TMT construction moratorium on Wednesday council agenda

  • Maile David

HILO — The County Council on Wednesday is scheduled to decide whether to hear a last-minute resolution supporting a 60-day moratorium on Thirty Meter Telescope construction on Maunakea.

Six votes are needed to get the nonbinding resolution on the agenda, and then a simple majority of at least five can pass it. The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday at the West Hawaii Civic Center with public participation also available by videoconferencing from Hilo council chambers, the Waimea and Pahoa council offices, the old Kohala courthouse and the Naalehu state office building.

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The measure, Resolution 233, refers to a statement made last week by state Sen. Kai Kahele, urging Gov. David Ige to halt TMT construction for 60 days to allow a cooling-off period for both sides to get together and work toward a reconciliation. Kahele, a Hilo Democrat, is challenging fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for her Congressional seat.

Council Chairman Aaron Chung, who along with Hilo Councilwoman Sue Lee Loy, Puna Councilwoman Ashley Kierkiewicz and Hamakua Councilwoman Valerie Poindexter have indicated they plan to participate from Hilo. Monday he encouraged resolution sponsor Maile David, of South Kona/Ka‘u, to take advantage of a state law allowing late additions to the agenda.

“Given the issues, time sensitivity and mounting tensions relating to Mauna A Wakea, I found it necessary to go this route,” David said. “Regardless, it will be up to the council if it even gets on the agenda Wednesday.”

The resolution “strongly” urges both Ige and Mayor Harry Kim to support a construction moratorium.

“(H)undreds of native Hawaiians and supporters peacefully gathered at Puuhululu expressing reverence, respect and support for preserving and protecting the sacred Mauna A Wakea and have continuously demonstrated non-violence and respect in upholding Kapu Aloha,” David’s resolution states. “In the interest of peace and Kapu Aloha, the request for a 60-day construction moratorium of the Thirty Meter Telescope is supported and justified.”

Kapu Aloha is an order of restraint to act with only kindness, love and empathy during a period of ritual that is separate from ordinary social life, according to Ty P. Kawika Tengan in the 2008 book, “Native Men Remade: Gender and Nation in Contemporary Hawaii.” During this period, alcohol, drugs and tobacco are prohibited.

David had asked to have the resolution skip the committee level to go directly to the Aug. 7 council agenda. The measure has to be voted on only one time.

“It’s something that’s time-sensitive,” Chung said. “Regardless of whether I agree with it or not, it’s something that would be better going to a vote earlier.”

Last week, Ige had issued an emergency declaration, a move that gave the state additional powers to restrict public access to the mountain and bring in National Guard troops if necessary.

That didn’t sit well with David, who said in her resolution, “there appears controversy within the community whether the Proclamation issued by Governor Ige was necessary and justified as a means to address native Hawaiians’ peaceful demonstration in asserting their separate and distinct rights to preserve and protect traditional, cultural, religious and subsistence practices as guaranteed by law and the Hawaii State Constitution.”

A July 8 council hearing on the local costs of enforcing what is essentially a project on state land drew more than 50 testifiers, most who opposed construction of the telescope on what they view as a sacred mountain. A majority of council members appeared to support their position.

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The state Sunshine Law requires more advance notice of measures to allow the public an opportunity to participate.

“No board shall change the agenda, less than six calendar days prior to the meeting, by adding items thereto without a two-thirds recorded vote of all members to which the board is entitled; provided that no item shall be added to the agenda if it is of reasonably major importance and action thereon by the board will affect a significant number of persons,” the law states.

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