Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Robert Lindsey Jr., one of three candidates for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees, Hawaii Island. There is one other candidate, Mililani Trask.
Name: Robert K. (Bob) Lindsey Jr.
Office seeking: Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Hawaii Island trustee
Occupation: Incumbent trustee
Community organizations/prior offices held: Please see website, boblindsey.net
Age as of August 2016: 68
Residence: Waimea, South Kohala
Campaign Website: boblindsey.net
1. This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how OHA is run?
As incumbent trustee and board chair, I believe OHA is being run well and heading in a good direction under the leadership of our CEO and his executive team. We have a very committed, mission-focused and results-driven cadre of staff and have a Strategic Plan tethered to six strategic priorities (education, health, governance, land and water, culture, economic self-sufficiency) into the future accompanied by benchmarks and a performance system to give us feedback on our progress or non-progress.
What’s clear is our asset base is insufficient to meet the needs of our people. Going forward this is where we will need to place our energy and focus, growing our portfolio and looking to partner/collaborate seriously with others who share common interests (Ali’I Trusts) on behalf of our lahui. Concurrently, we must update our Strategic Plan sometime soon as it is almost a decade old.
2. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
As a card-carrying Democrat there is strong historical basis for this dominance as there was when the Republican Party was in control of these islands. My view, it’s karma at work here. I believe in fair play and balance. Thus my hope is my Republican friends will find strong candidates to run in future elections and bring parity/balance to a political process which is so lopsided. I’m confident this can and will happen. It’s a new time with social media, folks are less prone to vote along party lines, are more independent minded, willing to vote for person, not party, at least at the local level.
3. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
Yes. I am about transparency and openness in government.
4. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
Election year arrives, we go to our polling place, cast our vote and go dormant, into hiding. If we want good government, politicians who truly listen to us, we need to remain engaged. Let folks know once elected if they are doing a good or a poor job, give them your/our honest feedback, praise if they’re doing a good job, constructive criticism if they’re not and how they can do better.
5. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it?
The most pressing issue facing OHA in my mind is the relationship between the Board of Trustees and our chief executive officer. In the time I’ve been board chair my focus has been to build a bridge between us and the administration, a relationship built on trust, respect and doing what’s best for the organization and our beneficiaries and not our egos and personal agendas (see website for more detail).
6. Is OHA fulfilling its mandate to serve the Hawaiian people?
We are doing the best we can with the limited resources we have but have many “miles to go before we sleep.”
7. What are your views regarding Hawaiian independence?
I totally understand where the folks calling for independence are coming from: justice for past sins tethered to our queen’s overthrow in 1893 and U.S. complicity in that sad and tragic event. I would like to see a concrete plan to effect that call, a formal structure which I/we can grab onto, look at and assess what an independent future will/can/should look like as the first people of the archipelago.
Right now all I hear/see is emotion based on rhetoric. A potential model to consider is the free association model that the Cook Islands adopted 50 years ago. I’m sure there are others we can look at.
8. Are you satisfied with the way OHA has negotiated with the state over ceded-land revenues?
There’s always a better way and currently OHA has found a better way to deal with the ceded lands issue. As we move beyond 1978 (last settlement), we have done our homework and done it well. In the future when we come to the table to deal with the State of Hawaii, it will be a new ball game. Without revealing our strategy on future ceded lands discussions, the rules of engagement will be very different from past conversations.
9. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?
Some among us have not assimilated well to this new world. Our culture based on sharing and working together has been clashing for over a century with a culture that emphasizes individualism, money, markets and profits.
I was recently asked to serve on what’s called the Incarceration Committee chaired by Supreme Court Associate Justice Michael Wilson. I hope this will be a vehicle to help break a sad and tragic generational cycle which accounts for disproportionate numbers of Hawaiians serving time in our jails and prisons and answer this question more fully.
10. Do you support the construction of the TMT telescope atop Mauna Kea?
As a sitting member of the current OHA Board, my stance on the TMT is a neutral one. In April 2015, the board shifted its position from support (policy decision made by a prior board of which I was a part) to neutral since we have a very “divided house” on the matter. So as not to breach my fiduciary duties of obedience, care and loyalty, I must stand by that policy decision.