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 Noelani Cashman-Aiu, candidate for Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees Hawaii island resident. Other candidates include Kauilani Almeida, Laura Desoto-McCollough, Louis Hao, Cyd Hoffeld, Pua Ishibashi, Lei Kihoi, Keola Lindsey, 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?
The pressing issues in Hawaii County are affordable housing, drugs and homelessness. These pressing issues are further complicated by the global COVID-19 pandemic. It is time we invest OHA resources in our community, our people and our economy.
With unemployment soaring and everyone’s livelihood in turmoil, we need to ensure OHA fulfills its purpose by providing resources toward improving conditions for Native Hawaiian. As a trustee, I will focus on increasing funds in the trust to improve our aina, perpetuate our culture, ensure economic self-sufficiency, education, governance and the health of our Native Hawaiians. We need to provide funds and resources to help drive and build long-term resiliency.
2. What would you do to change how OHA is run?
It is important to change the perception of the OHA Board of Trustees. The trustees are responsible for setting OHA policy and managing the agency’s trust. With my extensive leadership experience, I will bring civility to the boardroom.
I have been successful managing multimillion-dollar budgets, making strategic decisions to increase revenues and fulfill the needs of our staff and management. It is time to increase the funds in the trust, There are billions of dollars out there for OHA to support our Hawaiian Community. It is time for new blood, new energy, to get new results.
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?
By being visible, reaching out to the community and being a voice on the issues. I have always been a leader that is approachable and effective. My leadership style has always been to be well educated on the issues.
This requires taking the time to meet and listen to all concerned parties before making informed decisions. Communication is key to ensuring the Hawaiian community understand the role of OHA and the action that can and will be implemented on all the pertinent issues.
4. Do you support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea? Why or why not?
No, I oppose the project in its current form.
5. Do you support OHA providing financial aid to Mauna Kea protesters?
If the process for obtaining financial assistance is in line with the OHA polices governed, I am in support of the process.
6. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Homelands play in reducing homelessness?
I believe OHA and DHHL can be more creative in partnering to develop low-income assistance housing.
7. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?
We see a pattern across America with native people. After generations of being displaced from our land, culture and sense of self worth, Native Hawaiians struggle with drugs, homelessness and domestic violence.
Having affordable housing, better education and a sustainable economic model is a start. Until Native Hawaiians no longer feel disenfranchised in their own land it will be difficult to break the cycle.
8. What are your views regarding Hawaiian self-determination?
The Kingdom of Hawaii never ceased, but rather is being occupied by the United States. If you are speaking only of Kanaka Maoli that would be federal recognition and a government-to-government relationship with a Native Hawaiian governing entity. This would give Kanaka Maoli access to billions of dollars for education, housing, economic development and health care.
9. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
Everyone’s first question is “Why? Why run for Hawaii Island OHA Trustee?” The truth is, I witnessed firsthand the difficulty my parents faced building a home on DHHL land.
My father, Rocky Cashman shared in a Council of Native Hawaiian Advancement video, “what is sad is Hawaiians need more help from the people who are supposed to be helping them, and that is not happening.” I get emotional watching the video and those words continue to haunt me every day.
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is an organization tasked directly with helping Native Hawaiians and I am committed to ensuring that as a trustee, Hawaiians will get the help they need and deserve.