LETTER: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way

September 23, 2019, 8:38 AM HST (Updated September 23, 2019, 8:38 AM)
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A short time ago, I wrote a letter to this publication titled, ‘It’s Just a Matter of Time.’ Many, many thanks to those who read and responded. Lots of angry folks and almost all of them want ‘something’ done, and soon. There was agreement that the continuing inaction is harmful to ALL parties. So, I would like to propose an action plan, no theories, no heroes or villains…. a plan that would work and satisfy most, if not all of us.

To begin; a negotiating ‘council’ that would WORK is assembled, in this case, meaning it would produce a solution acceptable to all parties that would succeed. Who are the parties involved? My view, there are five involved; 1/ the TMT corporation, 2/ the state and local government, 3/ the University of Hawaii, 4/ the protestors and 5/ the public. The persons to be involved seem obvious; David Ige and Harry Kim for the state, Henry Yang and Edward Stone for the TMT, Benjamin Kudo and Jan Sullivan for UH, Kaho’okahi Kanuha and Noe Noe Wong-Wilson for the kia’i, is suggested to start with each group selecting a third member. Why should they agree to participate and try in earnest to succeed? Failure of the group would most certainly result in the removal of those members involved and dishonor. They have much to lose but even more to gain with success.

Asking the question, ‘How did we get into this mess to start and who’s at fault?’, will produce five different answers from the five groups. My take on this is simple. For those of us who remember the Watergate debacle, the two reporters (Woodward and Bernstein) who essentially ‘broke’ the case, were guided to the answers by their informant (deep throat) who told them to ‘follow the money.’ We should do the same, not to place blame, but to understand that the nature of the problem is also the key to the solution. Money is at the root of this issue, and the leaders through the process are the cause. They are also the solution.

Before the advent of high-level astronomy here, UH was in an expansion mode. Since this required funding, they were doing what good university leaders do; looking for funding sources. The Mauna Kea summit provided a point of convergence with astronomy. Status, acclaim, respect, awards…… oh, yes, and funding. The state, perhaps wisely, realized they were ill-equipped to administer this process and appealed to UH to do it. Since UH receives funding from the state, they were in a poor position to refuse. The money begins to flow and grow. The effects of money are addictive and the interdependence it produces becomes irresistible. The protestors were there from the beginning, but their numbers and voices so small that no one noticed. The number of observatories grew and their influence along with it. When the TMT came along, it was heralded as a quantum leap and became the lightning rod. The containment vessel cracked, and the radiation began to spill out. And here we are. Who is at fault is irrelevant, I (we) want solutions, not blame? Forget the punitive thoughts, it only makes the situation worse. Fix the immediate problem then work on the underlying causes.

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The negotiating council is convened. Three members of each of the four groups representing the top leadership of their respective groups, twelve total. In public view, sessions are held for one week. At the end of one week, if there is no solution, the top member of each group publicly resigns from the group AND their corresponding position within their group/organization and the sessions resume. At the end of the second week, the process is repeated. The last member remaining from each group presents a position paper that, in the event of a third failure to produce a solution, is delivered to the public to be decided by a binding referendum which the participants agree beforehand to be honored, observed and supported. Four weeks start to finish.

Harsh justice? Yes. We expect our leaders to lead. If they do not, or cannot, they must be replaced. If we refuse to hold them accountable, we must then stay silent and accept the outcome. And we must do this BEFORE the situation explodes beyond repair, in this case, the upcoming trial of the kupuna arrested is a particularly emotional hot button. Additional issues arising include; the appearance of conflicts involving Mitch Roth (and his wife and son), OHA support of protestors (possible withholding of state funds), continuing costs of security, Governor Ige (and/or his wife) allegedly involved financially with the TMT. Beyond all this drama, there are the real optics of this situation; the image of protesting women and children behind the yellow tape solemnly facing the burly line of police in camo brandishing batons, has gone viral. This is playing out on the world stage, in real-time and it carries a real cost.

Details and preconditions – The participants confirm their authority to represent and negotiate on behalf their respective groups. The eventual outcome will be accepted and supported by the participants. There will no legal repercussions nor challenges to the outcome. There will be no connections to other issues, such as sovereignty or the existing observatories. All terms and conditions of this council, once adopted, will require unanimous consent to modify. Agreement on a solution will require unanimous approval and require a statement of details when announced

To UH Board of Regents Chair, Benjamin Kudo, many thanks for your personal statements which I fully support. You are a brave man indeed to step willingly into this melee. Realizing that my plan could well lead you to lose your position, I still encourage you to support and participate in this council. Your temperament would be a strong asset. And to LtGov Josh Green, you have done the unthinkable when you asked the question, ‘Is any project worth tearing apart this island community?’ I applaud you for the asking. We must all look deeply inside ourselves to find, and be able to live with, our answers. Some have suggested that your question hints of bias and may well have weakened the state’s legal defense options (should it come to that). For this reason, I suggest that you NOT be a part of this council.

To those reading this, SPECIAL COMMENT: This is no longer a spectator sport. You must DO something. You must respond to this letter and forward it to everyone you know on and off island, to also respond. Please keep your responses short so they can be easily understood and counted (I support this, or I do not support this). Please understand, I AM NOT ENDORSING ANY SIDE. I have my opinions and bias like everyone else, but this must end on its own merits. Are ten thousand responses too much to ask for? Will our leaders pay attention to that number? No, then make it twenty-five thousand? Watch the total climb yourselves, you can be sure that our leaders will also be watching. Again, to our leaders; …………. Lead, follow or get out of the way.

Letters, commentaries and opinion pieces are not edited by Big Island Now.

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