Senate panels to pass ceded land bill
A bill to approve a multimillion-dollar settlement between the state and the Office of Hawaiian Affairs over the use of ceded lands will advance in the Legislature, even though lawmakers still have concerns over the measure.
Native Hawaiians were divided yesterday over the merits of the settlement during a five-hour hearing in the state Senate on the bill (SB2733).
Nearly 200 groups and individuals submitted verbal and written testimony.
The proposed settlement announced last month by OHA and Gov. Linda Lingle would resolve OHA's claims to the former Hawaiian monarchy lands used by the state. The state would give OHA $15.1 million a year in cash and nearly $200 million worth of state property, including resort property on Banyan Drive in Hilo and portions of Kakaako and Kalaeloa.
"OHA has a bad habit of making executive decisions on behalf of us, the kanaka maoli," said 37-year-old charter school teacher Andre Perez. "That is not the way to build trust. ... As a teacher in human relations, I have to give OHA a grade of F."
T.J. Mahoney Executive Director Lorraine Robinson said the settlement will help OHA continue to provide funding to programs to benefit Hawaiians.
"Approximately 60 percent of the residents in our program have Hawaiian ancestry," she said of her program, which helps women inmates make the transition back into society. "The support and funding we have received from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs has enabled us to address this social disparity in significant and meaningful ways."
OHA Administrator Clyde Namuo said the settlement was announced before the Legislature began its session to allow people to comment on it.
In a written news release, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Taniguchi and Sen. Jill Tokuda, chairwoman of the Senate's Committee on Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs, said the bill would go on to the Ways and Means Committee to allow further comment.
"Our passing this bill out of committee is not meant as any indication that we find the proposed settlement complete or satisfactory," Tokuda said in the news release.
Tokuda said more input is needed from native Hawaiian beneficiaries of OHA to make sure the settlement is in their best interests.
More meetings on settlement
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the state Attorney General will hold community meetings to discuss the ceded lands settlement:
» Wednesday: at the Waimanalo Library from 7 to 9 p.m.
» Friday: at Pearl City High School from 7 to 9 p.m.
» Saturday: at Maili Elementary School from 7 to 9 p.m.
» Feb. 18: at OHA Kulana Oiwi offices on Molokai from 7 to 9 p.m.
More meetings are being planned. Information gathered in the meetings will be included in a report to the Legislature.
Visit OHA's Web site at www.oha.org/pastdue/ for updates. A "Halawai Punaewele" or electronic meeting is also planned over the Internet on Feb. 22 at the same Web address.