By: OHA TRUSTEE ROWENA AKANA
Source: January 2010 Ka Wai Ola o OHA Column
Last year started out with the whole world caught up or affected in some negative way by America’s recession. Economists said it would probably last through to 2010 and they were right.
During the 2009 session, I found it embarrassing to sit through OHA’s budget briefing to the state legislature and listen to Senators and Representatives ask about OHA’s budget. Questions included things like “Where are OHA’s priorities for spending?” and “How much was being spent on Kau Inoa registrations and OHA’s Washington D.C. office?”
They basically scolded us for not making any sacrifices and were reluctant to give us any more money. At least that was my impression of their message to us. However, it is important to note that the approximately $3 million that we receive annually from the state helps us to serve the less than 50% Hawaiian beneficiaries that we are also mandated to serve.
SETTLEMENT WITH THE STATE
I supported Senate Bill 995, introduced by Senator Clayton Hee, which attempted to resolve the claims and disputes relating to OHA’s portion of income from the public land trust between 11/7/1978 and 7/1/2009.
Senator Hee’s proposal offered OHA $251 million in cash and 20 percent of the 1.8 million acres of ceded lands to be determined in negotiations between the agency and the Lingle administration. 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 which are still on the OHA board (Trustees Haunani Apoliona & Colette Machado). 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.
SB995 would have given OHA the right to choose from the following properties, among many others: Kaka’ako Makai; Kahana Valley and Beach Park; La Mariana and Pier 60; Heeia meadowlands; Mauna Kea: Mauna Kea Scientific Reserve; Waikiki Yacht Club; Ala Wai Boat Harbor Complex; Kalaeloa Makai; and any and all other lands that the State may agree to convey to OHA.
Even a few of these properties could generate all of the revenue OHA needs to operate indefinitely and would have given our future nation the concrete assets it needs to serve the Hawaiian population. SB995 would have made Native Hawaiians self-sufficient (the very essence of sovereignty) and relieved the State of Hawaii of a large burden on their budget.
Unfortunately, SB995 failed to pass during the last days of the legislature because according to Advertiser Staff Writer Gordon Y. K. Pang, “key House members,” no doubt let by Speaker Calvin Say, declined to support the bill. Let us hope that we can convince them this year.
It is fitting that we closed the year with the celebration of the sainthood of Father Damien, a non-Hawaiian who unselfishly gave his life to care for Hawaiians.
On October 1, 2009, I traveled along with a Hawaii delegation on a pilgrimage to Belgium and to Rome to honor Father Damien. We visited Father Damien’s hometown of Tremelo where the people of the town embraced us. I can now truly understand where the kindness and compassion that father Damien had for our Hawaiian people came from.
In a ceremony led by Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peters Basilica in Vatican City, Rome, we witnessed the canonization of Father Damien on October the 11, 2009.
To Father Damien, people were people, and his service to his God meant that he must serve all of God’s people. We would undoubtedly have a more peaceful world if we could all embrace the compassion for others that was exemplified by Saint Damien. Let us think of these good thoughts and deeds as we move forward into this New Year.
My best wishes to all for a happy and successful 2010. Aloha pumehana.