(BIVN) – A large crowd of aloha ʻāina advocates gathered outside the Hawaiʻi State Capitol on Wednesday, as lawmakers inside the building opened the 2020 legislative session. Their purpose was to “send a message to the power brokers in Hawaiʻi that aloha ʻāina supporters are organized, engaged, and rising like a mighty wave,” according to the Kanaeokana network, which promoted the gathering.
The event outside the House chamber was noted by State Representative Gene Ward, who delivered his customary Republican minority leader remarks as the session officially began. “All of you have seen the upside-down flags,” Rep. Ward said. “The state of Hawaiʻi is flying upside down. Why is that the case? Why so many flags that we see are upside down? You can hear the chatter outside of the chamber.”
The legislature convenes against the backdrop of the ongoing dispute over the Thirty Meter Telescope planned for Maunakea.
“Some of you have gone to the Mauna,” Ward said. “Some of you have gone to Kahuku. Some of you have heard the voices of the Hawaiian community crying out.”
Rep. Ward said the the year 2019 “has been the great awakening of the Hawaiian community.”
During a media availability after the opening of the legislature, Governor David Ige was asked about the crowd that gathered outside in the Capitol rotunda.
“Opening day is really the people’s day for the legislature,” Ige said, adding that he has been “walking around the floors and talking with senators and talking with people who are concerned with Maunakea.”
“As you know, there are diverse views about Native Hawaiian perspectives on Maunakea,” the governor added, “and certainly we are looking at how we can find a way to move forward with a project that I think is important to all of Hawaiʻi, including Native Hawaiians.”
Later in the day, during a briefing by the four county mayors before a joint Senate and House committee in the auditorium, Hilo’s State Representative Chris Todd asked Mayor Harry Kim about the TMT standoff.
“It’s been about three weeks since the cool-down period, or truce, or whatever you want to call it up on the Mauna,” Rep. Todd said. “So I was wondering if you, or the state – to your knowledge – has had any productive dialogue with the protectors in the last few weeks. Do see that moving in a positive direction?”
After lamenting the polarizing effect the issue has had on the Hawaiʻi island community, Mayor Kim answered that he is “going to try to meet with some legislators” in regards to the matter, adding that he is hopeful “that the Legislature will become more involved because this is not just about Hawaiʻi Island.”
“People asked how was the opening of the access road [was] accomplished in such a short time,” Mayor Kim said. “I’ll say it openly: it was because of the attitude and cooperation of the protectors. Without their willingness to sit down and see how we could do it in that time, it would never have been done. There was no magic in, it was their willingness to sit down and talk.”
“I’ve considered this to be an opportunity for all of us,” Mayor Kim said. “I’m not blowing smoke, especially of the Legislature’s involvement because of the powers and authority you have to address other things that they are bringing forth, and I will come back and appeal to you on that.”
“I ask all of us in this room to realize how critically important this is to address the whole issue, and the whole issue is not Mauna Kea and the telescope,” Kim said. “The issue is where we as a community go.”