Name on ballot:
OHA At-Large Trustee
No answer submitted
To be advised
Previous job history:
Hawaii State Senator (Retired), Community Leader, Businessman, Consultant, Television and Radio Personality, Record Producer, Concert and Event Promoter, Musician and Recording Artist
Previous elected office, if any:
Hawaii State Senator 2008-2018
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
As a Hawaii State Senator from 2008 through 2018, I’ve served alongside other dedicated public servants, all trained to analyze and understand issues, evaluate different ideas and positions, and produce solutions that work for the greater good. I will bring to OHA the knowledge of governance, the subtleties of how government works, and the give-and-take required when crafting public policy. I was known as a lawmaker and Senate Leader (Majority and Caucus Leader) you could rely on to be fair, responsible, productive, prudent, always conducting oneself in businesslike manner and social when appropriate. Creating policy is a complex visionary process. Fiscally, as a former member of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, I have been closely involved with crafting the State’s annual multi-billion-dollar budget. In addition, I’ve served as Chair of the Senate Committees on Tourism and Hawaiian Affairs.
I have a “duty of care” ethos which is at the heart of everything I do, both as a retired State Senator and a Board member of several non-profit organizations serving the disabled, disenfranchised, or supporting Hawaii’s arts and culture. I’ve proudly served on the Boards of the Hawaii Academy of Recording Arts, Hawaii Book and Music Festival, Polynesian Voyaging Society, Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame, Native Hawaiian Culture and Arts Program, Hawaii Special Olympics, Hawaii Association of Retarded Citizens, Life Foundation (HIV/AIDS Organization). I presently serve as a Kawaiaha’o Church Trustee and member of the Oahu Island Burial Council. As a professional in politics, business, radio, television, film, and music, my perspective continues to be clearly informed by my life in Hawaii.
What will be your top priority if elected?
This question is too simple and requires fuller vetting. OHA fulfills its mandate through the following priorities: advocacy, research, community engagement, land management, and the funding of community programs. It is doing what it can to attain each mission. No priority/issue is more important than the other. All have equal standing. To that end, OHA can, must and will do more. Receiving past due and increasing annual ceded land revenues commensurate to constitutional requirements is a priority. Until that is done, the reality is that OHA cannot address all sectors sufficiently based on the ceded lands revenues it now receives. An increase in the revenues, it is clearly due, would obviously enable OHA to commit more funds to address existing economic, health, social, and educational disparities. I’ll add a priority/issue. Strengthening OHA’s political effectiveness. As a legislator, I would often observe Native Hawaiians inability to speak in a cohesive fashion. To speak from the same playbook. Mixed signals do not bode well in politics. Conversely, as a disciplined voting bloc, policy makers have no choice but to acknowledge Kanaka concerns. Let us strengthen, mobilize and amplify the Kanaka Vote with a disciplined common theme. I’ll conclude with this…OHA is acknowledged, at least by those who created it back in 1978, as the fourth branch of Hawaii State Government. Co-equal to the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. In receiving the full measure of that acknowledgement, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs will further fulfill its service to Kanaka Maoli and all who call Hawaii home. Again, what is good and right for Hawaiians is good for all Hawaii.
What is one specific change you would like to see in OHA’s operations and what would you do to make it happen?
I can better determine specific operational changes, and the paths it will take to achieve these adjustments, after studying OHA’s audits. Through recent audits, I believe OHA is moving in the right direction. By and large, audits 1) Identify and improve overall business efficiency and build a relationship of trust among stakeholders. 2) Meet legal, regulatory, and compliance requirements and 3) Keep up with the ever changing dynamic environment. The system audit also provides objective evidence concerning the need for the reduction, elimination and most importantly, prevention of non conformities.
What should OHA do to help alleviate homelessness and increase home ownership among Native Hawaiians?
Homelessness, by definition, is quite clear…the state of having no home or permanent place of residence. The primary housing need recognized by housing providers is emergency, transitional, and long-term or permanent housing. The needs most commonly cited by members of the Native Hawaiian community are access to affordable housing options. The primary barriers to meeting this need are a lack of consistent and reliable funding and restrictions on the use of funds. Funding housing development also requires complex leveraging and long-term planning, as well as outside investors, developers, and contractors who may not understand the needs of Native Hawaiian communities.
OHA collaborations to consider while recognizing the complexities of Native housing and its intersections with local, state and federal government, and private and nonprofit entities include, but obviously are not limited to the Hawai’i Public Housing Authority, Hawai’i Housing Finance & Development Corporation, Hawai‘i Housing Alliance, Homeless Services Agencies/Programs of the Hawai‘i State Department of Human Services. Include civic clubs and other cultural organizations to expand the range of services or work in conjunction with existing Native Hawaiian organizations.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make OHA more transparent to the public?
Government agencies have an obligation to be as open and honest as possible with citizens. Any and every agency that deals in the public trust must be held accountable, through a disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of the organization. While too much transparency can lead to security breaches, not enough transparency can make it hard for citizens to put their trust in governments. A lack of transparency can also make it seem as if the government is hiding something. There are a number of reasons why government transparency is important. For one thing, it helps to ensure that beneficiary money is being spent wisely. There are a variety of different ways this can be achieved – proactive communication with citizens, town hall meetings, making public meeting documents easily accessible, soliciting citizen feedback, and convenient services offered through digital channels. While government transparency is mainly about making pertinent information publicly available, that information should also be easily understood.
When working on how to improve transparency in government, we must realize that citizens typically won’t have the same understanding of the more intricate parts of government that we do. Therefore, when being transparent, government communication must also be comprehensible. Use layman’s terms. When records are open to the public appropriately, it becomes much harder for government officials to waste money or engage in corruption. Furthermore, corruption by public officials must never be tolerated. To breach the public trust is a disgrace…period. In some cases, term limits provide guardrails to corruption. Public service, however, is a skill set acquired over time and sometimes best served with experience. The best guardrail I can relate to is your vote. Everybody…pay attention!
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 support both culture and science. Both can and must exist and work together. It cannot be one or the other. I support the TMT on Mauna Kea for what it provides humanity. I will continue to support it unless something compels me to decide otherwise. Management of Mauna Kea is critically important. The past management of the Mauna demonstrates that the present structure requires substantial improvement or modification. The legislature is recommending a new management agency. OHA should be on the working group and eventual new management agency. The working group must have balance and respect for and from all members on the table. Any changes that occur must be viewed by the relevant stakeholders as legitimate and accompanied by the authority and funding to carry out the cultural, scientific, educational, environmental responsibilities to ensure that the most optimum balance between these interests is able to be envisioned and implemented. Furthermore, if a telescope is not in full use, I consider it opala (trash). A timeline for decommissioning and dismantling those telescopes must be developed and implemented. Add to this, and in no small measure, a robust community benefits package.
Lastly, we’ve been given a unique makana in which to explore and gaze into our own Kumulipo…Creation Chant. The supermassive black hole M87 was informally given the Hawaiian name “Pōwehi”, a poetic description of generative darkness or the spirit world taken from the Kumulipo. Clearly, the best platform for viewing “Powehi” and other universal references is Mauna Kea.
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?
As I responded earlier, OHA mandate covers all pressing needs, non being more important than the other, so I’ll answer in this way. Hawaiian self-determination is a pressing need. Self determination is subjective. It deals with both the personal and societal perspective. To that end, Self-determination encourages Native prosperity, which advances the economy, builds a better climate to connect and strengthen Native Hawaiian relationships, imparts Hawaiian values and organizes the Hawaiian community into a potent economic, social and political voice. What’s good for Kanaka Maoli is good for all Hawaii.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
My decades of experience in public service, business and the arts show my tireless commitment to Hawaii’s people and demonstrate that I will give my best to this Trusteeship through proven civic responsibility and social understanding. Lastly…a wise man once told me, Brick, never take anyone’s vote for granted. When given the opportunity, ask for the vote. Mahalo for this opportunity. May I have your vote? Mahalo and Malama for now.
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