Transition: Change doesn’t have to be painful

‘Ano‘ai kakou.  As you may have heard through the media, this has been a turbulent few months for OHA.  It is heartbreaking that OHA cannot be focused on what our beneficiaries are demanding – assistance with housing, education, and health.

Change is never easy, but I want to state for the record that all of the initiatives I fought for in the past two months were for one purpose only:  To protect the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund, now and into the future, for our beneficiaries.  If my first initiatives were passed by the Board, our beneficiaries would have seen immediate change for the better.  We were so close.

By a majority vote of the Board we wanted to negotiate a buyout of the CEO/Administrator/Ka Pouhana’s contract.  We felt that OHA could do so much more for our beneficiaries if we could change the course of where the Administration was headed.  A buyout would have been the least painful way to bring about that change.  The CEO would receive a negotiated sum of money and his reputation would be intact since we wouldn’t have to air any “dirty laundry” in the public.  But as everyone who read the newspaper or watched the evening news lately knows, it didn’t work out that way.

On a positive note, Trustee Keli‘i Akina’s proposal to conduct a more comprehensive audit of OHA, which will look into things that the three mandated OHA audits don’t cover, looks like it will become a reality.  On February 8th, the Resource Management Committee formed an Advisory Committee to make recommendations to the Board on the scope of a proposed financial audit and management review.  Our beneficiaries should be proud because this is only coming about because you demanded it.  I look forward to the audit and finally answer the one question I’ve been asking nonstop for the last decade:  Where is all the money really going?

On February 9th, the Board elected Colette Machado as the new Chair of the Board of Trustees.  While she has been part of a faction that has no love for my demands for fiscal accountability, I know that she will do her best to be fair.  I will definitely to my part to help her move OHA in the right direction again so that the Board can make a real impact in the lives of our beneficiaries.

However, I was disappointed to see that Trustee Machado was able to let former Trustee Haunani Apoliona use her column space in the February Ka Wai Ola as her soapbox to attack me, while my original February article was banned by the CEO because he felt it was too critical of the Administration and the Trustees that support him.  I’ll let you, the readers, be the judge of whether that is favoritism or not.

Trustee Hulu Lindsey remains Chair of the Resource Management Committee, so we can expect the new leadership structure to honor our beneficiaries’ call more transparency at OHA.

OHA must be an agency that treats our beneficiaries equally and it’s now up to the new leadership to make sure there is an even playing field at OHA.  Most of the OHA Staff just want to do their jobs and I ask that the general public withhold their judgment during this time of change.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and we cannot change OHA in a few months.

Mahalo nui loa and God bless you all.

Wrapping-up a historic year for OHA

Congratulations to all of the public servants elected in 2012.  Campaigning can be a grueling process.  I look forward to working with all of you in the 2013 Legislative Session to better the conditions of Native Hawaiians.

New Maui Trustee and OHA CEO

OHA began the year by welcoming new Maui Trustee, Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, who was appointed by Governor Neil Abercrombie.  Trustee Lindsey brought a much needed burst of new energy to the board with her knowledge, experience, and willingness to give her all for our beneficiaries.

OHA’s Administration underwent major changes with the appointment of Dr. Kamana’opono Crabbe as its new Ka Pouhana/CEO.  I have been impressed by his exemplary work over the past eight months and I look forward to the positive changes he will bring to OHA in the coming year.

Appointed BAE Vice-Chair & Served as a Legislative Liaison

I was honored to be appointed Vice-Chair of the Committee on Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment (BAE), one of only two subject-matter committees under the Board.  I worked closely with BAE Chair, Trustee John Waihe’e IV, on legislation and on-going programs.  I also continued to serve as one of two “Legislative Liaisons” appointed by Trustee Waihe’e for the 2012 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 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).  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 the House versions of the resolutions, HCR 117 & HR 89.  However, Speaker Calvin Say killed both resolutions in the Finance Committee so we need to try again next year.

Settlement Bill Passes

On April 11, 2012, in an emotional ceremony at Washington Place, Governor 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 on past due amounts owed.  The State has now fulfilled its constitutional obligations to Native Hawaiians by providing OHA with fee simple title to lands in Kakaako makai.  The proposal will not affect any other claims against the state.

Happy Thanksgiving

May each and every one of you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving full of wonderful food, family and friends.  Aloha Ke Akua.

Refreshing Changes: Welcoming Maui Trustee Hulu Lindsey & OHA C.E.O. Dr. Kamana’opono Crabbe

March 2012 KA WAI OLA COLUMN

`Ano`ai kakou…  This year has started off with several refreshing changes.

NEW MAUI TRUSTEE

First, OHA welcomed new Maui Trustee, Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, who was appointed by Governor Neil Abercrombie.  Trustee Lindsey will serve on an interim basis until November when a special election will be held to fill the remaining two years of Trustee Mossman’s term.  Trustee Lindsey brings a burst of new energy to the board with her knowledge, experience, and willingness to give her all for our beneficiaries.

NEW OHA C.E.O.

Congratulations to Dr. Kamana’opono Crabbe on his appointment by the Board of Trustees as the new Chief Executive Officer of OHA.  I have long admired his exemplary work over the past few years as OHA’s Research Director and I cannot think of anyone more deserving of the position.

I am delighted that Dr. Crabbe’s lifetime of dedication and advocacy for Native Hawaiians is finally being recognized so appropriately.  It is a comfort for me to know that our people have a true advocate within OHA.  I am sincerely hoping that our staff members and Trustees will allow Dr. Crabbe to bring his own style of leadership to OHA, which may differ from previous administrations.

I look forward to working closely with both Trustee Hulu Lindsey and Dr. Crabbe this year to build a bright and sustainable future for all Native Hawaiians.

APPOINTED BAE VICE-CHAIR

I am pleased to report that I have been appointed Vice-Chair of the Committee on Beneficiary Advocacy and Empowerment (BAE), one of the two subject-matter committees under the Board of Trustees.  I will now be working closely with BAE Chair, Trustee John Waihe’e IV, on all federal and state legislation, on-going programs in health, housing, education, land, and the Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund.

LEGISLATIVE LIAISON

I will also continue to serve as one of two “Legislative Liaisons” appointed by Trustee Waihe’e for the 2012 legislative session.  This is a crucial year for OHA as we intensely lobby the House and Senate for the passage of legislation to finally resolve the claims relating to OHA’s portion of income from the Public Land Trust between Nov. 7, 1978, and June 30, 2012. (House Bill 2521 & Senate Bill 2783).  I look forward to putting my many years of lobbying experience and strong relationships with legislators to good use.

EMBRACE TRANSPARENCY

After several years and countless requests to the administration to televise OHA meetings, in a way similar to what the Honolulu City Council or the State Legislature are doing, OHA has finally taken a step in the right direction.

OHA is now broadcasting live board meetings from Honolulu to Kauai.  Beneficiaries on Kauai should check OHA’s meeting notices or call 241-3390 to confirm whether there will be a live video conference broadcast to the Lihu’e State Office Building.

It is my hope that this will encourage the Administration to broadcast live OHA meetings to the other neighbor islands.  Broadcasting all of our meetings will not only make Trustees more accessible to beneficiaries, but it will also allow beneficiaries to see how our board conducts its business.  What a refreshing change that would be.  Aloha Ke Akua.