Richard Ha writes:
I’ve written a lot about the educational benefits to our keiki, young people and future generations if the Thirty Meter Telescope folks decide to come to Hawai‘i instead of going to Chile.
Now it’s time to recognize and aloha those folks who have been in the forefront, raising their voices in protest about how much needed to be done to make things pono.
Aloha to Kealoha Pisciotta, Paul Neves, Ku Ching, Hanalei Fergerstrom, the Kanaka Council and others for helping us come as far as we have.
It is because of their tireless efforts that Mauna Kea is now under the control of the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. They won a lawsuit, and Judge Hara ruled that a Comprehensive Management Plan needed to be made before any further development could proceed. That Plan has been developed and accepted with conditions by the Board of Land and Natural Resources.
I’ve written here before that I volunteered nearly three years ago for a newly formed Thirty Meter Telescope committee at the Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board. I came to learn a lot about the issues the loud voices were raising, and I was hugely influenced by them.
For example, it struck me that at that time there was hardly any benefit to the Keaukaha community from the multi-million dollar astronomy industry. That’s why we formed the Adopt-a-Class project to send Keaukaha kids on excursion.
The people supporting the Adopt-a-Class project were regular folks, and local business people including the Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board (HIEDB). They did it for no other reason than that it was the pono thing to do.
At the Hawai‘i Island Economic Development Board, we approached the Mauna Kea issue from the perspective of “What is pono?” Not once did we put economic interests as top priority. I am proud to be a part of this organization.
More than a year ago, Dr. Henry Yang, Chancellor of UC Santa Barbara and the new president of the Thirty Meter Telescope corporation, and Dr. Jean Lou Chameau, President of Cal Tech, came to the Big Island to see for themselves.
At that point, the general consensus of the TMT board was probably that the TMT was going to Chile.
When I first met Henry Yang, I got the feeling he was someone who would truly listen to regular folks’ concerns. After he left, I called my brother Kenneth and told him I was optimistic that things could work out right. I felt then that Henry was someone I could do business with on a handshake. I still feel that way.
Since then, I think they have visited Hilo more than 15 times. Their objective is always to listen and develop relationships. They fly in and out quietly and don’t try to get publicity. And they actually prefer to meet regular people. They visited Keaukaha Elementary School at least four times. And they visited the Kanaka Council, Hank Fergerstrom, the litigants, as well as Hawaiian students and teachers from UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College.
We suggested to Henry early on that there must be a community benefit package centering on education for our keiki. He agreed, and for nearly a year the HIEDB has been working on a framework that ensures the money would be spent in a wise and effective way, free of self-interest, solely for the benefit of the keiki.
Now it’s starting to look like millions of dollars in educational benefits can come to the Big Island, free of charge. The rail project on O‘ahu is financed by taxing the people and when they use the rail system the people will pay again. By contrast, if the TMT chooses Hawai‘i instead of Chile, it will put millions of dollars annually into education for the Big Island’s keiki.
The world has changed. Finite resources are facing an increasing population. Programs for the most needy among us are being cut. Education programs are being cut. Out here on our island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we are vulnerable. Now, it is no longer about us. It’s about future generations.
We have an opportunity now to get millions of dollars for the education of our keiki and future generations.
Are we wise enough to look to the future and dream of what can be? Let’s all go there together.