Yesterday I attended a board meeting of the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM). I was there because I am a member of the Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board and a member of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) sub-committee.
Also in attendance were University of Hawai‘i (UH) President David McClain, UH General Council Darilynn Lendio and Dawn Chang of the consulting firm Kui Walu.
Those three were there to present the University of Hawai‘i’s plan of action regarding Judge Hara’s ruling, which addressed the need for the Department of Land and Natural Resources to draw up a Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) for Mauna Kea.
Besides the OMKM board members, there were perhaps 30 members of the public present.
I volunteered for this project sub-committee for several reasons: My dad was one of the bulldozer contractors hired to make the road to the summit of Mauna Kea. I was shocked to see video of him operating his bulldozer, because my family does not have many photos of him. It seemed like a good omen that when I sat there, wanting to do the right thing re: Mauna Kea, I saw Pop’s video.
Also, I used to help put on the Mauna Kea 200 motorcycle race and spent a good bit of time riding my motorcycle on the snow 30 or so years ago. Although it is not politically correct now to admit that, it’s true. I still feel an intense need to take care of the mountain.
And more than all that, I want to do what I can to make sure that if this telescope is sited on Mauna Kea it is done with respect and in consultation with the local Hawaiian community.
My involvement automatically led me to the community of Keaukaha, and specifically its elementary school, where so many Hawaiian people on the Big Island have cultural ties. It is not lost on me that while the TMT is potentially a $750 million construction project, and other telescopes on the mountains are also valued in the multiple millions of dollars, there is nothing tangible in Keaukaha—a nucleus of the Hawaiian community on the Big Island—that relates to, or is a benefit of, astronomy at the tip of the Hawaiian mountain Mauna Kea.
My friend Duane Kanuha and I did not think that was right and so we set out to do something. This turned out to be our Adopt-a-Class project.
Allan Ikawa, President of Big Island Candies, former chair of the UH Board of Regents and one of the first people who volunteered to get involved to protect the mountain, went first and gave a really, really good description of the early days—the passion, determination and selflessness of those original folks who stepped forward on behalf of Mauna Kea.
He described how difficult it was for them then to be cursed and yelled at, especially considering they were all volunteers trying to do the best they could. He made it very clear that UH had a lot of shortcomings—they tended to deal with paper and words, not so much with people. They were, then, mostly about power and control. The result is that, til today, people still do not trust the university.
Then Dr. McClain spoke. Ms. Lendio followed and gave a legal “lay of the land” and then Dawn Chang explained her involvement.
Dawn Chang assured everyone that she wants to do this right because her personal reputation is on the line—and in her business, she said, that is all she has. I kind of believed her.
She and her partner are doing the Comprehensive Management Plan. She assured us that she will consult and include the OMKM’s opinion in every facet of the CMP.
The board talked about transparency and Ms. Chang’s compensation and Ms. Lendio danced around the subject by quoting lawyer/client confidentiality. She did say it was based on hours.
Darilynn Lendio said that Judge Hara’s ruling specifies that the DLNR needs to have a CMP and that they would consult with DLNR ahead of time about the content of the plan—that it will be DLNR’s plan.
Members of the OMKM board were very wary. They expressed their desire to vote the final plan up or down when it is finally done. If the OMKM board votes the CMP down, it would not likely pass the approval of DLNR’s board.
Harry Yada, a former OMKM board member, made clear that it was not about the plan, it was about how it was to be implemented. It wasn’t the paper; it was the people. This sentiment was expressed in many different ways by different people.
I stood up and said: “The words sound good, but I’m not going home and call up my brother and tell him everything is going to be good.”
Barry Taniguchi, as chair, had the last word. He warned the University of Hawai‘i not to repeat the mistake of bypassing the Big Island people.
I cannot help but feel that most speakers there were very understated, so as not to be rude. I hope the UH does not misinterpret kindness for weakness.
So now, the ball is in UH’s court. Let’s hope they see the light, and consult and talk story with Big Island people before they develop their plan.
Readers of my blog know that I am very concerned about the drastically changing energy situation we are facing, and our island’s importation of more than 80 percent of its food. We need to come up with serious solutions to these problems, such as finding ways to produce food locally for all our residents.
We have a long way to go to address these problems, and outside money from new telescopes done in the right way will be very helpful as we work through the transition in order to take care of our island’s people.
This is, of course, in addition to doing the right thing in terms of taking care of the mountain Mauna Kea and respecting our local Hawaiian communities.