Name on ballot:
OHA Hawaii Resident Trustee
Previous job history:
Onipa’a Mahia’i Farm- Owner (1999-2002), Department of Land and Natural Resources- Cultural Historian (2002-2007), Office of Hawaiian Affairs- Senior Cultural Advocate (2007-2010), Lead Compliance Specialist (2010-2012), Papahanaumokuakea Program Manager (2012-2019), Advocacy Director (2019-Present)
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I have nearly two decades of experience working with communities across Hawai’i on complex issues at the county, state and federal levels. I will listen to all perspectives- with an open mind, heart and ears- and work cooperatively with my fellow trustees, OHA Administration, our beneficiaries and other stakeholders to develop and implement solutions. Recently, the OHA Board and Administration have committed to what I view as an unprecedented time of cooperation to develop and approve procedures for transparency, consistent decision making and financial responsibility. I am familiar with all OHA procedures and operations and am ready to get to work from Day 1. I have the combination of experience, knowledge and skills that have prepared me for this responsibility.
What will be your top priority if elected?
Increase grant funding to community programs. In 2019, OHA awarded just under $9 million in grants. To do more, the formula is simple. OHA must increase the revenue coming in and send it into our community. I believe OHA must aggressively pursue the development of the 30 acres of land in Kaka`ako Makai and see it achieve its true economic potential for our beneficiaries. We must explore other economic initiatives in areas such as agri-business (including aqua-culture and other marine activities), high technology, alternative energy and perhaps a form of tourism that is in alignment with appropriate values. We cannot afford to wait and hope while others define our realm of possibilities. We must take initiative to generate the needed financial resources that will allow us to shape the future we desire.
What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent and what can the Office of Hawaiian Affairs do to address that need?
Health- I define this specific issue to include the vulnerability of Native Hawaiians to chronic diseases, the need for insurance coverage to be able to afford culturally appropriate treatment from care providers, regular access to nutritious foods and stress caused by the high cost of living, the continuous threats to our land and ocean resources and impacts to our cultural sites and ancestral burials. These and other factors determine the physical, emotional, cultural and spiritual well-being of our families and communities.
OHA must increase our support- whether it be thru grant or contract funding, research, or capacity building- to and strengthen our relationships with organizations who are already subject matter experts in the health care field and direct service providers. OHA commits significant resources to land and ocean issues, and cultural site and burial protections and we must continue to do so. In all areas we must work with partner organizations and the community to identify policy and law gaps at the federal, state and county levels and advocate for changes where necessary.
What is one specific change you would like to see in OHA’s operations and what would you do to make it happen?
Increase our presence in the community to regularly share what we are doing and receive input from our beneficiaries on what issues are most important to them and how OHA can help. There may be an impression in our community that the only way for a Hawai`i Island issue to be addressed is to report it to our Honolulu office or fly to O`ahu and meet there to discuss. Island issues should be addressed on that island by the people from that place, who know the situation the best. Whether it be a federal, state or county issue, OHA must be in a position with resources in place to address it quickly and efficiently. OHA has done well in recent years to start taking this approach. We must continue on this path.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and what should OHA’s role be in the process?
I am neutral on the construction of the TMT. All stakeholders have the right to respectfully and peacefully express their positions and take actions they feel are necessary. The laws, processes and court opinions of the State of Hawai’i, and other factors will determine the final outcome for this project.
I believe being neutral on this important issue puts OHA in the best position to gather information and listen to all perspectives. OHA’s role at this time for this project should be one of facilitating discussion and convening stakeholders to reach a decision that is best for Mauna Kea and the people of Hawai`i.
What is OHA’s role in easing the overrepresentation of Native Hawaiians in prisons?
There are multiple factors that have contributed to this generational issue where Native Hawaiians entering the criminal justice system accumulate through all age groups. There is a need for adequate funding for prevention and early intervention programs for at-risk youth. There is a lack of culturally based programs and mental health and counseling service providers for those who come into contact with the criminal justice system. Ex-offenders who have served their punishment face barriers in employment, housing and reintegration into the community. With all of these factors and barriers in place, there are limited options and a high risk of repeat offenses and a return into the system. Effective change in the criminal justice system requires long term cooperation and coordination between government agencies and community/private organizations. OHA must continue to be a part of this effort.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I was raised in Waimea and now live in Kawaihae on Hawai`i Island. This is where the values I carry to this day- hard work, sacrifice, putting others first, humility and honesty were impressed on me. These guide me in everything I do and my promise to you as an OHA-Trustee is that I will approach each day focused on my commitment to be a servant leader for the people of Hawai`i.
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