Ka Lāhui Hawaiʻi Political Action Committee asked all the candidates running for Governor this year five questions on issues of concern for Kanaka Maoli:
1. Do you support the transfer/sale of any portion of the 1.8 million acres of “ceded lands” aka stolen Hawaiian lands out of the Department of Land and Natural Resources? Yes or No? Explain.
YES, but only under limited circumstances. While the United States Supreme Court in Hawaiʻi v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, 556 U.S. 163 (2009) affirmed the State’s sovereign authority to alienate state ceded lands pursuant to the Hawaiʻi Admissions Act of 1959, during my term as Governor, we have, as a matter of administration policy, not transferred or sold state ceded lands except for small remnant parcels and, in such case
s, consulted with OHA before doing so.
The State has a fiduciary responsibility to utilize ceded lands as enumerated in Section 5(f) of the Admissions Act “as a public trust for the support of the public schools and other public educational institutions, for the betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians * * *, for the development of farm and home ownership on as widespread a basis as possible for the making of public improvements, and for the provision of lands for public use.” As Governor, I need to balance the interest of the needs of the entire state, including making lands available for affordable home ownership, public schools in growing communities, and public infrastructure improvements, as well as preserving the trust corpus.
Yes, subject to the following: Without agreeing that the estimated acreage is 1.8M, the state’s portion should remain intact. However, given the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hawaii v. Office of Hawaiian Affairs, 556 U.S. 163 (2009), the federal government can control their portion (~400,000 acres) and the Hawaiian Homes Commission can control and be responsible for their portion (~200,000 acres) under the auspices of the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
The 1993 Apology Resolution stated that the transfer of the ceded lands in 1898 was done “without the consent of or compensation to the Native Hawaiian people of Hawaii or their sovereign government.” These lands were illegally taken from the native Hawaiian Monarchy; therefore, ceded lands should be protected and preserved for the use of the Hawaiian people. There are many Polynesian nations that only allow their indigenous people to own land in their country. Other people are allowed to lease but not to purchase. With the increasing cost of living and rising property prices, all Hawaiian lands should be retained for our people.
2. Do you support providing legal protections and automatic property tax exemptions to kuleana land owners confronted with quiet title actions and forced tax auctions? Yes or No? Explain.
YES. The real property tax assessment is provided by the respective counties, and all the counties currently provide some form of tax relief for kuleana property owners. For example, in Maui County, kuleana land owners may be eligible to pay no property tax; on Kauaʻi, kuleana land owners may be eligible for a flat $150 tax; in Hawaiʻi County kuleana landowners pay a $100 flat tax rate; and in the City and County of Honolulu, kuleana owners may be eligible to pay the minimum $300 property tax. I understand that kuleana lands have been subject to quiet title action, adverse possession, or loss of lands because the kuleana landowners could not pay the real property tax. Kuleana lands are extremely significant for those Hawaiian families that still own them as they are ancestral lands and they may include family burials. I support the real property tax relief provided, and legal protections.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to answer this question without knowing the history of specific kuleana parcels of land. Given the state’s history of longstanding support with state and trust funds, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation should continue to insure full and competent legal representation of the kuleana land owners.
Yes, I support legal protections and property tax exemptions for our kuleana land owners as it is a duty of our government as outlined in our laws and Hawai’i State Constitution to protect the rights of our kuleana land owners and their ancestral kuleana land itself. I believe it is vital that we as a government are actively developing sound policy and legal provisions which do in fact protect our kuleana land owners in practice, and that we set an example of prioritizing the land ownership of our Native Hawaiian people as they are entitled to protections of their rights to not only own these lands but to their rights to properly access, cultivate, gather, fish, and have sufficient clean water for these needs. The ability for kuleana land owners to exercise these rights and practices on kuleana lands are frustrated by high taxes and legal fees, and therefore require assistance and support from the same governing bodies by which these burdensome obstacles were largely created. As governor, I will support sound and practical legal protections and tax assistance programs implemented by our counties and state.
3. Do you support the building of the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea? Yes or No? Explain.
YES. I support both astronomy and the preservation of our cultural and natural resources on Mauna Kea, which means better management of the mountain. While I support the building of TMT on Mauna Kea, I also want to be very clear that the TMT must follow the legally required process. The building of TMT on Mauna Kea ensures that Hawaiʻi continues to be at the forefront of astronomical viewing and research and furthers our tradition of exploration. I strongly support and appreciate the advancement of STEM education, whether it’s through the exploration of the stars on Mauna Kea or the study of sea level rise around the islands to provide our children, especially Hawaiian children on Hawaiʻi island, opportunities for educational, cultural, scientific and economic advancement.
There are, however, conditions to my support (in addition to regulatory compliance). To preserve and protect cultural resources and practices on Mauna Kea, I strongly support the inclusion of Native Hawaiians in the improved management of Mauna Kea and believe entities that use state lands or resources should provide an appropriate benefit to the State. In addition, I have asked the University of Hawai’i to, among other things, commit to the TMT site being the last site on which a telescope will be sited, decommission certain telescopes and remove at least 25 percent of the telescopes by the time TMT is ready for operation, and return to the DLNR jurisdiction over all lands not specifically needed for astronomy (totaling over 10,000 acres).
Yes, however, that does not mean I support or agree with the manner in which the University of Hawaii (UH) has exercised stewardship of the mauna. Given the fact that the state funded the UH Hilo College of Hawaiian Language as a showing of good faith to the native Hawaiian community, it was an affirmation of our support for the construction of TMT.
I do not support the building of the 30 meter telescope on Mauna Kea. I do support astronomy and the scientific acquisition of knowledge in all fields. There is a long history of mismanagement on Mauna Kea. In 1968, the Board of Land and Natural Resources approved a 65 year lease to the University of Hawaii for the lands above the 12,000 foot level of Mauna Kea.
In 1998, the State Auditor did a report regarding the management of Mauna Kea. I encourage everyone to read the entirety of the document. The Auditor stated “We found that the University of Hawaii’s management of the Mauna Kea Science Reserve is inadequate to ensure the protection of natural resources…The University neglected historic preservation, and the cultural value of Mauna Kea was largely unrecognized…We found that the Department of Land and Natural Resources needs to improve its protection of Mauna Kea’s natural resources…We also found that permit conditions, requirements, and regulations were not always enforced.”
In 2005, the auditor did a follow up report in response to a Senate resolution. There was some progress but the auditor stated “the University still faces several management challenges such as the lack of administrative rule-making authority and weak permit monitoring…The Department of Land and Natural Resources has made some positive changes…However, we found that the leases, subleases, and permits are dated and the department, as landowner, has not provided a mechanism to ensure compliance with lease and permit requirements in protecting and preserving Mauna Kea’s natural resources.” Again, please take the time to read the report in its entirety.
In 2014, the auditor gave six recommendations to the University and two recommendations to DLNR. The auditor suggested again that there was no progress on administrative rules, the general lease needed to be reviewed, the comprehensive management plan was not complete, and that there were issues with collecting commercial fees.
In 2017, the auditor came back and reviewed all eight recommendations of which NONE were fully completed and only FOUR were partially completed. The auditor’s report outlines many of the large management issues however the comprehensive management plan is also a good document to read. The statements made in the comprehensive management plan regarding cultural significance and resources should be of importance to anyone considering their position on the matter. The role of Kahu Ku Mauna and the references to cultural advisors should be understood and the implementation or lack of implementation should guide appropriate questions to Office of Mauna Kea Management.
I respect that there are opinions contrary to mine and welcome the discussion. I have visited Mauna Kea multiple times and spoken with protectors, Office of Mauna Kea Management, Astronomers, the Dean of the University, and many others. I have read pages and pages of information to understand my position on the issue and encourage everyone to do their own research.
4. How do you deal with the houseless issue?
We use a multi-generational ‘Ohana Nui approach and invest in children and families. We help families break the cycle of poverty and address the root causes, or social determinants of health, which include healthcare, education, safety, living/work environments, and housing. To do this, we focus on:
Affordable Housing: Build more permanent housing and maximize the use of rental subsidies and vouchers to better utilize existing inventory. Streamline housing development by aligning rules and processes among state housing agencies.
Health and Human Services: When unsheltered persons are encountered, quickly connect them to housing and human services. Maximize efficiency by utilizing Medicaid and other funding streams for permanent supportive housing. Divert homeless persons from the criminal justice system.
Our efforts resulted in:
• Over 5,000 people statewide transitioning off the streets or maintaining their housing — a more than 50 percent increase over last year.
• Deploying legislative appropriations for health and human services, public safety, and data gathering — with half of the Housing First resources going to the neighbor islands.
• Placing more than 290 homeless people from the Kaka‘ako area into shelters or housing.
• Creating a new Family Assessment Center in Kaka`ako to connect families to housing and social services.
• Reducing the time to turn around vacant public housing units from over 265 days to one week.
• Helping hundreds of at-risk families by partnering with AUW. So far, 3,410 people have received financial help through a public-private partnership between the Department of Human Services and AUW.
• Provided the highest level of funding to DHHL in its 95-year history, while making major investments in DHHL infrastructure and undertaking maintenance projects.
• Working with our partners across the State, the number of homeless individuals statewide has dropped for two consecutive years, down almost 10 percent in 2018 and 8.8 percent in 2017.
The houseless issue is a complex multifactoral issue that merits a multifaceted approach. In addition to providing shelter and services for those willing, the state must actively lead and show true partnership with the counties in addressing the houseless issue statewide. While there are no easy answers, doing nothing – or doing the same things over and over again – will only make the problem worse. I will encourage new approaches by drawing, in part, on the successes achieved in other states and cities and do so in concert with the counties, non-governmental organizations and non-profits. We need to adopt more tools, including serious consideration of safe zones (with the provision of social services), so that we are not just chasing the problem from park to park, and underpass to underpass. We must have places for the houseless to go and to get the services they need. Additionally, in terms of native Hawaiians, there are trust lands and lands under the control of OHA for additional alternatives to houseless within the control of Hawaiians.
The houseless issue is one that currently needs to be addressed differently in every community. For example, the Wai’anae Pu’uhonua has come up with one model. I have worked with Aunty Twinkles and other leaders from this houseless community since becoming an elected official. We assisted in helping them establish a non-profit so they could apply for grants, find partnerships, and look for possible properties to relocate. We are still trying to assist by looking beyond the government for solutions and helping them to empower themselves.
My approach to the houseless issue is to find community solutions unique to each community. There is no one size fits all solution and each community has specific resources that can fill the gap where government falls short. This past session, the legislature passed SB 2401 spending $30 million on a safe-zone pilot program. Many were concerned about spending this quantity of money for a solution that does not provide permanent housing.
I was in favor of HB 2014 which would have establish permanent housing equipped with communal bathrooms, showers, access to public transportation, and provider services. HB 2014 proposed a $200 million plan to assemble 8,000 comfortable and safe modular homes that cost approximately $15 thousand per home, with 200-300 square feet of living space. I believe that this bill would have significantly lowered our houseless population within six years.
5. Would you support the allocation of funds to make all public acts and transactions available in Hawaiian? Yes or No? Explain
YES, I would support a proposal to allocate funds to make public acts and transactions available in Hawaiian; however, rather than an immediate allocation for all such acts and transactions, I would support a proposal that recognizes that limited resources require prioritization and a considered increase over time of public acts and transactions available in Hawaiian. Article XV, Section 4 of the Hawaiʻi State Constitution establishes Hawaiian and English as the official languages of Hawaiʻi and requires the use of Hawaiian language when provided by law and, in effect, recognizes a strong public interest in revitalizing the Hawaiian language. Over my career as a legislator and now as Governor, I have been a strong advocate for expanding Hawaiian language in the school system. During my early years in the legislature, I helped to launch the Hawaiian language immersion school pilot program that has evolved into a permanent program. Hawaiian language is the fastest growing language at the University of Hawaiʻi. During my administration, over $31 million has been awarded in federal grants for Native Hawaiian programs, through the University of Hawaiʻi system, who also partnered with Kamehameha Schools to advance Hawaiian language and culture.
Yes as an ultimate goal consistent with our State constitution. However, the ability to accomplish this goal will not be easily attained and will need to overcome significant challenges and obstacles.
Yes, the Hawaiian Language is an official language of the state of Hawaii and should be recognized as such. I introduced HR 110 and HCR 160, which unanimously passed in both the House and the Senate, to encourage the correct usage of Hawaiian names when referring to places and geographical features in Hawai’i. Signs, maps, and promotional material issued by the State, schools, and tourism entities should include the correct Hawaiian spelling and punctuation for geographical locations.
It is important to focus efforts on educating and promoting the Hawaiian language. I want to provide language access to all Native Hawaiians and encourage ‘Olelo Hawaii in our classrooms, state departments, and judiciary as the official language of our state.
KPAC received responses from David Ige, Colleen Hanabusa, and Andria Tupola.