Finding common ground

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Opposing sides have agreed to come together to discuss the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope project during a series of informational meetings beginning Tuesday.

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Opposing sides have agreed to come together to discuss the controversial Thirty Meter Telescope project during a series of informational meetings beginning Tuesday.

“It’s time,” event organizer Judi Steinman said. “It’s time for us to get in the same room.”

Presented by the Hilo-Hamakua Community Development Corporation, the series, dubbed “TMT and Mauna Kea: Common Ground,” will offer an opportunity for community members to learn more about the $1.4 billion telescope project and those behind it.

Steinman, an HHCDC board member and project supporter, said her goal in organizing the events is to open communication, educate the community, and begin the healing process.

She feels the crux of the problem is that opposing sides are speaking two different languages. While TMT and its supporters are speaking the language of Western science and economics, those camped out atop Mauna Kea are speaking that of Hawaiian culture and tradition.

“We’re approaching things from two very different points of view,” she said.

There will be no debate between guest speakers during the events, she said. Rather, each will be given time to present information they feel is relevant and important.

The first of four events begins at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Laupahoehoe Community Public Charter School Cafeteria.

Among the invited guests is TMT opponent and protest organizer Lanakila Mangauil. While he is looking forward to sharing his perspective, and agrees people should hear from both sides, Mangauil stands by previous statements that there is likely no compromise or middle ground regarding the TMT.

“Middle ground was passed 10 telescopes ago,” he said.

“We’re not dealing with a full cup,” he added. “We’re dealing with a cup that’s already been tapped 13 times.”

Mangauil will be joined by guest speakers Paul Coleman, an astrophysicist at the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Stephanie Nagata, director of the Office of Mauna Kea Management.

Richard Ha, an HHCDC board member and one of several guest speakers scheduled for the June 9 event, said that while he supports the TMT project, he will not be there to promote it. Instead, he will focus on the future of the Big Island and how to get there.

“What we would like to see come out of this is community education,” he said. “It’s really important that everybody gets as much information as possible.”

Steinman said that despite the divisiveness witnessed in recent months, she is optimistic common ground can be found.

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“I’m really hoping and praying that we can all come together,” she said.

Email Chris D’Angelo at cdangelo@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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