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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 Rowena Akana, a candidate for an at-large position on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees. There are five other candidates for three seats, including William Aila, Brendon Lee, Faye Hanohano, Leina’ala Ahu Isa and John Waihee IV.
1. Is OHA fulfilling its mandate to serve the Hawaiian people?
I would say yes.
2. What would you do to change how OHA is run?
• I would seek legislation to revise HRS Chapter 10 to make it more applicable to present day challenges.
• OHA needs to change the classification of the CEO back to administrator, allowing trustees, as advised by the State Auditor, to take back the office.
3. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Native Hawaiians? What will you do about it?
Housing, because this is the immediate crisis that Hawaiians face today. OHA needs to partner with developers to develop housing that Hawaiians can afford and begin with rent to own town homes and transitional housing.
4. What are your views regarding Hawaiian independence?
I have always advocated for a nation-to-nation status between the United States and the Hawaiian people. During the Clinton administration, the departments of Interior and Justice did a report called Mauka to Makai, recommending that the federal government reconcile its differences with the Hawaiian people. I am strongly in support of this report and pray that the federal government will live up to its responsibilities to reconcile the injustices done when the overthrow of our Hawaiian Kingdom occurred in 1893.
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?
Hawaiians are no different than any other peoples. It really comes down to socio-economic opportunities.
7. Do you support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea?
Mauna Kea has become a very complicated situation and the question isn’t simply a yes or no answer. I believe that because of the University of Hawaii’s mismanagement of the land, this issue has become so controversial that it has pitted Hawaiians against Hawaiians as well as the general public.
Hawaiians are not against science, but since the UH has 14 telescopes on top of the mountain, some of them not being used and should have been decommission long ago, I can understand and agree with the Hawaiian community who say no more desecration on the mountain.
However, if there could be an amenable way for both sides to work together to make sure that all future development on the mountain is done responsibly and with the support of the Hawaiian community, this issue could be managed.
8. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?
DHHL is only for those Hawaiians who are of 50 percent blood quantum or more. Therefore, in my view, their responsibilities to those beneficiaries have been severely neglected because we are only speaking about a small percentage of the Hawaiian community. As long as the state, through the governor, is in charge of DHHL the department will never be able to responsively develop the kinds of housing that is needed for the Hawaiians who are on the list.
The state is mandated by law to fund DHHL, yet in the Cayetano and Lingle administrations, the DHHL was not fully funded in the state budget, making it impossible for DHHL to provide enough housing for all the Native Hawaiians on the list.
9. Do you support or oppose holding a state constitutional convention? Why or why not?
I oppose it because I believe any necessary changes within the state government can be made by putting it on a ballot in November or by asking your legislators to change the laws you object to.
10. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
I have always advocated for our beneficiaries to make sure that our trust dollars are spent on their needs. Housing, health, education, loans, grants and lawsuits that force authorities to live up to their responsibilities to Hawaiians.