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Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Thursday, November 2, 2000

Everyone should
vote in OHA race

UNLIKE a few well-known non-Hawaiians, including former Gov. George Ariyoshi, I have every intent to vote for trustees of the Office of Affairs next Tuesday. The federal courts say I can. Civic responsibility tells me I should.

OHA logo Oz Stender, here comes my first vote. Clayton Hee, you'll get my second.

We editors and former editors devote lots of space and feel-good words to telling people it's their democratic obligation to vote -- then flagellating ourselves and the public when only 40 percent turn out -- as with our Sept. 17 primary.

Why, oh why, should we not try to see that OHA gets the strongest board possible? Getting things right for Hawaiians is something that will affect the lives of all of us. Great if we succeed. Trouble if we fail.

OHA was conceived as a way to help right old wrongs against Hawaiians. It was ratified as an amendment to the state Constitution 22 years ago.

In 1980 we set up the easiest possible blood quantum test for determining who is Hawaiian. Just a drop of Hawaiian blood is all that was needed to vote for OHA trustees. But the U.S. Supreme Court said this year that all voters must be allowed in. I won't shirk.

The arithmetic is roughly like this: There are 1.2 million of us living in Hawaii. Only 50,000 or 60,000 have the 50 percent Hawaiian blood needed to get long-term, low-rent 99-year leases on 200,000 acres of Hawaiian Home Lands. These are set aside to help rehabilitate Hawaiians who haven't fared well economically. There are not nearly enough leases available to meet demand, even though the Hawaiian Home Lands Department is quickening its development pace.

In 1978 OHA was given a grander constituency -- the 50 percent Hawaiians plus perhaps 160,000 others whose Hawaiian blood quantums range from just under 50 percent to just a drop.

You then walked up to an OHA registrar, declared yourself Hawaiian and were enrolled -- but subject to challenge if you weren't truthful.

All less-than-50-percent Hawaiians have majority blood of the races accused of damaging Hawaiians through economic and social changes and the 1893 overthrow of the monarchy.

Even with the new open voting, there will be very few voters unsympathetic to help for Hawaiians. Most support the Hawaii bill in Congress that would restore special rights after the pattern of Indian tribes.

Among OHA's pending claims is one for more land dedicated to Hawaiians -- specifically for the one-third of the entire state that formerly belonged to the monarchy -- called ceded lands. The state gives one-fifth of their revenues to OHA, which wants more.

The land-centered intense interaction between the state and OHA is still an unfinished work. It is of overriding importance to the 50th state's future.

OHA needs experienced Hawaiian-blooded trustees like Stender and Hee. They understand both the Hawaiian and the public side of these concerns. They are among those best able to devise workable solutions. Stender has Kamehameha Schools and Campbell Estate know-how. Hee is a savvy former state legislator.

There is no near likelihood of electing for OHA a mostly non-Hawaiian board. The short list of non-Hawaiian candidates helps assure it.

What I believe most state residents want is a successful OHA that will devote its wealth (nearly $400 million and growing) to help Hawaiians in ways that add to the work of the Kamehameha Schools, Liliuokalani Trust, Lunalilo Home and federal health programs already functioning in this field. Sovereignty over some land is a distinct possibility.

OHA Special

Rice vs. Cayetano arguments

Rice vs. Cayetano decision

Holo I Mua: Sovereignty Roundtable

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

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