Help OHA Reach its full potential: Look for Change
by Trustee Rowena Akana, Ka Wai Ola, July, 2016
As the longest serving Trustee, it saddens me that OHA is no longest the proactive advocate for our beneficiaries that it once was. When I was first elected to the Board in 1990, OHA was at the forefront of many issues involving native rights, housing, education, and health.
Past Trustees were actively involved, spearheading major projects, and holding OHA’s administration accountable. Now everything seems, for want of a better term, ‘stagnant.’ While I’m sure the Board Char can produce a long list of ‘great’ things happening at OHA, to me its all just public relations fluff. Make no mistake—This is not the OHA of old that used to get results. I’m sure that every Trustee would agree that OHA can do more for our beneficiaries. Much more.
So what’s the solution? Its simple: Restore the Board’s oversight over the Administration. Right now, there are only THREE Trustees that are holding the Administration accountable.
1) The Asset & Resource Management Committee Chair, who oversees all of OHA’s fiscal, policy, economic development, land and administrative matters;
2) The Beneficiary Advocacy & Empowerment Committee Chair, who has responsibility over federal and state legislation, on-going programs in health, housing, and education; and
3) Last, but not least, the Board Chair, who basically just acts as the liaison between the Administration and the Board instead of providing oversight and direction. In fact, the CEO has BANNED Trustees without committees from having direct contact with Administrative staff. All requests for information must go through the Chair’s office.
So basically, the rest of the Trustees have to depend on the three Trustees above for updates and reports at the board table--There are no other opportunities for us to get information.
We could easily increase the amount of Trustees providing oversight over the Administration by going back to the five committee system. Subject matters included 1) Land, 2) Policy & Planning, 3) Program Management, 4) Legislative & Government Affairs, and 5) Budget & Finance. Bringing back these five committees would instantly double the amount of Trustees overseeing the Administration from three to six.
The increased oversight over the Administration would would finally put an end to the frequent complaints by Trustees that they are not being kept in the loop or getting regular updates on important issues.
As many of my long-time readers know, this is not a new proposal. I pushed for this change last year but the current Board Chair decided to go in the opposite direction. He actually got rid of the Land and Property Committee!
OHA is simply too big for three Trustees to control the organization. And as a result, crucial information is able to stay hidden. For example, under the old five committee structure, the Budget & Finance committee chair actually had the time to take our budget out to the community for comments and suggestions. Every line item of the budget was presented and none were hidden in ‘cost centers.’ Nothing could stay hidden in the budget with that much scrutiny.
So this election, seek change and elect new blood! Ask OHA candidates what they think about how OHA is run. Question them on their ideas to improve the office and the services we provide. Vote wisely or we’ll continue to be stuck in the same stagnation for years to come. Our beneficiaries deserve better!
Aloha Ke Akua.
July, 2016: OHA Trustee Election Guide
Dec, 2014: Rowena Akana: Now That I'm in Charge, Everything is Fine at OHA