Land Board
nominees withdraw

Two real estate agents have withdrawn their nominations to the state Board of Land and Natural Resources after being questioned by a Senate committee that recommended approval of another board nominee.

Berton Hamamoto of Oahu and James "Mac" Lowson of Maui were grilled Friday by the Senate Water, Land and Agriculture Committee about issues they would likely face if appointed.

"We wanted to get a feel for their understanding about role and responsibility of the Board of Land and Natural Resources," said committee Chairman Russell Kokubun (D, Puna-Kau-Kona).

During Friday's hearing "it became obvious they were fairly unaware of the extreme importance of the Land Board's responsibilities," Kokubun said.

Kokubun said members put tough questions to the real estate agents because they wanted to be sure that they would uphold the board's constitutional duty to protect the state's natural resources.

Unconvinced, Kokubun advised Gov. Linda Lingle's chief of staff, Bob Awana, that the two did not have the votes to get out of his committee.

Yesterday, the committee approved the third Lingle nominee, Oahu certified public accountant Taryn Schumann, for a full Senate vote. Schumann, who grew up on a Big Island ranch, did auditing for hotel and condominium resorts before forming her own firm. She was not available for comment yesterday.

Lowson, currently president of the Hawaii Association of Realtors, said yesterday he regretted he was unable to convince senators that a real-estate person could also be conservation advocate.

Hamamoto declined comment yesterday.

Because the Legislature is near an end, Lingle will appoint interim Land Board members to serve until Senate confirmation can be obtained during the next session, spokesman Russell Pang said.

At least one of these interim appointees will have a background in natural resources and conservation, a qualification added for one of the seven board members by Act 9, signed by Lingle, Pang said.

The board meets twice a month to make administrative decisions on a wide variety of issues, including management of state-owned lands, conservation of wildlife and natural resources, and operation of the state's small boat harbors.

State Dept. of Land & Natural Resources

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