This Can’t Go On

An open letter to Hawaii Governor David Ige by Stan Fichtman

Dear Governor Ige:

As a born-and-raised resident, constituent, tax payer and voter in the State of Hawaii, I am greatly concerned about the deterioration of Hawaii’s social and cultural integrity due to the ongoing Thirty Meter Telescope/Kia’i standoff at Mauna Kea.

Since the current standoff started in the middle of July, I believe that you first thought that this would only last a spell of time – maybe until school started again for kids at the end of that month. So, waiting them out may have been a good idea then. After all, the thinking goes that while protesters have principles, they also have bills to pay and kids to raise.

Well, obviously the protesters were not just parents or people who had obnoxious amounts of vacation time from their job to stay up there. To boot, the Kia’i that did make the trek to the mountain were people who seem to have nothing but time to commit to this venture. That is why it seems that they don’t have any problem sticking it out.

Then there are the support services that are feeding both the needs of people there, as well as making sure that those who want to go to the mountain, can. Did you know that there was a website that one can donate to that provides the equivalent of micro-grants for those who want to travel to Mauna Kea? Along with that one of the largest employers in this state, Hawaiian Airlines, is making it easy to donate miles to the cause. So the theory that economics will keep people from going to the mountain continues to be debunked.  

All in all, it seems that the durability and endurance of the Kia’i is admirable, and something that your administration wildly underestimated. While you might be a smart guy when it comes to engineering (your degree) I have a feeling that your betting decisions in Vegas are a bit to be desired.

But when you make bad bets, there are both expected and unexpected consequences of them. Of course, we know of one consequence, the enormous price tag of the police/prosecutor and Attorney General’s work, in dealing with the blockade. Already, we as the taxpayer has shelled out $8.4 million bucks, and the price tag goes up by six figures every day.

I think it would help your reputation as a leader in Hawaii to just tell the taxpayers the truth – the money is gone and we ain’t getting it back.

As to unintended consequences of the standoff, something even more expensive is happening all throughout the state. The tapa that makes up our state’s social fabric is being torn asunder by the standoff. While stories about people-to-people conflict seem few and far between (a professor saying something disparaging about the situation, for instance) we are probably not hearing various arguments on the standoff that are tearing friends and families permanently apart.

And while it can be dismissed and said “when this is done, we will heal”, again I wouldn’t put a bet on that. Some of this tearing is permanent, Mr. Governor, and the more time this standoff goes on, the more permanent the damage.

While I will not be one that will recommend to “send in the troops”, I will say that your current tactic is not working. While I have a lot of respect for Mayor Harry Kim, it has become apparent that he is a better leader to tell people to get out of the way of Madame Pele’s lava than being a diplomat. Giving him more time to craft a solution, I’m afraid, will simply lead nowhere at this point.

What is needed, now, Mr. Governor is a realization that 1. Plans so far to end the standoff have failed; 2. The longer this goes on, the more damage this incurs on the people of Hawaii; and 3. A real leader needs to step in and find the ability to bring both sides to the table and resolve the issue. If your abstaining from the role I am stating in No. 3, then please cast about for that diplomat to come in and solve this issue.

But if you have finally had enough of people saying that you have the political spine of a sponge, and want to engage, by all means, please do. After all, we are still the land of second chances. Just look at Ed Case and Gary Hooser.

Thank you

Stanford J. Fichtman
Resident, Taxpayer and Voter in the State of Hawaii.