Trust is hard won and easily tarnished. Hawaii’s state government has a history of breaking promises and acting despotically. The battle over Maunakea is a battle that extends far beyond a telescope. The lands are ceded lands. These lands were taken from the Hawaiian people to be held in trust by the State of Hawaii and were to only be used for:
1. Support of public education
2. Betterment of the conditions of native Hawaiians as defined in the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act of 1920 (The Hawaiian Homes Commission Act 1920 did not exist in 1893),
3. Development of farm and home ownership
4. Public improvements
5. Provision of lands for public use.
By any measurement, over the last 100 years the U.S. government and State of Hawaii have done anything but properly manage these lands for the Hawaiian people. If the government took land from you or me for any purpose, under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, we would be entitled to just compensation, or the value of the land so taken.
Yet, the Hawaiian people have had their lands taken and used for any number of uses. They have never received just compensation. Nor have these lands been used solely for the uses dictated above. A century of promises that big brother will watch out for the Hawaiian people’s land and be certain that it is used properly has left little for any thinking man to trust that any motivation for using these lands goes further than short-sighted profit and theft. These lands have been developed into:
• Large military complexes
• Waikiki Beach over development
• 13 telescopes built at the top of Maunakea, which are never removed when they are no longer needed
• Huge airport developments
• An entire island denuded as it was used for bombing practice.
How did any of this significantly benefit the Hawaiian people and how have they been given just compensation for their lost lands? No one can honestly say that the Hawaiian people have seen a significant return on their lands.
Even when the state does collect rent on these lands, only 20% of that rent goes to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. Often, as is likely the case with the TMT, the rent determined is not based upon an appraisal of fair market rent. It is arbitrarily determined. No one can honestly state that just compensation has been provided for what has been taken.
The State of Hawaii has shown over and over again that it looks at these lands as the State of Hawaii’s lands to use as they see fit. It has also shown that its sole motivation in how the lands are utilized is profit and tax revenue. It is not motivated to see that those profits and revenues flow back to the people whose land was illegal taken. It gives lip service to protecting the culture tied to that land.
At the end of the day, the state has shown it is a poor trusty and it is long past time to determine who the rightful beneficiaries are (all Hawaiian people) and return these lands to their control. They do not need your help.
Raymond Kirchner is a resident of Kailua-Kona.