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

The following came from Peter Apo, one of four candidates for the Oahu seat on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees. The others are Jackie Burke, 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: Peter Apo

Office: OHA – Oahu trustee

Profession: OHA trustee and president, Peter Apo Company

Education: Mid-Pacific Institute, ’57; U.Oregon, ’61, Psychology

Age: 75

Community organizations: Hawaiian Civic Club Honolulu, Historic Hawaii Foundation, Pa Kui A Holo, Hawaii Academy of Recording Artists.

Peter Apo

Peter Apo

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

I am an incumbent OHA trustee seeking re-election. I have dedicated the last 35 years of my life to public service and the development of sustainable growth public policy and have every intention of continuing to serve at the highest levels possible.

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

I support the existing Trustee policy of providing resources to a neutral third party, free of state or federal intervention, to convene a constitutional convention of elected delegates of Hawaiian ancestry who would then make recommendations on nationhood for ratification by the native Hawaiian electorate. I hope that OHA will grow opportunities for the non-Hawaiian community to engage the dialogue and express their hopes as well as fears with respect to a Hawaiian nation.

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

I support the platform they have provided for everyone to weigh in on the issue. I reserve judgment on any other aspect of their foray for an actual recommendation from the department, which may end up being no recommendation for action. The one aspect of federal recognition that keeps slipping below the radar is the building crisis of how to protect the existing millions in federal entitlements now flowing to the Native Hawaiian community. Without federal recognition as Native Americans, Hawaiians are outside the constitutional protections afforded every other Indian or Native Alaskan peoples in the other 49 states. The judicial term for this is the Doctrine of Equal Footing. Without this umbrella of legal protection, Hawaiian entitlements will continue to be challenged in the courts as race-based and therefore unconstitutional. I’m oversimplifying here but I note it as a very serious condition of preserving our eco-political existence as a native people. We cannot fall asleep at the wheel on this.

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?  

It is not only appropriate it is a fiduciary duty to grow the resources in anticipation of nationhood and while OHA serves as a placeholder until such time as a new governing entity emerges it has a duty to provide programs and services that provide Hawaiians with quality of life opportunities in health, education, home ownership, culture, recreation, and raising families. So, it is implicit to OHA’s nation building role to structure the basis of a national economy, both in terms of continuing to build the value of the Native Hawaiian Trust Fund (cash assets) but also to grow an inventory of culturally valuable lands to form a geo-cultural footprint in which the soul of the nation will reside.

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?

Yes, OHA is providing a wide array of programs and services which I articulate through my votepeterapo.com website. It is unfortunate that the controversy of nation-building dominates the media and diverts public attention from the 90 percent of OHA’s work which is delivering programs and services of every shape and color to every community in the state.

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? 

Health and culture has always been a high priority with OHA and is reflected in the several millions spent over the years in health and cultural programs and services by providing substantial financial support in the way of grants to community organizations. With respect to the environment and sustainable growth OHA has been one of the top institutional watchdogs through its Compliance Division and legal challenges it has funded through the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation, notably, with respect to native rights, water rights, public access to the mountains and the sea, and enforcement of the federal and state laws governing native burials.

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

I am not satisfied with the way the state has dealt with OHA on this subject and its ho-hum approach to updating the ceded land inventory and particularly the foot dragging of the various state departments in reporting their ceded land revenue streams in order to establish a reliable base of fiscal information to determine what is owed OHA. It may be time again for OHA to consider mounting some legal challenges to press the dialogue.

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

I believe the single most troubling public challenge facing OHA and the Hawaiian community is the declining public support for Hawaiians and an erosion of the public’s goodwill towards Hawaiians. The toxic, contentious, and flat-out rude nation-building public dialogue is burning the bridges of emotional support Hawaiians enjoyed for decades and may have taken for granted. It doesn’t help that OHA’s community engagement strategy has continued to be incestuous (Hawaiians talking to Hawaiians) providing few legitimate and non-threatening opportunities for the broader community to join the dialogue. In the end, Hawaiians will need to do some damage control and restore the public confidence, trust, and good will and remind all that in spite of how we are portrayed in the news, we remain the people of aloha and I am confident no matter what may become of the nationhood question we will not leave our non-Hawaiian friends and neighbors – especially those for whom Hawai’i is the only home they have ever known – you will not be left behind. Hawai’i Loa Ku Like Kakou.  All Hawaii must stand together as one people.