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 Sam King, a candidate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Oahu Trustee. There are six other candidates, including Jackie Burke, Esther Kia’aina, Paul Mossman, Kalei Akaka, Leona Kalima and Francine Murray.
1. Is OHA fulfilling its mandate to serve the Hawaiian people?
No. OHA does not even have the necessary data to measure whether or not it is fulfilling its mandate. The thing OHA seems to be doing best is dishing out cash to people who know the CEO and the trustees, as reported by the state auditor.
2. What would you do to change how OHA is run?
There are a variety of changes that can be made, many of them suggested by the audit. But the issues highlighted in the audit are not the only problems. The trustees don’t know what their fiduciary oversight obligations are. That is the first thing that needs to change.
As for specifics:
• Eliminate discretionary noncompetitive Kulia grants and CEO sponsorships.
• Require trustees to seek reimbursements for their expenses.
• Focus the OHA research division on collecting its own data.
• Replace the CEO.
3. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Native Hawaiians? What will you do about it?
Native Hawaiians face the same major issue we all face in Hawaii: The cost of housing is too high. I will push for OHA to advocate for more housing being built in Hawaii’s urban cores at higher densities. I will start with developing high density housing in Kakaako Makai.
4. What are your views regarding Hawaiian independence?
If this refers to independence from the United States, I do not think that is a good idea. The U.S. is the greatest country in human history, and Hawaii has outsized influence over U.S. policy. We have two senators in Congress for our small population, giving each Hawaiian voter a larger impact. Currently we get billions of dollars from the federal government, and I’ve yet to see an independence plan that would be more beneficial to the Hawaiian people.
Additionally, what would we do with independence? Who would lead us? Would we restrict our leadership pool based on race? Would those race-based leaders subject themselves to the kinds of audits that exposed the waste and abuse at OHA this year? There are too many unknowns to make this a viable plan.
5. Is OHA getting its fair share of ceded-land revenues from the state?
OHA needs to learn how to effectively spend the money it has before fighting with the state about getting more money from ceded lands.
6. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?
I think a large reason Hawaiians are disproportionately represented is because they are a product of their socio-economic status. By providing housing to Hawaiian community, and focusing on educational outreach and programs, I believe the inmate population will decrease. It is vital for OHA to manage its resources responsibly so that it can be effective in helping solve these problems. This will be my priority as an OHA trustee.
7. Do you support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea?
Yes. While there are issues with the management of Mauna Kea, TMT is the model to build on for telescopes on Mauna Kea going forward and the project should not be halted now. Hawaiians are well known for their ability to navigate by the stars. It is fitting that Hawaii was, is, and can be, at the forefront of celestial exploration.
8. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?
DHHL needs to build more houses at higher densities. I also support using DHHL land to build housing units targeted at people who are currently experiencing homelessness. The Housing First pilot program being studied by the City of Honolulu is a good idea, and OHA should look into similar programs that target Native Hawaiian people who are homeless.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
I don’t see a huge value in undertaking such a process now. But I could be convinced.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
OHA needs to develop Kakaako Makai as an income generating property. It should involve high rise residential sold at fee simple so as to provide maximum revenue. There should be units targeting all income levels, and creating new sales tactics, like micro-penthouse units. Developing Kakaako Makai is also an excellent opportunity to build affordable units for Native Hawaiian people as part of a mixed-income apartment community. This would give Native Hawaiians a way to live near the large number job opportunities that are concentrated in and around downtown Honolulu.