Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 11 primary, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions about where they stand on various issues and what their priorities will be if elected.
The following came from Francine Murray, a candidate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Oahu Trustee. There are six other candidates, including Jackie Burke, Esther Kia’aina, Paul Mossman, Sam King, Kalei Akaka and Leona Kalima.
1. Is OHA fulfilling its mandate to serve the Hawaiian people?
Yes, but it can do more. Today, OHA is at a crossroads. It pains me to see the infighting at OHA.
It should be a place that attracts the best and brightest employees because they want to do all they can to help Hawaiians.
There has been a brain drain at OHA, many of the best and brightest have been leaving, and that is troubling.
2. What would you do to change how OHA is run?
OHA needs to be accountable and transparent. I would ensure every dollar will be spent wisely.
It needs to be beyond reproach ethically.
It should be a place that Hawaiians look at with pride.
I worked at OHA for over 18 years, in almost every department. I know OHA’s strengths and weaknesses. Instead of being segregated, the board and administration should improve communication and work together as a team.
OHA has the potential to evolve, and provide a higher level of service to Hawaiians.
3. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Native Hawaiians? What will you do about it?
Many Hawaiians struggle to make ends meet — working two or three jobs. Some are getting by, but can’t afford to save for emergencies. They need better jobs, and higher wages.
I would support job training, education and job placement programs, together with sustainable growth that creates new jobs with higher salaries.
4. What are your views regarding Hawaiian independence?
I believe that the Hawaiian community has the choice to self-govern.
It isn’t up to anyone else.
5. Is OHA getting its fair share of ceded-land revenues from the state?
No. OHA has lobbied the state Legislature for its fair share, and a bill was advancing last session, but did not pass. Perhaps due to negative media during the legislative session.
OHA needs to regain the trust of the community, and then it may salvage the support it had at the Capitol.
6. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?
Many Hawaiians don’t have the resources, support systems and mentors that others have, which makes the cycle of recidivism hard to break.
With cultural education and practices in some prisons, Hawaiian inmates are learning skills and have positive plans after they are released, but there is a lack of support and resources for them when they do get out. This needs to change.
We also need more programs for at risk youth, that would provide them positive experiences, support, and opportunities to prevent them from a life of crime or drugs.
7. Do you support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea?
Mauna Kea is a sacred place. Everything done there should be done with respect.
It breaks my heart that this divides Hawaiians. United we stand, divided we fall.
Our Hawaiian ancestors studied the stars and used the star maps to navigate the ocean, but for a long time I was not a supporter of TMT.
Now, with the ongoing volcanic eruptions I am deeply concerned about the people that were evacuated, and the economic crash on the Big Island.
I would support a plan for respectful, responsible development that creates jobs for Hawaiians in construction, simultaneous deconstruction, training and job placement in research, astronomy and other fields allowing generations of Hawaiians to navigate a better future for Hawaii.
8. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?
It would be great if low-income rental housing could be built on DHHL lands to help the homeless. But, according to the feds DHHL is obligated to serve Hawaiians of 50 percent or more blood quantum, which limits this idea. It could help only a handful of the thousands in need. The idea should be explored, but more housing projects can be done for homeless if government and private groups worked together. An example is Kahauiki Village — the new project off Nimitz that was completed in six months.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
As a union member, I support unions and have concerns about people’s rights in the workplace being diminished.
OHA is not perfect. It needs to be accountable and transparent, but it is helping better people’s lives. I do not think it is time for a convention to discuss ending OHA yet. OHA needs to do more.
So, although I believe in the process, I oppose a con con at this time.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
With my institutional knowledge of OHA, I know what needs to be fixed, and I have a plan to make it more effective based on accountability, improved communications and cooperation, with education, economic development, job creation, and higher pay for Hawaiians as the priorities.
In short, OHA can be great. Together, we can ensure future generations of Hawaiians can prosper. Empowering Hawaiians, strengthening Hawaii.
Together, we can make things right. We can be the change that our people so richly deserve.
I humbly ask for your vote.