Category Archives: Uncategorized

More on the Akaka Petition

It’s always dumbfounding to me how the pro-Akaka Bill crowd is always trying to place a clumsy thumb on the scale of public opinion.  If you didn’t know where to look, you’d think that Hawaii was largely in favor of the bill (rather than sharply divided over it).  Moreover, you’d be convinced that every single Native Hawaiian in the state was clamoring for its passage.  That’s certainly how it must look sometimes to the Washington beltway crowd.  (Who, let’s face it, have a long history of swinging back and forth between romanticizing the Aloha state and then totally disregarding it.)  The good news (and I do have some) is that there are groups out there (including groups of Native Hawaiians) who are opposed to the Akaka Bill and are working to let Washington know that there are more voices out here than those of the vote-counting politicians and OHA.  Not long ago, I posted a link to an online petition demanding public hearings on the Akaka Bill in Hawaii.  Well here, in its entirety, is the letter sent from Leon Siu (head of the Keoni Foundation, a coalition of Native Hawaiian groups) to every U.S. Senator, citing that very petition in a request that Senators vote against the Bill.  Enjoy:

Petition Shows Broad Anti-Akaka Bill Sentiment


We are contacting you to make you aware of broad opposition to S.1011, the Native Hawaiian Government Reorganization Act of 2009, otherwise known as the Akaka bill, throughout Hawai`i and to ask for your vote AGAINST this bill.

Regardless of what Hawai`i Senators Akaka and Inouye have told your office, the people of Hawai`i, including Native Hawaiians, do not support the Akaka bill and are demanding public hearings be held in Hawai`i before any vote occurs in Congress.

Over the years, poll after poll has shown the citizens of Hawai`i, both native and non-native to be overwhelmingly opposed to this bill.

Moreover an online anti-Akaka bill petition has garnered hundreds of signers from all political points of view, both of natives and non-natives.

A copy, with over eight hundred signatures is attached to this email. The petition can also be seen online at <>

“We, the people of Hawai`i, declare our opposition to the 2010 version of the Akaka bill, and strongly object to being excluded from this legislative process,” stated Leon Siu representing the Koani Foundation, part of a coalition of Native Hawaiian groups.

“We have long been told that open, public debates in matters that affect the citizenry are part of the US democratic process. But it has not been so with the Akaka bill.”

“We, the people of Hawai`i, insist the US Senate Indian Affairs Committee hold public hearings on S.1011 in Hawai`i as soon as possible. We demand to be heard.”

The only time public hearings were held in Hawai`i on the bill was ten years ago.

At that hearing, people turned out in record numbers to oppose the legislation.

Since then, the only hearings held on the Akaka bill were in Washington, DC in the dead of winter, 5,000 miles from Hawai`i, and no opposing testimony from Hawaiians or anyone else was allowed.

For more information, contact Leon Siu at (808) 488-4669.

OHA’s Official Grant Goals

Break out the champagne and the 12-pages of Hawaiiglish, it’s OHA grant application time!  (What is Hawaiiglish?  It’s the name I’ve come up with for the bizarre hybrid of English and Hawaiian that is especially popular in the field of obtaining Hawaiian grants or talking about Hawaii when you’re running for office.  You know . . . when you get sentences like, “The kapuna understand the matrix of needs required to foster care of the ohana.”  Yes, this is a pet peeve of mine, since I feel like it’s pandering–as though Native Hawaiians are going to applaud anything you say just because you stuck the word “pono” in the sentence.)

Anyway, as part of its announcement of the new granting year, OHA also published its list of priorities.  And, to be scrupulously fair, many of them are completely reasonable and even necessary.  For example, there is a huge emphasis placed on increasing economic self-sufficiency for Native Hawaiians, with a specific goal of increasing family income and housing stability.  There are also laudable mentions of the need to exceed education standards and preserve Hawaiian culture.  Heck, I don’t even have a quarrel with the emphasis on preserving the environment and protecting the land.  There are places in this country where I might not be moved by that (I’m looking at you here, Newark), but Hawaii . . . well, that is some beautiful, beautiful stuff.

Of course, what I’ve done here is once again (like a broken CD or KPOI’s playlist) come back, yet again, to the same theme.  In effect, laudable goals do not equal laudable programs.  That’s why this exercise in transparency is so necessary.  Native Hawaiians deserve to know if all of these efforts to increase their family income, preserve their land, and protect their culture are actually good and effective program, or if they’re nothing more than vanity projects, giveaways to favored groups, or noble ideas that just don’t work in the real world.  Or whether they’re working like crazy and just need some more publicity and support to really help.  Some people get threatened by transparency efforts like 4HawaiiansOnly.  They think we’re trying to attack people or take away their support.  That’s a very defensive and short-sighted view.  All we’re doing is giving people the information they need to make an informed judgment about how their money is being spent.  You have to wonder about the motivations of those who want to prevent people from having that knowledge.

Really, More of a Shelbeyville Idea

How about a little round-up of Hawaii-type news?  No?  Too bad, here we go . . .

Sadly, the bid to save the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (and the integrity of journalism in Hawaii) has failed.  Though the proposal put forth by Sam Slom and Malia Zimmerman was the “last bid standing,” it didn’t meet the undisclosed (and presumably ridiculously high) asking price demanded of the owner, Black Press of Canada.  (Is it me or is that a strangely ominous name for a news organization?  I thought Canadians were supposed to be nice, not gloomy and forbidding.)  This means a few things: 1.) A bunch of people in Hawaii just lost their jobs; 2.) Honolulu just became a one-newspaper town; and 3.) We’ll be depending more than ever on the good folks at Hawaii Reporter for an alternative source of news.

Stressed out budgets in Hawaii are about to see one more hit to their pocketbooks, as the “barrel tax”–possibly the worst outcome of an already abysmal legislative session–raised from $.05 to $1.05 a barrel of imported petroleum.  As is always the way, these legislative efforts to rake in revenue will hit the little guy the most.  Especially on an island where nearly ever single thing that we consume has to take a long trip just to get here.  The new tax means that we should be seeing a rise in gasoline, electricity, food, and delivery prices shortly.  In other words, nearly everything.  The Governor had vetoed this tax, but was overridden by the legislature.  Perhaps we should just be grateful that they haven’t figured out how to tax Aloha spirit.  Yet.

Things are still pressing forward on the $4billion Honolulu Rail project–one suspects the fell hand of Lyle Lanley.  (“What about us brain dead slobs?/You’ll be given cushy jobs/Monorail, Monorail, Monorail!”)  Of course, one hates to drag things like logic and feasibility studies into an ambitious government project, but there’s a first for everything, so why not give it a shot.  The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii sponsored an economic study of the plan, which demonstrated a drop in tax revenues.  It would be good to see the legislature push for a legitimate economic impact study.  It would be even better to see a study that took into account any pending legislation that would radically alter Hawaii’s social and economic structure–like, say . . . oh, I don’t know . . . the Akaka Bill.

Hey, as Hawaii marches on towards economic implosion, someone ought to be standing athwart history, yelling, “Ahem!  You guys! Are you really sure this is a good idea?  Guys?”

And as a closing note, for those who need a little remediation on today’s pop culture reference–and for those who are just annoyed that the Monorail Song is now stuck in their heads, here you go:

OHA–Peeling back More Layers

Like many people in the islands, I have (for a long time) only had the vaguest notion of what OHA actually does.  Other than pour huge amounts of money into various projects and promote Native Hawaiian culture.  Those are all well and good as far as they go, but (especially where the huge amounts of money are concerned) one starts to wonder after awhile how they really help the average Native Hawaiian.  Your Kimo on the street, if you will.

No, I don’t have an answer to that.  I’ve looked at hundreds of OHA grants, many of which are in our database and wiki, and learned that (as with so many things in OHA) there are more questions than answers.  We’re working to try to fill in the gaps of knowledge about the OHA grants, but it’s slow work.  (Which is why we could use your help! Hint, hint!)  After all, OHA isn’t shy about deciding what is good for Native Hawaiians in Hawaii, but that’s not the same thing as finding out from the Hawaiians themselves.  Nor are Native Hawaiians some monolithic, homogeneous group that agrees on everything.

Consider the Akaka Bill.  Yes, again.  OHA and others would have you assume that all Native Hawaiians are uniformly in favor of it.  But why should that be?  The concerns about Akaka go beyond race to the future economic and cultural health of Hawaii.  Certainly, there are people of all ethnicities that harbor serious reservations about the push to pass Akaka.  And yet, OHA, speaking for Hawaiians, doesn’t seem aware of the possibility of dissent within that community.  Is this a responsible position for agency with OHA’s scope and influence?  More and more, I wonder how much Native Hawaiians are used as political tools by groups who have a lot more on their mind then just helping out.

Isn’t That Special

Ah, the “special interest.”  It’s every politician’s favorite bogeyman.  So convenient as a target for political diatribe–not least of all because it’s so vague.  After all, what is a “special interest” really?  When it comes right down to it, it’s a group with political currency that you don’t particularly care for.  After all, the ones you like are “legitimate and necessary issues or expenditures.”

Witness Rep. Oshiro’s recent opinion article in the Advertiser (on April 20th, 2010).  In it, Rep. Oshiro talks about the difficulties of the budget process and blames special interests for the “hard decisions” that are part of that process, especially when so many of those aforementioned special interests benefit from tax credits or tax exemptions.  Not to be insensitive or anything, but it’s not like there’s all that much to being a legislator.  (Believe me, anyone who has watched C-SPAN for more than 10 minutes and retained consciousness throughout would agree.)  So pardon me for not being overcome with sympathy over the difficulties of occasionally having to make a hard budgetary decision.  We regular folks do that every day.  It’s called, “trying to get by.”  Only when we mess up, we don’t get to make exculpatory speeches about it.  Instead, we get our electricity disconnected or the car repossessed.  So yeah, we elected you all to make the hard decisions.  Make them.

But that’s not actually the worst part.  After all, “special interests” are just the ones you feel don’t deserve any financial help or breaks.  So some politicians would call businesses that get incentives to stay in Hawaii and employ people “special interests.”  Others would say that political groups or specific classes of citizens (including those that get a lot of government funding) are special interests.  And some might point out that the legislature gave itself a raise, making it one of the special-est interests of all.

What would be nice (other than being able to vote myself a raise–what a great gig that is) is if our representatives stopped trying to manipulate us with their have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too talk about special interests and instead were more honest about where our money was going.  Because I may not be that special, but that’s where my interest really is.

Save the Bulletin!

I confess that I’ve always kind of liked the Honolulu Star-Bulletin the best.  Nothing against the Advertiser, but I always felt like there was a little less editorial bias at the Bulletin.  And also there’s just something about the name.  “Star-Bulletin.”  It sounds dreamy, but newsy.  Just what I want out of a Hawaii newspaper.  (Well, that and good, fair news coverage of course.)

But the Bulletin is actually in danger of shutting down–maybe even as soon as next week.  Why is this bad news?  Well, on a practical level, that means that hundreds of Hawaiians are in danger of losing their jobs.  And that stinks no matter how you cut it.  But beyond that, losing the Star-Bulletin will make Honolulu a one-newspaper town.  And if you want to encourage fair, responsible, and hard-hitting reporting, a little competition is important.  The internet may have changed news forever in letting people choose to get their news from a source they trust, but without the journalists on the ground, it gets harder and harder to find good information.  (And this goes double for the outer islands.  Feel a little overlooked now?  Imagine how much worse that can be with only one major paper in Hawaii’s capitol to cover your news and concerns.)

It just so happens that there are two highly-respected local figures who have put forth a bid to buy the Star Bulletin–State Senator Sam Slom and Hawaii Reporter’s Malia Zimmerman.  I won’t bore you all with their bonafides, but believe me when I say that if you’re local and wish that there was a Hawaii newspaper run by people who lived here, understood Hawaii, understood our concerns, and would promote accurate and unbiased reporting, then it would be hard to do better than these two. (And for all y’all on the outer islands, take note that part of their plan for the Star-Bulletin, should their bid succeed, is to expand its coverage of the outer islands and make it less Oahu-centric.)

As to why that matters to those of us concerned about transparency and fiscal responsibility?  Well, it should be obvious that if we want to ensure an independent voice in the community for issues like this, we need to save the Star-Bulletin.

(Want to learn more?  Go to

An Issue with OHA’s Commentary in the Advertiser

In his Honolulu Advertiserletter of April 15, OHA administrator Clyde Namuo talks about “reestablishing self-determination and self-governance for Native Hawaiian people.”  But the Hawaiian Kingdom was not a “Native Hawaiian” government.  Most cabinet ministers, nearly all department heads, and about 1/4 of the Legislature were Caucasians.  Thousands of people with zero native blood, including Asians, were native-born or naturalized subjects of the Kingdom.

Census Nonsense

Like most everyone else, I have been feeling the mild irritation that comes with getting a long questionnaire from the government accompanied by vague threats and even vaguer promises about the importance of filling it out.  Apparently, we should all be eager to take advantage of this chance to get “our fair share.”

Has it really come to that?

Are we so greedy, so eager to get our share of the government pie that the advertising wizards behind this year’s census marketing decided that a naked appeal to greed, and social/cultural divisions was the best motivator to use?  Especially in light of the fact that the “fair share” here is really the fair share of my own tax dollars.

Call me cynical if you must, but my experience hasn’t let me to believe that a lot of those tax dollars are coming back to me.  Especially in light of recent legislative efforts.  So when I see the “fair share” ads, all I can think of is the government urging people to fill out their census so they can be certain to get some of my money.

And when we throw race into the equation, it gets even more complicated.

Because (as this site makes so abundantly clear) race and ethnicity and monetary “fair share” is almost an industry in this country.  And the net effect is not to bring us together, but to deepen racial divisions and resentments.

I highly recommend Sam Slom’s recent article about the census in the Hawaii Reporter about the census.  As Senator Slom points out, the census was originally about the reapportionment of the US House of Representatives.  Not the all-out entitlement grab that it seems to have become.  And by standing by and allowing it to be a more and more intrusive process, we’re basically condoning it.  No, I’m not advocating refusing to fill out your census form.  But I think that everyone who has an issue with big, intrusive government and with the business of federal entitlements and grievances should begin asking questions of their elected representatives about the appropriateness of the ever-expanding census.

And don’t even get me started on what it costs.

Can a Governor Be Beyond the Law?

Our Lt. Governor, Duke Aiona has stated his support for the Akaka bill and urged its passage despite the many reservations held by others in the administration and among the people of Hawaii.

It’s not that we don’t understand the sentiment behind the support–we love Hawaii.  We recognize the richness of Hawaiian culture and sympathize with the desire to protect it and support Native Hawaiians.  But (as our grants database clearly shows) intentions are one thing . . . practice is another.  We’ve seen hundreds of millions of dollars spent to help Native Hawaiians–and evidently to little effect, from the picture painted by most Akaka supporters. Despite that, outreach to Native Hawaiians is practically its own industry in the Aloha State.

An even more interesting consideration . . . Lt. Governor Aiona (who is running for Governor, of course) could be part of the new Native Hawaiian tribe created by the Akaka Bill.  That means that he would be subject to different tax schemes, different justice–in essence, different law than the vast majority of his constituents.  (If he should win, that is.)  While Aiona is busy trumpeting his support for the Akaka bill, it would be good to for him to address the glaring questions of how his membership in an Akaka-based tribe would affect his governance.

Two Interest Groups with One Stone

Not unsurprisingly, when you’re dealing with hundreds of grants and millions of dollars, the details of the grants start to blur.  But if you’re paying attention, certain patterns begin to emerge.  Like the tendency of some of the Native Hawaiian grants to be aimed at helping more that just the locals they’re claiming to care for.

Consider two of the most recent additions to our grants data: $179,165 to the Nanakuli Housing Corp. for, “designing affordable, environmentally green housing to homestead residents,” and $435,061 to the Waianae Community Redevelopment Corp. for a sustainable, “center for organic agriculture.”  The rationale for grants like this is always phrased in terms of how it will help Native Hawaiians continue their culture, break the cycle of poverty, and so on.  But notice how both projects cater to the environmentalist crowd with their emphasis on “green housing” and organic, sustainable agriculture.  This isn’t about what Hawaiians want or need. This is about helping them on someone else’s politically correct terms.  I’m not saying that Hawaiians don’t care about protecting the land or conserving the environment.  But this isn’t giving them a choice about how they want to improve their homes or run their local agriculture.  This is about using one group to please another.