Group rallies against casino proposal before Department of Hawaiian Home Lands headquarters

A group opposing the proposed casino on trust lands in Kapolei held a rally in front of the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands headquarters

Approximately 25 protesters from Waimanalo to Laie held a prayer, then marched around the corner to wave Hawaiian flags and signs along Kapolei Parkway at Kinoiki Street that said: “No future in a casino,” “Family before profit,” and “Delayed justice is no justice,” which elicited honks from drivers passing by.

“This is going to be a stab in every single family that calls Kapolei, Makakilo, Ewa Beach, Nanakuli, and the west side, leeward coast, their home,” said state Sen. Kurt Favella, who organized the rally. “First of all, the casino brings for a fact, drama to the community. It’s going to be bad elements. We want our keiki to live in Hawaii, the way that we grew up.”

A casino is bad news, according to Favella, and brings with it gambling addictions, crime, substance abuse and with that, sex trafficking, adding that it was disappointing that local police and psychologists were never consulted.

“Kapolei is the piko of the leeward side because it’s about family,” he said. “This is the new city that is nourishing the new young generations of families. Why would we wanna do this? It is just appalling that they would do something like this here.”

The rally was held outside of DHHL headquarters prior to the nine-member Hawaiian Homes Commission’s narrow approval of a proposal, 5-4, authorizing the development of a casino resort in Kapolei this afternoon.

The proposal goes to Gov. David Ige — and if he approves it — would be included in his package of bills for the state Legislature to consider.

Many of the protesters, who brought their keiki, said it was time that DHHL did its job and actually focused on giving Hawaiian homes rather than catering to developers.

Favella said a better solution is to just give Hawaiians their deed.

“Let them build their own home on their own land that was given to them by Prince Kuhio and the rest of our alii,” he said. “That’s it. That’s a simple fix. Give the people their land, not leases.”

Kamalani Kaliikuli of Laie, agreed.

“I don’t want no casino,” said Kaliikuli. “There’s been a big problem for illegal gambling and drug trafficking already with a lot of the homesteads and I just want to prevent any more from coming in. It’s not the right answer, it’s not the right time. People need homes.”

City councilwoman Heidi Tsuneyoshi offered her support to the protesters.

“This is a long line of generational trauma and land dealings that haven’t been open and transparent for the beneficiaries.” she said, adding that this particular decision on this land comes after a land swap that happened for the rail operation center. “They said the swap was so important because the land they were going to get was in the heart of Kapolei was perfect for people to have housing … To hear that already they’re talking about a casino instead of housing is so disappointing.”

When that resolution was brought up last year, supporters said there would be an open discussion with the beneficiaries, but now a decision is being made before the holidays, she said.

“It’s obviously not something that the people here are going to benefit from,” she said. “There’s no indication on how revenue is going to be brought directly to the people.”

Steven Thomas of Mililani said the DHHL is not fulfilling its promise or mission or putting kanaka on the land, but running itself like a business instead.

“This is just another example of the double cross of this department,” he said, adding that the department should be dissolved.

Numerous homestead leaders also said they were never informed or consulted about the casino.

“For me, self-determination shouldn’t be at an executive or administrative level,” said Iwalani Laybon-McBrayer, a Kapolei homesteader and chair of the nonprofit Homestead Housing Authority. “It should be at the grassroots level of the beneficiaries.”

Building the casino might cause problems already exacerbated by the pandemic, she said.

“I think we can generate money and income other ways, and it should definitely not be controlled by a department,” she said. “It should be inclusive, with us engaged.”

Mokihana Waa-Komoda of Ka‘ululokaha‘i, a homestead community in East Kapolei, pointed out that illegal game rooms around the isles bring crime and take advantage of the desperate. Some, she said, are gambling for food stamps and diapers.

“I just don’t want it,” she said, “and not in my Kapolei.”

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