HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - As protests statewide continue, supporters of TMT are speaking up for the project, while officials say they’re trying to get a handle on misinformation.
Those who favor the project have long said they are in the “silent majority”.
Oliver Crowell, 80, is one of them.
He’s a grandfather, a Native Hawaiian, and a Kamehameha Schools alum. And he believes the time for him to speak up is now.
"If only one side of the story is heard, they tend to believe everything about it," said Crowell.
Crowell says he knows many Native Hawaiians who support TMT, but aren't saying anything publicly since the issue has become so personal.
He says the knowledge the telescope will provide, and the educational opportunities already available to students, are benefits that the state can't pass up.
"Some of us who look back at our lives and our careers and see the opportunities that lie ahead for these young students and children today, and what they can have, what we never got, I wouldn't want them to miss out on that," Crowell said.
Last October, a Honolulu Star-Advertiser poll of 800 registered voters found 77-percent supported the project, including 72 percent of Native Hawaiians.
Meanwhile, Miles Yoshioka, executive officer of the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce, says astronomy diversifies the state's economy, and says the industry helped Hawaii Island recover economically from the 1960 tsunami.
"There are 1,400 jobs statewide that are sustained by astronomy," said Yoshioka. "I think the economic impact is $90 million per year on Hawaii Island and about $170 million statewide. Here on the island it employs about 800 people, so that's a big number of paychecks."
TMT officials say they are trying to correct misinformation out there about the project through the media, social media channels, and their website.