Dysfunctional Legislative Session an Affront to Native Hawaiians


Carmen “Hulu” Lindsey, Trustee, Maui

We cannot let one of the most dysfunctional legislative sessions in recent history end without comment from OHA.

We are appalled that our 300,000 beneficiaries were deliberately silenced once again by the refusal of the House of Representatives, for the second year, to even hear or deliberate on OHA’s Hakuone bill, or to provide funding to repair a defective bulkhead fronting a public harbor that was the victim of the state’s longstanding neglect.

OHA sought legislation to build a community for Hawaiians and local families in Kakaʻako that would have included residential housing, related services like day care for keiki and kupuna, parks and open spaces, and a Hawaiian cultural center to bring us together around our shared Hawaiian values of ʻāina, community and ʻohana.

We regret that under the leadership of Speaker Scott Saiki and some House Committee chairs, OHA for the second year was denied a hearing on its proposal in spite of large public support for OHA and its plans.

Voters expect their legislative leaders to serve the greater public good by hearing and deliberating on proposals in both houses, and the denial of a hearing by House leadership on OHA’s bill which was heard by the Senate should not and cannot go unanswered.

Advocates don’t expect that every bill introduced will be passed in both chambers, but we do expect that a proposal that has been heard in the Senate for two years will at least be granted a hearing in the People’s house – the House of Representatives. The arbitrary killing of OHA’s proposal in the House without even being afforded a hearing after garnering substantial support signals a high water mark of disrespect by the House Speaker and his committee chairs for the will of the people and for OHA’s Hawaiian beneficiaries.

Through actions such as this, we at OHA believe democracy is being seriously undermined, and that all voters should sit up and take notice of it.

Our proposal to lift the restrictions on residential housing on our lands in Kakaʻako – the parcels that we call Hakuone – was not even given the basic courtesy of a hearing in the House. For a second legislative session, OHA was not allowed the opportunity to make its voice heard in the House, to present its case for residential development on its lands, and to have that august body consider and deliberate upon it.

Even so, we expected that funding for the needed repairs to the defective bulkhead and revetment – which is the state’s responsibility – would come through. The money allocated for this expenditure was not a gift to OHA but was intended to remedy the state’s longstanding neglect of basic maintenance on the harbor lands transferred to OHA in settlement of the state’s monetary debt to OHA.

By its actions, the House Speaker and his committee chairs have seen fit to completely ignore OHA’s request that it be made whole. And with each passing day, the state’s debt to Hawaiians continues to grow.

How will we at OHA move forward? We stand fast on our dream of building residential housing for working families on Hawaiian land in Hakuone, we stand fast on our dream of providing services for both kupuna and keiki, we stand fast on our dream of creating a cultural center and gathering place in celebration of our culture and our traditional ways, and we stand fast on our vision of creating opportunities for business and economic development.

And we will not be silent when we are faced with disparate treatment, unfairness, or injustice.