Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 3 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 Lanakila Mangauil, candidate for Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees Hawaii island resident. The other candidate is Keola Lindsey.
1. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing Native Hawaiians? What will you do about it?
Securing access to safe and affordable housing is one of the greatest challenges kanaka oiwi face. Here, in our ancestral homeland, whether it be through real estate speculation or the desecration of our sacred sites, we are continually subject to forces that disrupt our connection with the aina and undermine our ability to thrive.
Rectifying this injustice requires an immediate expansion of housing opportunities for kanaka, including the return of kuleana lands to their rightful owners. As an OHA trustee, I will work to create these opportunities by leveraging the resources dedicated to improving the health and well-being of kanaka maoli and maximizing their impact through partnerships with the institutions that manage those resources. This means taking the lead on building effective relationships within OHA as well as with DHHL and our Hawaiian trusts.
Kanaka should never have to leave their homeland just to survive; managing the resources available to us in creative, equitable and responsible ways will allow us to reconnect with the aina and restore the vitality that connection brings.
2. What would you do to change how OHA is run?
OHA is ineffective to the extent that it operates like a typical bureaucracy. As managers of an agency dedicated exclusively to Hawaiian affairs, its trustees have the opportunity to abandon policies that further colonize its beneficiaries in favor of ones that truly improve their lives. This means rejecting corporatist analyses that place the highest value on institutional profits in favor of metrics that directly track gains in health, prosperity and sustainability.
The way OHA manages the system of contracts it relies on to provide beneficiary services must be reformed, with more accountability throughout the process. I will call for increased transparency regarding how contracts are awarded and more professionalism regarding how the small businesses and organizations that win them are treated. Existing grant making and reporting requirements are unnecessarily complex and burdensome; fulfilling such requirements should not take up more than 2.5% of the awardee’s budget. When it comes to payments, the petty politics that often stall them must end; trustees must make a commitment to vote on proposed grants/contracts in a timely fashion.
With a sincere commitment to accountability on all levels, the investment OHA makes in kanaka today will deliver the highest return on investment tomorrow.
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?
Although exploiting the flaws in our current economic system is a favorite tactic among the developers and corporations that disrespect our aina, the idea that recent attempts to do this have created “gaps within the Native Hawaiian community” that need “bridging” is unfounded. Differences do exist, and (just like everyone else on the planet) we kanaka are entitled to ours, but because these particular differences were created by outside forces offering short-term economic rewards to some, they will never outlast the legacy of aloha all Hawaiians share.
Kanaka forced to choose between feeding their families and harming others in their community are caught in a pattern of exploitation that must and will end. No matter how we feel about the TMT or Kahuku windmills, our shared vision of a circular economy that creates abundant and sustainable economic opportunities for all is bringing us together.
4. Do you support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope atop Mauna Kea? Why or why not?
I do not support the construction of TMT atop Mauna Kea. My primary concern is further destruction to this sacred wahipana — a rare, delicate ecosystem currently protected as conservation lands — but I am also concerned about the impact its successful completion would have on other precious places throughout Hawaii.
Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Michael Wilson’s dissent regarding the state’s decision to allow construction of the TMT warned of the dangerous precedent set when BLNR took the position that past degradation on conservation lands made future degradation acceptable. Like Wilson, I take exception to the perverse logic that first allowed 13 telescopes to be built on Mauna Kea based on the falsehood that none of them would have an impact on this sacred place, then permitted the TMT based on the claim that the mauna was already degraded by telescopes.
Such blatant disregard for the laws that protect the places we hold dear cannot be tolerated. When Manoa Valley homeowners fought to protect Waahila Ridge conservation lands from desecration by 100-foot electrical towers, no one branded them “anti-electricity.” Instead, they were celebrated. Applauding that fight while demeaning the Mauna Kea protectors is nothing less than racism.
5. Do you support OHA providing financial aid to Mauna Kea protesters?
Absolutely. OHA’s mission is to support the well-being of its beneficiaries and one of the primary ways it accomplishes this is by upholding Hawaiian culture. The financial aid OHA provided not only made it possible for the kanaka maoli who gathered on Mauna Kea to exercise their constitutional right to protest in a safe way, it also upheld their right to protect their ancestral lands. Providing this kind of support is clearly within the kuleana of the office.
6. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Homelands play in reducing homelessness?
DHHL’s mission is “to manage the Hawaiian Home Lands trust effectively and to develop and deliver lands to Native Hawaiians,” but the slow pace at which it accomplishes this mission has been a significant contributing factor to the high rates of “houselessness” among kanaka oiwi. The primary reason for this failure is DHHL’s preference for colonial development models, which it uses to justify its legacy as a developer of commercial real estate.
The department builds shopping malls so it can afford to build subdivisions, with the money in both cases going to engineers and the construction industry. As for the “self-sufficient and healthy communities” DHHL aspires to create, more often than not, kanaka who manage to secure a DHHL lease find themselves locked into a lifestyle that has them working two jobs just to make ends meet.
By investing instead in low-impact communities modeled on Hawaiian cultural values and making this option available to kanaka who prefer this lifestyle, DHHL can make better use of the funding currently going to capital intensive, highly engineered projects, promote the food-secure, energy self-sufficient approaches relevant to the future and more quickly deliver land to kanaka who need it most.
7. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?
Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system because we have been disproportionately targeted by institutional and implicit racism.
What began with the illegal overthrow of our nation and the displacement of families from ancestral lands, continues in the form of foreign schooling practices that divorce one generation after the next from their culture, heritage and identity, creating a school-to-prison pipeline that destroys lives while it enriches those who profit from incarceration.
Alternative education programs designed to reconnect Hawaiians with their culture are starting to make a difference and OHA should take every opportunity to increase the number and expand the reach of such programs, but it also needs to be there for those caught up in state and federal criminal justice systems, speaking out against the proven biases in sentencing practices, allocating resources toward more culturally sound and holistic redirection programs, seeking ways to improve inmate care, and providing more support services for kanaka transitioning back into their communities.
8. What are your views regarding Hawaiian self-determination?
Self-determination means creating our own path forward, envisioning the future that suits us best and working together to bring it about without the guidance, oversight or approval of anyone else. United States Public Law 103-150 clearly established the overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom as an illegal act that in no way divested kanaka maoli of their inherent sovereignty or their ancestral lands.
This admission leaves both the State of Hawaii and the U.S. government with no authority over the process of Hawaiian self-determination. OHA trustees are bound by their fiduciary duty to the kanaka maoli, not the State of Hawaii, and they have an important role to play in facilitating, not dictating, the process.
9. What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
During this time of awakening, when Hawaii faces great challenges that can be better met through the wisdom of its indigenous people, it is critical for the generation raised with a strong cultural foundation, unafraid to be kanaka in our homelands and fully capable of resisting the colonizer mentality, to not only have our voices heard but to also serve as leaders.
Hawaii is many things to many people, but for those of us who have embraced the revival of our ancient cultural heritage, Hawaii is both our home and our kuleana. My decision to run for the office of OHA trustee is grounded in the responsibility I feel to put the values instilled in me to the best and highest use; it stems from the commitment I made to seek justice for those who sacrificed their land, their language and their identity to survive.
The strength and inspiration I draw from those who went before me feeds the determination and innovative thinking I bring to the position of Hawaii resident trustee. We can release the fears and prejudices that stifled us in the past and create a better future for ourselves and our keiki.