Push Back Against Misinformation About Hakuone

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Mililani B Trask: Trustee Hawaiʻ;i Island

If you saw me in one of the 30-second TV spots that have been airing about Hakuone, I hope you understood why I begin by calling out the shameless lying we have been subjected to.

Lying has infected our public life, not just on the continent but here in Hawaiʻi. As the saying goes, a lie can travel halfway around the world while truth is putting on its boots. We must push back.

I recoil from the appropriation of aloha as a shield behind which ill-intentioned parties hide as they dispense deliberate misinformation about OHA’s plans to build a welcoming community at Hakone. Those who do not want to see OHA develop its Kakaʻako lands think nothing of spreading falsehoods despite OHA’s complete transparency about the services it envisions in Hakuone that will allow people to thrive.

OHA wants to revitalize a blighted area, build a Hawaiian Cultural Center, offer services for keiki and kūpuna, as well as to create opportunities for cultural practitioners to showcase their talents, and for businesses to flourish.

The opposition has tried repeatedly to stoke fears about OHA building on the shoreline even though we have only asked to build housing on three parcels along Ala Moana Boulevard. It is worth noting that right across from where we want to build affordable and workforce housing, construction continues on one tower after another by developers from outside Hawaiʻi.

They clearly have not faced any of the obstacles that have been placed before OHA. All the concerns about open spaces, congestion, sewer capacity, and toxicity of the soil seem to arise only after they cross Ala Moana Boulevard and step onto OHA’s lands.

Where were all these concerns in 2012 when the state offered the nine parcels (just 14% of the total area of Kakaʻako) to OHA to settle their long overdue debt?

Could potential obstruction of the view planes of the wealthy owners of recently built luxury condos be the more compelling reason that OHA has so far been unable to even get a hearing in the House for its bill to build badly needed truly affordable and workforce housing?

For a better understanding of how Kakaʻako evolved read Tina Grandinetti’s excellent essay in the 2019 book Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawaiʻi, edited by Hokulani K. Aikau and Vernadette Vicuna Gonzalez. The map of “Displaced Kakaʻako” by Adele Balderston in the same volume is also very instructive.

We learn a lot about how the Hawaiʻi Community Development Authority (HCDA) has evolved. When it was created in 1976, people hoped it would help address the growing need for housing. But Grandinetti says that HCDA “decided that effective development would be defined by profit and investment rather than community need even though it knew that this would bring drastic changes to the neighborhood.”

She tells us that HCDA’s own EIS “noted that while the existing community in Kakaʻako was a mixed plate of Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiians, and Filipinos, the two new condo towers housed predominantly Haole (Caucasian) residents and a large number of Japanese residents. She cites the EIS projection that “Because they tend to have lower incomes, part-Hawaiians, Filipinos, and most other ethnic groups are not expected to be represented in proportion to their share of Oʻahu’s population.”

As we look at the language of those who oppose OHA’s plans for Hakuone, the pattern repeats itself: shunt the natives off elsewhere.

Lawmakers have repeatedly asked OHA to give up their oceanfront land for lands in the interior. That will not happen. We will not be erased. OHA’s mission demands that we persevere. We owe it to our beneficiaries.