So many people showed up to comment on the Thirty Meter Telescope at Thursday’s University of Hawaii Board of Regents meeting in Hilo that the board is scheduling a second meeting in Hilo on Sunday to finish public comments.
Roughly 120 people signed up to address the board last week, UH Spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said. Because of time constraints, only half the people were able to speak.
At the upcoming meeting, the Office of Mauna Kea Management and university staff are also expected to give presentations on the history of the project and UH’s management of the site.
Only one of the 15 current regents, Chuck Y. Gee, was a member of the board in 2010 when UH approved the project.
Hula Halau dance in support of stopping the TMT construction.
Cory Lum/Civil Beat
At the meeting in 2010 where the board gave its collective thumbs up to TMT, most speakers were in favor of the project. At the time, the board office had received 30 written testimonies of support for TMT and nine against.
The vast majority of speakers at last week’s meeting in Hilo opposed TMT construction.
The Board of Regents is not scheduled to take any action on the matter Sunday. What, if any, action the board might be considering five years after approving the project is unclear.
Board Chairman Randy Moore was traveling and could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Update: There isn’t much the board can do about existing telescope agreements, Moore said Wednesday.
“The agreements that are in place are in place, as I think the governor has said on more than one occasion,” Moore said. “We would be breaching our responsibility if we tried to unwind those.”
What’s the point of the meetings then, other than just to listen?
Moore said one takeaway from the public comments is that people want more community input into Mauna Kea management decisions and actions, and greater oversight.
“The board’s role going forward is to ask the university administration, ‘So you’ve got this feedback on the university’s execution of the management plan. There have been some deficiencies noted. What is going to be in effect your corrective action plan now?'” Moore said.
Moore, who pointed out that he can only speak for himself and not the full board, said he thinks the university may need to also review and amend the Mauna Kea Management Plan.
“There are some spirituality issues that I don’t think are adequately covered,” Moore said, adding that he would also like to see a process for greater community involvement and a timetable for removing obsolete telescopes from the mountain.
Mauna Kea protesters disagree about the options available to the board at this point with regard to TMT.
“There is always something that can be done,” said Kealoha Pisciotta, a spokesperson for the protest movement and a party to the lawsuits trying to block TMT construction. “If they make agreements that are based on inaccuracies or false information, they not only can make changes — they really need to.”
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