Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 6 General Election, 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 Kalei Akaka, a candidate for the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Oahu Trustee. The other candidate is Esther Kia’aina.
1. Is OHA fulfilling its mandate to serve the Hawaiian people?
OHA’s mandate as stated by the state constitution is, “…the betterment of the conditions of Native Hawaiians.” As this mandate is too broad, we must look at revisiting and redefining the Strategic Plan so that the objectives are measurable. The state audit brings forward such issues, and therefore, we must update policies and practices to better serve the Hawaiian people.
2. What would you do to change how OHA is run?
We must look at restructuring, having clear guidelines for what can and cannot be done. The Strategic Plan could focus on quality of life initiatives, such as health care, home ownership, sustainability, education for our children, economic opportunities and those fundamental things that every family and every individual needs to succeed.
3. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Native Hawaiians? What will you do about it?
It comes down to productivity and self-sufficiency. When the Native Hawaiians are able to rise up and be productive and self-sufficient, all of Hawaii benefits.
4. What are your views regarding Hawaiian independence?
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs can provide information on what options Hawaiians have to choose from, such as federal recognition, independence, state recognition and so forth, in which we are progressive to seeking out solutions to move forward toward betterment and advancing in productivity.
5. Is OHA getting its fair share of ceded-land revenues from the state?
The revenues received annually from state ceded lands are under-reported. Therefore, as OHA does not receive the full 20 percent entitlement, we need to look at a reliable and certifiable process by which this can be validated, and therefore, received and then saved and/or spent to improve the quality of life of Native Hawaiians.
6. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?
I believe we must address the struggles that take Hawaiians into prisons and jails and search out solutions to keep them from returning and find ways to empower Hawaiians to become self-sufficient and productive once outside of the prison system.
This may include assistance with job placement, developing self-esteem and self-worth. Many of our Hawaiians and people of Hawaii are sent to prisons outside of our state and are further disconnected from their home, family and culture and when released, the reality of daily struggles to find a job and readjusting to the current day society that they are re-entering into is a quite an on-going challenge.
The award-winning locally produced film, “Out of State,” gives insight to and highlights the struggle of prisoners while in prison and after their release, and how the support of their spouses, family members and community make the difference to finding their footing into the place from which they were removed and brought back to. We can explore providing a proper and consistent support system through programs while in prison and after release.
7. Do you support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea?
This is an extension of our voyaging culture, using the stars, the universe and nature to reconnect with our sisters and brothers around the world. Ancient Hawaiians were forward thinking and for advancement to experience what lies beyond the horizon. Once Kamehameha the Great saw the power of cannons and guns, no longer was he commissioning spears, as he sought to advance and unite the Hawaiian Islands.
King Kalākaua, an evident supporter of science, technology and astronomy, was a monarch who revived Hawaiian traditions and was forward thinking to advance Hawaii into the modern world. From his travels to the U.S. and visit of Lick Observatory in California, King Kalākaua enthusiastically expressed his hope to one day bring such a telescope to Hawaii.
While honoring the spiritual significance that is Hawaii, this is the educational opportunity for our children of today and tomorrow, in which we bring together the ancient culture and wayfinding traditions of Hawaii with state-of-the-art technologies and expand on our knowledge of the stars and universe, as we voyage into the future. Through the lens of the scope, the stars bridge our past to our destiny.
8. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?
It is key to provide more affordable options to purchase and lease. As of now, the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands is separately governed from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, with an appointed group of commissioners. Both entities can look into partnering to further seek out solutions.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
I am interested to learn more on the pros and cons on how holding a state constitutional convention would benefit the Native Hawaiians and people of Hawaii.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
I understand there are many issues that can be acknowledged, however, I believe we must go back to the basics to begin in this journey to thrive forward.
With Hawaii in my heart, my hopes for Native Hawaiians and the people of Hawaii is that we strive for the goal of unity, in which we stand, rise and move forward together as a unified voice. We can do this in remembering the importance of our core values and doing things with the spirit of aloha. I believe in the need to maintain balance and resourcefulness, in search of good and sound options and opportunities, so we don’t just live, but we thrive. I will keep in mind the goodness of our traditions, seeking wisdom of those before us, to blend with a fresh perspective to OHA, representing a new generation with a strong sense of being global citizens wanting to help Hawaiians succeed, making Hawaii a better and productive place for all Hawaii and continue my ohana’s legacy of service to Hawaiians and the people of Hawaii nei and beyond.
I kindly and humbly ask that starting in the primary election you remember to “shaka and vote Akaka!”