A Conversation with Neighborhood Board Member Daniel Kaʻanana

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There is a growing realization within our lāhui that Native Hawaiians need to have a voice in government. For Oʻahu residents, one way to do that is by becoming active on their local neighborhood board.

All 435 neighborhood board seats on Oʻahu are up for election and online voting will happen between April 26 and May 21. For those interested in running for a seat, applications are now being accepted online. Anyone who is a resident of that neighborhood, and at least 18 years old, is eligible to run. This is an excellent opportunity for Native Hawaiians to become involved in local leadership.

Daniel Kaʻanana is one such example. A Kāneʻohe Neighborhood Board member, Kaʻanana, 30, graduated from Kamehameha Schools Kapālama and UH Mānoa, and is a commercial pilot for Lānaʻi Air. I recently reached out to him to talk about his neighborhood board experiences and the upcoming election.

Why are neighborhood boards important?

“Neighborhood boards first started as a way of increasing community involvement in the civic-political process at a grassroots level. Thirty-three boards are scattered across Oʻahu, each representing a section of the island similar to an ahupuaʻa. Board members are volunteers who are elected by the communities they represent.”

Why did you get involved?

“I was tired of seeing friends and family become yet another statistic in our community, which has been torn apart by trauma for far too long. As young Native Hawaiians, the odds are significantly stacked against us to lose. We are in a system that has consistently led to our people topping the charts in all the wrong areas – poverty, incarceration, teen pregnancies, poor health. No one else is going to save us. Only we can change our outcome and create a better future for ourselves.”

What advice would you give to other young Hawaiians about getting involved?

“If you’re looking for a place to ignite change in our lāhui, start here. Neighborhood boards allow you to build your experience in the community, and give you a platform from which to speak and advocate as a leader and decision-maker.

“One thing happening across the island is that many of our boards are going through a transition period and looking for the next generation of leaders – our youth! We need young blood. Our world is quickly changing and we need fresh and innovative new perspectives at the table.

“While the neighborhood board does require a commitment, if you’re willing to put in the work and always honor the trust of your community, you can do it. It isn’t a full-time job, and the massive impact you can have on your community only underlines how important it is that you run for these positions. Until we hold the power to choose our destiny, we can never truly win.”

To learn more about running for your neighborhood board go to www.honolulu.gov/nco/nbelections.html