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.