Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, August 18, 1997

Estate leaders need
a new perspective

HERE'S a suggestion for those in Hawaii who are too quick to become way too defensive: Take a hike up Diamond Head. I did yesterday, for the first time, and found scaling the popular East Oahu tourist attraction is good for the body. It's also good for the brain by jarring the underutilized power of perspective.

For novice mountaineers (like me), the crater is a formidable and frightening sight. Whoa, that's tall. Thus the trek begins with trepidation -- along a rocky path, through two dark tunnels, and up the steepest of staircases. Arrgghh, the pain of childbirth comes to mind.

Then, finally, the summit. You're in one of those "wish you were here" picture postcards. The panorama of ocean, mountains, skyscrapers and island suburbia is jaw-dropping stuff.

Looking at Oahu brings the realization that despite all of our economic troubles and turmoil, this place sure is special. And with such a reminder comes the revelation that, with all of this state's imperfections, there's hope for Hawaii.

First, though, people in a position to make formidable changes must consider other views of their jealously guarded little worlds.

For example, take the furor over at Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate. It all started when alumni, students and teachers began voicing their distress over the treatment of Mike Chun, president of Kamehameha Schools. They even staged a protest march to KS/BE's headquarters, where they were met by Board of Trustees chairman Dickie Wong.

Wong promised the protesters that he and the other trustees would review their demands and meet with the group. They never did.

Then on Aug. 9, in a Star-Bulletin opinion piece, five notable citizens had the gumption to point out a little thing (actually, it's a big thing when it comes to trusts) called possible "breach of fiduciary duty" by four of the five trustees.

How dare they, bellowed the Unfabulous Four behind closed doors. In public, Wong penned a long, eye-glazing rebuttal in the Sunday newspaper. Yup, these people are in serious denial.

But it's not too late. Dickie, Henry, Gerry and Lokelani should make a pilgrimage to Diamond Head pronto, especially before Governor Cayetano slaps an admission fee on one of Oahu's most beautiful vantage points.

After all, the four of them are already looking down on their constituency, the Hawaiian community and other residents. They might as well go to the crater and, while literally looking down on this entire state, maybe gain a new perspective of this whole ruckus.

CONTRARY to the trustees' belief, this is not a case of students and members of the "PTA" trying to block the ouster of Chun. This is not about a bunch of simpletons and grousers complaining about exorbitant lease-to-fee conversions by the biggest private landowner in Hawaii.

This is a certified case of a concerned citizenry wanting some serious answers, through interaction and communication, not secrecy and denials.

It's insulting for those who are depending on KS/BE -- and for taxpayers who must fork over their fair share while the trust enjoys its tax-exempt status -- to be ignored while serious charges loom.

If the Unfabulous Four are unable to see THAT, perhaps they should consider the aforementioned option of, well, taking a hike.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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