Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Aug. 13 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 Kealii Makekau, candidate for Office of Hawaiian Affairs at-large trustee. The other candidates for three seats include Z. Ka’apana Aki, Julian Ako, U’i Kahue-Cabanting, Brickwood Galuteria, Lei Ahu Isa, Sam King, Chad Owens, William Paik, Keoni Souza and John Waihee IV.

Go to Civil Beat’s Election Guide for general information, and check out other candidates on the Primary Election Ballot.

Candidate for Office of Hawaiian Affairs At-Large Trustee

Kealii Makekau
Party Nonpartisan
Age 51
Occupation Building management/transportation
Residence Honolulu


Community organizations/prior offices held

Order of Kamehameha 1; Elks Club No. 616.

1. What do you see as the most pressing problem facing Native Hawaiians, and what will you do about it?

Lack of housing, education, land management, health care, fiscal resilience and economic sustainability of Native Hawaiian assets sadly are all rolled into one.

OHA’s mandate is to improve the well-being of Native Hawaiians. Dealing with complex issues like this, OHA could start reducing these conditions with awarding grants to proven nonprofits and working with credible stakeholders in the community statewide.

With OHA being the 13th-largest landowner in the state, it is in a position to start its own housing/residential project and provide assistance to this much needed and long overdue endeavor.

2. 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?

Community engagement! But for specific issues like this, geothermal and other renewable energy projects, it has to start on the island where it will directly affect the people who live in and around those areas.

Hawaii island already undertakes these types of projects so this is the place to start these partnerships. Then take the plan to every island and issue a report outlining the communities’ concerns. Right now the people are not being heard or represented, just told what’s going to happen.

3. Do you support the construction of the TMT atop Mauna Kea? Why or why not? Could a new management structure help to resolve long-standing disputes?

No. Until such time that four, perhaps five, of the obsolete telescopes are decommissioned and removed, followed by an environmental impact statement of the area, and then implementation of a community-based transition plan both current and post, detailing the provisions in the master lease.

New members to the 11 positions appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate are needed, not a recycling of the old ones.

4. What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?

The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act intended to return Native Hawaiians to the land. Through its passage 200,000 acres were set aside for Native Hawaiians of 50% blood quantum to have a chance at home ownership, thus aiding in their repopulation. Sadly this department hasn’t been doing this, thus those on the waiting list have died or moved on with their life.

Overhauling this department and lowering the blood quantum is a priority, but development of these lands and putting homes on them for beneficiaries so that the Native Hawaiians have access to them remains the final outcome.

OHA already collaborates with DHHL and gives $3 million annually to aid with its mandate.

5. Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?

For some Hawaiians the Western model of living doesn’t work or relate to the value system needed to thrive in today’s world. With issues like no housing, lack of health care, limited educational resources and no access to the aina in their homeland, what does one do to survive?

With the cost of living way too high, relocation to the mainland for some is the last hope but not a consideration for others. Hawaiian charter schools have shown amazing results, thus yielding a percentage of positive results all around.

Funding for programs like this and traditional rehab for inmates will help to reduce the dismal numbers and restore a vibrant community and ohana. For others, just access to the land for aloha aina is another solution.

6. What are your views regarding Hawaiian self-determination?

Queen Lili’uokalani issued her protest letter to the President of the United States. In doing so it was the origin of the effort to re-establish the lawful government of these islands. By never surrendering to the United States, she has given her descendants the ability to revive their lawful government.

The nation of the Kingdom of Hawaii, being recognized pursuant to Act of Congress, Public Law 103-150, 107 Stat. 1510, is under obligation to proceed to full recognition. All it takes is commitment from the people to do the work necessary to bring it back from its current state of impairment. The kingdom will not rebuild itself. The United States will not restore it to you. With the help of God and neighbor, you will have to do it yourself.

It is, therefore, within the perfect right of the Hawaiian people to commence and complete sovereignty reinstatement procedures by working together! We cannot change the past, but the present time is ours. Let the moment and opportunity be used wisely for the greatest good.

7. Is OHA getting its fair share of ceded-land revenues from the state?

No! This year we have seen great strides in strengthening the public lands trust and increasing the $15.1 million annual cap imposed on OHA. But until such time that the Legislature and the governor provide a solid plan from an audit done on ceded lands’ inventory and use, and eliminating the undervalued award of “the infamous $1” for those lands, we will continue to see the backlog and delayed payment required by law.

Thus more deals and settlements like the Kakaako Makai property will be the outcome, leaving the beneficiaries with less than what’s owed and what they started off with in reality.

8. Is OHA fulfilling its mandate to serve the Hawaiian people?

No! For the last two decades we’ve seen OHA be in the spotlight of only a few things:

— In-house fighting between trustees and administrators over how resources should be used.

— Massive spending on failed projects like federal recognition and the creations of several LLCs that won’t show their books to the auditor or the beneficiaries for transparency.

— FBI and local authorities’ investigations into financial malfeasance and questionable spending practices causing staff to resign in droves.

— An independent audit that was supposed to be on OHA itself but instead get scaled back to only a mere five years and few subject matters that revealed major red flags but still no accountability.

— In the midst of all this, another reorganization of OHA itself that is still ongoing.

— Lastly the return of former politicians and name recognition candidates, all too eager to run for and restart their ambitious climb back into public service.

9. Is Hawaii managing its tourism industry properly? What should be handled differently?

Plainly put, no! The mighty dollar has enslaved Hawaii’s lawmakers and workforce so much that despite decades of promises to find and promote other areas for economic growth, we still see enormous amounts of tourists coming here even in a pandemic. Pollution is evident everywhere from land, sea and air.

Combined with violence and hate-related crimes that are on the rise, the military contaminates the drinking water for both the public and their own people and dismisses the issue entirely.

We need to regulate how many visitors can come here and have tougher environmental laws for public and sacred sites.

10. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed numerous flaws in Hawaii’s structure and systems, from outdated technology to economic disparity. If you could take this moment to reinvent Hawaii, to build on what we’ve learned and create a better state, a better way of doing things, what would you do? Please share One Big Idea you have for Hawaii. Be innovative, but be specific.

Term limits for all elected officials. We’ve seen a lot here in Hawaii, yet we still want change and with it the opportunity to be free and safe while in pursuit of knowledge and happiness. Majority of our elected officials have been in office for many years relying mostly on name recognition and family ties to retain power while stalling or killing bills and thus keeping everything at a stalemate.

With ranking members of the Legislature recently found guilty of bribery and other crimes, then another two getting DUI arrests with less than harsh sentences, awareness of this malfeasance is very prevalent.

But Hawaii’s recycling process of political candidates continues, thus almost ensuring that things will return to their same old lackluster do-nothing self. Term limits offer a good, not perfect, chance to see new ideas presented, less do-nothing politics and insure our democracy is working for all.

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