DHHL Treats Homesteaders as Their Lobbying Arm for a Budget That Does Not Include Them
Honolulu, HI – The State Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) and its Director, Jobie Masagatani, has sent out a mass email to native Hawaiian homestead leaders to get free travel and hotel rooms from DHHL to participate in a “Call to Action” on its budget proposal at the State Capitol on April 18.
“This is just another reason why DHHL is such a disappointment, year after year,” said Robin Danner, SCHHA chairman, the oldest and largest coalition of Hawaiian homestead associations and leaders. “Always politicizing our land trust for itself instead of sound policies for beneficiaries, always treating our people like blind followers instead of knowledgeable leaders that know what works and what doesn’t. I’m sorely disappointed in DHHL.”
In an email sent out on March 30, 2016, DHHL Director Masagatani tells homestead leaders that they can receive free travel and hotel rooms by attending a DHHL meeting on April 17, 2016, and staying over to attend a “Call to Action” led by the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation (NHLC) at the state Capitol. The message also assured bus transportation from Ala Moana Hotel.
“This kind of dumbing down an issue to be for or against a mere budget number rather than a budget that advances real change by how funds will be spent, is offensive,” Danner elaborated. “Worse, is the notion that as homestead leaders, we can be bought with a free trip to Oahu, close our eyes, put on DHHL’s blue t-shirts that say ‘Fund DHHL Now’ is the biggest insult.”
Danner emailed Director Masagatani to request how much DHHL would be spending on this lobbying excursion and where the funds were being spent from.
Instead of politicizing the DHHL budget, SCHHA executives convened to launch a Budget Review project to help DHHL put forward a sound policy-based budget. In its analysis, the SCHHA found that DHHL submitted a $28M operating budget for general funds to the legislature that simply took a budget draft from 2012, added 5% to every line item, and made no other changes to reflect the current realities in 2016.
“It’s either laziness or deceitful to approach the serious nature and the amazing opportunity that beneficiaries created with the Nelson case to finally fulfill the constitutional mandate of sufficiently funding DHHL with general funds,” Danner said. “They plop down a number that is flawed, that doesn’t advance any reforms to advance the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act, it’s really status quo. Budget processes are far more than a number. The budget has to be about how and where funds will be spent. The DHHL budget is shallow, and this so called ‘Call to Action’ tries to dumb it down to just a number – a total missed opportunity to advance real progress for our people, and for the state in its trust obligation.”
The SCHHA leadership approached the opportunity for DHHL to be sufficiently funded by holding statewide budget round tables with homestead and waitlist leaders across the state, examining the DHHL budget line by line, and then working on a comprehensive alternative.
“We know that this is a huge opportunity after 12 long years of litigation, to stabilize general funds for DHHL, and equally important, to bring DHHL, our homestead community and the legislature onto the same page of truly improving the performance of the State in meeting its duty under the 1959 Hawaii Admissions Act,” Danner elaborated. “One of our SCHHA executives correctly stated that DHHL must have accomplishments, our well-being is tied to whether or not this agency gets it right with this budget and with the legislature. So we decided to do the work, to prepare a budget submission, one that is honest, transparent and justifiable. One that represents reforms in how DHHL does its work going forward.”
Essentially, the SCHHA review of DHHL’s budget revealed 3 prominent flaws. First, DHHL wants to spend $3M more in staffing to add 64 new positions even though it has 70-90 vacancies and has not developed a reorganization plan.
“The prudent thing to do for the next fiscal year, is not to ask for that $3M and instead spend the next 12 months formulating and going through the state procedures to establish new job descriptions and a staffing plan to implement what the existing and the new 64 positions would be doing,” said Blossom Feiteira, a waitlist advocate and SCHHA executive on Maui. “If we went along with DHHL, it would mean mass hiring under time pressures that will result in poor decisions.”
Second, DHHL has included $2M in line items that are not eligible for general funds, namely functions that are funded by federal housing dollars and another $1M that isn’t well thought out. “In its haste or lack of care, DHHL copied into its budget submission two line items that back in 2012 were to be funded by federal funds,” Feiteira said. “That’s $2M in funding that just isn’t relevant and shouldn’t even be in its $28M figure.”
And third, DHHL arbitrarily added 5% to every line item, including the errors and the 64 new staffing costs. “This represents $1.3M in funding request that doesn’t make sense and is really irresponsible,” Danner said. “Justification isn’t an annoyance, it’s a requirement in our democracy.”
The SCHHA budget project reduces the DHHL budget by $7.3M, and based on the decades of experience of homestead leaders, crafted $6M in additions tied to the mission of the HHCA and deliverables at the end of the year.
“Our budget ask of $27M is less, but includes $4.7M in funding to operationalize accomplishments by homestead associations with amazing capacity, but just as important, does not increase staff and does not include erroneous line items. It’s real, it’s impactful and it has specific outcomes attached to it.”
When asked if SCHHA will be attending the call to action noted by director Masagatani, Danner said, “absolutely not, it’s unethical for DHHL to be politicizing its budget instead of just justifying it in the legislative process, and it’s offensive that DHHL would attempt to treat our leaders like sheep.”
The SCHHA was founded in 1987, uniting beneficiaries of the Hawaiian Home Land trust created by Congress in 1920. More than 30 homestead associations with democratically elected leaders are members of the SCHHA, working to advance the well-being of trust land communities. The SCHHA is the oldest and largest Hawaiian homestead coalition. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.