From the Other Side

Henry Peters

Monday, July 2, 2001

State is stealing
Ka Iwi coastline
from Hawaiians

I said two years ago that Governor Cayetano should stop his mentality of stealing from Hawaiians. The quote is still applicable today. Make no mistake; this is "payback" time.

The Ka Iwi transaction, in which the state is paying Kamehameha Schools $12.8 million for 300 acres of coastline property -- presents a number of issues, but I will stick to the subject of price and valuation. While preserving the coastline is important, it should not be done at the expense of native Hawaiians. Government should never benefit by downzoning people's property and then moving for condemnation. This is exactly what was done in the case of Ka Iwi.

Originally, the City and County of Honolulu changed the "resort" designation for Ka Iwi to "conservation" without proper consideration. The city was sued for this action, and the court ruled that there was a permitted economic use in "conservation" for a golf course. The city was mandated to allow the permitting process to take place.

Instead, the state interfered by condemning the property, thereby depriving the Bishop Estate of the true value for Ka Iwi. Call it "eminent domain" or "taking," but I prefer using the word "stealing."

Many questions raised by this deal especially pertain to the role of the attorney general. As parens patriae, the AG stands over the Kamehameha Schools trustees with a large hammer with the edict of "do as I say, or else." The trustees were appointed not as outlined in Princess Pauahi's will, but under the new Cayetano selection system.

The role of the attorney general should be reviewed by the Legislature to determine whether he is the attorney for all of Hawaii's people or is Cayetano's personal attorney. Clearly, it is fair to question whether this transaction was done at arm's length. It is time for the public and the Hawaiian community to question why this land is being sold for less than it's true value.

The new board of trustees was described as being "public spirited" when the trustees do not have the luxury of looking at a transaction or the sale of an asset from a "public-spirited" point of view. Bishop Estate, now called simply Kamehameha Schools, is not a public trust but a private estate. Selling 300 acres of oceanfront property for only $12.8 million is ludicrous. The trustees should not be giving away assets and selling below market value -- to do so is a violation of their fiduciary responsibility.

Whether the shoreline is for a golf course or for a park, when the air is cleared, the question remains: Were Hawaiians compensated fairly or were we ripped off again? At least now we all have a clear definition of what a "sweetheart deal" actually is.

Henry Haalilio Peters is a
former Bishop Estate trustee.

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