Newly-elected OHA trustee wants to cut funding to sovereignty programs

Newly-elected OHA trustee wants to cut funding to sovereignty programs
Published: Nov. 9, 2016 at 9:32 PM HST|Updated: Nov. 9, 2016 at 11:06 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - He sued the Office of Hawaiian Affairs to stop its funding of Native Hawaiian sovereignty programs and has criticized some of the state agency's spending, which he calls wasteful.

Meet the newest member of OHA's board: Kelii Akina.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to bring real change to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The most important is to stop spending on wasteful projects, such as race-based federal recognition, which most Hawaiians don't want," Akina said.

Akina defeated former OHA chairwoman Haunani Apoliona, who has served at OHA for about two decades.

He won by appealing to the vast majority of non-Hawaiian voters, who weren't even able to vote in OHA races until the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Rice v. Cayetano ruling in 2000, which struck down race-based voting.

Given the high participation Tuesday, political analysts said voter scrutiny of OHA will likely increase.

"Akina campaigned on this. Other candidates who want to challenge OHA trustees will probably use a similar tactic, which is to say that this is public money and that everyone can vote," said Colin Moore, University of Hawaii political science professor.

Akina said he's not in favor abolishing all of OHA's programs. But he is against taxpayer money being used to lobby for native Hawaiian sovereignty.

He said one trustee has estimated that OHA has spent more than $30 million on that effort over the past several years.

"We need those assets to be spent on housing and jobs and education and healthcare," he said.

OHA will swear in its newest trustee on Dec. 9.

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