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 Pohai Ryan, a candidate for an at-large position on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees. There are 15 candidates for three positions. The others are Leina’ala Ahu Isa, William Aila, Rowena Noelani Akana, Alvin Akina, C. Kaui Amsterdam, Faye Hanohano, Brendon Kalei’aina Lee, Keali’i Makekau, Makana Paris, Landen Paikai, John Waihee IV, Marcus Bruce Kalai Pa’aluhi Sr., Kali Puuohau and Eleanor Sharsh-Davis.

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

Candidate for OHA Trustee-At-Large

Pohai Ryan
Party Nonpartisan
Age 56
Occupation Former executive director, Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association.
Residence Kailua


Community organizations/prior offices held

Former state senator (Hawaii Kai, Waimanalo , Kailua); former Neighborhood Board No. 31, Kailua, member; former president, Kailua Hawaiian Civic Club; former president, Kamehameha Schools Alumni Association Oahu Chapter; director, American Indian Alaskan Native Tourism Association; current president, King Kamehameha Hawaiian Civic Club.

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

Improvements can always be made. This is a good time for OHA to evaluate and take a “temperature check” measuring impact of programs, projects and contracts and to evaluate business and operations systems.

2. What would you do to change how OHA is run? 

This is too broad of a question to answer in 200 words or less; more extensive briefing in a methodical and organized manner for trustee staff on agenda items to help prepare trustees to have proper and appropriate information, design a retreat for the Board of Trustees to plan the next strategic plan, re-define parameters for trustee allowances,  create a “kanaka in need” fund for oversight by the BOT as allowable by law.

Of course no changes should be done without a thorough briefing and status report of organizational structure and work of the various divisions first. 

3. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Native Hawaiians? What will you do about it? 

Truly affordable housing ownership, not rentals. Until this is addressed the economic divide will become wider, and other negative social and health statistics will grow unless we can help provide access to homes that are accessible by the average Native Hawaiian. The safety and security of a dwelling not vulnerable to landlords or real estate investors is the highest need in our community. 

4. What are your views regarding Hawaiian independence? 

OHA can play a better leadership role in furthering this community discussion. The Hawaiian people will determine this, not the body of nine trustees.

5. Is OHA getting its fair share of ceded-land revenues from the state?


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

This is a multi-layered issue. Until we are able to find solutions for true housing ownership and job maintenance and growth that is accessible by the majority of our Native Hawaiian community we will not see a change in the incarceration rates.

7. Do you support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea?

Not in the current plan. I believe that exploration and discovery on the mauna should continue but the vacant structures currently on the mauna should be dismantled at the cost of the companies (not the state) that placed it there and the road should be made safe before any more structures are considered. The size of the Thirty Meter Telescope should also be reduced.

Until these changes have been made, the Thirty Meter Telescope should not be built. The respect of the Earth should be just as important as the discovery in the sky by scientists and companies who benefit from this industry. I also feel that there are too many structures on the mauna right now.

8. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?

There are myriad problems and solutions that need to be addressed for our Native Hawaiian community.  There is no attention being given to the young working families who are trying to design futures but cannot afford to own a home. If OHA plays a leadership role in creating a solution by bringing together the right parties we may be able to find the solution. Until then, the longer the need for home ownership for young working families continues to be ignored, the problem will only grow. If OHA can work to find a truly affordable housing formula or model that can be duplicated, then the rest of the state can benefit as well.

9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not? 

I do not support a state constitutional convention. The authors of this guiding document did an excellent job in designing a long-lasting blueprint for Hawaii laws. Sufficient rights are provided for in the constitution and I do not see the need to put programs and rights at risk.

10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?

I want to remind voters that OHA trustees are not lawmakers but instead are fiduciaries entrusted with managing the trust assets of the Hawaiian people. There should also be term limits for trustees of three four-year terms maximum.