Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 9 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.

The following came from Jackie Kahookele Burke, one of four candidates for the Oahu seat on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees. The others are Peter Apo, Christopher-Travis Lum Lee and Kamaleihaahaa Shigemasa.

Go to Civil Beat’s Elections Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Name: Jackie Kahookele Burke

Office: OHA Trustee Oahu

Profession:  Consultant-artist-designer-publisher

Education: Masters, Public Health; masters, Urban and Regional Planning

Age: 62

Community organizations: Please see my website www.jackiekahookeleburkeforoha.com for an overview of my community service starting at a young age in the JPO, Girl Scouts, and Civil Air Patrol to the Hawaii Community Development Council and our completion of a 48-unit low income rentals on Hawaiian Homestead Land in Nanakuli

Jackie Burke, OHA Oahu seat candidate

Jackie Kahookele Burke

1. Why are you running for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs?

We are at a major cross point, with an upcoming cycle of next generation thinkers. I believe in preparing for the transition of our young Hawaiian leaders and my “Unity Project – Lono Ku Mana” interactive art is part of this new wave of change. (Visit website for more info.)  

My 30 years of community service in over 20 organizations, my education and academic achievements and my business entrepreneurship skills will contribute greatly to the reinvigorating, reawakening and rebuilding a of the 21st century Hawaiian Nation. With a growing global awareness of Hawaii’s importance we will overcome “colonization tribal recognition” and find our way to justice through meaningful independence.

2. What is your view regarding OHA’s efforts to build a Hawaiian nation?

Narrow and biased. They keep inviting discussion but never fund the opposing voices of models outside of federal recognition. They keep embellishing their position by incorporating other data bases into their Roll Commission. The executive director of the Role Commission is Clyde Namuo, the former CEO of OHA. The members of that board such as Governor Waihee do not carry the vision or the voice of the people.  All on the board have “political baggage” entangled in the opportunity of tribal rules that would enrich a few and permanently exclude others.  OHA is constantly providing millions in funding to an orchestrated effort of an idea devised by “insiders” to the process. There is no answer to the argument, “How does that federal recognition lead to other models of independence, no one else has tried it, so why will it be successful? Given how cheated and manipulated the Indian tribes have been historically treated, why will we fare better?

3. What is your view on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s proposed rule-making on a government-to-government relationship?

Let us consider some independence scenarios that the DOI and Secretary of State Kerry do not want.  The New Kingdom of Hawaii would be:

Debt-free – no China in the picture.

• Our children won’t be fighting American-made wars.

• We won’t have to deal with the Compact with the Federated States of Micronesia and pay for their social services because of the atomic bombs dropped on them.

• Our ports would be open, therefore bringing the cost of living down for everyone in the Kingdom of Hawaii, reducing the cost of building supplies for housing, food, etc. Our toilet paper won’t have to go from China to San Diego to Hawaii.

• We can start charging rent for all the military use of our lands, reduce our taxes and incorporate the federal taxes we would not pay  into the new Hawaiian nation national budget. 

4. OHA has focused on developing land holdings in order to raise revenue to help beneficiaries. Is this an appropriate avenue for OHA to pursue?

I would manage this by getting that ceded land revenue from the federal government and that would give us a financial base to self-fund all our projects. Kaka`ako is a must, we can’t afford to be left behind when years ago we didn’t know the “New Gold Coast” was coming. We can’t be left behind, because the others don’t plan to take us with them! They are all getting their profitable projects approved left and right. We will look like Singapore soon, except Singapore is an extremely wealthy highly socialistic nation with a benevolent leader.

We are far behind, if we look to our Alii Tursts leveraging their assets, they are doing pretty good with their properties. OHA should be on the same wavelength and doing exactly what needs to be done by land acquisition as part of a strong financial portfolio. We should also invest in utility development and continue to look for possible partners, be it geo-thermal, photovoltaic and others. How about putting the next “Super Ferry” next to our Kaka`ako property, or did we not secure the port rights and underwater ceded lands?

5. OHA’s stated purpose is to provide “opportunity for a better life and future” for all Native Hawaiians. Is it doing that? And if not, what would you do about that?

We need to move away from the term “Native Hawaiians,” that is a tribal race-based label and without a tribe there are no “Natives.”  My Japanese and Chinese cousins who I share the same ancestral grandparents with are still Hawaiian nationals, they still remain here today. What happens when Americans go to China, they are still Americans, same with the Hawaii nationals. For us to secure the long overdue federal ceded land revenues will improve the lives of everyone. We the Hawaiian people are the foundation of the “greatness of these islands.” People come here to live like we do, if we fall and the non-Hawaiians who claim not to be with us do not support us in our quest for self-determination, this land will be like any American state on the continent.

6. Is OHA doing enough to protect the environment, improve the health of Native Hawaiians and perpetuate the culture? What ideas would you bring to OHA?

I don’t understand why this question of doing enough comes up often, when in fact the very process of leadership has been so slated against us.

OHA is doing what they can given the parameters of how our OHA leaders have been selected and elected into office. It’s been an intentional act, that for the past 40 years, the state has continued the “awful and pitiful election process,” for the very purpose of keeping capable leaders from rising, and that we have been stuck with the “recycling effects” of OHA trustees. 

OHA has not done enough of anything that is inspiring, transparent and uplifting. They have funded excellent non-profits, but can’t manage their own non-profit. They should have purchased a Universal Health Care Plan when they had the opportunity and did not. They should be legally and financially funding utility development (i.e., thermal energy). They have been stuck by the “state,” the “election process” and their unwillingness to be “proactive investors.” The OHA trustees themselves have prevented change by testifying against a primary in the elections, knowing that two things work in their favor:  1) The letter “A” on the ballot,  2) there was no primary to displace “bad” trustees; 3) the very task of informing a statewide voting public was next to impossible.; and 4) Oahu elected all the neighbor island  trustees!

So with the kind of “bad, limiting and unempowered leadership” that can succeed in whatever endeavor it has taken on.  Let’s look at Waimea Falls Park as one of the examples of poor leadership and lack of vision. The only vision is the next paycheck the executives get.

7. Are you satisfied with the way OHA has negotiated with the state over ceded-land revenues?

No, and this goes back to Gov. Ben Cayetano refusing to pay us, not because we are not  truly entitled to the revenue, but because he did not want to give it to us and had the authority to withhold our money. I use the term “handcuffed” by the disempowering state rules to prevent us from gaining the financial strength that is ours by ceded revenue. Then the chair, Apoliona, signed away our revenue stream. We have been screwed by the state and they know it!  OHA had no backbone to gather the will of the community to support them, because they know that had a real election taken place, none of them would be sitting in their trustee chairs!

8. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?

There needs to be a new policy detailing the powers of the CEO, as an employee and not as an elected officer. The CEO can not be making policy for us, which he did with the letter to Kerry. If you review and track  the transition that took place under previous administrator, Clyde Namuo, who moved his title to CEO, you will find the power being turned over to the CEO in new rules  and powers bestowed upon the CEO. Should we return the position back to what it was before, it was called the administrator.  If we really had OHA Trustees with a backbone,  with a fair election process and more enabled leaders, we may have fared better in many decisions, and the one that haunts us now is the capped ceded land revenues.