View Point

By Rowena M.N. Akana

Wednesday, December 29, 1999

OHA has accomplished
much in ’99

I appreciate the opportunity to share the gratification and, unfortunately, a few disappointments as I celebrate my first year as chairwoman of the board of trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

I promised that I would keep everyone informed about what OHA is currently working on, and I am delighted to report the successful programs, actions and items that our board has seen to fruition during the last six months:

Bullet The trustees launched a successful initiative winning Hawaiians and the state the support of U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman in the Rice vs. Cayetano case. He filed a brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to consider OHA's election to be constitutional.

Bullet We approved amendments to a bill extending the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act to Hawaiians.

Bullet Grants totaling almost $117,000 were awarded for native Hawaiian projects.

Bullet $1.2 million was appropriated to guarantee a loan supporting the Hawaii County Department of Water Supply's application for federal funds for road construction and clearing Hawaiian homestead lots in Kikala-Keokea.

Bullet We approved funds for initiatives in alternative education and voted to support the Dollars-to-Classroom Act.

Bullet We amended the Native Hawaiian Health Care Improvement Act to widen its scope; and appropriated $120,000 for the Molokai Dialysis Treatment Center and $7,200 for home kidney dialysis machines.

Bullet We included in our money monitor's contract a provision for a "wrapped" fee.

Bullet We resolved our native plant project to the administration for Native Americans for funding.

Regretfully, OHA's board appropriated only a small fraction for self-determination consensus-building workshops. Only $243,000 was earmarked for community education by Paepae Hanohano, OHA's volunteer self-determination advisory board. The request had been for $1.06 million for two years.

The board also deadlocked on the Native Hawaiian Health Care Initiative. This project was aimed to supplement the Medicare Part B of 23,000 needy kupuna. On Maui, we heard 31/2 hours of testimony from kupuna urging trustees to act favorably. The issue was revisited on Oahu, when neighbor island kupuna flew in to testify in its favor.

An independent task force made up of outstanding professionals such as former OHA trustee Gladys Brandt, Dr. Charman Akina and attorney Beadie Dawson recommended the plan.

Trustees Clayton Hee, Colette Machado, Haunani Apoliona and A. "Frenchy" DeSoto objected to appropriating a mere $43,500 to get this plan off the ground.

MEANTIME, a Honolulu newspaper article reported negative comments by Trustee Mililani Trask about U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye.

I do not condone name-calling. However, the people who leaked those comments to the press should be held responsibile for their actions.

I believe in the freedom of speech and the right of other OHA trustees. But to disagree and to do it in this manner is not only unproductive, but very hurtful to our beneficiaries and to OHA as a whole.

On a more pleasant note, I look back with satisfaction on the nine years I worked with Trustee Moses Keale, who recently retired after 19 years of service. He was the longest serving trustee, and the most popular, garnering 33,000 votes from Niihau and Kauai beneficiaries in one election.

As I bid farewell to him, it occurs to me his replacement has big shoes to fill.

Rowena M.N. Akana is chairwoman of the
Office of Hawaiian Affairs board of trustees.

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