Astronomy development’s broken promises
Proponents of the Thirty Meter Telescope and the proposed work force pipeline fail to mention some significant points. These same promises for local jobs were previously unveiled to gain support for the existing astronomy development that has occurred on Mauna Kea for the past 40 years. So how come close to 90 percent of the people hired for the existing 13 telescopes are not from Hawaii? TMT Observatory Corp. is made up of the same entities that have existing observatories — Keck, Subaru, Gemini, Canada-France-Hawaii — on the summit.
TMT Corp. fails to disclose that a large part of the staff has already been hired and are already working in California and elsewhere. Go on tmt.org/about-tmt/people website and see for yourself. Likewise, private and public funds are being used to pay the exorbitant salaries and benefits in the range of $200,000 to $275,000 of a few individuals of TMT Corp.
In addition, the vast majority of the construction would be done by outside firms and foreign countries because of the specialized nature of this development. Only a few select companies are specialized in this type of observatory design, construction and technology. As a result, most of the contracts have been and would be awarded to an exclusive group of companies from outside of Hawaii.
Under the guise of scientific research, astronomy activities have developed into a lucrative business for specific companies in the private sector and highly paid employment for a limited group of individuals. The only problem, almost all of them are not from Hawaii.
We do not need another new massive telescope to cause further destruction on Mauna Kea, just fulfill the broken promises for a local work force pipeline for the existing telescopes. Likewise, it would be great if existing observatories would be paying fair market rent instead of only $1 a year.