Ka Wai Ola

Robert K. Lindsey, Jr., Trustee, Hawai‘iI would like to mahalo and acknowledge Kama Hopkins for writing this article.

Aloha kākou. Before sharing my thoughts this month regarding the Public Land Trust (PLT), I would like to share my aloha on the passing of Lawrence “Bo” Campos on December 13, 2018. He meant a lot to many of us and to our Canoe Racing community on Hawai‘i island. We will sorely miss him.

On December 27, 2018, two committees of the Hawai‘i State Senate held a joint informational briefing at the state capitol to receive an update on certain aspects of the PLT revenue receipts. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) participated in this briefing along with several other state agencies. After viewing the briefing online, some of our beneficiaries have asked two simple questions, “What is the PLT revenue and where does that revenue go?” In the most general terms, the PLT revenue is revenue derived from the use of all but a small portion of the state’s total land inventory. The Admissions Act reveals the purposes of that revenue. In section 5(f) of the Admissions Act, you will find the following.

(f) The lands granted to the State of Hawai‘i by subsection (b) of this section and public lands retained by the United States under subsections (c) and (d) and later conveyed to the State under subsection (e), together with the proceeds from the sale or other disposition of any such lands and the income therefrom, shall be held by said State as a public trust for the support of the public schools and other public educational institutions, for the betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians, as defined in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, 1920, as amended, for the development of farm and home ownership on as widespread a basis as possible for the making of public improvements, and for the provision of lands for public use. Such lands, proceeds, and income shall be managed and disposed of for one or more of the foregoing purposes in such manner as the constitution and laws of said State may provide, and their use for any other object shall constitute a breach of trust for which suit may be brought by the United States. The schools and other educational institutions supported, in whole or in part out of such public trust shall forever remain under the exclusive control of said State; and no part of the proceeds or income from the lands granted under this Act shall be used for the support of any sectarian or denominational school, college, or university.

Beneficiaries of OHA should not be afraid to ask OHA how its portion of PLT revenue help or support beneficiaries. We should also not be afraid to ask all of our elected and appointed officials how PLT revenue supports the other purposes outlined in section 5(f) of the Admissions Act.

We often hear unfortunate stories regarding our public education system, our affordable housing situation and the lack of adequate land and/or water when it comes to farming. We are experiencing problems everywhere in Hawai‘i regarding city, county and state park maintenance. Are we truly holding our leaders accountable for decisions made regarding the allocation of PLT revenue, the monitoring of the use of PLT revenue and the evaluation and possible reallocation of PLT revenue? Some may say, “It’s the administration in public agencies that are responsible for administering the PLT revenue to benefit the public or certain beneficiaries.” This is true. However, it is the responsibility of lawmakers and policymakers to allocate, set policy and review the use of PLT revenue. Everyone has a part to play. Be engaged and do things always with aloha.