Mayor clarifies that he lacks authority to intervene in TMT process

  • Kaho’okahi Kanuha speaks during a Facebook live feed from the Pu'uhonua o Pu'u Huluhulu Maunakea page.

HILO — Mayor Harry Kim clarified in a statement today that he does not have the authority to intervene or make deals regarding the TMT project.

A news release this afternoon stated that “[Kim] has no authority to intervene or make any kind of deal regarding TMT; his role is to work with all sides to find a better way forward for everyone concerned.”

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The statement contradicts previous reports that Kim had made an offer to TMT opponents to suspend TMT construction in exchange for the removal of the protesters’ blockade of Maunakea Access Road. A spokesperson for the mayor had previously said such reports were inaccurate, while protest leader Kahookahi Kanuha said he had not received such an offer directly from the mayor, but through a third party.

The statement also clarified that Kim’s first priority is now to ensure the safe flow of traffic on Daniel K. Inouye Highway and the safety of both drivers and protesters.

Previous coverage

HILO — Thirty Meter Telescope opposition leaders have rejected an apparent offer by Mayor Harry Kim to temporarily suspend construction of TMT in exchange for protesters halting their blockade on Maunakea Access Road.

“He is asking us to clear the roads and allow unobstructed access up the mauna, so that we can, I guess, go to the table and have conversations,” said protest leader Kahookahi Kanuha said. “But at this point, we’ve had conversations with the mayor. We’ve had conversations with the governor. And it’s been made clear to us that they really have no power over this decision … of the TMT continuing on their project here in Hawaii.”

Kim told Hawaii News Now earlier today that “if it takes assuring them there will be no sneaking in of any construction people or equipment, I have to assure that that will not happen.”

Kanuha said the only way to stop the TMT project from continuing on Hawaii Island is to “remain steadfast in our commitment” and remain where they are.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said reports that Kim made an offer to the protesters is “inaccurate.” Kanuha said he did not receive news of the offer directly from Kim, but from a third party, and that the offer was consequently vague and unclear.

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With the protesters occupying the access road, access to the telescopes on Maunakea is impossible without cooperation from the protesters. Kanuha said he is willing to let observatory support workers through, but only on a case-by-case basis. He said astronomers, however, would not be allowed up at this time.

“We have proved over and over that we are willing to work with them,” Kanuha said. “All it takes is a little communication.”

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