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WHY I RAN FOR OHA TRUSTEE


(c) Copyright 2000 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved


Aloha kakou to the voters of Hawai'i

I ran for Trustee of OHA, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, in the election of November 7, 2000. The seat I was seeking is at-large, meaning that all the people of Hawai'i could vote for me, and I would be representing all of them.

Everything in the above paragraph describes a breakthrough -- a victory for the people of Hawai'i. From the founding of OHA in 1978 until August 15, 2000 there has never been an OHA trustee who represents all the people of Hawai'i. That's because OHA has been racially segregated.

In the election, I received 18,115 votes. This put me in fourth place, out of 20 candidates in my contest. The three candidates who finished above me were (1) winner Haunani Apoliona, who had served as OHA Trustee for the four previous years, and director of Alu Like for many years, and is a well-known composer and performer of Hawaiian music; (2) Dante Carpenter, who had previously served as OHA's chief administrator, and as elected mayor of the Big Island, and in the Hawai'i state legislature; and (3) Darrow Aiona, who had previously served in the legislature for many years and is well-known as a community activist. The complete election results for all contests in November 2000, including OHA, can be found at
http://www.state.hi.us/elections/reslt00/general/00swgen4.html

I believe my 4th place finish out of 20 candidates was a very strong showing. All three above me and most below me are lifelong residents of Hawai'i, with substantial records of community service and extensive institutional relationships. There was a major effort to get non-Hawaiians not to vote in the OHA election, and to ask everyone who did vote to vote only for ethnic Hawaiian candidates. This was my first time to run (or even participate) in a political campaign. I ran a low-budget campaign, with only a few small newspaper ads, no yard signs, and no TV ads. Every vote for me was a principled vote; i.e., people voted for me because they knew my positions on the issues and strongly supported them. Until about a year before the election I had virtually no name-recognition, because I was not politically active. I obtained name-recognition because of letters to the editor I published in the newspapers, appearances on TV and radio panel discussions, media coverage of the lawsuit that allowed me to break the racial barrier, and media coverage of my taking out and filing nominating papers as the first non-Hawaiian to be allowed to run for OHA trustee. The three above me, and many who finished below me, had name-recognition because of other things they had done in the past (often unrelated to OHA). Some voters, interviewed by the media afterward, said they didnít know what any of the candidates stood for but voted for people whose names they recognized, or had seen in TV ads for the campaign. Some said they voted for whoever had a long and interesting-sounding Hawaiian name!

The remainder of this webpage was written before and during the campaign. I have not changed any of the content, although obviously I am now no longer a candidate for office, since the election is over.

What follows is (1) a description of who I am and what I believe in; (2) an explanation of my "platform" as a candidate -- the things I hope to accomplish for the people of Hawai'i while serving as OHA Trustee; and (3) a short history of the legal action that brought about the partial desegregation of OHA


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SOME GENERAL STATEMENTS ABOUT WHO I AM AND WHAT I BELIEVE IN

I am first a person who feels the spiritual power of the land and people, and seeks to make things pono (righteous). To help me understand and then explain, I have a good mind and a strong educational background. And now I have entered politics because I see things happening that are wrong and want to make them right. I find politics distracting, because it takes away from my quiet time for feeling, thinking, and writing. But political action is necessary to restore pono, so I can once again return to the quiet life.

My educational background is one part of my qualifications for office. I have three degrees from the University of Illinois: B.S. Mathematics (double major in Philosophy) 1962 at age 19 (Phi Beta Kappa, Bronze Tablet Scholar, Honors in Liberal Arts with Distinction in Mathematics); M.S. Teaching of Mathematics 1964 (Phi Delta Kappa, Kappa Delta Pi); Ph.D. Philosophy and Educational Theory 1967. I taught Philosophical and Historical Foundations of Education, and Mathematics-Education, for 5 years as a graduate teaching assistant and then for 3 years as Assistant Professor at a branch of Michigan State, 2 years as Assistant Professor at Emory University (Atlanta), and then 3 years as Associate Professor at Boston University. I also taught high school Mathematics and computer programming in the Boston area for 17 years. I have published about 45 scholarly articles in journals devoted to philosophy, mathematics, and teacher education; but my proudest publication is this website dealing with the most complex and challenging problem I have ever analyzed and explained: Hawaiian sovereignty.

I visited Hawai'i on summer vacations during a 10 year period from 1982-1992, and felt the spiritual power of the land. I heard the spirituality of the kanaka maoli in their songs and hula, and fell in love with their culture. I decided that as soon as I became eligible for a teacher's pension I would move here permanently, and then made that move in 1992. At first I naively assumed that the political sovereignty demands were automatic extensions of the culture and spirituality that brought me here. But the more I learned about Hawaiian history, the more it became clear that the sovereignty demands are not valid. As a philosopher I look for the truth, and cannot rest until I look all the way down to the bottom of an issue. As a mathematician, I care about logic and precision. As a spiritual being, I need to bring myself into pono -- harmony with the Cosmic Spirit, with my neighbors, with my fellow creatures and with the 'aina who is our parent.

There is no historical, legal, or moral basis for any race-based political sovereignty for kanaka maoli. The sovereignty demands are all about money, land, and power. Sometimes people use and abuse the culture and spirituality merely as tools to make unjustified political claims. A whole generation has grown up being brainwashed by the sovereignty activists through the school curriculum, TV programs, films, and radical faculty members at the University. No wonder people are confused!

Aia ke anuenue nani ma ka lani ma'o -- there's the beautiful rainbow over there in the sky. It is beautiful because all the colors stay side-by-side. Think how weird it would look to break up the rainbow into thin strips in different parts of the sky. Each racial and ethnic group in Hawai'i maintains its own unique identity and pride in its heritage; and together we make a beautiful rainbow. Let's not partition Hawai'i along racial lines. OHA is a branch of the state government. There can be no ethnic fiefdoms or racial segregation in government. And likewise, the Akaka bill should be defeated because it seeks to divide us racially.

Hawai'i today stands at a crossroads. Shall we permanently divide the State of Hawai'i along racial lines? Or shall we go forward as a State of Hawai'i that is unified under one government, with equal rights and aloha for all? Sovereignty proposals in general, and the Akaka bill in particular, would take us in the wrong direction, and set the stage for constantly-intensifying ethnic strife, forcing us to focus on what tears us apart rather than what brings us together. We do not want to become like Bosnia, Fiji, Rwanda, or Zimbabwe. Most people in Hawai'i, including most kanaka maoli, are proud to be Americans, and glad to belong to an ethnically diverse yet fully integrated society.


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WHY I AM RUNNING FOR OHA TRUSTEE

There are four reasons why I am running for trustee of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA).

1. As Trustee it will be my job to make OHA the best it can be. But OHA is unconstitutional and is on the way toward being abolished. It will be up to others to abolish OHA. During the transitional period I will help OHA spend its money on good projects that are not unconstitutionally restricted by race.

2. OHA is badly in need of reform while we wait for it to be abolished. I will shake things up at OHA.

3. My candidacy is necessary to desegregate OHA.

4. I understand Hawaiian history, culture, language, spirituality, and the politics of the sovereignty movement in ways that most koko'ole (non-kanaka maoli) and many kanaka maoli do not.

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1. As Trustee it will be my job to make OHA the best it can be. But OHA is unconstitutional and is on the way toward being abolished. It will be up to others to abolish OHA. During the transitional period I will help OHA spend its money on good projects that are not unconstitutionally restricted by race.

My candidacy gives the people of Hawai'i a chance to come together and express their will to abolish racially exclusionary programs and the bloated bureaucracy of OHA. Hawai'i does not permit its citizens to place referendum issues on the ballot, so the only way for the voice of the people to be heard is through a candidate willing to speak clearly and unequivocally on an issue.

The people of Hawai'i do not wish to be divided along racial lines. We want to preserve a State of Hawai'i unified under one government, with full equality and aloha for all. Needy people should receive help based on need alone, and not race. It is legally and morally wrong to have a branch of government providing benefits restricted by race. Let's not partition Hawai'i along racial lines.

In 1978 the people of Hawai'i, out of love for kanaka maoli, created OHA to provide special help for them. But Hawai'i's people now realize that it was a mistake to set up a racially segregated branch of the state government. OHA has turned into a monster. OHA has become so entrenched in the political power structure of the state, and their lobbyists have been so successful in pressuring state legislators, government office-holders, and the banking and industrial power-structure, that it is necessary for the voice of the people to be heard directly on this issue. We need to speak truth to power. But even if the people do not vote to abolish OHA, the courts will do the job anyway. Racial restrictions are not permitted in governmental agencies.

While others do the work of abolishing OHA, I will help OHA get through the transitional period. I will find ways to spend OHA's money on useful projects that help all the people of Hawa'i, with a special focus on preserving and enhancing Native Hawaiian culture. But I will avoid voting in favor of any expenditures for programs that are racially restricted, unless a judge tells me that it is Constitutionally permissible to do so and that I am legally required to do so because of my fiduciary responsibilities to OHA's beneficiaries. There are plenty of ways to spend OHA's money that are not racially restrictive.

The easiest and least traumatic solution might be to simply transfer OHA's assets to the public schools, turn out the lights, and close the door. Roughly 25% of Hawai'i's public school children are Native Hawaiian. They, like everyone else, suffer from overcrowded, understaffed, dilapidated schools. Survey after survey shows that education is a top priority with all the people of Hawai'i, including kanaka maoli. For the first 20 years of statehood, all the ceded land revenues went to the public schools. But when OHA was established, OHA began getting all the ceded land revenues. It was only supposed to get 20%, but somehow that was interpreted to mean 20% of gross revenues, which is more than 100% of net revenues. It takes big bucks to build and operate airports, universities, and public housing. The taxpayers pay for all those expenses, and OHA demands 20% of the landing fees and concession fees, tuition, and welfare-housing rent money; even though these public services operate at a loss subsidized by the taxpayers. Meantime the schools suffer, and the State's bond rating goes down so that it costs more money to borrow for capital improvements. By giving back to the schools the money that should have stayed there in the first place, the Native Hawaiian children will be helped without any unconstitutional racial restrictions. OHA's current Trustees and staff will resist this idea, because they would lose money and political power. Too bad! The children and people of Hawai'i will win.

OHA has $400 million "in the bank," mostly invested outside Hawai'i through New York brokerage firms. That money should have gone to support public education. Defenders of OHA will say that much of this money comes from dividends on investments, and not directly from taxpayers. But just imagine if the principal amount had been invested in public education. The social dividends over the years would have been enorormous, coming in the form of a better-educated and more productive population. The money now sitting in OHA's brokerage accounts would have become knowledge and skills in the minds and hands of our young people.

I have considerable expertise in education because I was a teacher and also a teacher of teachers and school administrators. I am accustomed to studying and understanding the complex problems of schooling. My Ph.D. is in philosophy of education, which means that I am good at figuring out what are the problems faced by the schools and the people they serve, what would be the best way of dealing with those problems, and explaining the problems and solutions in a way that people can understand.

If there is some law that prevents transferring OHA's assets to the public schools, then let's spend OHA's $400 million to support programs that preserve Native Hawaiian culture in ways that are not racially restrictive. One example: Hawaiian language programs. Hawaiian language is a great treasure for all the people of Hawai'i. Even if most of those who want to study Hawaiian language are ethnic Hawaiians, the fact that people of all races are welcome to participate means that such programs are Constitutionally permissible. Another example: restoration of taro patches, heiau, fishponds, and traditional integrated ahupua'a ecosystems. Even if most of the participants are ethnic Hawaiians, the fact that all races are welcome to participate and to take leadership roles makes such projects Constitutionally permissible. Think what a boost that would be to lift people out of dependency. Think how the environment would be improved, and Hawai'i could become more self-sufficient through bountiful sustainable agriculture and fish production. And it would also boost the overall state economy, because the money would be spent right here in Hawai'i instead of sitting in some brokerage house in New York.

If a judge tells me that most of OHA's money can only be spent to benefit Native Hawaiians with 50% blood quantum, then one good way to do that is the following: all those currently on the DHHL waiting list for homestead land can divide up OHA's $400 million equally among themselves; while those holding leases can have them converted to fee-simple. Then both OHA and DHHL can turn out the lights and close the door, putting an end to racial restrictions in State programs in a way that gives real help to needy people and a boost to the economy. We would get rid of OHA's bloated and patronage-filled bureaucracy. And we would put an end to this sad part of Hawai'i's history.


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2. OHA is badly in need of reform while we wait for it to be abolished. I will shake things up at OHA.

It may take years to get OHA abolished. Meanwhile it continues to operate. Therefore, I am running to help clean up the way OHA operates during the time needed for others to abolish it. As a Trustee I will be a strong voice for reform. I will have a legal right to see full budget details. I will have a vote to change the way money is invested and spent.

I will work to spend OHA's money on projects that provide real help to people and are not racially segregated. I will also work to make OHA stop spending millions of dollars on public relations campaigns, poliical lobbying, lawsuits, and administrative overhead. We have all seen expensive advertisements on TV, newspapers, and radio with lovely music and beautiful scenery and cultural treasures, whose only purpose is "brand recognition" for OHA. These ads portray OHA as a wonderful institution, helping move forward "toward a better future for all Hawaiians." But such ads waste money merely to glorify OHA and its trustees, even while OHA keeps telling us how Native Hawaiians are suffering.

So long as OHA continues in operation, all the people of Hawai'i have a right to watch over it and control what it does. OHA has gone far astray from the intent of its creators, which was to receive a small but steady stream of revenues and spend them to help needy people. OHA has become a monster. I shall enter the belly of the beast.

OHA's budget is hidden and needs auditing. Nobody except Clayton Hee and his group of cronies knows what the budget actually is. Figures are never published, except for a few vague generalities in the monthly newsletter. A few years ago the late Trustee Billie Beamer (bless her heart) used to have a monthly TV show, and a monthly column in the OHA newsletter, where she would constantly complain that she could not get budget information she needed to make decisions because Clayton Hee wouldn't give it to her. And she was a trustee! Where is the State Auditor? Let's put Marion Higa on this case.

OHA accumulates wealth and invests hundreds of millions of dollars outside Hawai'i while complaining that needy people get no help. The activists are constantly telling us that Native Hawaiians are at the bottom among all the ethnic groups in Hawai'i when it comes to healthcare, housing, education, incarceration, drug abuse, family dysfunction, etc. They run to Congress for money. They're trying to partition Hawai'i along racial lines (the Akaka bill) just to get more money for themselves. Yet the assets of OHA have grown to $400 million. OHA spends less each year than the income from its investments, and most of what it spends goes for staff salaries, political lobbying, public relations advertising propaganda, and legal fees. With all that money, why aren't they helping the people who need help? Why are they investing nearly all their money in places outside Hawai'i? Why are they wasting big bucks on massive propaganda campaigns glorifying OHA on TV, radio, and newspapers? How can it be legal for a "public trust" and a branch of State government to spend taxpayer dollars to engage in political lobbying and advertising intended to influence elections and policies?


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3. My candidacy is necessary to desegregate OHA.

For the first 22 years of its existence, OHA was racially segregated in three ways: (a) voting for trustee; (b) running for and serving as trustee; and (c) receiving benefits.

(a) Until the year 2000, only persons with at least one drop of native blood were allowed to vote for OHA trustees. The Rice v. Cayetano Supreme Court decision got rid of racially segregated voting.

(b) But state officials still insisted that only people with at least one drop of native blood could run for or serve as OHA trustee. It required a decision by a federal court to eliminate segregation on the board of trustees, and the court could not make that decision unless there was a candidate actually trying to run for office. That's one reason why I tried to take out nominating papers on June 1, 2000. Now that Judge Gillmor has forced the State of Hawai'i to allow me to run, that's what I am going to do. So far as I am aware, it has been several decades since any state in the United States has denied a person the right to run for public office solely on account of race. The most precious right in a democracy is the right to vote; and the right to vote is meaningless unless there are a variety of candidates to vote for.

(c) Even when I am an elected trustee, the other trustees and the OHA attorneys will probably maintain that OHA's money can only be used to provide benefits for people with at least one drop of native blood. The final resolution of this racially exclusionary policy will happen when a court rules that OHA is unconstitutional. Government benefits cannot be restricted by race. In the meantime, I will work to spend OHA's money on projects that provide real help to needy people and to support Hawaiian culture, and are not racially segregated.

The racially restrictive policies that OHA has followed for 22 years are unconstitutional. Unfortunately, most of OHA's Trustees and staff are likely to cling tightly to those policies. If so, then they are doomed to follow OHA into the dustbin of history.


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4. I understand Hawaiian history, culture, language, spirituality, and the politics of the sovereignty movement in ways that most koko'ole (non-kanaka maoli) and many kanaka maoli do not.

I do not claim to be a cultural expert, and have only a modest level of fluency in the language. But I love and respect the kanaka maoli and their culture, which is why I have worked hard to learn and will always seek to learn more. As a retiree I have the time to seek wisdom and the independence to do the right thing. I would probably be the best-educated member of the OHA board, and speak the Hawaiian language better than several of the current Trustees. If I can make the effort to learn the language even coming here from elsewhere, why have some of the locally born and raised Trustees not made the same effort?

I have attended hundreds of sovereignty meetings over an 8 year period, and have spent thousands of hours talking with people of all ethnic groups about Hawaiian sovereignty. People may disagree with my views, but cannot dispute my sincerity and independence.

Kamehameha the Great relied heavily on his non-native military advisor and friend John Young, and after consolidating power through bloody warfare, Kamehameha named John Young to be Governor of his home island of Hawai'i. John Young married into the family and became grandfather to Queen Emma. Every sovereign King (and Queen) of the Kingdom of Hawai'i appointed non-natives to high government offices, including a majority of the cabinet positions. Many non-natives were elected to the legislature or appointed to the House of Nobles. When Bernice Pauahi Bishop established Bishop Estate, the first five Trustees she named were all non-natives. I hope that today's ethnic Hawaiians will respect the judgment and inclusiveness of their ancestors and realize that it is perfectly OK to vote for a non-native. I am proud that my nominating petition includes the signatures of some distinguished Native Hawaiians who are active in cultural and environmental matters.

I am of Irish and English descent, yet I live under the rule of an ethnic Filipino governor and ethnic Japanese Lieutenant Governor. My campaign manager is 50% Chinese, 25% Filipino, and 25% Hawaiian. I trust a Chinese-Hawaiian doctor with my life. This is Hawai'i. In Hawai'i every ethnic group is a minority. Hawai'i is a state that is unified under one government, with equality and aloha for all. Let's do our best to keep it that way. Abraham Lincoln said that a house divided against itself cannot long endure. And at the conclusion of the Civil War, in his short Second Inaugural speech, he said "With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations." That sounds like good advice for Hawai'i as we seek to avoid ethnic divisiveness.


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SHORT LEGAL HISTORY

On August 15, 2000 Judge Helen Gillmor of the U.S. District Court in Honolulu issued a temporary restraining order forcing the Governor, Attorney General, and State elections officials to allow citizens to run for OHA trustee without racial restriction. And the following day I became the first person with no Native Hawaiian blood ever to be allowed to take out nominating papers. I had tried to take out nominating papers on June 1, but was denied for no reason other than race. I felt like Rosa Parks being told she must sit in the back of the bus.

Some people say that it shows I have no aloha because I have turned to the courts for a legal decision. But how much aloha did the State officials have when they refused to issue nominating papers to me? I asked them nicely, but they refused. I had been asking in newspaper letters and e-mails ever since the Rice v. Cayetano decision came down on February 23, telling the State of Hawai'i that all registered voters must be allowed to vote for OHA Trustees regardless of race. It made perfect sense that if there cannot be racial restrictions on who can vote for a specific statewide public office, then there also cannot be racial restrictions on who can run for that same public office. But State officials said no, the Supreme Court opinion only concerned voting and not candidacy. I had to drag them into court to make them do the right thing.

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." The Rice decision put the Supreme Court on record saying that "Hawaiian" and "Native Hawaiian" are racial classifications, and that OHA is an agency of the State of Hawai'i and cannot be racially exclusionary in voting. A multiracial group of 13 plaintiffs, two of whom are Native Hawaiians, persuaded Judge Gillmor that a racial restriction on who can run for public office is a severe abridgment of the right to vote, since it limits the pool of candidates for whom to vote. An extreme example would be Cuba, or the former Soviet Union, where everyone has the right to vote but the government only provides one politically-approved candidate for whom to vote. There were other good reasons for Judge Gillmor's decision, but this webpage is not a legal brief.

The day after Judge Gillmor ruled, I went to the State Capitol and took out nominating papers. I introduced my campaign manager who is Native Hawaiian, having 50% Chinese, 25% Filipino, and 25% Hawaiian blood. And she was kind enough to be the first person to sign my nominating petition. In this way I symbolically show my love and respect for the kanaka maoli, and pledge that I will not forget them even as I must give affirmative action to representing the previously excluded 80% of Hawai'i's population.

Here are references to newspaper coverage of the lawsuit and taking out nominating papers, in chronological order:

Lawsuit filed on July 25:

http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/2000/Jul/26/localnews13.html

Aug 15 Gillmor decision

http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/2000/Aug/16/816localnews1a.html

and

http://starbulletin.com/2000/08/16/news/story2.html

Political cartoon

http://starbulletin.com/2000/08/16/news/corky.jpg

Aug 16 Kenneth Conklin takes out nominating papers; racial supremacists object.

http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/2000/Aug/17/817localnews14.html

Hawai'i State Supreme Court must still decide whether trustees illegally elected in racially segregated elections two years ago, with two more years to serve, should have their positions declared vacant:

http://starbulletin.com/2000/08/17/news/story10.html

Aug 17 editorial says State is wasting money opposing the desegregation of OHA candidacy, but editorial also suggests the "answer" might lie in passing the Akaka bill

http://starbulletin.com/2000/08/17/editorial/index.html

For an analysis of the Akaka bill see

http://www.angelfire.com/hi2/hawaiiansovereignty/OpposeAkakaBill.html

Honolulu Advertiser Editorial, Sunday August 20, 2000 Ken Conklin's candidacy, if it survives court action, will be a political referendum on the legitimacy of the concept of OHA (as a racially exclusionary provider of state benefits)

http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/2000/Aug/20/820opinion12.html

Story, with photo of Ken Conklin filing nominating papers and taking loyalty oath required of all candidates for public office in Hawai'i.

http://HonoluluAdvertiser.com/829localnews1.html

Separate URL for photo: Ken takes loyalty oath required of all candidates; campaign manager Sandra Puanani Burgess in background:

http://a1868.g.akamai.net/7/1868/1240/8af0a0915c6e9b/the.honoluluadvertiser.com/2000/Aug/29/image2/localnews1.jpg

Corky's Hawai'i Cartoon 9/06/00 Ken Conklin and OHA Trustees all running for election

http://starbulletin.com/2000/09/06/news/corky.jpg

U.S. District Court Judge Helen Gillmor in Honolulu issues permanent injunction prohibiting racial restrictions on who can run for Trustee of the State of Hawai'i Office of Hawaiian Affairs. On September 19, the year 2000, Hawai'i state government is finally desegregated!

http://HonoluluAdvertiser.com/920localnews1.html


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(c) Copyright 2000 Kenneth R. Conklin, Ph.D. All rights reserved


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