HILO, Hawaii – Political hopefuls went on the record Wednesday night in regards to one of Hawaii’s most divisive issues.
8 of the 11 Hawaii County mayoral candidates present for a forum held at Aunty Sally’s Luau Hale in Hilo declared their support for the Thirty Meter Telescope project planned for Mauna Kea: Paul Bryant, Marlene Hapai, Pete Hoffmann, Wendell Ka’ehuae’a, Harry Kim, Wally Lau, Shannon McCandless, and Timothy Waugh.
3 said they stand opposed: Daniel Cunningham, Gene Tamashiro, and Eric Drake Weinert.
There are 13 candidates total running for the open seat, currently held by termed-out Mayor Billy Kenoi
Nearly every answer came with qualifications and lengthy explanation during the allotted one minute response time.
The TMT project has been met with passionate protests, and a blockade against construction crews resulted in numerous arrests last year. Hawaii State Supreme Court eventually halted the project and invalidated the permit for the observatory to build on Mauna Kea after it ruled the state did not follow the proper procedure in awarding the $1.4 billion project a conservation district use permit. The project is now going through a second contested case hearing in the hopes of re-securing a permit for Hawaii’s mountain, considered one of the best places on Earth for astronomy.
The issue is mostly out of the hands of the County of Hawaii. The state of Hawaii has jurisdiction on top of the mountain – although the legality of that jurisdiction is being challenged in the contested case – and so the mayor merely provides a supportive (or unsupportive) role in Mauna Kea management.
Wednesday’s forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Hawaii County and the American Association of University Women – Hilo. Sherry Bracken served as moderator.