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Hawaiian homestead beneficiaries react to Ikaika Anderson nomination to lead DHHL

Gov. Josh Green tapped former Honolulu City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson to lead the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. (Dec. 12, 2022)
Office of Gov. Josh Green
Gov. Josh Green tapped former Honolulu City Council Chair Ikaika Anderson to lead the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. (Dec. 12, 2022)

Former Honolulu City Councilmember Ikaika Anderson has been tapped by Gov. Josh Green to head the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Anderson is no stranger to the Native Hawaiian community, but how familiar is he with the Hawaiian Home Lands Trust? That’s the question on the minds of some Native Hawaiian beneficiaries.

Waiohuli Hawaiian Homestead leader Kekoa Enomoto said Ikaika Anderson’s familiar face and reputable family name added a bit of credibility to his appointment as head of the department.

"My parents lived one block away from Ikaika when he was growing up in Kailua," said Enomoto.

Anderson was adopted by his grandparents, former state Sen. Whitney Anderson and outrigger canoe pioneer Hannie Anderson. But that's the extent of Enomoto’s familiarity with Anderson. The rest she’s been learning from media statements and reports.

"I was happy to read his statements that he will be accessible to the beneficiaries that his priority is providing homesteads and homes for our Native Hawaiian homesteaders, 28,000 of whom are on the waitlist, and languishing on the waitlist," Enomoto said.

Anderson was ultimately chosen from a pool of 32 candidates interested in the position. Keaukaha Hawaiian Homestead leader Patrick Kahawaiolaʻa said he’s taking a wait-and-see approach before he decides whether to support Anderson’s nomination.

Ryan Finnerty
Ikaika Anderson served in the Honolulu City Council from 2009 until his resignation in 2020.

"Personally, one Hawaiian, okay. He represented Waimānalo and Kāneʻohe while he was on the City Council in Honolulu. At least he gets the idea of Hawaiian constituencies," said Kahawaiolaʻa. "Maybe after the first meet and greet and he gives his position as to how he can help Hawaiians. I know everybody wants to build homes, but build it how. That’s the devil for me is in the details."

Kahawaiola’a, 78, has seen 20 DHHL directors come and go over the course of his lifetime and he has one bit of advice for the incoming administration.

"Just be sure you involve, involve the Native Hawaiians," Kahawaiolaʻa told HPR. "Put the Native Hawaiians at the table because the only people he’s going to represent is the 50 percenters, the beneficiaries of the act. As his constituency, that’s his only constituency."

The big priority for DHHL this coming year will be implementing the spending plan for its $600 million appropriation. Green said he’s convening a special advisory team to help. But Hawaiian Homes beneficiary Elmer Kaʻai said this appointment is about more than this one-time appropriation.

"People just need to think beyond the spending of the $600 million," said Kaʻai. "It's not spending. It's how to leverage it. I agree we have to build homes. That’s number one. But after you do that, we’ll be back in the hole again."

Kaʻai said he’ll probably support Anderson during Senate confirmation proceedings if he can provide a roadmap for what he plans to do with not just the $600 million but with the future of the department.

Earlier this year, Anderson unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor in the Democratic primary election, coming in second to Sylvia Luke.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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