Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 8 Primary 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 Keola Lindsey, candidate for Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees Hawaii island resident. Other candidates include Kauilani Almeida, Noelani Cashman-Aiu, Laura Desoto-McCollough, Louis Hao, Cyd Hoffeld, Pua Ishibashi, Lei Kihoi, Lanakila Mangauil, Louis Pau and Kalaniakea Wilson.
1. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Native Hawaiians? What will you do about it?
Health: I define this specific issue to include the vulnerability of Native Hawaiians to chronic diseases, the need for insurance coverage to be able to afford culturally appropriate treatment from care providers, regular access to nutritious foods and stress caused by the high cost of living, the continuous threats to our land and ocean resources and impacts to our cultural sites and ancestral burials. These and other factors determine the physical, emotional, cultural and spiritual well-being of our families and communities.
OHA must increase our support — whether it be through grant or contract funding, research or capacity building — to and strengthen our relationships with organizations that are already subject matter experts in the health care field and direct service providers.
OHA commits significant resources to land and ocean issues, and cultural site and burial protections and we must continue to do so. In all areas we must work with partner organizations and the community to identify policy and law gaps at the federal, state and county levels and advocate for changes where necessary.
2. What would you do to change how OHA is run?
Increase our presence in the community to regularly share what we are doing and receive input from our beneficiaries on what issues are most important to them and how OHA can help. There may be an impression in our community that the only way for a Hawaii island issue to be addressed is to report it to our Honolulu office or fly to Oahu and meet there to discuss.
Island issues should be addressed on that island by the people from that place, who know the situation the best. Whether it be a federal, state or county issue, OHA must be in a position with resources in place to address it quickly and efficiently. OHA has done well in recent years to start taking this approach. We must continue on this path.
3. What would you do to bridge the gaps within the Native Hawaiian community over issues like construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope or development of energy projects?
The Native Hawaiian community must be meaningfully represented at every step of the process from early planning to the decision-making level to best address issues that affect us. It is unacceptable to remain “consulting” or “advisory” parties to planners and decision makers only to have our input and positions continually ignored.
With that said, to be successful and legitimate a given planning and decision-making structure must have clear processes, require a commitment for all stakeholders to cooperate and act responsibly, and recognize existing laws and policies.
For over a decade, I worked within the nationally and internationally recognized co-management structure of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (PMNM) and believe it is a good model that gives equal voice to all stakeholders (including the Native Hawaiian community) at the “decision making table.” Some of the foundational components of the PMNM management structure could be considered for implementation elsewhere.
4. Do you support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea? Why or why not?
I am neutral on the construction of the TMT. All stakeholders have the right to respectfully and peacefully express their positions and take actions they feel are necessary. The laws, processes and court opinions of the State of Hawaii, and other factors will determine the final outcome for this project.
5. Do you support OHA providing financial aid to Mauna Kea protesters?
I support OHA providing financial aid to ensure the safety and health of all of our beneficiaries who are respectfully and peacefully expressing their position regarding Mauna Kea whether it be for, against or neutral. When it comes to safety and health issues, and constitutional protections OHA is mandated to serve all of our beneficiaries whether it be regarding Mauna Kea or any other issue affecting Native Hawaiian interests.
6) What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?
The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) must be adequately funded and award land leases to those who are eligible and eliminate their waitlist. While DHHL may be a stakeholder, the issue of Native Hawaiian homelessness and homelessness in Hawaii overall is the responsibility of a broad range of stakeholders including OHA and we must work with and support other organizations knowledgeable of and directly involved in the factors and issues that result in homelessness to provide solutions.
However it is defined, having a home that meets the needs of an individual or family and feeling safe in that home and community is a basic right Native Hawaiians and all people of Hawaii are entitled to.
7. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?
There are multiple factors that have contributed to this generational issue where Native Hawaiians entering the criminal justice system accumulate through all age groups. There is a need for adequate funding for prevention and early intervention programs for at-risk youth.
There is a lack of culturally based programs and mental health and counseling service providers for those who come into contact with the criminal justice system. Ex-offenders who have served their punishment face barriers in employment, housing and reintegration into the community.
With all of these factors and barriers in place, there are limited options and a high risk of repeat offenses and a return into the system. Effective change in the criminal justice system requires long-term cooperation and coordination between government agencies and community/private organizations. OHA must continue to be a part of this effort.
8. What are your views regarding Hawaiian self-determination?
I believe OHA’s focus at this time must be on health, education, housing and economic stability, and protecting existing federal programs and funding that benefit the Hawaiian community.
9. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
The programs, services and activities funded by OHA and the outcomes set forth in our strategic plan in the areas of health, education, housing and economic stability serve to fulfill our mandate to work toward the betterment of the conditions of Native Hawaiians.
I believe that improving the conditions of Native Hawaiians improves Hawaii for everyone who has the privilege of calling these islands home. OHA has faced many challenges over the 40 years since our creation. In recent years, the OHA Board of Trustees and administration have cooperated to address identified issues by developing and approving a range of policies and procedures.
To do more, the formula is simple. OHA must increase the revenue coming in and send it into our community. I believe OHA must aggressively pursue the development of the 30 acres of land in Kakaako Makai and see it achieve its true economic potential for our beneficiaries.
We must explore other economic initiatives in areas such as agri-business (including aquaculture and other marine activities), high technology, alternative energy and perhaps a form of tourism that is in alignment with appropriate values. We cannot afford to wait and hope while others define our realm of possibilities. We must take initiative to generate the needed financial resources that will allow us to shape the future we desire.