Guest Post: Nelson Ho in opposition to the appointment of DLNR Director Dawn Chang

Please sign this petition opposing the appointment of Dawn Chang to be the new Director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources – DLNR.

Nelson Ho, a longtime Sierra Club leader, was Harry Kim’s Deputy Director of the Hawaiʻi County Department of Environmental Management and served on the Board of Directors for the Conservation Council for Hawaiʻi.
 Full disclosure: Nelson is a trusted friend and also on the Board of Directors for Pono Hawaiʻi Initiative of which I am the Executive Director.

Here’s what Nelson Ho has to say (as published in the Honolulu StarAdvertiser):

Governor Green, I applaud and support your commitment to appoint women and Native Hawaiians for important cabinet positions.

However, as someone who for forty years has raised public awareness of the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ shortcomings, I do not believe gender or race should be the determining criteria for the next leader of the state’s most important department for protecting conservation lands and implementing land use policy. Your recent nomination of Dawn Chang as DLNR’s Chairperson may be a nod to your commitment to diversity, but it also raises deep concerns in our Hawaiian and environmental communities.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources plays vital roles in identifying and managing state owned lands, including ceded lands; protection of Hawaiian burials and other cultural and archaeological resources; shielding sensitive conservation lands from development; regulation of fishing; and the management of coastal lands and local harbors. And yet, for decades DLNR has been plagued with weak leadership, crippled by understaffing, even fractious fiefdoms within its offices and divisions. All are problems contributing to the agency’s long standing reputation for ineffectiveness and even malfeasance.

Governor Green, please do not make the same mistake that Governor Ige did in 2015, when he nominated developer Carlton Ching to lead DLNR. You saw with your own eyes how that attempt crashed and burned in the State Senate.

I and many others were surprised and deeply disappointed with your nomination of Dawn Chang for DLNR Chairperson. Her consulting firm Kuiwalu was hired by developers and state and federal agencies to work in communities to help generate support for controversial — sometimes dubious — economic projects, including the divisive Thirty Meter Telescope proposal on the Big Island.

You saw firsthand how the world supported the Ala Hulu Kupuna Blockade, which successfully kept the construction vehicles from going up the mountain. It would be a shame for you to lose the widespread community appreciation you garnered from your supportive visit to those dedicated kiaʻi. Key leaders of these mountain protectors were revered cultural practitioners, 80-year-old kupuna, UH department heads and faculty, graduates from the Hawaiian Immersion School system and students educated in our island charter schools.

Please do not dash the hopes of these and other communities who greatly rely on a functioning DLNR. It must execute its mandate and muster the courage to stand against development pressures that would undermine that mission.

Dawn Chang’s reputation also suffered when court filings over burials at Kawaiaha‘o Church showed that Chang had helped the church avoid a more thorough archaeological review by DLNR’s State Historic Preservation Division. “The result of her advice was protracted litigation and the disturbance of hundreds of burials,” said David Kimo Frankel, former Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation attorney in an email. “We don’t need a fox guarding the hen house.”

Governor Green, we need a reformer for the DLNR Chairperson and an advocate for resources protection, not further resources exploitation. Please withdraw Dawn Chang’s name and instead nominate a strong, pono leader with proven integrity who will truly carry out DLNR’s mandate and begin its long overdue reform.

Nelson Ho

About garyhooser

This blog represents my thoughts as an individual person and does not represent the official position of any organization I may be affiliated with. I presently serve as volunteer President of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.) www.hapahi.org I am the former Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Hawaii. In another past life, I was an elected member of the Kauai County Council, a Hawaii State Senator, and Majority Leader, and the Director of Environmental Quality Control for the State of Hawaii - in an even earlier incarnation I was an entrepreneur and small business owner. Yes, I am one of the luckiest guys on the planet. Please visit my website AND sign up for my newsletter (unlike any email newsletter you have ever gotten, of that I am sure) - http://www.garyhooser.com/#four “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We’re afraid.” “Come to the edge.” “We can’t. We will fall!” “Come to the edge.” And they came. And he pushed them. And they flew. - Christopher Logue (b.1926)
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1 Response to Guest Post: Nelson Ho in opposition to the appointment of DLNR Director Dawn Chang

  1. Jim says:

    Nelson, according to Gary’s post, you’re “a longtime Sierra Club leader.” At one point in your letter, you state “I do not believe gender or race should be the determining criteria for the next leader of the state’s most important department for protecting conservation lands and implementing land use policy. ”
    Yet, isn’t this what the Sierra Club is doing now? This policy statement is from Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club: “We are redesigning our leadership structure so that Black, Indigenous, and other leaders of color at the Sierra Club make up the majority of the team making top-level organizational decisions.”

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