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The Latest: 2 Deaths, 107 New Cases; UH Responds To Saiki's Call To Change Mauna Kea Management

Office of Mauna Kea Management
Office of Mauna Kea Management

Updated 2/4/21, 12 p.m.

The University of Hawaii has responded to House Speaker Scott Saiki's call for it to end its management of state lands on Mauna Kea. Tuesday, Saiki said UH should ends its efforts to extend the current arrangement.

Yesterday, the university released a statement saying in part "UH believes astronomy on Mauna Kea and in Hawaii will be put at significant risk if work on the new land authorization is stopped at this time with no clear alternative path forward."

The statement continued to say, "similar ideas have been previously proposed in the legislature in past years with no result. This has created uncertainty and concern amongst the existing observatories and their national and international non-profit owners/sponsors regarding matters critical to their futures."

It added that "the issues surrounding Mauna Kea are extraordinarily difficult and opinions have hardened . . . a new governance structure or land manager will not change the minds of those who are opposed to astronomy on Mauna Kea."

The statement added that its effort at outreach is, ". . . now complicated by the Speaker's announcement as those opposed to astronomy may now feel they have little reason to meet with us. Those activities are essential to taking the next steps forward in continuing to advance collaborative and holistic stewardship of Mauna Kea."

Where we stand

The state Department of Health reported 107 new cases and two new fatalities on Thursday.

According to the state's numbers, O?ahu had 79, Maui 16, Hawai?i Island 7, and Kaua?i, Lanai and Moloka?i had no new cases. 5 resident was diagnosed out of state.

The latest state count brings the O?ahu total to 21,141, Hawai?i County 2,184, Maui 1,809, Kaua?i 178, Lanai 107, and Moloka?i 25. The number of out-of-state cases totals 743.

Since the pandemic began, the state has tallied 26,187 cases. The death toll stands at 416.

Blangiardi administration to verify HART requests

A city measure authorizing Honolulu's budget director to issue and sell $26 million in city bonds to finance the rail project was met with some pushback by the administration.

At a Council budget committee meeting Wednesday, council members aired their concerns about financing the mas transit project going forward. 

The city's budget and fiscal services director-designate Andy Kawano said he asked the rail authority for updated budget information. He told the committee the administration will not move on any financial matter until it reviews the project's budgets.

"We're not going to float any bonds that we cannot validate, in terms of having the right purpose," Kawano said. 

"However, there may be opportunities to do some refinancing, as well, to replace previously issued bonds that were earmarked for HART -- where we can have debt service savings. And we can look at that as well, as we move forward."

Council members expressed their concerns about financing the rail project -- especially with an anticipated decline in tax revenues from the state.

Kawano said the administration is committed to working with the Council and HART in the coming years.

-- HPR's Casey Harlow

Casey Harlow was an HPR reporter and occasionally filled in as local host of Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
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