Five of the nine seats on the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees are up for grabs this general election, with all five incumbents seeking re-election.
The most interesting OHA contest this year may be the fight for the Oahu seat held by former judge and lawmaker Walter Meheula Heen. He is finishing up his first, four-year term after unseating trustee Dante Carpenter in 2006.
Heen’s most prominent opponent is Peter Apo, who served 12 years in the state House of Representatives and served on the first OHA board from 1980 to 1982. He is also a musician and operates a cultural tourism consulting firm.
Both support the Akaka Bill, which creates a process that would lead to creation of a new native Hawaiian governing entity. They also support some form of sovereignty for native Hawaiians.
Also in the race is Jackie Kahookele Burke, a consultant, planner, musician and publisher. Burke ran unsuccessfully for OHA in 2004 and 2006. Unlike Heen and Apo, Burke is opposed to the Akaka Bill but believes in self-determination for native Hawaiians.
Asked what they feel are the most pressing needs for OHA beneficiaries, Apo lists federal recognition the issue he is most concerned about. Burke said the most important issue is managing Hawaii’s natural resources. Heen said he views aiding the education of native Hawaiians as his top priority.
Voters statewide will also be asked to select three at-large trustees, who do not have any residency requirements. There are nine hopefuls.
The incumbents are businesswoman Rowena M.N. Akana, an OHA board member since 1990; Oswald Stender, a former Kamehameha Schools trustee and OHA board member for the last 10 years; and John Waihe’e IV, also an OHA board member since 2000.
Among the challengers are two who are OHA employees: Kama Hopkins, an aide to trustee Robert Lindsey the last three years, and Leona Mapuana Kalima, who has held various positions at OHA since 1995.
The other four challengers are William Meyers, Joseph Kuhio Lewis, Kealii J. Makekau and Michael Malulani Odegaard.
Akana, Stender and Waihe’e support the Akaka Bill, as do Hopkins; Lewis, office manager for a student support services program at Kapiolani Community College; and Meyers, an unemployed mental health technician.
Makekau and Odegaard oppose the Akaka Bill, while Kalima said she supports the intent of the bill.
All nine at-large candidates support some form of Hawaiian sovereignty, although their views differ widely on how it is interpreted.
Akana listed preparing for a transition to the new native Hawaiian governing entity as her main priority. Hopkins said OHA should focus on providing health care for beneficiaries. Kalima said the agency should address the impacts caused by the economic crisis.
Lewis said he wants to bridge what he sees as a disconnect between what OHA does and what the community needs. Makekau wants the agency to focus on ensuring that native Hawaiian assets can be sustained. Meyers said the most pressing issues are preservation of Hawaii’s natural environment and cultural practices.
Odegaard said access to health care and medication, as well as remedial Hawaiian language instruction, are among the most pressing concerns for OHA beneficiaries. Stender said he views educational opportunities as the No. 1 concern. Waihe’e said he does not believe there is one single issue that is a priority, but believes OHA should carry out its 2010 strategic plan.
Maui trustee Boyd Poki Mossman is the only candidate for that seat and will gain for a third four-year term. Mossman is a former state judge and prosecuting attorney.
OHA Chairwoman Haunani Apoliona, Donald Cataluna, Robert Lindsey Jr. and Collette Machado won re-election to four-year terms in 2008.
All OHA trustee seats are chosen by the entire Hawaii electorate, the result of the 2000 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Rice v. Cayetano that threw out the requirement that people be of Hawaiian ancestry to vote for OHA trustees.