New Rising Leader Wants to be Elected Office of Hawaiian Affairs Trustee

Joseph K Lewis, OHA Candidate
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Joseph K Lewis, OHA Candidate

This November, Hawaii’s voters have a chance to send a new, rising leader to OHA’s board room.  Joseph Kuhio Lewis, 26, is the youngest candidate running for any position on the OHA Board. Lewis, a Kapolei homesteader and single father of two, brings a refreshing voice and outlook to this race.

“The one thing that many people in Hawaii know is frustration with government and navigating agency bureaucracy.  This is especially true of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs,” notes Lewis.  “Most citizens, Native Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians alike, don’t understand what OHA is or does.  OHA is much more than an Akaka Bill advocate and a Merrie Monarch sponsor.  There’s a very obvious gap between OHA and the people it serves.  OHA’s paving the way for the future of the Hawaiian community must begin with bridging the gap.”


Running against incumbents is a daunting task for any candidate, especially one new to the political scene like Joe.  Lewis, however, is forging ahead undeterred and un-intimidated.  “My message is simple.  The disconnect between OHA and the community it serves has resulted in OHA’s programs and dollars consistently missing the mark.  The most basic needs among Native Hawaiians are unaddressed.”  He goes on to explain that “even in the current economy, OHA is sitting on millions and spending millions.  I want to make sure we’re achieving the biggest bang for our highly valued buck.”

In 2009, OHA reported its net assets at $363,218,667 and its total expenses for the same year totaled $46,967,358.  The agency has incredible potential as a critical economic and political player to provide much-needed assistance for Hawaiian families through the recession and to help revive Hawaii’s economy by redirecting funds and refocusing its programs.

Lewis also points out how OHA can help make Hawaii a better climate for local businesses.  “Thousands of small business people in Hawaii are Hawaiian, and this is an area where OHA can step in and be a better advocate.  The thin relationship between the Hawaiian business community and OHA, and the rest of government, leaves a lot of room for improvement. There are plenty of opportunities for private-public partnerships that will benefit Native Hawaiians and create value for our whole state.”

Clearly, a vote for Joe Lewis is a vote for a better-served Hawaiian community.  And when good things happen for Native Hawaiians, all of Hawaii benefits.

Submitted by the Friends of Joseph K Lewis





  1. Goodness knows the OHA trustees now serving need to be replaced. (Actually, OHA itself needs to be abolished; but that’s another whole story)

    But this essay does not give me any good reason why Joseph K. Lewis should be the one to do the replacing.

    Since he did not write the essay himself, we have no idea whether he is capable of writing coherently, or what tone of voice he might use. Perhaps he is so busy that he just cannot spare the time to write his own essay. I remember there were students like that when I was a teacher. Indeed, there is already a member of the OHA board who seems to regard his position as a sinecure — I am referring, of course, to Trustee John Waihee IV who rarely says anything and has not written anything in the monthly OHA newspaper for perhaps seven years. We don’t need Waihee-lite.

    Mr. Lewis does not tell us which seat he is running for, so we don’t know which sitting trustee he is seeking to replace. Is he running for a particular seat, or is he running in a contest for, perhaps three seats, where the top three vote-getters will win the election?

    But most importantly, we have no idea what position Mr. Lewis might take on the major controversies of the day.

    1. Does Mr. Lewis favor or oppose the general concept of the Akaka bill? If he favors it, which version does he prefer? Would he have liked S.1011 to remain unamended as it was originally introduced? Or does he favor the amended version passed by the House and passed by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee? Or does he favor the latest version with the changes demanded by Governor Lingle?

    2. Would Mr. Lewis favor holding public hearings in Hawaii on the Akaka bill, so that local folks could give testimony? Would he favor amending the bill to require that the people of Hawaii must approve it on a ballot referendum before it can take effect? Is Mr. Lewis concerned that passing the Akaka bill might have the net effect of taking power away from current homesteaders by swamping them with a far larger number of new beneficiaries?

    3. Would Mr. Lewis favor amending the Hawaiian Homes Commission Act to allow leaseholders to own their land in fee simple? I would think this issue would be of special significance to Mr. Lewis, since he (actually his friends) says he is a homesteader.

    4. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just handed down its decision in Day v. Apoliona, regarding the question whether ceded lands revenue can be spent for the benefit of ethnic Hawaiians with less than 50% native blood quantum. Does Mr. Lewis approve or disapprove of the decision? Why?

    — Ken Conklin, July 30, 2010

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