A Look Back

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Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina Lee

My first term as an OHA Trustee has been a busy one. In 2019, I brought the idea of a new governance model to then Board Chair Colette Machado for her consideration. Forming a Permitted Interaction Group (PIG) to investigate this possibility, Trustees Machado, Robert Lindsey, and Hulu Lindsey worked together under my leadership to accomplish several groundbreaking things.

First, we looked at the fact that OHA was actually two different entities and needed to be treated as such. Under a new set of Lāhui Level policies as an overarching umbrella, we used a pyramid approach to map out the new governance model. The Lāhui Level policies include the board’s bylaws, which we identified needed updating. They had not been updated in 13 years.

Under the bylaws, governance is now split in two, flowing down the pyramid. One half is OHA, the government agency formed under the 1978 constitutional convention. The other half is the Native Hawaiian Trust which includes its $480 million portfolio and now its $291 million in land assets becoming the new endowment model. While this new model was adopted, new policies needed to be drafted and approved to complete the process.

Once the work for the first PIG had been completed, I was once again selected to be the chair of a new PIG to update the bylaws. Over the next six months myself, Trustees Machado, Robert Lindsey, and Hulu Lindsey edited and updated the bylaws. In February 2020, they were unanimously approved.

The investment policy requires Trustees to attend a minimum of two financial trainings a year so that they can be properly educated on managing OHA’s $480 million portfolio. Over the last four years, I have attended 14, not including the educational presentations to Trustees during committee meetings conducted by our portfolio managers per the Resource Management Committee.

The biggest impact on my process and ideas on how to better manage the portfolio and how to tie OHA’s vast land holdings into the portfolio came from attending the Commonfund Institute held each year at the Yale University School of Management. This helped me see that, as the 13th largest landholder in the state, OHA should be leveraging those holdings against the Native Hawaiian Trust portfolio to allow OHA to not spend money on hedge funds as downside protection against the market.

Not only will this save OHA millions each year in fees, but it will also allow for greater gains to the overall portfolio. If OHA had an endowment model in place since the inception of the Native Hawaiian Trust, there is no doubt in my mind the Native Hawaiian Trust would be beyond the billion-dollar mark.

During the pandemic shutdown, I began the conversation with both the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s offices and key legislators to release to OHA the $31 million in the Carry Forward Trust Holding Account (CFTHA) to help Native Hawaiians with COVID-19 relief. While I was unsuccessful during the shutdown, OHA is finally receiving those funds through new legislation passed a few weeks ago.

During the shutdown, OHA was able to acquire two major land parcels adjacent to Nā Lama Kukui. This is something I have been working on since 2019. With the help of Chief Operating Officer Casey Brown and Land Director Kalani Fronda, this Transit Oriented Development land acquisition has the potential to begin to address the critical housing needs of Native Hawaiians.

These are just a few accomplishments. There have been countless meetings with beneficiaries o address their concerns and needs. With the help of my fellow Trustees, let’s make this list grow and expand.