Coach Cal Lee seeks trusteeship
Image: COURTESY Cal Lee

While incumbent Haunani Apoliona and challenger Walter Ritte are garnering most of the media attention, there are another four candidates vying for this at-large Trustee seat at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA). The Weekly asked Cal Lee, Lancelot Haili Lincoln, Kealii Makekau and Kelii Akina about their goals in running for the office.

Cal Lee, a physical education teacher at his alma mater, Kalani High School, has made a name as a winning football coach. He says he would use some of the same techniques as a Trustee. “Everybody’s got to work together. Everybody’s gotta be working on one idea, one direction that everybody agrees to.” Lee would emphasize the principles that he teaches kids: Be accountable, and do the right thing. “I’m going in to help the people.”

Lee supports the Akaka Bill, the Hawaiian Roll Commission and federal recognition, and believes OHA should “play a major role in helping to achieve sovereignty and self-governance.” Lee says he’s not completely familiar with Act 55, which created the Public Lands Development Corp. (PLDC), but thinks it “would benefit the state, create more economic opportunity, more jobs, and that’s one of my priorities.” Lee thinks Trustees should visit the other islands more often “and hear their ideas about what to do with the land.”

Lincoln is running because he believes the Trustees “need to be held accountable for some of the bad decisions they’re making. We need change, and we need it now. We need some new attitudes in there. Haunani has been in there for 16 years. It seems like they’re helping themselves and a handful of people.”

Lincoln wants to abolish the PLDC, and opposes the Hawaiian Roll. “Why do we need to be counted again? We’ve been counted three times already. It’s just giving a handful of Hawaiians the opportunity to control our people.” He supports an “inclusive, not exclusive” approach to sovereignty. “I’m just asking everybody to get me the key to the door so I can get inside to make changes. If you’re on the outside, you can hold protest signs and shout, but nothing changes.”

Makekau, who ran in 2010, is focusing on three issues that he would make part of OHA’s next legislative package: Reform the process for electing Trustees so that it doesn’t favor incumbents; abolish Act 55 (creating the PLDC), which he terms a “totalitarian style of legislation,” and conduct a thorough financial and physical inventory of the so-called “ceded” lands.

Makekau is opposed to Act 195, which authorized the Roll Commission. He also objects to the state requiring OHA to fund the initiative. “The reconciliation process needs to come from the people themselves, not the state,” he says. Makekau, on-site manager of 97 apartments, has been attending OHA meetings to familiarize himself with the issues and dynamics of the Board. “Unfortunately, nobody goes to these meetings,” he says, noting that public comment is hampered by a rule requiring all testimony be submitted in writing 24 hours in advance.

Akina did not respond to an interview request. His website states that Akina, a founder of Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders, a division of Youth for Christ, has reservations about the Roll Commission because it requires aboriginal blood ancestry, which he says runs counter to the will of Hawaiian monarchs who included non-Hawaiians in their nation. He thinks hooponopono and reconciliation need to occur before legislation regarding Hawaiian sovereignty, and he would not pursue a separate sovereignty movement based on race. Akina would, however, broaden OHA’s programs to include “more community collaboration when providing opportunities for Hawaiians.”