by Andrew Walden
For seven years under the chairmanship of Micah Kane, Hawaiian Homelands put more Hawaiian homesteaders in homes than the agency had in the previous 80 years combined. Kane's success stemmed largely from his ability to keep the DHHL focused on its mission. Surfing atop the swirling and fetid waters of the Legislature, Kane was the first and only DHHL Director to successfully keep his agency from becoming submerged and eaten by sharks.
But with Kane gone, Kaulana Park, Hawaiian Homelands' new Chairman faces a test of his leadership abilities. Does Park also possess Kane's ability to keep errant legislators in line by making sure their leaders are happy? Sen. Clayton Hee, Rep Ken Ito, and the Akaka Tribe's erstwhile chiefess, Robin Danner, want to find out. They are proposing substantial amendments to the Hawaiians Homes Commission Act which will sharply cut DHHL's self-funding. According to Danner's news release:
The Senate Committee on Water, Land, Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs, under the chairmanship of Senator Clayton Hee, passed legislation amending the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act (HHCA) at a hearing held Wednesday, March 17th.
The legislation, negotiated with Representative Ken Ito, revises the House version of a bill that would authorize 99-year leases for commercial use of Hawaiian home lands. Instead, the Senate version authorizes a one-time 20-year extension and requires 20 percent of all commercial revenues to be designated to a cultural and community development fund for practitioners.
Together Hee, Danner, and Ito propose to seize 20% of DHHL commercial lease revenues--meant to fund the development of new DHHL home sites--and hand them over to self-styled "cultural and community practitioners."
This is a sharp warning to any and all DHHL beneficiaries. The Akaka Tribe intends to gut the DHHL of its basic function. Instead of building homes, they intend to use DHHL as a cash cow to line the pockets of Akaka Tribe "practitioners".
The obvious question is whether Senate President Colleen Hanabusa has made a satisfactorily "Grace-ful" arrangement with DHHL to keep this kind of nonsense in check in her Chamber. Or does she think a deal with Kane doesn't carry over to Park?
Interestingly, Hanabusa campaign backer Kamaki Kanahele, a key proponent of the Hee/Ito/Danner cash grab, doesn't seem the least bit worried about receiving Hanabusa's support. Instead he worries about getting the backing of House Speaker Calvin Say. Says Kanahele:
"Our hope is that house Speaker, Calvin Say, will honor the work of homestead leaders who worked hard this session to help Representative Ito and Senator Hee to produce a bill we can support."
Because DHHL is intended to be self-supporting, revenues from these properties are absolutely necessary to its mission of building homes and assigning leases. DHHL owns substantial commercially developable property in Hilo, Kapolei, and even a few parcels in former State Sherriff John Souza's Barber's Point/Kalaeloa stomping grounds near the old Honolulu Raceway Park.
Key backing for the DHHL cash grab comes from the so-called "Sovereign Councils of the Hawaiian Homelands Assembly" (SCHHA), a group founded in 1987 which Kanahele chairs. Danner is vice-chair. Claiming to represent "over 30,000 beneficiaries living on Hawaiian Homestead lands", SCHHA is a key backer of the new version of the Akaka Bill. Kanahele's allegedly broad based group is also highly political. Its December 4, 2009 letter endorsing Neil Abercrombie for governor, ends with the following intonation:
"The SCHHA shall continue to endorse the following great leaders: US Senator Daniel Inouye, US Senator Kaniela Akaka, US Representative Mazie Hirono and State Senator Colleen Hanabusa for the US House of Representatives."
The akamai reader may wonder why "Kaniela Akaka" gets an endorsement even though he isn't even up for election this year. But there is a more fundamental question: Can Colleen keep her supporters in line? Does she even want to?
Will Kaulana Park, in an election year, be able to bring into line the hordes of grifters swirling around the Legislature, OHA, and the broader Akaka Gang in order to receive the same type of support that Micah Kane was able to "contract"? Or, in the name of winning more space for a race, will Hanabusa now allow these type of political games to drag the DHHL back down to whence it came?