`Ano`ai kakou… After serving on legendary boards that worked hard to build OHA and strengthen its ability to serve our beneficiaries, it frustrates me that we’ve become so stagnated in the last few years. If you don’t agree that OHA is standing still, ask yourself this – When’s the last time you’ve seen OHA in the news?
In the past, OHA accomplished big things with less staff and less money. OHA was frequently in the news doing important things that mattered like establishing a state-wide property tax exemption for Native Hawaiians living on Kuleana lands (an effort which I spearheaded); providing $4.4 million in grants to Hawaiian Focused Public Charter Schools; preserving 25,000 acres of Native Hawaiian rainforest known as Wao Kele o Puna on Hawaii Island; and saving the 1,875-acre Waimea Valley.
We also haven’t been getting anywhere at the state legislature. This was one of the first years I can think of that none of the bills in the OHA legislative package passed. This should be a cause for concern that OHA’s clout at the legislature is waning.
OHA is the only advocate at the legislature for all Native Hawaiian issues, such as water rights, gathering rights, or land rights. Few organizations have the resources, staff and expertise to speak to legislators on our beneficiaries’ behalf. If OHA doesn’t do something fast to reverse its shrinking clout at the legislature, caused in no small part by inconsistent decisions and our Administration making decisions for Trustees, we will be in danger of becoming inconsequential, insignificant and insolvent.
There is so much we can do to help our beneficiaries who are suffering under the lack of affordable housing, the high cost of living, lack of fresh local produce, and the continuing degradation of our fragile environment. We just seem to lack the will to do anything. I miss the passion and drive that previous Trustees had in years past. Sure we got into a few scraps with each other, but we got things done and our hearts were always in the right place. Everything we did was for the benefit of our people.
The Board of Trustees needs new energy
We must not be content with just sitting back and letting the Administration plod along without any direction. We need to get the fire back in our bellies and go back to doing big things. If we don’t, we will no longer be relevant to our beneficiaries and the state might decide to get rid of us by transferring all of our assets to the general fund.
So this election, seek change and elect new blood! Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. Elect New People! Electing the same Trustees will not bring any meaningful change to OHA! Aloha Ke Akua.