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Mayor’s vision for peace monument on Mauna Kea includes end to division over TMT

Mayor Harry Kim made a plea for reconciliation Wednesday during his first public remarks about Mauna Kea since Gov. David Ige gave him the green light to pursue his vision for the mountain as a monument to peace.

While speaking for about half an hour, Kim again laid out his hope that Hawaii can become a model of harmony in a world of conflict, and that concerns of Native Hawaiians can be addressed while continuing astronomy on Mauna Kea.

“Some of us condemn them for their actions,” he told members of the Rotary Club of Hilo Bay, in an apparent reference to opponents of building the Thirty Meter Telescope on the mountain. “I ask you to put that away.”

In his trademark style, Kim said he didn’t prepare remarks ahead of time, and he spoke mostly in broad terms, leaving the details to be worked out later.

But his message has remained consistent. Kim talked about his respect for the Hawaiian people, acknowledged the “painful history of wrongs” they have faced and spoke with pride of being from such a diverse place.

Such statements, though, won’t be enough to win over TMT opponents, who say they won’t support the effort if it still allows for the $1.4 billion project.

“If that is the case, if the peace park includes TMT, we have no idea how it could be possible to be construed as a peace park,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, who is among those who on Monday filed an appeal of the project’s construction permit to the state Supreme Court.

“The first rule of hooponopono is to remove the injury,” she added, referring to the Hawaiian method of mediation.

The state Land Board approved the permit again in September following a second contested case. The first occurred in 2011.

Some opponents pledged to again try to block construction if the project moves forward.

Kim first mentioned the idea of making Mauna Kea a monument to peace about a year ago.

He provided the Tribune-Herald with a vision statement for the mountain.

That involves the mountain being a symbol of nations working together for peace and a center of discovery. Additionally, the vision involves the pursuit of knowledge to “make us a better people, and better stewards of this land”; acknowledging Hawaii’s contributions to astronomy; and the mountain being a “living museum of the people of the First Nation of Hawaii.”

In a letter dated Oct. 14, Ige asked Kim to lead the effort to make that a reality. Kim responded Oct. 26 that he would pursue it with all the “energy I can possess and reach out for wisdom and guidance.”

He told West Hawaii Today on Friday that he would take two or three weeks to choose about eight people to be on a working group to create the “living monument to world peace” on the mountain.

Kim said he won’t choose people based on their positions for or against TMT.

“I will carefully make sure people are picked that are reputable, respected and have shown a lifetime or job-time of being responsive to this and are very caring people about this,” he told the Tribune-Herald.

He said after Wednesday’s meeting that he doesn’t blame TMT for the conflict. Instead, Kim said blame belongs with policymakers.

“They (TMT) have nothing to do with this controversy,” he said. “These are our mistakes.”

Kim said Tuesday that he has found TMT International Observatory LLC, which is seeking to build the next-generation telescope below the summit, to be receptive to his vision.

“If I saw this group as one-track,” he said, “just (focused on) the project, I don’t think I would have any of the confidence I have today that there’s a chance we can get people to talk to each other.”

The University of Hawaii manages the 11,288-acre Mauna Kea Science Reserve.

UH is supportive of Kim’s concept, but also plans to seek renewal of its master lease for the science reserve, or perhaps a smaller portion of it, said spokesman Dan Meisenzahl. That lease expires in 2033.

“My understanding is we’re absolutely in favor of exploring any opportunity,” he said.

Email Tom Callis at tcallis@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

 

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