Saying a final farewell to former OHA Trustee Moanikeꞌala Akaka

`Ano`ai kakou…  It is with sadness I say aloha to former OHA Trustee Moanikeʻala Akaka who passed away in Hilo on Saturday, April 15, 2017, at the age of 72.  I had the distinct honor of serving with Moani on the OHA Board from 1990 to 1996.

Trustee Akaka was a prominent figure in the early days of the Hawaiian Renaissance, and her outspoken and passionate activism on behalf of Native Hawaiians and the disenfranchised continued throughout her entire life.  Trustee Akaka strongly opposed the militarization of Hawaiʻi and the use of Kahaoʻolawe and Pōhakuloa as bombing and munitions training areas and she was also a passionate advocate for the protection of Mauna Kea.

In February, 2004, Trustee Akaka came to ask OHA if she qualified for state retirement for her past service as an OHA Trustee from November 28, 1984 to November 15, 1996.  The administration let her know that she did not qualify for state retirement under the Employees’ Retirement System (ERS).

From November 26, 1980 through 1993, OHA Trustees served without a salary.  Trustees received a stipend of $50.00 per day for each meeting they attended and travel expenses.  So back then, Trustees were considered part-time workers but we worked full-time.

In 1993, the OHA Trustee Salary Commission was established and Trustees started to receive an annual salary of $32,000, but we were not included in the ERS so we didn’t qualify for state retirement benefits.

In 2002, the law was changed to allow OHA Trustees, in service on or after July 1, 2002, to participate in the ERS.  Although we tried to grandfather in the past Trustees, the new law ended up excluding past Trustees that served before July 1, 2002.  The law only gave retirement benefits to Trustees elected after July 1, 2002.

In February of 2015, Trustee Akaka renewed her request for retirement benefits from OHA.  As Chair of the Budget Committee, I asked the Administration to draft an action item proposing to make a single, lump sum payment to former Trustee Akaka, which would equal a Trustees’ one year’s salary in 2015, excluding fringe benefits.  Although some Trustees had some concerns, this proposal passed with no objections on May 14, 2015.

For too many years, OHA Trustees were treated as “step children” of the State.  Yet we are elected statewide and serve all year long.  We are also fiduciaries which no other elected officials are.  Our responsibilities are much greater than a state legislator.  Yet it took 13 years to get a salary, which comes from Trust Funds, and 22 years to be allowed retirement benefits.  The legislature can give itself raises while OHA has to wait for the Governor to appoint a salary commission every four years to see if we deserve a raise.  It’s been eight years and two Commissions who have said no to raises.  What is wrong with this picture?  We are still being treated as second class citizens.

On May 25, 2017, the Trustees adopted a resolution honoring the life and contributions of Trustee Akaka and extended its deepest condolences to her ʻohana.  If you are interested in making a donation to the ‘ohana, checks can be made payable to Trustee Akaka’s daughter.  Here is her contact information:  Ho‘oululahui Erika Perry, 80 Alahelenui Street, Hilo, HI 96720.

Mahalo nui and Godspeed Moani.

Back to Normal: Ho Hum, Business as Usual

`Ano`ai kakou…  Nothing frustrates me more than issues falling through the cracks due to inaction by the Board.  While we are moving ahead with OHA’s Financial Audit and Management Review thanks to the leadership of Trustee Keliʻi Akina, other important issues have fallen off OHA’s radar.  For example:

  • REDUCING OHA’S SPENDING POLICY LIMIT: Reducing our spending policy limit to 4-½ percent of the Trust Fund would be a wise move in the current economy. It appears clear that the stock market will not be a place for OHA to look for great returns on our investment over the next few years.  The predictors are very gloomy; all the more reason to be cautious and prudent with spending.
  • ELIMINATING THE FISCAL RESERVE FUND: Two years ago, one of OHA’s money managers recommended that we get rid of the Fiscal Reserve slush fund. Trustees seemed supportive, but nothing has happened since.
  • PROTECTING KULEANA LANDS: OHA and the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation need to form a partner as soon as possible to stop outsiders, or anyone, who try to “quiet title” Hawaiian lands. This problem is not going away.
  • PROTECTING MAUNA KEA: I believe that transferring responsibility over Mauna Kea lands to OHA would produce the best “win-win” situation for the State, the University of Hawaii and all of OHA’s Native Hawaiian beneficiaries. What better solution could there be than to put Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian hands?
  • SUNSHINE LAW: After two years of fruitless negotiations, the majority of Trustees want to go to trial rather than settle my legal complaint that the Board was not following Sunshine Law during closed-door executive sessions.
  • NATIVE HAWAIIAN CONSTITUTION: On February 26, 2016, the majority of the Na‘i Aupuni ‘Aha participants voted to adopt The Constitution of the Native Hawaiian Nation. The next step was to ratify the Constitution by taking it out to our people, but nothings has happened since.  OHA needs to follow-up on its current status.
  • OHA NEEDS TO REVISIT ITS POLICIES AND RULES: Many of our most recent rules were created to punish and control Trustees.  We just need to follow the law.  We have also tied our own hands with rules that hamper our efforts to help our beneficiaries.  We need to find a more efficient way to run our essential programs such as community grants.

The current Board leadership appears more concerned with keeping power in their hands rather than attacking tough issues.  If they don’t change their ways, all OHA will have to show in the next two years is a big, fat zero, because we are right back to where we were before I look the Chairmanship – Nowhere!  No progress with the University of Hawaii and the Thirty Meter Telescope, Kakaʻako, and other important issues.

Aloha till the next time.

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!

Governor should consider transferring Mauna Kea Lands to OHA

`Ano`ai kakou…  As many readers know, Mauna Kea is a ceded land asset belonging to both Native Hawaiians and the general public.  OHA Trustees are also mandated by state law to advocate for all Native Hawaiian and to protect and preserve sacred sites.

On May 26, 2015, Governor David Ige announced that he had asked UH, which subleases the summit area from the state, to make ten changes to improve its stewardship of Mauna Kea.  One of the ten changes included UH voluntarily returning to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) full jurisdiction of more than 10,000 acres that are not specifically needed for astronomy.

I commended Governor Ige for his commitment to make Mauna Kea whole again.  Transferring such a large portion of Mauna Kea out if UH’s hands is a wonderful idea and provides Native Hawaiians with a positive first step in revising the way Mauna Kea is safe-guarded.

However, I have recently heard through unconfirmed reports that DLNR has been resistant to taking control over the Mauna Kea lands because they lack the resources to properly manage it.

If it is true that DLNR is unable to take responsibility over the lands, I would like to suggest that the state encourage UH to turn over the lands to OHA.  It would make perfect sense 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.  The revenues from public trust lands must be dedicated to specific purposes including the betterment of Native Hawaiians.

OHA’s administration has built up its capacity to manage both commercial and preservations lands by establishing an in-house land department and a land committee at the board level.

I believe that transferring responsibility over Mauna Kea lands to OHA would produce the best “win-win” situation for the State, the University of Hawaii and all of OHA’s Native Hawaiian beneficiaries.  What better solution could there be than to put Hawaiian lands in Hawaiian hands?

ON ANOTHER NOTE…

On April 1, 2015, the Board of Trustees rescinded its support of Mauna Kea as the site of the TMT.  As a result OHA has no position as to whether or not the TMT should be located on the mountain.

Nonetheless, on July 10, 2015, OHA opposed DLNR’s proposals to use emergency rulemaking procedures to ban outdoor gear and nighttime presence in an 18,000 acre corridor leading to the summit of Mauna Kea.  OHA testified that there were a number of technical, statutory, cultural, environmental, public safety, and constitutional concerns, as well as the potential for unintended natural, cultural, and public safety concerns.

Despite OHA’s strong opposition, the BLNR passed the following rules: (1) A rule change that will allow for the BLNR Chairperson to close public hunting areas for up to 30 days; and (2) A rule closing the Mauna Kea Observatory Access Road, including one mile on either side, from 10:00 p.m. – 4:00 a.m.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Moving a Mountain: The Real Problem

`Ano`ai kakou…  For the past several months, there has been a tremendous focus on Mauna Kea.  OHA, as a Hawaiian agency created to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians, is tasked with administering ceded land revenues to address this mandate.

Because of this responsibility, OHA is frequently asked by the state agencies such as the University of Hawaii (UH), nonprofits, and even private entities to comment, help, or, in some cases, take legal action on issues important to Native Hawaiians.

Hawaiians are not against science

Today, Mauna Kea is an issue that has gone global with Hollywood celebrities joining the protest to stop the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) at the summit.  The Star Advertiser says OHA lacks leadership because we are not telling Hawaiians to stand down because the state needs revenue and everyone benefits from science.  They also feel we need to stand by our previous decision.  The newspaper needs to do their homework before making blanket statements.

Six years ago, the majority of the Board of Trustees accepted Mauna Kea as the sight for the TMT.  OHA also weighed in on a contested case hearing asking UH and the Mauna Kea Management planners to force them to do an Environmental Impact Statement and ensure they do what was necessary to culturally protect the site for future generations.

OHA lost the lawsuit and, when approached again last year, the Board took no action for many reasons.  The most critical being we no longer had standing to sue since we lost the first case and two Native Hawaiian workers on the Big Island testified that they needed the jobs the telescope construction would provide.

The real problem

The bigger issue here is UH and the state legislature.  The state has been a poor trustee of our ceded lands.  They are leasing our lands for only a $1 per year and it allows UH to sublease the lands for millions, perhaps billions of dollars.  Why isn’t UH making the builders of the telescope give something back to our community for the desecration of our sacred mountain?  Why isn’t UH requiring the builders to clean-up their mess and take down their telescopes that aren’t operational?

Where is all of this money going?  Is it really going to science?  Has the state ever conducted an audit of the University to verify where all of the millions generated on Mauna Kea each year are truly going?  UH is frequently complaining they are broke.  Where is the accountability?  Revenues generated on Mauna Kea are both Hawaiian and taxpayer monies and yet who really knows how the dollars are being spent?

The state and the legislature needs to revisit the autonomy that they have given to the UH and pull back that power.  UH should not have the power, in the name of science, to do anything they want with our aina.

Hawaiians are concerned about access to worship afforded to them by the PASH Law.

UH does not own the mountain and the state should make them return it to the people of Hawaii in the same pristine condition it was in when they took it from us.

UH needs to pay their fair share

`Ano`ai kakou… Here are two important issues affecting Native Hawaiians that require special attention:

MAUNA KEA

The 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. The revenues from public trust lands must be dedicated to specific purposes including the betterment of Native Hawaiians.

House Bill 1689 requires the University of Hawai’i to use the fair market value for the lease of lands when calculating the amount of funds that it must transfer to the public land trust fund.

OHA receives a portion of revenues generated from the use of these public land trust lands. HB 1689 will ensure that OHA and its beneficiaries receive adequate compensation for any future subleases.

Mauna Kea lands have long been mismanaged by UH. Sacred cultural lands have been industrially developed without any payment or clear benefit to Native Hawaiians.

At the same time, UH has been receiving a substantial benefit from its lessees in the form of telescope time, which has been valued in some cases at more than $100,000 a night. This benefit has mostly gone only to the astronomy program at UH; since none of this value is seen as sub-lessee rent. OHA beneficiaries and the State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) have not received a fair share of this substantial revenue.

To avoid possible fiscal impacts to the University of Hawai’i’s educational mission, any proposed general lease for Mauna Kea lands should require UH to charge more appropriate rent for the sublease or use of such lands. This would ensure that OHA beneficiaries and the State receive appropriate compensation for the use of these public land trust lands, and ensures that UH also receives adequate revenues to support its broader educational mission.

It should also be noted that the requirement for UH to conduct a financial review of all public land trust revenue will help to identify gaps in revenue from public land trust lands, as well as clarify what revenues may be generated from specific lands, such as Mauna Kea.

In the meantime, OHA should also propose a financial audit of all revenues UH derives from its use of public trust lands. This will allow OHA to ensure more appropriate level of benefits flow to public trust beneficiaries for the use of our sacred mountain. Finally, UH’s authority to manage public trust lands must be reevaluated because of its continual abuse and mismanagement of our precious lands.

NIIHAU KONOHIKI

Senate Bill 180 SD2 proposes to give one individual resident on Niihau the exclusive konohiki rights to regulate fishing around Niihau. The konohiki will be appointed by the Chairperson of BLNR, in consultation with the private owner of Niihau.

While I understand the arguments in support of this proposal, I believe that we must be very careful about setting a precedence of having only one person making all of the fishing rules for an entire island. Especially if that person may have vested interests to protect and could abuse their power as Konohiki to lock out any competition.

More OHA News

By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

Source: September 2009 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

MAUNA KEA SELECTED FOR THIRTY METER TELESCOPE

Despite the serious concerns voiced by our administrator regarding the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) Observatory Project, 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 project.  Trustees Cataluna, Waihee, and I were excused from the meeting and did not vote for the measure.

On July 22, 2009, Advertiser Staff Writer Mary Vorsino reported that Mauna Kea was selected for the TMT project despite the strong opposition from Native Hawaiian and environmental groups.  While Mauna Kea is considered sacred to us, the environmentalists are concerned about how the project will impact rare native plant and insect species at the top of the mountain.

The planning and permitting stage will begin in 2010.  Construction is scheduled to begin in 2011 and completed in 2018.  While this may seem like a done deal, the opposition posed by potential lawsuits could delay work on the new telescope. 

LEGISLATURE OVERRIDES LINGLE’S KAHANA VALLEY VETO

According to a July 16, 2009 Honolulu Advertiser article, the Kahana Valley living cultural park was established 30 years ago to preserve one of the few surviving ahupua’a.  Residents who were living there at the time received 50-year leases in exchange for 25 hours of work a month on cultural activities.  Last year, the state attorney general discovered that the leases had expired and six families without leases were told to leave.

During this past legislative session, Rep. Jessica Wooley introduced HB 1552 which authorizes the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to issue long-term residential leases to qualified persons in state living parks. The bill also establishes living park planning councils to develop state living park master plans to ensure the living park achieves its purpose and goals.  Mostly importantly the bill establishes a 2-year moratorium on evictions of residents of Kahana valley state park.

On July 8, 2009, Governor Linda Lingle said she intended to veto the bill and this forced residents to schedule a protest rally the very same day.  After the bill was vetoed on July 15, 2009 by the Governor, the veto was quickly overridden and passed into law by the legislature, much to the relief of Kahana Valley residents.  Those residents who faced eviction last October will be allowed to remain in their homes and the way is now paved for more leases.

PRINCESS ABIGAIL KAWANANAKOA’S LAWSUIT

According to a July 17, 2009 Advertiser article by Rick Daysog, a lawsuit was filed in state Circuit Court on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 by Princess Abigail Kawananakoa against the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the Department of Health, the State Historic Preservation Division (SHPD) and Kawaiaha’o Church.

Princess Kawananakoa believes that Kawaiaha’o church officials and construction workers dug up and disturbed the burial plot of her ancestor Queen Kapi’olani and those of other Hawaiian families.  She also alleged that the church skirted state burial laws, with the help of state officials, to fast-track the construction of the project.  “This project is about greed, not God,” Princess Kawananakoa said in an e-mail to The Advertiser. “I must take this to court because I cannot allow the desecration of Hawaiian graves to continue.”

In April, church officials denied that the Kapi’olani plot had been impacted.  However, a month later, they said they were unsure whether construction work had dug into the Kapi’olani plot.

George Van Buren, an attorney for Princess Kawananakoa, wrote in the lawsuit that the church and DLNR officials should have known it would find human remains because the property used to be part of the cemetery.  Van Buren also stated that church officials and the DLNR disregarded the advice of the church’s archaeological consultants, who recommended a “subsurface archaeological study for iwi, or bones, and other cultural artifacts” before beginning construction.  “Kawaiaha’o Church was concerned that any archaeological inventory survey would discover a concentration of human burial remains in the graveyard that could hinder and/or perhaps halt construction of the multipurpose center,” Van Buren said.

DLNR officials would not comment, saying they have not yet reviewed Kawananakoa’s lawsuit. 

SECOND KAWAIAHA’O LAWSUIT

The Advertiser also reported that Dana Naone Hall, former chairwoman of the Maui-Lana’i Island Burial Council, also plans to sue DLNR and church officials over their handling of the matter.  Naone Hall, who has relatives buried within the church’s cemetery ground, said that state law requires Kawaiaha’o officials to do an environmental assessment of the property since the church is a “designated historic site.” 

In her July 2, 2009 letter to DLNR, the Department of Health, and the Oahu Island Burial Council, Naone Hall has brought up the following serious concerns:

(1) The necessity to be clear about burial sites and cemeteries on Kawaiaha’o Church properties;

(2) The history of repeated disinterment of Native Hawaiian burials should not continue without any standards;

(3) DLNR has not conducted the Historic Preservation Review required by its own rules;

(4) Kawaiaha’o is not a cemetery as defined in HRS Chapter 441 and HRS 6E-41;

(5) The burials that were identified during construction were known about beforehand not “inadvertent discoveries.”

(6) DLNR and DOH do not possess the legal authority to disinter burials at Kawaiaha’o Church in the manner suggested in DLNR’s June 11, 2009 letter to Kawaiaha’o Church; and

(7) The agencies cannot permit any further construction on the Kawaiaha’o Church property until the Environmental Assessment is lawfully concluded.

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.

MORE OHA NEWS

* 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.

Support Senate’s OHA Settlement Bill

By: Trustee Rowena Akana

Source: Letter-to-the-Editor, Star-Bulletin, April 19, 2009

I strongly support Senate Bill 995, 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.

This bill proposes to convey Mauna Kea to OHA, along with several other parcels of land. The bill 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.

It should be noted that a global settlement does not include natural resources, water and gathering rights or any other rights.

The Senate’s “global settlement” offer includes monetary payment to OHA of $251 million; 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 the suspension of the $15.1 million in annual payments to OHA effective a date to be agreed upon in good faith.

In my view, SB 995 provides a great opportunity for all native Hawaiians to finally have the resources to build a strong nation.

Legislative Update: OHA versus UH for control over Mauna Kea

By: TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA

Source: March 2009 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column

`Ano`ai kakou…  I call out in a kahea for all Hawaiians and the people of Hawaii to oppose the University of Hawaii’s management of Mauna Kea and to support Senate Bill 995, SD2, which would give OHA ownership of our sacred mountain.

SB995 SD2 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 11/7/1978 and 7/1/2009.  This bill also conveys Mauna Kea to OHA, along with other parcels of land.  The House version of the above bill (HB901 HD2) does not include Mauna Kea.  It passed third reading on 3/10/2009 and has crossed over to the Senate.  At the time of the writing of this article, the board has not taken an “official” position on SB995 SD2. 

During the Cayetano administration, OHA was offered 20% of all ceded lands and $150 million in cash.  Five OHA board members refused the offer.  Two of those members are still on the OHA board.  In Governor Cayetano’s recent book, he speaks to the foolishness of those board members and refers to the events as a “missed opportunity” for OHA.  SB995 SD2 offers OHA another opportunity to redeem itself.

Efforts to Transfer Total Control of Mauna Kea to UH

HB1174 HD3 would allow the University of Hawaii’s Board of Regents (BOR) to adopt administrative rules to regulate public and commercial activities on Mauna Kea lands that UH leases from the Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR).  The bill, in its current form does the following: (1) It requires the BOR to establish procedures to enforce these rules; (2) allows UH to collect administrative fines for violations of these rules; and (3) Establishes the Mauna Kea Management Special Fund for the deposit and use of these revenues.

KAHEA, Mauna Kea Anaina Hou, Sierra Club Hawaii Island Chapter, Royal Order of Kamehameha I, and numerous concerned individuals opposed this measure.  OHA originally opposed the first version of the bill, but now supports the bill with amendments.

In her February 3, 2009 testimony to the House Committee on Higher Education, KAHEA Program Director Marti Townsend strongly opposed HB 1174 for the following reasons:

  • “Mauna Kea lands leased by the University are ‘ceded’ lands.  Granting this authority to the University will violate the Supreme Court’s ruling in OHA v. HCDCH.  With this bill, the Lingle Administration is seeking to transfer ceded land protected by the public lands trust from the state Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) to the University of Hawaii.”
  • “Mauna Kea lands are public trust lands that must be managed by the landlord (BLNR), not the University, who is a mere lease-holder. State law requires that public trust lands be leased at fair market value for the benefit of the people of Hawaii, not the lease-holder.” 
  • “According to current state law, ceded lands are managed and administered by DLNR. See, HRS sec. 171-3. This bill seeks to transfer the ceded lands of Mauna Kea from DLNR to the University by granting the University ‘authority to manage and control public activities on the Mauna Kea lands.’ This is the exact same type of agency-to-agency transferred deemed illegal by the Supreme Court in OHA v. HCDCH and therefore should not be allowed by the state Legislature.” 
  • “The University’s activities on Mauna Kea have exploited, destroyed, and desecrated irreplaceable natural and cultural resources on the summit.  Mauna Kea’s Hawaiian alpine desert is unlike any other place in the world.  It is home to many Hawaiian endemic species some are found only on Mauna Kea!  Multiple reports, audits, and lawsuits have confirmed that the University’s telescope activities have violated the law and continue to destroy the natural and cultural resources of Mauna Kea.” 
  • “In multiple reviews of the University’s activities on the summit, the Hawaii State Auditor found that UH’s management of Mauna Kea is ‘inadequate to ensure the protection of natural resources’ and ‘neglected …the cultural value of Mauna Kea.’ Their report stated that UH’s Institute for Astronomy ‘focused primarily on the development of Mauna Kea and tied the benefits gained to its research program,’ and that its focus on telescope construction has been ‘at the expense of neglecting the site’s natural resources.’” 
  • “The University will use this authority to limit public access to the summit, regulate when and how Hawaiians worship on the summit, and expand telescope construction on the summit.” 
  • “For 30 years, the University has failed to pay the fair market rent to the State for its subleases to foreign countries and corporations that own telescopes atop Mauna Kea, as required by HRS sec. 171. This means the University owes the people of Hawaii back rent for the numerous telescope and support structures on the sacred summit.” 
  • “Unfortunately, the University has never accounted for the profits it has gained from its destructive use of Mauna Kea. According to a report to the UH Board of Regents in 1994, however, the University enjoyed at least $60 million annually in benefits from its use of Mauna Kea. In 2001, the University admitted to the Legislature that the work conducted on Mauna Kea earned $8 million a year just from the patent-lease contracts with defense contractors like Raytheon.” 
  • “Surprisingly, during this time of debilitating economic crisis, the University is not paying this back-rent to the State. Instead in this bill it is proposing to establish a special fund that would allow it to pocket all of the profits from the use of Mauna Kea lands, bypassing the general fund altogether. The University is literally seeking the Legislature’s approval to rob the people of Hawaii.”

On March 10, 2009, it passed third reading in the House with eleven (11) Representatives (Belatti, Berg, Brower, Carroll, Hanohano, C. Lee, Luke, McKelvey, Saiki, Shimabukuro, and Thielen) voting no and has crossed over to the Senate.

I will continue to keep you updated on these bills as they make their way through the second half of the legislative session.  In the meantime, I encourage each of you to call your elected officials and let them know how you feel about these important pieces of legislation.  Aloha Ke Akua.