Ka Wai Ola

Photo: Brendon Kalei'aina Lee

When people think of the Legislative branch of our government they typically think of the creation of laws. This of course is one of the responsibilities of this branch; however another is to allocate and spend our tax dollars. Congress funds Federal programs and the Legislature funds State programs. As a citizen, how would you feel if these bodies of government told you “in order to save money they were not going to fund anything?” Would you praise them for their frugal choices or would you be outraged that they had not fulfilled their responsibility to the public?

If someone who was elected to represent me posted a picture of themselves with a check showing how much had been allocated for them to spend to help citizens and did not spend that money I would be outraged. Our elected officials should be held to a higher standard than just saying “how they could spend the dollars was not clear enough.” We as elected officials should know what is ethical and what is not. If we have doubts and or concerns about what is ethical there is a simple phone number: we can call to ask a State attorney if we can or should spend Trust funds.

Photo: Homeless in Hawaii
Hawai‘i Houseless community – Photo: Sophie Cocke

We should demand that those who represent us maximize every dollar provided to them. To be proud that you did not spend anything and thus helped no one is a travesty that needs to be addressed. Have Trustees abused their spending in the past, yes. Has OHA spent trust funds for questionable reasons in the past, yes. Does that mean that OHA and Trustees should stop spending money, absolutely not. Does OHA need better and more transparent policy, yes. Should OHA and Trustees stop funding until these policies are created, absolutely not.

Photo: New Houses in HawaiiMost of your Trustees are working with the Administration to strengthen current policy. They are also working to create other policies that are much-needed and long overdue. They are working together to strengthen OHA, they are not using the lack of or unclear policy as an excuse as to why they did not help beneficiaries. They are providing solutions, participating in the process, and helping you, our beneficiaries in any way they can.

Do not be deceived by political rhetoric about being a “watchdog.” We were all elected to be your Trustees and have equal say. To say that one has more, or different say is not only undemocratic, it is false. To say that constitutional rights are being broken is not understanding the difference between fiduciary duty and individual rights. If someone does not know these differences, it has to make you wonder if an individual is qualified to be a trustee and have fiduciary responsibility.

Learn all the facts, listen to all sides, ask questions. Do not believe just what you read from one person. Read what exactly the Trustees are voting on, not what just one person says they voted on. Knowledge is power: empower yourselves.