The Return of Trustee Accountability: Bring Back OHA Run Programs

`Ano`ai kakou…  With a New Year coming up soon I continue to hope that there will be positive changes at OHA.  However, change will not occur unless the Trustees begin to hold our Administration responsible for their actions.

The biggest problem is that the current system encourages Trustees to do nothing but show up to vote for action items written by the Administration.  Many of these action items are delivered to us a few days before a meeting, giving us very little time to properly review them.  This is why Trustees often feel blindsided at the table by last minute proposals.

Another problem is that OHA only reacts to problems as they pop up instead of proactively solving issues before they get serious.  With the many emergencies we face, our beneficiaries cannot afford Trustees that only sit back and passively wait to put out fires.

OHA used to be a hands-on agency with a variety of programs to help our beneficiaries.  Whenever a beneficiary would call with a problem, whether it had to do with health, education, housing, or even funds for an emergency, we could call someone in the OHA Administration for help.  Our beneficiaries were assisted quickly and efficiently by an OHA staffer.  That’s why having in-house OHA programs, closely monitored by the Trustees, are so important.

Today, OHA mostly operates like a charitable foundation that simply hands out grants and conducts research.  Most of the successful OHA-run programs, like Aha ‘Opio and Aha Kupuna, which took years of hard work by past Trustees to develop, have been contracted out or quietly discontinued.

OHA also had a very successful housing program through a partnership with Fannie Mae and implemented through First Hawaiian Bank.  We not only provided assistance with down payments but also classes on how to control debt in order to qualify for a mortgage.  In those productive years OHA ran many programs with just a quarter of our current staff.  While farming work out to nonprofits is appropriate in some cases, I believe OHA has gone too far.


Rebuilding our programs won’t be quick or easy, but there is hope.  For the last eight years, OHA contracted with a third-party “middle-man” to administer OHA’s funds to support 17 Hawaiian-focused charter schools.  The middle-man took a small percentage of the funds as an administrative fee to cover the costs of distributing the fund and ensuring compliance.  Since the Trustees approved $1.5 million for this school year and next school year, the administrative fee was estimated to be up to $200,000 for each year.

On October 19, 2017, the OHA Trustees approved distributing the $3 million directly to the charter schools over the next two years.  Amazingly, the Trustees finally decided to get rid of the middle-man.  This means that the administrative fee will now go to the schools.  It’s a win-win situation I’m hoping we can replicate with other OHA programs.


The Trustees are ultimately accountable for OHA.  Therefore it makes more sense to run our programs in-house so that we can monitor them.  That way, OHA Trustees will be more involved and regularly kept up to date on our programs’ progress.  This should be our goal for 2018.  I pray that the New Year will bring constructive and meaningful change.  Aloha Ke Akua.

The Most Critical Issues Facing OHA Today

By Rowena Akana
November 22, 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

As the most senior member of the Board of Trustees serving three consecutive terms, I believe I have the historical knowledge necessary to deal with some of the most critical issues facing OHA today.

1. Loss of ceded land revenues
2. Legal challenges to our Trust
3. Federal recognition
4. Negotiations with the State on a ceded land settlement.

While there are other challenges that we must address at OHA, those listed above are the most critical. As Hawaiians, the indigenous people of our lands, what we face today is no different than what occurred over 100 years ago. We are still fighting off assaults on our culture, rights to our lands and racism. Only now, we are being called racists because we want to protect our entitlements. Times have not changed much, people are still the same and greed is still the motivation behind the move to relieve us of whatever entitlements we have left. The only thing that has changed is the sophistication used to manipulate us and the law.

The future of OHA and other Hawaiian trusts are certainly at risk. Hawaiian leaders will have to work together and use whatever resources that are necessary to protect existing Hawaiian Trusts.

It is my opinion that in these critical times for OHA and all Hawaiian trusts, it is very important to have experienced leadership to help steer our canoe.

The unresolved issues of a permanent revenue stream for OHA and the failure of the Legislature to address the Supreme Court of Hawaii’s direction to them to “fix” Act 304 by defining what ceded land revenues constitute revenue for OHA was devastating to our Public Land Trust. For the first time in OHA’s 22 year history we have had to use our principal investments to fund programs and operations.

In 1991, OHA’s trust assets totaled $11 million. In 1993, our negotiating team settled with the State, on a partial settlement of approximately $129 million for back due payments owed to OHA from ceded land revenues. In 1999, as chair of the OHA Board, our investments had grown to nearly $400 million. In today’s market OHA’s assets are worth considerably less.

As a trustee who has always believed that the needs of our people should come first, the following are some of the programs that I have initiated:

1. FANNIE MAE Loan commitment of $135 million for home loans for ALL Hawaiians. This is a partnership between the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, FANNIE MAE, Bank of Hawaii and First Hawaiian Bank to provide low interest loans to all Hawaiians for home ownership;

2. The purchase of Quality Homes/Prefabricated Housing. OHA recently bought half ownership in this manufacturing plant which can produce homes that are steel constructed for approximately $50,000 each. This home loan program now adds a new dimension to OHA’s Commitment to home ownership;

3. Hawaiian Registry Program. The Hawaiian registry will not only show proof of Hawaiian ancestry, but sports a new look as a photo I.D.;

4. $350,000 commitment to annual scholarships for higher education;

5. Kupuna Health Program identifying elderly who are not covered by existing programs.

In the next few years, because of the challenges we face, experienced leadership will play a key role in our ability to deal with these issues as they present themselves.

I am very grateful to the Hawaiian community for having believed in my devotion and ability to lead, and for their continued support throughout my years at OHA. I am asking for your support again on November 5th, Election Day.  Mahalo ia ‘oe.

June declared home ownership month

By Rowena Akana
July 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

The month of June was declared Home Ownership Month. Many hands working together create great things and great things are happening for our Hawaiian community in housing. I’m excited to announce that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has appropriated $10 million for housing to be used by the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands for homesteaders. This program, coupled with OHA’s FANNIE MAE Loan Program, makes it a great day for Hawaiian housing.

The OHA Homeownereship Program provides up to $135 million in financing for Hawaiians and informational workshops. Congratulations to the 1,800 excited people statewide who have signed up for the workshops.

In a news conference held on June 13 at ‘Iolani Palace, Hawai’i’s own Mike Liu, now assistant secretary for Public and Indian Housing, assured that the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands would be receiving $9,600,000 in block grants from HUD for housing.

The housing block grant is an extremely valuable and versatile tool as it can be used for a variety of creative activities to meet the individual needs of Native Hawaiians. The funds can be used for the construction or reconstruction of afforable housing, down payment and closing costs assistance, direct lending or interest subsidies, housing counseling, payments to prevent foreclosures on homes, tenant-based rental assistanace, safety and security activity, and much more.

The Section 184A Loan Guarantees for Native Hawaiian Housing Program will provide Federal loan guarantees to leverage millions of dollars of private mortgage resources to provide Native Hawaiians with greater access to mortgage loans for one to four-family housing locatd on Hawaiian Home Lands. With the greater flexibility of this new Federally-backed loan guarantee program, Hawaiian Home Lands lessees will be able to tap a variety of mortgage financing programs that up to now have not been possible under the FHA Section 247 program. The Federal loan guarantee is expected to leverage up to $40 million in mortgage funds.

It is anticipated that the U.S. Senate bill that helped to create the language that included the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands will be amended this year to include OHA as a second Hawaiian Housing Agent. This would allow OHA to match federal funds to create more funding and housing opportunities for all Hawiians.

Also important to note is that in January of this year, OHA partnered with Quality Homes — headed by Kali Watson, to produce steel constructed homes at a cost of under $60,000 per home, making it possible for anyone with a lot to put a home on it at a very affordable price.

On a survey done three years ago by OHA, Hawaiians were asked to list by priority what was most important to them. Housing was one of the five top listed as most important. I ask for your continued support as we move forward and encourage your comments. MALAMA PONO!

No Progress Since February 2002

By Rowena Akana
June 2002

Source: Ka Wai Ola o OHA

The Legislative session ended on May 2, 2002. OHA had some victories and some disappointments. I am happy to report that the bill fixing the legislative problems which held up our ability to give grants passed the legislature and is on the Governor’s desk for approval. With his approval, OHA will be able to release a substantial sum of monies, which had been tied up, for grants to various Hawaiian entities.

I am also happy to report that the legislature passed the bill which allows OHA trustees to join the State Retirement System. Finally, making Hawaiian elected officials equal to other state elected officials.

The disappointment came with OHA’s revenues. Although OHA put forth a bill asking for interim revenues until the ceded lands issue is resolved, and kept it alive until the very end, the legislature found that it did not have the funds to pay the interim revenue, even though this same legislature gave the Japanese Cultural Center $8 million to bail them out of their money problems.

The Hawaii Supreme Court made it very clear to the State that it is its fuduciary obligation to the Hawaiians. We must continue to ask for our fair share of the ceded lands, whether it be through interim revenue, another revenue stream formula, or some sort of settlement. It ultimately may be necessary to take the State to court to force them to pay the Hawaiians their fair share of the ceded lands.

Since the new leadership took over the OHA board in February, there has been NO discussion on how to make up lost revenues or what the strategy will be to stop the bleeding. The lack of leadership of OHA is disappointing not only to those of us who have worked hard to try and resolve these land and revenue issues, but also to beneficiaries. Where is the plan? There has been no direction from this Chair on how to proceed or to plan for the future. All programs being worked on now were from the previous leadership. So, what’s new?

The issue of tying the ceded lands resolution to the ceded land inventory surfaced this past session, again. OHA and the State already know what lands produce income. Requiring a full inventory is only a stall tactic to withhold payment to the Hawaiians. Fortunately, this bill died, but we must be ever virgilant to make sure it does not resurface or gain momentum in the next session.

On another note, I am pleased to report that our FANNIE MAE loan program is progressing and with workshops to educate our beneficiaries more Hawaiians will become homeowners. We hope to have the kick off for the loan program on May 29th with a full press conference. It is anticipated that we will be able to help many of our Hawaiian beneficiaries by leveraging our monies through FANNIE MAE. This, in conjunction with our efforts to produce reasonable manufactured housing should put many of our low to middle income Hawaiian famiies in homes. I thank Doug McWilliams of FANNIE MAE for his tireless efforts in helping our Hawaiian community, and our OHA staffer, Patti Tancayo, for all her hard work with the FANNIE MAE project.

A big Mahalo to the leadership of the state legislature for taking the time to speak to me and our Administrator about our bills. In particular, Speaker Calvin Say, Chair Dwight Takamine, Chair Eric Hamakawa, Senate President Bobby Bunda, Chair Brian Taniguchi, Chair Jonathan Chun, Rep. Joseph Souki, Senator Colleen Hanabusa, the Hawaiian Caucus and the Republican Caucus for their efforts in getting our two bills passed. However, the bigger picture is our ceded lands revenue and getting the Akaka Bill passed by Congress. For without federal recognition the suits against OHA will not be resolved.

Thank you for all of your support–those of you who have continued to be supportive in the Community.

OHA’s 2002 Legislative Package

By Trustee Rowena Akana
January 18, 2002

Source Letter to Editor

On September 12, 2001, the Hawaii State Supreme Court delivered a devastating blow to the Hawaiians when they struck down Act 304, which gave OHA 20% of the ceded land revenues collected by the State to be used for Hawaiian beneficiaries.

Without a steady flow of income to sustain all of our programs, we trustees must now reassess our current programs and look at ways to down size to preserve our trust assets.

While the Supreme Court may have struck down the mechanism for payments to Hawaiians, they did declare that the state still must fulfill its constitutional obligation to the Hawaiian people. They also gave the legislature the charge of amending Act 304. Until this is completed, there will be NO payments made to OHA by the state.

OHA will ask the legislature this year for an interim revenue amount until Act 304 is resolved. Because a formula based on revenues has been so problematic for OHA and the state, we must consider, in the very near future, to settle the ceded land claims with the state. This would allow the Hawaiian people the opportunity to have a land base on which to build our nation.

The second OHA bill asks the legislature to adopt a waiver from the state procurement laws. Because of an attorney general opinion, OHA is no longer able to give money to 501 C 3 programs. OHA is unable at this time to give any grants out to anyone. This opinion has basically stopped all flow of money from OHA to any organization or group asking for funds.

The third bill addresses the need to revisit Act 304 as directed by the Supreme Court of Hawaii.

The fourth bill allows the OHA trustees the ability to join the State Retirement System. For 20 years the trustees have NOT been allowed to join the State Retirement System.

At the Federal level: the Federal piece of legislation known as the Akaka Bill is slated to be heard in the Spring of 2002 in the Congress. While there may not be total agreement on the language of this bill, it is very important that Hawaiians receive federal recognition from the United States. Without this recognition we cannot proceed to nationhood.

On another note: I am happy to announce that within the next 30 days OHA will:

1. Increase out business loan amount to $250,000.

2. Partner in building 45 housing units in Kapolei.

3. Develop a partnership with FANNIE MAE to allow ALL Hawaiians to borrow money for home mortgages for down payments and closing costs at a reduced interest rate below the prime rate.

4. We will continue to work to develop a health initiative for our kupuna.

We ask for your kokua, this legislative session, to help us resolve some very critical issues for our people. Mahalo Ke Akua

Hawaiian Home Loan Program; Health Task Force

By Rowena Akana
January 2002

Source Ka Wai Ola o OHA

OHA’s Home Loan Program for Hawaiian Home Lands has been successful since 1993 when OHA granted DHHL $20 million for renovations and down payments for its homesteaders. As the program’s committee chair, I hope to broaden this home loan program to include more Hawaiians, especially those not on Hawaiian Homestead lands. In order to accomplish this, OHA needs to leverage its financial resources by partnering with other lending institutions. To that end, I have been meeting with possible lenders and most recently in talks with FANNIE MAE in Washington, D.C. and in the western region in California. Talks have been fruitful and I hope that by mid-April or May, OHA will have a home loan program that all Hawaiians in the community can participate in.

Most Hawaiians do not have access to financing through the “conventional” lending system. There is a need to provide home loans to Native Hawaiians. If OHA merely lent its own monies and collected on the loans, the limited funding would not allow OHA to make very many loans. However, with FANNIE MAE and other lenders’ participation, we can leverage those monies and provide for many loans from our initial capital investment. If processed in this manner, OHA can provide for many more loans from its initial capital investment. In the end, if these agreements with the banks and FANNIE MAE are successful, OHA can provide more loans to more people and allow OHA monies to revolve.

I look forward to progressing with this loan program so more Hawaiians who do not live on homestead lands can purchase homes. My hope is to accomplish this goal. If you support this concept, drop me a line or call me at 594-1860. I will keep you informed as to its progress.

On another exciting note, the Native Hawaiian Health Task Force has been reactivated by the Programs Committee when I was chair. Health has always been one of the key issues cited by our communities as a pressing need for Hawaiians. One of the outcomes of the past task force meetings was a report which found that the most effective use of our monies would be in an outreach program to help kupuna enroll in supplemental health coverage plans. We cannot overlook the health requirements of our neediest Hawaiians – our kupuna. I will continue to work with the medical field through the task force on health issues for Hawaiians. OHA will soon be hiring a full-time health person to assume the task of assisting the Native Hawaiian Health Task Force in supplementing health coverage for the kupuna, as well as using our monies and resources to address some of the health needs of our Hawaiian communities. I will keep you posted on the activities of the Native Hawaiian Health Task Force and Hawaiian health issues.

I am grateful to the following Task Force members who so willingly gave of their time and mana’o to serve: Dr. Charmin Akina, Waimanalo Health Center; Dr. Naleen Andrade, U.H.; Gladys Brandt, Stephen Chong, St. Francis Health; Beadie Dawson, Attorney; Professor Noreen Mokuau; Charles Nakoa, QLCC; Sister Beatrice Tom; Dr. Benjamin Young, Native Hawaiian School of Medicine; Richard Jackson, Queen’s Health System; Na’u Kamali’i and Hardy Spoehr, Papa Ola Lokahi; Mary Rydell, Center for Medicaid and Medicare; Claire Hughes and Kirk Lange, Department of Health; Pi’ilani Pang, HMSA Uninsured Project; Thomas Au and Kim Birnie, Kauka Hui; and Beth Geisting, Primary Care Association.

“Save your people and bless their inheritance, O Lord be their shepherd and carry them forever.” Psalms 28:9.