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 Leina’ala Ahu Isa, a candidate for an at-large position on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees. There are five other candidates, including William Aila, Rowena Akana, Faye Hanohano, Brendon Lee and John Waihee IV.

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

Candidate for OHA Trustee At-Large

Leina'ala Ahu Isa
Party Nonpartisan
Age 74
Occupation OHA trustee
Residence Honolulu


Community organizations/prior offices held

Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees since 2014; Ahahui Ka’ahumanu Benevolent Royal Society; Chinese Chamber of Commerce; Hui Maka’ala Okinawan Club; Association of Chinese University Women; Organization of Women Leaders, past director; OHA - Native Hawaiian Revolving Fund for Entrepreneurs; Palama Settlement, former member of Board of Trustees; Kamehameha Lions Club; U.S. China Friendship Association; Guandong  Lin Yee Hui Benevolent Society, past president; United Chinese Society, trustee; University of Hawaii Distinguished Alumni Committee.

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

Whenever you deal with moral, ethical and cultural values when shaping the fulfillment of the mandate of bettering the lives of our Hawaiian people, it is just as challenging as legislating “moral” issues in the Legislature, if not more. An indigenous culture, the host culture, is being served as best as it can with what little the state parcels out. The “ceiling” of $15 million to take care our beneficiaries, while it keeps millions/spends billion for the rail? Maybe a constitutional convention can make the state change its priorities.

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

Economic innovation, create sponsorships, scholarships for keiki, increase revenue with joint public-private partnerships (like Villages of Kauiki), work more with our other trusts, be more “visionary” in our strategic planning.

Keep the LLCs, but separate powers, duties entirely. Have  a more educated (fiscally and economically) Akamai Board. Work with the CEO and respond in a timely manner instead of frustrating the administration with all the in-fighting among the Board.

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

Maybe the question for me should be, “Why haven’t things gotten better for our beneficiaries?” Why I ran in the first place was to help better the lives of our people. As a child growing up with my pure Hawaiian tutu, I watched how she and my tutukane lived in poverty … after their land was taken from them because they did not have a “paper” … a deed to prove it was in our family for years … an issue of kuleana lands.

I grew up in a very different world. My tutu showed her proud heritage whenever  she would walk with her Ahahu’i Ka’ahumanu sisters in the Kamehameha parade and many others… I would watch and hoped that I could join them when I grew up.  Being privileged to be raised by such strong women (my Mom was a devoted Christian), I excelled in school…went on to get my PhD all while raising two children (both graduated from Kamehameha Schools) as a single parent. Being a state representative (chair of Economic Development Committee), state Board of Education member …  I think it’s about time I go back to my roots and give back in whatever way I can help our Hawaiian people.

4. What are your views regarding Hawaiian independence?

This has been an ongoing effort by many, many people. I remember Kau Inoa and receiving my ID photo card verifying that I am a Hawaiian member of this endeavor.  The “entity” should be decided by our Hawaiian people … There are lots of very smart, good, caring Hawaiians out there who would make great leaders! E ‘Ala E!

A’ole, No, Fedwreck, as it would just result in the same ‘ole boy network’ controlling everything from the federal to state to cite. The Kanaka Maoli would still be in the same situation as they have been for years … broken promises, mistrust …

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

 A’ole! Budget and Finance holds $119 million in reserve as the difference between $15 million and what is owed us. Every year OHA begs (like other departments.) for this “fair” share, or should I say that as the host culture, why is the government (state) keeping our “fair” share in the “kitty”… while our people suffer: homelessness, health issues, mental illness, educational facilities, kupuna care and housing, etc.  Is that “fair”?

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

This requires more space than I am allowed here. As a sitting trustee for the past three years, I am still learning/listening to our  people’s plight as we strive forward … Imua … and as we stay onipa’a! Huliau! Please watch my five-minute video on YouTube. Mahalo!

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

The issue is not about the TMT … It goes deeper than that. Ku Kiai Mauna Kea’s mismanagement, the “managed care” of the Mauna is what is at stake. When the state goes in and just dismantles an ahu with disrespect, of course this will stir strong emotions from its indigenous people, the Native Hawaiians.  Let us sit down, talk about the “real” issue here … not just the “construction” of the TMT.

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

Partnerships … can do more with the $30 million OHA gives them.

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

A’e, we haven’t had one for years. We need one to discuss the host culture’s rightful place … to create a “better” Hawaii for its people, which in turn will raise all!

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

I will discuss later …