Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Thursday, January 9, 1997

Bishop trustees should be more active

WHERE will our future visionary, community-minded leaders come from in a state where absentee ownership steadily increases? I ask this even though a few absentee-owned businesses are also good community contributors.

Often I have said that we will have to rely more on our elected leaders in government. With a weakening community-committed private structure, their leadership is becoming ever more important.

Our governor and mayors are good. But too often, in our Legislature in particular, we focus on peanut politics rather than being visionary and community-minded.

Labor has not yet produced any statesman to replace the ILWU's late Jack Hall. The University of Hawaii is more or less doing its share, stronger in some areas than others.

Business is still a major contributor but from a narrower base of committed leaders - a few banks, the utilities, DFS, not too many more. They still have to battle the suspicion that they can't be community-minded because they are profit-minded, as if the two can't go together.

So where else do we look for vision? My answer is our big landed estates.

No. 2 Campbell Estate is doing pretty well. Not so No. 1, Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate. KS/BE's trustees and top staff, with one exception, just aren't making themselves available for community leadership in the way other big local entities have done.

Yet they control more land in the state than any other private entity. And the estate was founded by a very community-minded member of the alii, Princess Bernice Pauahi Bishop. The trustees revere her in their annual reports but are delinquent in showing the community-mindedness royalty displayed.

Yes, they run a school system as she decreed. And, yes, they administer her lands and thereby affect the cost-of-living statewide. But they do it with a narrowness of focus uncharacteristic of such great wealth in Hawaii.

Trustee Richard Wong is a former state Senate president, Henry Peters a former House speaker, Lokelani Lindsay a former Maui schools superintendent - all spots in the public eye. But what are they doing for the public today aside from administering the estate's business?

Only trustee Oswald Stender pops up regularly on community and business boards and in leadership roles. Are the others bashful?

At the James Campbell Estate, the culture Stender came from, it is official policy to encourage community participation, most particularly in the areas where the estate holds lands, but also on a statewide basis.

The 1996 board chairman, Dudley Pratt, says Campbell Estate trustees think community participation is good for the estate: "In the long run our success as a business entity depends on how the community views us and how the politicians view us."

THE four trustees and all staff executives are encouraged to give time to the community since the overseeing court, in protecting the beneficiaries, limits charitable donations to less than 1 percent of estate income. Beneficiaries for their part have created a trust, now at $6 million, to support scholarships and health projects.

Pratt sits on 20 nonprofit boards and is an officer of 15, including the Boy Scouts and preservation groups. Trustee Paul Casey is honcho for the Contemporary Museum among other things. Trustee Clinton Churchill headed a Vision 2000 conference aimed at improving and streamlining health care. The newest trustee, David Heenan, was a longtime volunteer for business.

Campbell people have pitched in for housing, health, education, the visitor industry, arts and culture and Aloha United Way. Gifts of time rather than money take a lot out of you, says Pratt, who may be overdoing it, yet feels they are worthwhile.

Come on out, KS/BE trustees. The community needs your input.

A.A. Smyser is the Star-Bulletin's contributing editor.
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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