I’ve been involved in homestead beginning farmer and gardening programs, developing the Molokai slaughterhouse and other infrastructure, and I’m actively involved in my community having served on the last two Molokai Community Plan Advisory Committees.

I’m a Hawaiian homesteader and also farm with my wife after work.

Jobie Masagatani is the perfect scapegoat to brush all that is not working at the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands under the carpet. I believe Jobie is the most qualified individual to take on this task, having also served as deputy director under Raynard Soon since the late 1990s.

The problems at DHHL have been there for decades with little movement toward systemic change and improvement. Her statement that “DHHL is not a housing agency” encapsulates the problem this agency continues to face, and will continue to face.

Jobie Masagatani, the director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, in 2017.

Anita Hofschneider/Civil Beat

DHHL probably has the highest percentage of temporary positions of any state agency as well as the smallest total staff. This situation creates instability in staffing with a high turnover rate when a permanent job comes along. It also hurts productivity when new staff has to be constantly trained before they can be proficient in tackling unique tasks.

There are some departments that have shrunk when they should be expanded, while others have so many vacant positions that it stifles progress.

The question begs to be answered, “Who is supposed to be looking after the Department of Hawaiian Homes?” The State of Hawaii or the State Legislature?

The Legislature, by their actions, is grandstanding for their own individual gain and “professional” progression and has done little to help because they don’t understand and are not willing to understand.

A Shared Responsibility

In order to build housing, DHHL needs to have expertise in this area and the bodies to carry projects through all phases of land development leading to award of new land or housing. Instead, state procurement laws force DHHL to go through unneeded steps that spike the cost of housing, much to the benefit of consultants and planning companies who reap millions from this agency.

DHHL must be allowed to fast-track housing as an emergency while conducting these tasks in-house to get Hawaiian families on the land today.

You can change the head, but the shriveled body remains the same.

Every state agency has a responsibility to uphold the provisions of the Hawaiian Homes Act. Instead, through executive order, millions of dollars in land for schools, airports, roads, and facilities were stolen from DHHL that could have been used for housing. The $19 million to settle Hawaiian Home Land claims was a scam that gave DHHL pennies to keep them poor in the future.

The state of Hawaii’s obligation to the Hawaiian Homes Act extends beyond DHHL to other state agencies. For example, what is the role of the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation is providing housing for Hawaiian families?

You can change the head, but the shriveled body remains the same. DHHL must have adequate permanent staff to be truly effective and productive in implementing new housing because money alone will do little if they don’t have the staff to bring projects to fruition.

With over 30,000 families on the waiting list, and assuming a family of five, this represents over 150,000 Hawaiians, many waiting for their first permanent home. This is a travesty and will not be resolved just by changing the director because “Hawaiian Homes is not a housing agency.”

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