Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.

The following came from Haunani Apoliona, a candidate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee at-large position. There is one other candidate, Kelii Akina.

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

Haunani Apoliona

Haunani Apoliona

Name:  Haunani Apoliona

Office Seeking: Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustee  at large

Occupation: Trustee, Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Community Organizations/prior offices held: Trustee, Office of Hawaiian Affairs since 1996, OHA chairperson 2000-2001 and 2002-2010; OHA Resource Management vice-chairperson 2015 to present; OHA vice-chairperson, 1997-1998; ALU LIKE, president/CEO, 1991-1997, operations director, 1989-1990, Oahu Island Center administrator, 1982-1987, counselor employment and training, intake placement, community specialist positions, 1978-1982; National Museum of the American Indian; Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum; Nature Conservancy; Queen Emma Foundation; Hawaiian Civic Club of Honolulu; Queen Liliʻuokalani Children’s Center Advisory; Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce

Place of residence: Waahila

Campaign website: www.apoliona.org

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?

First, The Hawaii State Constitution Article XII, Sections 5 & 6 affirms OHAʻs mandates, powers and duties. Second, the Statutory powers and duties for OHA in HRS Chapter 10 identifies it as “a separate entity independent of the executive branch” and otherwise acts as a trustee as provided by law. 

Breach of fiduciary trust duties are sanctioned by Trustees and warrant recall by Native Hawaiian beneficiaries. 

To date, OHA prepared the foundation which ensures Native Hawaiian perpetuation of natural resources, self-sufficiency, recognition and support nationally and globally, e.g. increased income and proceeds for OHA via Act 34, Act 178; established OHA Washington D.C. Bureau to advocate N.H. interests  nationally with informed networks; acquired Wao Kele O Puna, Waimea Valley, in perpetuity; protected Na Wai EhA, public trust; returned Kalaniopuu Cape, provided substantial grant funds to Hawaiian agencies and beneficiaries and much, much more.    

For 2016, accountability for N.H.s includes: Public Land Trust Strategy Fund; CEO Fiscal Sustainability Plan; Strategic Plan updates (i.e. Land and Property Holdings, LLCs); N.H. Self-Determination efforts; and Co-Trusteeship of Papahanaumokuakea to ensure Native Hawaiians and Hawaii are  recognized and protected.

2. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?

Political party domination grows over scores of years with control over multiple factors. You are asking for a strategy that more than one political party has attempted to design and accomplish for decades. Certainly, there should be respectful adversarial political positions represented by honest, ethical elected officials and the electorate. However, the current political climate is no longer respectful nor completely honest or ethical.

Based upon media coverage people perceive that in Congress legislation to properly address the critical issues is deferred or stonewalled or somehow neutralized. It appears that the right or “pono” thing to do is no longer the primary priority. Instead, how to make the other party look bad is the focus and intent of action or inaction on national legislation.

Unfortunately, misinformation in excessive coverage by the media increasingly dupes the ill-informed citizens to believe dishonest statements by public figures. The root of the problem is far deeper than party affiliation. It is an absence of “core values” which are modeled by family members, mentors , favorite public figures who work in “service and not self-service” and others in the existing “broken” socio-economic environment. There is no easy solution today.

3. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?

A claim of “in the public interest” is extremely important as a measure for transparency and accountability to the community at large. If access to pubic records will provide information that is essential and that will be used responsibly and not for financial, political or other business and personal gain the fee for access should not be exorbitant. Conversely, there should be a significant fine or penalty when misuse or abuse of such access occurs.

4. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?

Annually, OHA trustees convene community meetings the night before each neighbor island meeting, as a basic practice. There should be additional opportunities for trustee discussions, especially with neighbor island citizens. Therefore, OHA, by policy, should require each island trustee to hold a meeting with beneficiaries on his/her island at least once in each quarter or semi-annually during the year  to “listen” to their concerns. As a follow-up of each neighbor island community meeting the trustee should issue an open letter summarizing concerns raised, the action taken, if needed, and additional information requested by our beneficiary participants.

The OHA CEO would ensure that highlights of the neighbor island quarterly or semi-annual meetings are regularly reflected in brief within the Ka Wai Ola for all Hawaii. All trustees without excuses should consistently publish their trustee column in the Ka Wai Ola monthly. Thus far, it has been sporadic. OHAʻs consistent practice to stream “live” all neighbor island community and board meetings, statewide along with all Oahu-based standing committee and Board of Trustee meetings, statewide as well, have and will further improve communications.

5. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your district? What will you do about it? 

There are numerous issues of concern like homelessness and the plight of the diminishing “middle class.” Numerous pressing issues include the health and well being of individuals, families, households, neighborhoods, communities, jurisdictions, districts, counties, the State of Hawaii and the “state of Hawaii” being impacted internationally and globally.

A timely example is President Obama’s expected expansion of Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. “On (Thursday), May 26, 2016 the OHA – Board of Trustees passed an action by majority vote to conditionally support the proposed expansion of PMNP provided that 1. OHA is elevated to a Co-Trustee position; 2. The cultural significance of the expansion area to Native Hawaiians is recognized; and 3. There is no boundary expansion southeast towards the islands of Niihau and Kauai.” “The proposed boundary expansion provides an opportunity to correct a flaw in the co-management structure for PMNM and ensure that the Native Hawaiian interests are represented at every level of policy and decision making. As significant expansion of the monumentʻs is being considered, it is even more important to ensure that the Native Hawaiian voice is appropriately represented at all levels of co-management for the kupuna islands.”

6. Is OHA fulfilling its mandate to serve the Hawaiian people?

Yes, OHA is performing its mandate, but not enough is being done due to internal and external barriers such as: limited OHA resources; costs of threatened and actual litigation; weak support by Congress of Native Hawaiian issues; lack of readiness for common resolutions by some community leaders or groups; need for improved communication methods and means for disseminating accurate information and facts to leaders and the public; need for increased scholarships, grants and training of potential youth/communities; etc.

More is being done each day to fulfill OHA’s mandate, mission and vision for Native Hawaiians and Hawaii in the global context, as well.

7. What are your views regarding Hawaiian independence?

The nation building strategy initiated in 2015 by Native Hawaiians appeared headed for the election of delegates and the convening of an ‘Aha (Native Hawaiian convention).  The ongoing pursuit of nation building was forced to redirect its efforts due to litigation filed by the Grassroot Institute and two additional Native Hawaiians in federal court (case of Akina v Hawaii) to halt the planned convention. Ironically or maybe not, two of the three Native Hawaiian litigants suing OHA (Akina and Makekau) are now seeking election to the OHA Board of Trustees in 2016. A draft of the Native Hawaiian constitution and referendum remains a work in progress. As a current OHA trustee I am committed to OHA’s majority-approved position. However, as a re-elected trustee, I am committed to refining existing strategies consistent with additional input we seek from the majority of Native Hawaiians.

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

From the creation of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs by the state constitutional amendment in 1978, OHA and the state of Hawaii have disagreed over what portion of the income and proceeds from the public land trust should be transferred to OHA.

The year 1993 secured a partial settlement. State of Hawaii Judiciary impacted 1996-2000 OHA negatively, by the legislative and executive branches diminishing OHA revenues. In 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Rice v Cayetano, 2001 Court overturned Heely decision on OHA revenues. In 2001, Cayetano stops all OHA payments. In 2003, new governor reinstates the undisputed OHA payments, discussions renew on past-due Public Land Trust payments. Act 178  (2006) codifies annual payments along with  $17.5 million through E.O. In 2012, new governor transfers 9 parcels of approximately 30 acres (Kakaako Makai) to OHA. On deck next is, HCR No. 188, 2016, “Urging the convening of a public land trust revenue negotiating Committee.” In the future, it would be the responsibility of elected leaders of the Native Hawaiian governing entity to renegotiate or litigate the ceded lands revenues matter for all Native Hawaiians.

9. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?

“The disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on Native Hawaiians accumulates at each stage. Native Hawaiians are more likely to receive a sentence of incarceration over probation.” (2010 Report The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System, produced by OHA, in collaboration with UH Manoa, Justice Policy Institute and Georgetown University). In order to better delineate future policy decisions relating to Native Hawaiians in the criminal justice system, “The State needs to identify what data needs to be collected at different points in the system, improve data integration, and improve data infrastructure amongst state agencies. Further study, including additional control variables, would provide a richer understanding of why N.H,’s remain disproportionately represented …..”.

Correctional institutions with ongoing efforts toward education and training inmates for viable jobs and for strengthening their self-image have had some positive results in reducing recidivism. However, earlier intervention in training and modeling of Native Hawaiian values and practices for Native Hawaiian youth and families should be of highest priority with greater positive impact on lifestyles. The outcome would be reduction in delinquency and crimes as well as totally avoiding entry into the criminal justice system.

E Hoʻokanaka, Be a person of worth.

10. Do you support the construction of the TMT telescope atop Mauna Kea?

OHA’s Board of Trustees has approved the following position regarding the TMT telescope atop Mauna Kea: “The Board of Trustees rescinds its support of the selection of Maunakea, Hawaiʻi, as the site for the proposed Thirty-Meter Telescope Project.”

Until further action is taken by OHA, Native Hawaiians and the community at large await the testimony, legal briefs, hearings and court rulings, and trustee deliberations.

As a current trustee, it would be inappropriate for me to take any position other than that of the majority-approved one. As a re-elected trustee, I am committed to reassessing and refining OHA’s position consistent with additional input from the majority of the Native Hawaiian community.