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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, October 28, 2002

Big issues await new OHA board

 •  Candidates for OHA

By Vicki Viotti
Advertiser Staff Writer

Those who track the Office of Hawaiian Affairs have sized up this race as the most crucial ever for a board of trustees that will have to tangle with a few ferocious tigers on the political front: ceded lands revenue, nationhood and legal challenges to Native Hawaiian claims.

Five seats — one each from Maui and O'ahu and three to be elected at large — will be filled in the Nov. 5 general election. Among the 23 candidates are incumbents John Waihe'e IV, Oswald "Oz" Stender and Rowena Akana, all vying for the at-large posts.

Other well-known names in the race include former OHA administrator and past Hawai'i mayor Dante Carpenter; former state senator A.K.U. "Tony" Chang; former trustee Roy Benham; Darrow Aiona, on the state school board from 1974 to 1996; and Boyd Mossman, a former Maui Circuit Court judge.

Others on the nine-member OHA board are Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona, Linda Dela Cruz, Colette Machado and Donald Cataluna, whose terms expire in 2004.

OHA elections have mattered to more voters since 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court opened them to non-Hawaiian voters and candidates, on the basis that a state election cannot discriminate on the basis of race.

OHA recently positioned itself as the lead agency in the drive for federal recognition of Native Hawaiian nationhood. Many in the Hawaiian community see that drive, which has stalled in Washington, as essential to counter a withering assault of lawsuits challenging the legality of Hawaiians-only programs.

Of more immediate concern is the fate of nearly 2 million acres of ceded lands, the former crown and government property transferred to the state under the 1959 Admission Act. Until about a year ago, revenue for state use of the lands came to OHA but that flow was halted by a state Supreme Court ruling that invalidated the formula the state had used to calculate the total debt. Estimates of the debt have ranged from $300 million to $1.2 billion.

The issue was not resolved in the last legislative session, and the OHA board vowed to hold the state's feet to the fire on that issue when lawmakers reconvene in January.

The Advertiser surveyed the candidates. Three — Frankie Kawelo and Demetrius Keliiholokai in the at-large contest and Wilmont Kahaialii Jr. in the Maui race — did not return completed questionnaires. Kahaialii said he has decided against campaigning and is supporting Mossman.

Despite the opening of the race to non-Hawaiians, all candidates but Chang assert Native Hawaiian origins. Chang said his Native Hawaiian ancestry is "unknown" because his father, who was raised in a Chinese-American home, was adopted.

The larger question voters must ask of candidates, Apoliona said, is whether they're principled and qualified to handle the legislative issues, the budgets and other realities of trusteeship.

"I would say it's very critical in terms of the candidate elected to have competency, compassion for community and character," she said. "We have to move away from past politicized nature of OHA. We are on a very positive road away from that."

Past trustee Frenchy De Soto agreed, adding a question candidates must ask themselves.

"The question is, do you believe you have skills to bring people together, rather than being divisive? That's important," she said.

It's difficult to sort through 23 candidates, said trustee Clayton Hee, whose unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor precluded a bid for OHA re-election. That's why, Hee said, state law should be changed to make OHA candidates go through a primary election to winnow the field.

"Then it becomes easier for the electorate to understand the differences between candidates," he said.

Trustees now seem more focused on the mission of forming a Hawaiian nation, said Ray Soon, who chairs both the Hawaiian Homes Commission and a nonprofit called the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement.

"I think this is an incredibly important election," Soon said. "OHA is finally, in my mind, stepping up to the role that was always intended to be the interim step to the formation of a Hawaiian nation. I hope the next board stays on that mission."

• • •

Candidates for OHA
Here is a list of Office of Hawaiian Affairs candidates, including, for those who answered The Advertiser survey, their current job and the top priority they identified for OHA trustees:
State at-large (3 seats)
• Darrow Aiona: Pastor, St. Mark's Episcopal Church.

Top priority: "As a respected united board, I would seek immediate ceded land settlement to carry on OHA's work."

• Rowena Akana: OHA trustee.

Top priority: "Returning to negotiations with the state on a final settlement on ceded lands."

• Roy Benham: Retired federal employee.

Top priority: "Recognition by the U.S. as Native Americans (passage of the Akaka bill)."

• Mike Hanohano: Motor vehicle control inspector, Hawai'i County Police Department.

Top priority: "Try putting Hawaiians on land with affordable housing."

• Adrian Kamali'i: College student and research analyst.

Top priority: "I would rekindle ceded lands negotiations with the state, and urge for a settlement."

• Frankie Kawelo: Did not return questionnaire.
• Demetrius Keliiholokai: Did not return questionnaire. • Charles Nakoa: Retired executive director, Queen Lili'uokalani Children's Center.

Top priority: "A strong team by reviewing/modifying policies and operational procedures."

• Oswald Stender: OHA trustee, real estate consultant/broker.

Top priority: "Federal recognition and settlement of ceded land issue; separation of OHA from the state and the creation of a sovereign trust to serve Hawaiians."

• John Waihe'e IV: OHA trustee.

Top priority: "Fix OHA's financial situation via legislation, economic development, federal funding and intelligent portfolio diversification."

Maui (1 seat)
• Wilmont Kahaialii Jr.: Did not return questionnaire. • George Kaimiola: Self-employed lecturer on Hawaiian history and culture.

Top priority: "Get benefits to beneficiaries and raise standard of living in Hawaiian community."

• Boyd Mossman: Self-employed, Judicial Services Hawaii (dispute resolution).

Top priority: "Defend Hawaiian entitlements while seeking federal recognition or equivalent."

• Robert Wilcox IV: Minister, Church of the First Born "Jesus Christ," hotel security guard.

Top priority: "Homes for Hawaiians."

O'ahu (1 seat)
• Louis "Buzzy" Agard: Aide to OHA trustee Charles Ota.

Top priority: "To pursue the resumption of ceded lands money now being held."

• Dante Carpenter: Legislative engineering and planning consultant.

Top priority: "Legislation establishing entitlement definition of, and allocation for, funds due from ceded trust."

• A.K.U. "Tony" Chang: Attorney.

Top priority: "Pursue ceded lands claims and expand revenues for program development."

• Jerry Freeman: Security officer.

Top priority: "To unite the Hawaiian people as one."

• Leona Kalima: OHA housing and community development specialist.

Top priority: "Restoration of ceded land revenue and inventory. Recognition, federal and international. Funds for Hawaiian needs."

• Orrin Kupau: Self-employed, part-time employee with Friends of Iolani Palace.

Top priority: Diversify OHA revenue stream and finally unify all Hawaiians, once and for all."

• M. Kehaulani Rezentes: Political science graduate student, University of Hawai'i at Manoa; researcher, Kia'i 'Aina Project.

Top priority: "A comprehensive inventory of ceded lands."

• Charles Rose: Retired police captain, retired investigator for public defender.

Top priority: "Encourage the formation of our governmental entity, with OHA providing the necessary funding."

• Marion Shim: retired OHA trustee aide.

Top priority: "The coalescing of Hawaiian leaders and organizations to work on self-governance with one voice."