Election 2002


OHA winners will
need running start

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs
has a number of issues to face, including
restoring revenue from ceded lands

OHA candidates

By Pat Omandam

The five candidates elected in this general election to serve as Office of Hawaiian Affairs trustees will have to hit the ground running with the rest of the OHA board as it faces major issues next year.

Foremost on the list for the nine trustees is securing state legislation next spring to restore a steady source of revenue from ceded or public trust lands. The Hawaii Supreme Court in September 2001 invalidated a law that set those payments.

Trustees also have to defend the 22-year-old agency against a steady stream of lawsuits challenging OHA's constitutionality. A perceived vulnerability stems from a February 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down OHA's Hawaiian-only elections.

A trial on one of these challenges is expected sometime in 2003.

"OHA and other institutions are beset by legal and financial issues that threaten native rights and entitlements," said candidate Tony "A.K.U." Chang, a former state senator who is one of nine candidates vying for Oahu trustee.

Several issues will face trustees elected to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and may prompt action such as this march from the Royal Mausoleum to Iolani Palace earlier this year to protest a bill pending in the Legislature.

Overall, there are 23 OHA candidates for five board seats. The races with the most candidates are for the three at-large seats, where the top three out of 10 candidates are voted into office.

Expected leaders in that field are incumbents Rowena Akana, Oz Stender and John Waihee IV.

Akana has served a dozen years at OHA, while Stender and Waihee both seek full terms after winning a special election in November 2000.

The seven challengers include Roy Benham, a community organizer, teacher and past president of the Kamehameha Schools Alumni Organization. Also a strong challenger is Darrow Aiona, a retired college professor and clergyman, who believes OHA must present a united front to protect these benefits for Hawaiians.

"What affects the indigenous people benefits all Hawaii," Aiona said.

The two remaining trustee seats are for Maui and Oahu, where voters must replace outgoing trustees Charles Ota, the first non-Hawaiian ever to be appointed and elected to OHA, and Clayton Hee, a 12-year veteran of OHA who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic bid for lieutenant governor.

On Maui, retired Judge Boyd Mossman has the most experience and name recognition in a three-way race that includes George Kaimiola and Robert Wilcox IV.

Kahaialii said he wants to follow in the footsteps of his father and will work to restore public confidence among native Hawaiians so they can move forward together to resolve unsettled issues.

"I will work to unite OHA leadership and restore a sense of civility, dignity and purpose to the trust," he said.

The most eye-opening race is the nine-person battle for Oahu trustee. Along with Chang, candidates include Dante Carpenter, a former Big Island mayor, and Charles Rose, a retired Hawaii County police captain who is active with the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs.

Also in the field is Leona Kalima, a Waimanalo resident and OHA staff member who wants to include the public in OHA's work to help native Hawaiians.

"Being inclusive of others will assist all Hawaiians in our quest for self-determination and sovereignty, because without their support we will not be able to achieve national attention and recognition," Kalima said.

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