(BIVN) – William Ailā will again serve as the Deputy Director of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, after the state senate voted to confirm the nomination on April 17. But not all the elected officials were in support.
Senator Kai Kahele, who serves the district of Hilo on Hawaiʻi Island where homestead associations sent letters in opposition to Ailā’s return to the position, voted “no”.
“This has been a difficult nomination for me, and one that I have deliberated on, even up to just an hour ago,” Kahele said from the floor of the senate as he rose to oppose the nomination. “You know it’s difficult for me as a Native Hawaiian to vote against another Native Hawaiian, but I will be voting ‘no’ on the nomination.”
Kahele was not present for the vote on Ailā during the Senate Committee on Hawaiian Affairs, but he was present to hear from the nominee and indicated that he would be taking all viewpoints into consideration before making his decision.
During the April 17 floor vote, Kahele said:
I represent Hilo in this body and I’m one of four voices on Hawaiʻi Island where thousands of constituents are homestead families or are on the homestead waitlist. I’ve listened carefully to the testimony. I’ve read hundreds of emails for my own district and the districts of others and the homestead associations across the state. I’ve watched over three hours of video testimony on my own, and I’ve had a chance to meet with the nominee. I’ve read testimony from across the state and I could feel the desperation of our people.
The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, a beautiful piece of legislation championed by Prince Kuhio, is approaching its 100th anniversary and today we have almost 45,000 agricultural, pastoral, and residential leases on the waitlist, and it grows every day. Native Hawaiians that meet the 50% blood-quantum are dying every day. My own father, a beneficiary of the trust, passed away on the wait list.
The nominee, Mr. Ailā, is a good man. He’s a good Hawaiian. He’s knowledgeable, and well known in the management of harbors of natural resources, of dedication to his community in West Oʻahu. I have no problem with Mr. Ailā in his field of expertise. He gave the last four years his best and I truly believe that, but what DHHL needs today is, it needs leadership. It needs to go in a new direction. It needs to have a stronger working relationship with this body, with our body at the federal government. It needs to know that the reason DHHL exists is to serve the beneficiaries of this state and its homestead associations, not the other way around.
Colleagues, the well-being of our state is tied directly to the strength and well-being of its host culture, the Native Hawaiian community. Every aspect of our way of life, every arena – the economy, education, health, culture – is tied to the strength of the Native Hawaiian people and their economic and cultural prosperity. And at the center of that is the Hawaiian homes Land Trust which gives our Native Hawaiian community the best hope to advance its economic self-sufficiency of Native Hawaiians.
Moreover, the economic development potential for Native Hawaiians – if realized – can and will advance the economic prosperity of this state.
Why is that? Because when a dollar is invested in infrastructure on Hawaiian homelands, a Hawaiian business is building a road, installing utilities, building homes, creating jobs. When a dollar is spent on the administration and operations of the Trust, that’s a vital job that is created. A dollar that is going in someone’s pocket – food on their table, rent to a landlord, preschool tuition for their keiki – and becomes part of the spending power of the people of Hawaiʻi and the tax base of this state.
Mr. President, I want to see DHHL firing on all cylinders, not just one section of the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act. Every section. Send me leadership for the next four years that can move section 207, especially mercantile lands in a wait list. Section 211 on community pastures. Section 213 on the use of trust funds that belong to beneficiaries. Section 214 on all types of loan programs we should be providing. Section 219 on general assistance of technical resources. Section 220 on bonds. Section 221 and water reservations. Section 222 on transparent reporting. I want all cylinders firing – as Prince Kuhio intended -together. And I want a level of humanity and customer service that puts beneficiaries in their rightful place; the owners of this amazing land trust.
No matter what happens today on the floor with the nominee I am willing to work with the nominee as we moved to the interim, if he is confirmed by this body. But make no mistake we need change at the Department of Hawaiian Homelands, we need to change this course of direction and we need to change it now.
There were other “no” votes from Senators English, Fevella, Kidani and also anther Hawaiʻi Island senator, Lorraine Inouye. However, Ailā had the 19 “ayes” needed to be confirmed.