Nīnau Maʻamau

What do you see as the most pressing problem facing Native Hawaiians, and what will you do about it?

The primary issue facing the Native Hawaiian community is our increasing diaspora due to economic challenges, which has led to a majority of Native Hawaiians (53%) residing on the U.S. mainland rather than in Hawaiʻi. This dispersal weakens efforts to advocate for community rights. To tackle this, focusing on the following key areas is essential:

  1. Affordable Housing: Advocating policies for more affordable housing options to help families stay in their ancestral lands.
  2. Economic Development: Supporting sustainable job creation, especially in sectors aligning with cultural heritage like local agriculture and renewable energy.
  3. Education and Training: Investing in vocational programs for skills necessary in high-demand local jobs, reducing the need to seek work elsewhere.
  4. Cultural Preservation: Strengthening Native Hawaiian identity and community unity by enhancing initiatives that protect and promote Hawaiian culture and language.
  5. Community Support: Building networks for Hawaiians outside Hawaiʻi with virtual programs and language classes to stay connected.
  6. Healthcare Access: Improving access to quality healthcare services in rural and underserved areas to ensure the well-being of the community.

These strategies aim to enable Native Hawaiians to flourish, maintain a strong unified voice in advocacy, and ensure community preservation and empowerment.


Should OHA be subject to oversight by the Hawaiʻi State Ethics Commission?

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) should not be subject to oversight by the Hawaiʻi State Ethics Commission. Instead, a separate ethics commission composed of Native Hawaiians should have oversight. Here’s why:

  1. Cultural Sensitivity and Autonomy: OHA was established to serve the unique needs of Native Hawaiians. External oversight by the Hawaiʻi State Ethics Commission could undermine OHA’s autonomy and mission. A commission composed of Native Hawaiians would better understand the cultural and historical context of OHA’s work, ensuring decisions are made with appropriate sensitivity and respect.
  2. Enhanced Accountability: A dedicated Native Hawaiian ethics commission can provide the necessary oversight to ensure accountability and transparency within OHA. This commission would be better equipped to manage conflicts of interest and uphold ethical standards that align with the values and traditions of the Native Hawaiian community.
  3. Community Trust and Involvement: Having a Native Hawaiian ethics commission would strengthen community trust and involvement. It ensures that those overseeing OHA are deeply connected to and invested in the community’s well-being, fostering a governance structure that truly reflects the interests of Native Hawaiians.

This approach respects the autonomy of OHA while providing tailored and culturally sensitive oversight, ensuring ethical governance without compromising its mission.


Do you support the construction of the TMT atop Mauna Kea? Why or why not? Could the new management structure help to resolve long-standing disputes?

No, I do not support the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT).

The state has a constitutional duty to protect its natural and cultural resources for present and future generations. As Justice Michael Wilson's November 30, 2018, dissent highlights, the TMT violates the constitutional and statutory protections afforded to natural resources in the state’s conservation district. This project contravenes the Hawaiʻi Public Trust Doctrine, the Hawaiʻi Constitution, and laws concerning conservation land, specifically HRS Chapter 183C.

The TMT will cause significant, adverse impacts to the existing natural and cultural resources on the proposed project site. Mauna Kea holds immense cultural and spiritual importance for Native Hawaiians, and its conservation status should be respected. No amount of compensation, mitigation, or economic benefit can legally justify the irreversible damage that would be caused. The state’s duty to protect Mauna Kea’s natural and cultural resources for future generations outweighs any potential economic benefits. Preserving Mauna Kea’s integrity is crucial for respecting Native Hawaiian cultural heritage and ensuring the protection of this sacred site.

The new Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority could potentially help resolve long-standing disputes if it prioritizes the protection of cultural sites and genuinely involves Native Hawaiian voices in decision-making processes.


What role should the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands play in reducing homelessness?

The Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) already plays a role in addressing homelessness by awarding lots to eligible Native Hawaiians. However, its role can be expanded to further reduce homelessness through the following measures:

  1. Increased Lot Awards: Accelerate the awarding of available lots to eligible applicants, prioritizing those facing housing instability.
  2. Affordable Housing Development: Partner with developers and non-profit organizations to build affordable housing units on DHHL lands, ensuring that more Native Hawaiians have access to safe and secure homes.
  3. Support Services: Provide comprehensive support services, including financial counseling, job training, and social services, to help recipients maintain their housing and achieve long-term stability.
  4. Transitional Housing Programs: Develop transitional housing programs for those currently homeless, offering a pathway to permanent housing solutions on DHHL lands.
  5. Community Involvement: Engage the Native Hawaiian community in planning and decision-making processes to ensure that solutions are culturally appropriate and effectively address the needs of the homeless population.

By expanding its efforts and resources, DHHL can significantly contribute to reducing homelessness among Native Hawaiians, providing them with the stability and support needed to thrive.


Why do you think Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in our prisons and jails? What can be done about it?

The OHA report on Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System shows that racial disparities significantly contribute to their disproportionate representation in prisons and jails. Discrimination appears in biases in policing, sentencing, and legal resources. Additionally, socio-economic factors like poverty, lack of education, and limited employment opportunities further increase incarceration rates. To address this issue:

  1. Criminal Justice Reform: Implement reforms for fair and equitable treatment within the criminal justice system, including bias training for law enforcement, judges, and legal professionals, and revising sentencing guidelines to eliminate disparities.
  2. Community-Based Programs: Invest in programs that provide education, job training, and support services to at-risk individuals, addressing the root causes of crime.
  3. Rehabilitation and Reentry Support: Enhance rehabilitation programs within prisons and provide comprehensive reentry support to help formerly incarcerated individuals reintegrate into society, including access to housing, employment, and mental health services.
  4. Cultural Programs: Develop and support programs that reconnect Native Hawaiians with their cultural heritage, fostering a sense of identity and community.
  5. Economic Opportunities: Create economic opportunities through education, job training, and entrepreneurship programs.

By addressing both systemic discrimination and socio-economic challenges, we can work towards reducing the overrepresentation of Native Hawaiians in prisons and jails.


What are your views regarding Hawaiian self-determination?

Hawaiian self-determination is a fundamental right for Native Hawaiians to shape their political, cultural, and economic future. It requires a thoughtful and informed approach. Native Hawaiians should be fully educated about their options, covering all aspects, including political, cultural, and economic implications. This ensures well-informed decisions about their future.

Once informed, Native Hawaiians should have the opportunity to vote on their preferred path forward. I do not support a global settlement, as it may not address the diverse needs and future aspirations of our people. Additionally, I would not agree to any arrangement that requires Native Hawaiians to give up their rights. The process of self-determination must respect and uphold these inherent rights.

Self-determination empowers Native Hawaiians to preserve their cultural heritage, establish governance structures reflecting their values, and make decisions about land use, resource management, and economic development. It ensures that future generations maintain a strong connection to their ancestry and cultural identity.

The U.S. and Hawaiʻi state governments have a legal and moral responsibility to support Native Hawaiian self-determination by addressing historical injustices and providing resources for self-governance. Hawaiian self-determination must be a community-driven process, respecting the diverse voices and choices of Native Hawaiians.


Is OHA getting its fair share of ceded-land revenues from the state?

No, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) is not receiving its fair share of ceded-land revenues from the state. This has been a long-standing issue, with OHA often receiving less than owed. Ceded lands, originally crown and government lands stolen from the Hawaiian Kingdom during the illegal overthrow and subsequent unconstitutional annexation, were meant to benefit Native Hawaiians.

In 2022, the Legislature passed Act 226, increasing OHA’s annual pro rata share from $15.1 million to $21.5 million, still far less than OHA’s request for $78.9 million annually and nowhere near 20%. Additionally, Act 226 allocated a one-time payment of $64 million, reflecting the difference between $21.5 million and $15.1 million over ten years. The Act also established an OHA-led working group to account for all ceded lands and income, aiming to determine the actual 20% pro rata share.

Ensuring OHA receives its fair share is crucial for supporting programs and services that benefit Native Hawaiians, including education, health, housing, and cultural preservation. The state must reassess and increase OHA’s share to ensure justice and compliance with original agreements. A fair distribution of ceded-land revenues is essential for addressing historical injustices and supporting the betterment of Native Hawaiians.


Is OHA fulfilling its mandate to serve the Hawaiian people?

OHA does its best with the resources it has but faces significant challenges such as insufficient funding and complex political dynamics. Despite these obstacles, OHA strives to serve the Hawaiian people through various programs in education, health, housing, cultural preservation, and economic development. These efforts include scholarships, health programs, affordable housing projects, cultural initiatives, and support for Native Hawaiian businesses.

To fully fulfill its mandate, OHA requires enhanced funding and support to address the diverse needs of the Native Hawaiian community effectively. Improving transparency and accountability, along with stronger community engagement, are crucial for OHA to achieve its mission of improving the well-being of Native Hawaiians. Greater transparency would build trust and ensure that resources are allocated efficiently and fairly.

Adequate resources and effective use of funds would enable OHA to expand its initiatives, ensuring greater impact and addressing pressing issues more comprehensively. By addressing internal challenges and advocating for a fair share of ceded-land revenues, OHA can better support its programs and initiatives. Actively engaging with the community and responding to their feedback is also essential for OHA to stay aligned with the needs and aspirations of Native Hawaiians.


Is Hawai‘i managing its tourism industry properly? What should be handled differently?

Hawaiʻi’s tourism industry needs improvement, especially in balancing economic benefits with preserving natural resources and cultural heritage. The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, responsible for destination management for Hawaiʻi, focuses on place-based and indigenous tourism, ensuring visitors understand Hawaiʻi’s unique significance. Tourists are encouraged to engage with local culture for a memorable experience, avoiding overcrowding at hiking trails, beaches, parks, and sacred sites.

Key areas for improvement include:

  1. Sustainable Tourism Practices: Implement policies that protect Hawaii’s environment and natural resources, ensuring tourism does not degrade these assets.
  2. Cultural Sensitivity: Promote tourism that respects Hawaiian culture, involving Native Hawaiian communities in tourism development and management.
  3. Community Involvement: Ensure tourism benefits local communities by supporting local businesses and creating job opportunities for residents.
  4. Capacity Management: Regulate visitor numbers to prevent over-tourism and strain on infrastructure and natural sites.
  5. Education: Educate tourists about respectful behavior and the cultural significance of the places they visit, fostering appreciation and understanding of Hawaiian culture.

By addressing these areas, Hawai‘i can create a more balanced and sustainable tourism industry that benefits both the economy and the well-being of its residents and environment.


How would you make OHA more transparent and accessible to the public and the Hawaiian people?

Transparency within the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) is crucial for trust and community engagement. If elected, I will focus on enhancing transparency through these initiatives:

  1. Open Communication Channels: Implement regular community meetings and virtual town halls to discuss OHA’s activities and decisions, allowing for open dialogue and feedback.
  2. Accessible Information: Ensure all OHA documents, including meeting minutes, financial reports, and strategic plans, are easily accessible online via a user-friendly digital portal.
  3. Financial Transparency: Introduce a comprehensive financial transparency policy with detailed quarterly and annual financial reports, clearly explaining fund allocation and spending.
  4. Stakeholder Engagement: Establish advisory councils of community leaders and cultural practitioners to provide input on key decisions, ensuring diverse voices are heard.
  5. Performance Metrics: Develop and share performance metrics for OHA programs, demonstrating progress and areas for improvement.
  6. Cultural Education: Invest in educational programs to inform the community about OHA’s mission, roles, and responsibilities, fostering greater engagement and participation.

These measures will create an environment of mutual respect and accountability, ensuring OHA remains a trusted advocate for the Native Hawaiian people.