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 Leona Kalima, 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 Francine Murray.
1. Is OHA fulfilling its mandate to serve the Hawaiian people?
As an OHA employee of 23 years, I’ve seen, heard, and experienced much. Truthfully, I must be candid; OHA employees are under policy conditions not to disclose OHA information which leaves me at a disadvantage. Meanwhile, as a staunch Native Hawaiian advocate I see OHA as a vital conduit between my expertise and the Hawaiian community.
Since OHA’s inception, its constitutional mandates, goals, objectives, strategic plans and overall implementations have yet to aspire to its “fullest” potential. The hopes and dreams of the Kanaka Maoli in 1978 as OHA formulation was on the rise, we believed our rightful nation and reparations were at hand. Whilst time and kupuna have passed, some conditions were address like overall education and OHA’s land holdings.
The 1993 Apology Bill and the Mauka to Makai Report has yet to become reality, in spite of the many tries and $33 million for governance. Social economics, drug use, incarceration, health determinants, homelessness and other perils still dominate our population.
Equated to the latest Kauai and Puna disasters whereas direct funding is in hand of the needy, more direct funding to better the conditions should be available, including increasing the trustee discretionary funds with a standardized policy.
2. What would you do to change how OHA is run?
In March 1995, I walked into an organization that had the potential of implementing a nationhood concept. OHA trustees – governing board, administration – executive branch, divisions mirrored the federal and state government offices, Culture, Housing, Health and Human Services, Government Affairs, Education, Land and Natural Resources, Economic Development, Research, Grants, Fiscal, Public Information, etc.
Each division manned with experts in these fields. This configuration collapsed as trustees and administrations changed. Morphing occurred as the need arose with the addition and/or demise of divisions. Nation-building, land acquisitions, and the Hi`ilei Aloha conglomerates were primary in the changing organization.
In 2010, OHA adopted, developed, and implemented a corporate structure model. This change has impacted the level of services produced, including corporate-like salaries. In many instances, the Native Hawaiians do not engage with the organization as a stakeholder but more on the level of haves and have-nots, depending on your discipline, needs, and wants. And the strategic plan dictates funding. Unfortunately, this is problematic. This is not lahui.
With this said a study of OHA’s accomplishments, structure, and overall staff level production report implemented. Aligned with its constitutional mandate, OHA should be reorganized.
3. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Native Hawaiians? What will you do about it?
• The divisiveness amongst persons, groups, ideologies, and stubbornness, stiff necked attitude impede resolve of collective issues. Combine this with the reality of “my way or the highway” mentality attributes to the problem. The best have tried and failed. (See No. 4). Given the kuleana by my esteemed ancestors-kupuna, I am creating an alternative. I will begin its implementation when completed.
• The problems facing OHA, DHHL and the other Hawaiian Trusts. The Native Hawaiian Community, collectively or by kuleana and its beneficiaries need to call for ACTION — accountability, compassion, transparency, integrity-initiative, openness, no-nonsense solutions.
• I’ve been present at some of most argumentive encounters. This could be resolved with a simple arm-wrestling bout and winner takes all. Or a debate and a vote favoring the winning idea. It’s unfortunate, this will never happen and the divisiveness will continue.
• I know Hawaiians step on and/or use other Hawaiians to promote and gain for themselves. This is so un-Hawaiian and hewa!
4. What are your views regarding Hawaiian independence?
My heart is in the independent movement. I believe given the chance our people will come together to prove they can do it.
With that said, the United States will not let Hawaii secede from the nation. With over $33 million spent on federal recognition, it’s still elusive. Yet, I know a young gentleman who believes we can gain federal recognition in spite of Trump. If elected, I will have a longer discussion on independence and federal recognition with this fellow. His list of connections and ideas on both governance structures is impressive.
5. Is OHA getting its fair share of ceded-land revenues from the state?
No. A ceded land inventory and final report will prove the discrepancy. Please review the following from the OHA 2018 Legislative Package: OHA-4 – Fulfilling the State’s Public Land Trust Revenue Obligations
HB 1747/SB2136: RELATING TO INCREASING THE OFFICE OF HAWAIIAN AFFAIRS’ PRO RATA SHARE OF PUBLIC LAND TRUST FUNDS
Get informed: Watch “Public Land Trust: Justice Delayed is Justice Denied,” read the white paper, and view sample testimony.
The additional funds should be reallocated to my “chicken in every pot” model. I’m starting an entity to distribute these funds for the immediate needs of our people. Getting the funds into our people’s hands to better their conditions is way overdue. They deserve their piece of the pie.
6. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?
In 2010, OHA published a study on incarceration. Task forces continue to talk about the problem, but what’s been done to resolve the recommended remedy evidence via the report … not much. Google OHA’s incarceration report.
Medical evidence proves trauma occurs, relating to the “wounds of the overthrow” within the DNA and genome for generations. It’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and financial. Google the Hawaiian psyche, studies have been done on this subject, as my people have been subjected to the cruel reality of stolen identity, stolen lands, stolen history, and stolen worth of self-being.
I often wonder if a percentile of Hawaiian blood quantum and other mixed races play a part in the social economic factors and the haves and have-nots syndrome. Who, what, how other influences bring to the person’s psyche and the family unit. The questions are many.
Meanwhile, OHA needs to implement the recommendations of the incarceration report. DHHL needs to provide more homes, so families can bond; have pride and self-esteem in home ownership. Let the healing begin.
7. Do you support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea?
The State and the Office of Mauna Kea Management must keep the promise to decommission telescopes. Now!
I support the wahi pana vastness of the sacred Mauna and the gods that inhabit this space. I support science, as a lifelong student scientist with a preference in Geophysical Phenomenon.
My recommendation: Use the “footprint” of a decommissioned telescope and build the Thirty Meter Telescope on that site. This week’s news on the delayed decision (until November) on where to build the telescope on the Mauna is hopeful. Rational decisions are needed. Canary Island is an identified TMT alternative site.
I encourage students to immerse themselves in STEM classes. To the persons who promised Mauna Kea to the TMT in trade, Hewa!
8. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?
Native Hawaiians with 50 percent blood quantum who are homeless on the wait list is a statewide problem.
The recent Supreme Court decision to “cut back” DHHL’s funding to 1978 amounts with incremental adjustments over time is a major impeding problem to the DHHL mandate. The Kalima v. State of Hawaii, DHHL includes over 5,000 claims against DHHL’s management.
Now the Hawaii Legislature has committed $600 million to compensate for misuse or wrongful sale of about 39,000 acres. The money will develop the parcels by paving roads and setting up water and electricity.
In conjunction, 5,000-plus claims and the $600 million settlement for about 39,000 acres misuse or wrongful sale from the corpus proves the mismanagement of DHHL from the beginning. The scoundrels helped themselves to the land while the DHHL beneficiaries wait.
The answer is not black and white, but blood red as my people die on the list.
Nevertheless, my solution is: Alternative building concepts for lands, accelerated leases are ticking time bombs, distribute lands, build starter houses, and modular units like those in Sand Island with Native Hawaiians occupants — affordable is the goal.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
The Native Hawaiian communities are afraid of a constitutional convention and the possibility of dissolving OHA and other Native Hawaiian “entitlements.” Hawaii’s demographics have changed since 1978. No longer do the malihini’s understand Hawaii’s history regarding the Native Hawaiian dilemma. The world is changing, no longer is empathy for the indigenous peoples a reality but dominate ideals are “what about me or what’s in it for me” mentality.
I would support a constitutional convention if the above wasn’t so true. Example: Policy could be changed to affect term limits. In OHA’s example, I’d change the voting criteria so each island could vote in their trustee, at-large run a statewide race. This procedure is problematic as a statewide race for each trustee seat. Many candidates have limited funding sources to be competitive in a statewide race, name recognition, and “last names beginning with an A,” tend to dominate the race.
Although the needed policy change can be done through legislative means, political will may affect politicians who wouldn’t change the status quo because it personally impacts them and their contributors. Meanwhile, no one gains, no chance to improve the system, nothing changes.
It’s a collective public outcry that is needed.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
In a survey implemented by concerned Hawaiians, health care is the most important issue facing those surveyed. The survey instrument included housing, education, social economics, and other life-factoring determinants.
The health problems, the residuals of health care and its costs plague most including Hawaiians. Referred to as the aging tsunami, the effect of the kupuna needs will be paramount in the very near future. The recent trend of memory care – care homes, acute care, senior housing, etc., is on the rise.
This will also impact the family dynamics. Who will take care and pay the bills for Tutu? What do we do with Tutu when the time comes and dementia occurs? The questions are numerable. The solutions are daunting. Together let’s start to engage in the discussion, identify the resources, and resolve the problems as time permits.
Affordable housing and tax increases are second. Both impacting the family stabilization and cost of living.
In closing, thanks to Civil Beat for their responsiveness to the public in questioning the candidates seeking office. The OHA candidate questions are definitely inclusive of issues within the Hawaiian community.