University of Hawaii regents chairman speaks up for TMT resolution
Benjamin Kudo, chairman of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, wants the university and its president to lead efforts to bring people together to resolve the impasse at Mauna Kea over the Thirty Meter Telescope.
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Benjamin Kudo, chairman of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, wants the university and its president to lead efforts to bring people together
to resolve the impasse
at Mauna Kea over the Thirty Meter Telescope.
His message came in
an open letter posted
Monday on the UH website with a note that it represents his personal views and is not a statement of the Board of Regents.
Since July 17, opponents have blocked access to the site where the $1.4 billion telescope is slated to be built near the summit of Mauna Kea. After a weeklong standoff, Gov. David Ige on July 23 asked Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim to coordinate efforts to
resolve the impasse.
Since then there has been no evidence of progress.
“At our University of
Hawaii there are important perspectives on all sides of the current conflict, and the way we deal with this issue is likely to define who we truly are as Hawaii for years to come,” Kudo wrote. “We must be committed to finding a way forward that honors who we are as Hawaii and who we aspire to be.”
“Certainly our UH system has an obligation to work toward that end,” he said. “Many believe that solutions are out of reach and that compromise is not an option. I cannot and do not accept that. We must find a way.”
He said he planned to put action items on the board’s agenda directing UH President David Lassner “to make the resolution of this conflict his top priority and for the university to lead in this effort.”
Kudo paid tribute to the people who have taken a stand as “protectors” of the mauna, many of them UH
faculty, staff, students and alumni. He lauded their sincerity, commitment to aloha aina and ability to rally support from around the world, saying the UH system and Hawaii could learn a lot from their example.
At the same time, he recognized the diligence of people in the “academic, scientific and government spheres” who have worked to secure the telescope’s approval, manage cultural and natural resources on Mauna Kea, engage with the community and support local youth. And he pointed to Hawaii’s role as a world leader in astronomy.
“In some ways, the merits of both sides of this conflict are contributing to the stalemate,” he wrote. “Neither side wishes to ‘give up’ the good their position produces. … A classic ‘no win’ scenario. Hawaii could use the hopes and intentions of both sides of this issue, but not their unyielding stance. A better Hawaii needs all of us to find a way of working together to create a united Hawaii not a divided one for our sake and that of our keiki.”
Kudo, an attorney, was elected to lead the regents
in July. He has a background in real property, land use
and environmental law, and earned an M.B.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii’s Shidler College of Business.
Kudo said he found inspiration in the respect shown by everyone involved during the “toughest of situations,” when 38 people were arrested July 17 for blocking Mauna Kea Access Road.
“In that tense situation, it was humbling that those there to protect Maunakea maintained Kapu Aloha allowing people to feel and
express their feelings without resorting to violence,”
he wrote. “At the same time it was admirable how our
law enforcement officers
executed their duties with
respect, care and thoughtfulness, many of them embracing and expressing their own emotions over the situation. Nowhere in the world would you find such restraint,
respect, and aloha on both sides.”
“Many people are attacking protectors for blocking the road and others are attacking law enforcement for arresting kupuna,” he wrote. “I assert that what might be most important for Hawaii is that each side did what they felt they needed to do, but they did it as respectfully as they could. That deserves
to be recognized, celebrated and sustained.”
“I urge forces on all sides of this issue not to escalate matters, but to work in a spirit of aloha to find solutions that move Hawaii forward,” he added. “Let us stop the attacks, mischaracterizations, mistruths, and move in a positive direction toward eliminating that line which divides us. Amongst the many voices, many at the university have been silent. For me, that changes today.”