OHA's restructuring results in 12 layoffs


POSTED: Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Office of Hawaii Affairs is laying off at least 12 employees under a new strategic plan that will shift the agency's focus from fulfilling individual needs to becoming a public policy advocate for Hawaiians.

The six-year plan eliminates 28 of 178 positions, including 16 vacant positions, said OHA Administrator Clyde Namuo.

The restructuring, which will start as soon as next month, will save about $500,000 a year, he said.

It remains unclear which employees will be cut as some could move into newly created positions, he said.

OHA's funding has been hit by the economy, but that wasn't the cause for the layoffs, Namuo said.

The agency's $32 million budget comes from 5 percent of its $334 million portfolio, a $2.3 million allocation from the state general fund and $15 million in ceded lands revenue.

The state reduced general funds for OHA from $3 million to $2.3 million this year.

Although OHA's portfolio has rebounded from a $260 million low in April, it is still about $102 million below last year's high.

“;It wasn't really the economy,”; Namuo said. “;Our previous strategic plan runs until about 2011 and (we) felt like it's time”; for a new plan.

The 2010 plan will focus on improving six areas for Hawaiians: education, health, culture, governance, economic self-sufficiency, and land and water.

“;This is the most dynamic and powerful initiative we have ever launched in our organization's history,”; said Haunani Apoliona, chairwoman of the OHA board of trustees.

She said the new plan will streamline the organization and provide three objectives: advocacy for native Hawaiians, research and assets management.

The change provides clarity to OHA's priorities and determines precise areas of need rather than broadly dispersing resources, she said.

As a sign of OHA's new identity, the agency will increase research positions to six from one. Researchers will compile baseline data to be used for creating targets; progress on those targets will be monitored twice a year.

In education, for example, OHA would study why Hawaiian populations don't do as well as other groups and create public policy to address that, helping a larger group of people, Namuo said.

By contrast, OHA spent $2.3 million last year for 2,000 native Hawaiian children in charter schools, while 65,000 Hawaiian children are in the school system.

It is OHA's first plan since 2002 and generated nearly 3,000 comments since its inception last year.

OHA will continue to support community groups, Namuo said, adding that those needs will diminish as OHA's new focus makes the Hawaiian population healthier.