Oahu voters helped usher in big changes on OHA board and that’s got some worried

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Updated: Nov. 5, 2020 at 3:40 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Some new faces have been elected to the nine-member Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

  • Kelii Akina, president of Grassroot Insitute, was re-elected to the OHA seat representing the entire state.
  • Keola Lindsey, former chief advocate at OHA won the Hawaii Island seat.
  • And Luana Alapa, who’s in independent sales and is a former Miss Hawaii sales won the Molokai seat, toppling incumbent and OHA chair Colette Machado.

“Clean house and let’s get this thing moving,” said Alapa, who won by seeking votes on Oahu. “If you’re going to focus your energy some place, naturally it’s going to be on Oahu."

But University of Hawaii Political Science Professor Noelani Goodyear-Kaopua worries about the board could now have too much Oahu-centric influence.

“I think this is a structural problem with the way OHA voting is conducted,” she said.

“You have a situation where the folks who are representing different islands are not truly being selected by the island constituency,” added Goodyear-Kaopua.

She’s also concerned about the cost.

“In the race between Kelii Akina and Keoni Souza, this was the most expensive race in terms of the campaigns for OHA and he outspent Keoni Souza by more than four fold,” she said.

The new faces will impact policies. The OHA board initially supported the Thirty Meter Telescope, but is now neutral on the controversial project. Goodyear-Ka’opua sees another shift with the new board.

“It is likely there could be less support on the board now for supporting the kiai mauna who are protecting Mauna Kea in these last few years,” she said.

The new board is planning to meet in December and there’s word Carmen Hulu Lindsey of Maui could become the new chair.

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