very uncomfortable with the purchase.  During the community meetings regarding OHA’s Kakaako Makai settlement properties, we explained to the community that Kakaako would be a good place for economic development and a permanent home for OHA’s headquarters.

Now OHA is spending a great deal of money to renovate an 80-year-old building instead of using the same amount of money to build a brand new one.  It makes absolutely no sense.

Even though the purchase seems to be a done deal, at least four Trustees continue to have serious concerns about how the building was purchased.  I personally believe that purchasing the Gentry Design Center was not a fiscally prudent investment under trust law.

2012 Legislative Wrap-up

`Ano`ai kakou…  Congratulations to all OHA Trustees and staff members for all of their dedication and hard work in getting the OHA/State Settlement agreement passed into law.  The 2012 legislative session will surely be remembered as one of OHA’s most successful.

Legislative Liaison

As Vice-Chair of the Committee on Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment (BAE) and one of two “Legislative Liaisons” for the 2012 legislative session, I had the distinct pleasure working closely with Senators Malama Solomon, Clayton Hee, and Brickwood Galuteria and Representative Faye Hanohano on issues relating to the Settlement and the preservation of Kuleana Lands.

Kaka’ako Makai

Senate Bill 682 proposed to add value to two parcels of land that are among the lands in Kaka’ako Makai that the OHA/State Settlement (Act 015) conveys to OHA.  The right to develop residential structures on these two lots would add significant value and provide much needed revenue for our Nation.

On April 5, 2012, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that SB682 was likely dead in the House.  However, the Senate’s Ways and Means and Judiciary and Labor committees added similar language into a related bill that had already passed the House — HB2819 — so the language for SB682 could still be heard in conference committee.  HB2819 did not pass out of its conference committee before the end of session on May 3rd and will need to be revisited in the next legislative session.

Protecting Kuleana Land Property Tax Exemptions

On November 22, 2011, the Star-Advertiser reported that the Real Property Tax Advisory Commission recommended that the City & County of Honolulu eliminate property tax exemptions for about 150,000 Oahu homeowners, including Kuleana Land owners.

On January 23, 2012, I testified before, the City Council’s Budget Committee hearing on the Real Property Tax Advisory Commission’s Report.  I explained to the members of the committee the heartbreaking history of Kuleana Lands and stressed to the Budget Committee Chair, Councilmember Ann Kobayashi, that OHA strongly opposed the proposal.  Thankfully, the matter was dropped (for now at least).  However, upon Councilmember Kobayashi’s recommendation, I worked to get the State Legislature to pass a resolution supporting the protection and preservation of Kuleana Lands.

On April 10, 2012, the State Senate adopted Senate Resolution (SR) 33 which urged the counties to preserve property tax exemptions for Kuleana Lands.  I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Senator Malama Solomon who introduced SR 33, and Senators Brickwood Galuteria, Gilbert Kahele, Donovan Dela Cruz, and Michelle Kidani for signing onto the resolution.  I would like to give a big Mahalo to OHA staff members Breann Nu’uhiwa, Sterling Wong, Jim McMahon & Luci Meyer for all their efforts to get this resolution passed.

I would also like to send a special Mahalo to Representative Faye Hanohano for introducing House versions of the Kuleana Lands resolutions, House Concurrent Resolution 117 & House Resolution 89, and getting them approved by the House Hawaiian Affairs Committee.  However, both resolutions did not get a hearing in the House Finance Committee despite my repeated requests to its Chair, Rep. Marcus Oshiro.  Neither resolution called for any money to be appropriated so the question is why were they even referred to the House Finance Committee? Aloha Ke Akua.