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 Jackie Burke, a candidate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Oahu Trustee. There are six other candidates, including Leona Kalima, Esther Kia’aina, Paul Mossman, Sam King, Kalei Akaka and Francine Murray.
1. Is OHA fulfilling its mandate to serve the Hawaiian people?
No, they are not. The manner of how we elect our trustees does not present the best possible choices of leadership and therefore prevents us from having better qualified trustees. The system set up was meant to fail, in the beginning there was no primary, so 20 candidates running and one vote, so that if one candidate got 10 percent, they won. Then the Rice case made it fair for everyone to vote, rather then OHA pay for their own election.
If you want to have weak leaders, give the people a lousy system to elect them, which they did and then criticize them on how poor a job they are doing. Family, political, entertainers and recognizable names have been the norm for leadership, does the public really know how to select these trustees? I have seen it happen where ill trustees return without even trying, because they had a name people remember, and it was a great disservice to us and even more shameful these trustees continued to serve for the personal financial and benefits gained.
2. What would you do to change how OHA is run?
I would change the administrator’s position to what it originally was and bring the trustees back into the front of decision making, especially financial and procurement processes. I would also set up more boards composed of experts and community leaders to meet regularly on the policies to offer solid input.
The last administrator made the changes to a corporate management with a CEO and took away decision making power from the trustees. This was done with the approval of the board’s head trustee, and here we are today. No checks and balances and only when an audit comes, especially this last one, is there some effort to regain control by elected trustees. We did not elect the administrator to his office, should we be going to him directly?
Now his hand-chosen staff become controllers, again no coordination as I can see taking place between the administrator’s staff, trustees and the community. That is what I will change by creating my own community groups to meet with me and seeking other trustees to engage in this effort with me.
3. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Native Hawaiians? What will you do about it?
Unity is a major factor preventing a foundation to build our future on. I have suggested a community outreach program called “Ka`a Ea” — outfitted buses which go out into the community. We need a common ground of information dispersed more evenly out into the community, we need to go to their door and I have a plan to do just that.
We need to build more common ground for communication and exchange and engagement. I don’t see public meetings as efficient as we believe they are, it’s useful when there are emotional issues, but the more bonded long term discourse is hardest to create and that is an area I want to spend a lot of effort and time, connecting with our vast Hawaiian community and providing a more insightful two-way feedback.
4. What are your views regarding Hawaiian independence?
The existing powers that be will try tp prevent full independence, but we have legal and constitutional rights, within the U.S. system but also within the global platform. Perhaps, the timing is getting better for us to break ground on getting rid of the Jones Act and reclaim the sovereignty of our ports, as an example to build by starting in a small but powerful entry point into global acceptance.
Let’s fact it America needs to keep the military here, our centralized location will create covert means to keep Hawaiians to remain in the folds of “federal recognition.” Independence means commerce, in a nation debt-free to do global business and banking, it means lower costs of living without high shipping prices, it means paying taxes to only the Hawaiian nation. If one was to dream big dreams of global commerce and restoration of nation to national discourse, we don’t need America. No, American needs us, they need their military bases here, they paid millions to the Philippines but not a dime to us. This would be too radical for them and we would be easily branded as terrorist. It’s a dangerous time to speak of independence to the authoritative president.
5. Is OHA getting its fair share of ceded-land revenues from the state?
We are not getting our fair share, but then how the inventory is calculated has never been reviewed publicly, regardless of how many commissioned land assets have been put out and done. The lucrative revenue is from the federal usage and military usage, and probably unyielding U.S. government to pay us what is the true value of using our land for military uses.
In reality, they give us $15 million, and if OHA has gotten into the cannabis business we might match that $15 million. But no, that base revenue is not enough to do what needs to be done. Had it not been for our great Alii Trusts, unbelievable love of our past Alii to will all their wealth to the future of Hawaiians is unmatched in all humanity, and they say Hawaiians can’t rule themselves. It’s not all the state’s fault, the U.S. government set themselves up to be out of the loop to pay for taking our land and they vacation at Hale Koa all the time.
6. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?
We are part of the racist actions of a white government, a colonized people who are displaced within their own land. Lacking adequate resources of land, education and money (from stolen lands) prevents a larger reach to Hawaiians (and I mean national Hawaiians as well). Health care, drug treatment programs, housing, these things are lacking in caring for our Hawaiian people.
We can provide more housing if we had more money, and we can provide health care for all Hawaiians by creating our own health care program. We did all this as a nation, that had its faults, listened to the wrong people, since England gave our sovereignty back, we surely thought America would, but based on America’s wealth built on the back of black slaves and tears of Native Americans, we are lucky to have what we have! They could have done worse to us, just that we were 3,000 miles across the water. But they solved that by building Pearl Harbor and then after Dec. 7, they took whatever else they needed without paying for it.
7. Do you support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea?
No, I don’t. We have enough of those “pimples” on the mountain and we are not receiving revenue to justify placing these ugly buildings on our sacred mountain. The influx of outsiders and scientist add to the changing community, without cultural contribution for what they take, they don’t give back.
These telescopes can go to pristine locations in Africa without any cultural or political consequences. They don’t need to stay here.
It brings some jobs, but there are other jobs we can create better then supporting telescopes. When Madame Pele stops then perhaps we can return to agriculture and tourism, but there are other resources , such as the mining of minerals off the ocean floor, that can bring much more wealth to us then telescopes and an influx of outsiders.
8. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?
First of all, I disagree with the 50 percent blood quantum, it is absolutely wrong and is a means to divide us, a method colonizers use to cause discontent among us. Land should be given in stewardship rights, not leased and remain in ownership with Hawaiians of all blood. Stop the lease rent dialog.
Also stop doing single family projects, increase the usage of space for homes built. I sit on a board that created housing in Nanakuli in partnership with DHHL and we were able to bring homeless off the beaches into these units that had housing subsidies attached to it. This is the best example of partnership, DHHL can’t do it alone, it was the vision and leadership of others that got this done.
Lets talk about trailer parks, they are affordable and fast to set up. Lets get kids and families situated. Trailers as transition or permanent homes, compact and complete. I don’t understand why its not a solution in the mix. It has to be managed properly and it can be successful.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
I oppose a convention, because it will weaken OHA or may even vote it out of existence. There are too many fractions, including the non-Hawaiian votes that can undermine OHA’s existence.
OHA issues are fixable without a convention overhaul. I mentioned the lottery for names to be placed in order on the ballot, or OHA pay for their own election. Also now with a primary we have a better selection process versus what we were subjected to for over 20 years.
Other political changes, such as stop the letter “A” being the top vote getter – Apoliona, Apo, Ahuna, Akina, Ahu-Isa, Akana – you get what I mean. Voters don’t know who to vote for. Better to draw names. Wanna bet the “A’s” make it to primary and win?
OHA was meant to fail in the beginning and everything was set up to blame OHA rather than the election and selection process.
I don’t want to see another set of rules, when we are just getting the old rules into an orderly process and assigning more accountability and the big one, transparency into the process.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
I mentioned banking, this is a major move into financial sovereignty and that path should be thoroughly researched and put in place. (Bumpy pushed this for years, why have we not done this? He also proposed every Hawaiian national be given stock in the bank).
Diversify agriculture into cannabis growth and hemp. The wide uses for medical, clothing, food, and other uses has only begun to surface, we should be climbing all over this opportunity, since we have no restrictions as tribal Native Americans do.
We really have another recognizable world status that is not being pushed because we don’t have a standing nation. We can solve that, but too many fractions for independence and OHA pushing for federal recognition. There was a workshop OHA did on this, but the only path offered was federal recognition.
We need to get rid of the Jones Act and I suggest we do our own foreign trade zone, a small little part of the piece of harbor-sided parcel we own. Just an example to open the global doors to do business with the Hawaiian nation via OHA (the American entity) maybe, OHA in the role of the global broker for the uncloaking of the Hawaiian nation.