…Most agreed that one of the top economic issues raised by self-governance is land. Currently, the state manages 1.8 million acres of ceded lands, property that belonged to the Hawaiian Kingdom at the time of its overthrow. “Native Hawaiians get 20 percent of the revenues on those, but our goal is for Native Hawaiians to own and control and manage those lands so that we can create an economic environment for the benefit of Native Hawaiians,” says Leilani Williams-Solomon, immediate past president of the Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce.
An independent government would be able to negotiate the return of ceded lands, Crabbe says. “An important, maybe No. 1 issue for the economy is that those lands are up for settlement, and we have a right to manage those resources,” he says.
Fees collected from Honolulu and Hilo airports, both on ceded lands, are some of the revenues that could be available to a Hawaiian government, he notes.
A handoff could also mean a renegotiation of current leases. Moses Haia, executive director of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp., notes that other prominent ceded lands include the summit of Mauna Kea and the Pohakuloa Training Area used by the U.S. military. “A lot of those leases are for less than market value, so if those lands were to go back under the jurisdiction of the government created through this aha, there would have to be a lot of issues worked out with current leaseholders,” Haia says.
What leases would be high on the list for review? Any that raise significant revenue, Haia says….
“I think that would include the airport and any other lands that are ceded that also provide the state with revenue,” he says.
(Note: Airport revenues are reserved for airport operations, not fake Indian tribes, under federal law.)
Hawaii’s sacred mountaintops could also be on the list. “Mauna Kea – that is a significant issue for Hawaiians because of the cultural value and sacredness of the area, so I think it is also going to be a piece of the puzzle when these ceded lands are looked at and dealt with,” Haia says.
(As explained: Telescope: For OHA, it’s all About the Rent Money)
Control of infrastructure like airports and harbors could mean more than just revenue for a new government, notes Crabbe. “We could develop, for example, our own free-trade zone and, through that free-trade zone, we could import commodities or products to Hawaii, bypassing the Jones Act,” which restricts foreign-flagged ships from sailing between American ports. That requirement is often blamed for high-shipping costs between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii because American-built and -owned ships with American crews must be used.
A Hawaiian government with jurisdiction over one or more ports could facilitate the import of lower-cost food, building materials, vehicles and other commodities, Crabbe says. “Bypassing the Jones Act would benefit not just Native Hawaiians, but the rest of Hawaii.”
(OHA Jones Act Pipe Dream debunked: Sorry OHA, Free Trade Zones are not free of the Jones Act.)
Finally, as several people note, a transition of landholdings to a Hawaiian government could open new opportunities for development. That could mean more projects similar to Kakaako as a means of generating revenue for the government. Or it could mean more flexibility for small, Hawaiian-owned businesses to pursue commercial ventures on native lands – perhaps with fewer restrictions than currently required under state and county permitting rules.
(OHA’s Kakaako Project? – “Kakaako is Nations' Largest Homeless Tent City”)
“As a business owner, I’d like to see opportunities on Hawaiian lands,” says Mercer “Chubby” Vicens, a board member and founder of the Maui Native Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce. “We have Hawaiian lands, but we don’t have many opportunities. Even those who get into DHHL lands find they can’t do anything with it.”
(Did he just mention DHHL? -- Final Interior Dep't Rule Allows OHA Hawaiians to Steal Land from DHHL Hawaiians)
…a sovereign Hawaiian nation could limit ownership of land by foreign corporations, such as requiring corporate-owned lands be transferred to Hawaii citizens or Hawaii-based businesses within 10 or 20 years….
While a Hawaiian government would only have direct control over streams on lands under its jurisdiction, Haia says, that leverage to renegotiate long-held agreements could be a game changer for Native Hawaiian water rights statewide. “It boggles my mind to think about how many chips are going to be on the table,” he says. “It could be that negotiations get to a point where the state or federal government want something, and if they want it, how much are they willing to give for it.”
…a Hawaiian government, even under the “nation within a nation” model, would likely have authority to establish its own system of taxation, and potentially offer Hawaiians some protection from taxes imposed by other jurisdictions.
Crabbe says he’d like to see such a government support Hawaiian-owned businesses (Like Al Hee’s Sandwich Isles Communications maybe?), or businesses that promote Hawaiian culture, welfare and values through tax and regulatory incentives.
Vicens says another scenario could exempt business transactions that fall within the jurisdiction of the Hawaiian government from state general excise tax….
(That would cause lots of companies to switch their jurisdiction. Don’t worry, the HGEA and UPW can do without that revenue.)
Crabbe also hopes to benefit Native Hawaiian-owned businesses by establishing a national bank. OHA now has a Native Hawaiian Revolving Loan Fund, which offers micro loans for home repairs, small businesses and other uses, as well as loans up to $1 million for larger businesses. Currently, the program largely attracts borrowers who can’t qualify for loans at traditional banks…. (ie deadbeats)
The program is currently overseen by the Administration for Native Americans, a federal agency which supplied $15 million to match $10 million from OHA to start the loan fund. OHA has petitioned ANA to give it oversight of the fund if OHA can show sustainability and accountability measures are in place and working. If that happened, Crabbe says, “In a way, it would become like a local bank.”.…