Name on ballot:
Micah Kalama Pregitzer
State House – District 50
Teacher, Kalaheo High School
Previous job history:
Teacher, Kalaheo High School (for my full career)
Previous elected office, if any:
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I have lived in Kailua for over 30 years, ever since my childhood. I have served the community in numerous ways, working tirelessly to prevent shoreline erosion, expand affordable housing options, and protect Kailua’s precious beaches. Most recently, I served as Windward Chapter President for the Hawai’i State Teachers Association, where I advocated for increasing funding for public education. I will bring this experience of activism and labor leadership to the State Capitol, where I will fight for working families every day.
What will be your top priority if elected?
My top priority will be increasing funding for public schools. As a teacher and a member of HSTA’s board of directors, I know how badly our schools need more revenue. Our teacher shortage already stands at approximately 1,000 teachers per year and could double because of COVID-19. Additionally, our school facilities are often in disrepair and classrooms lack the resources needed to provide a quality learning experience to our children. We need to fix these problems and fully fund our education system, so that all keiki are given an opportunity to reach their full potential.
As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more can be done to protect residents’ health?
We need to address our state’s doctor and nurse shortage, while increasing funding for critical medical equipment, including protective gear, testing, and life-saving medicine. Moreover, it’s time to establish a single-payer healthcare system for Hawai’i, so that everyone has access to the treatments they need to maintain the health of themselves, their families, and their communities.
What more can be done to help residents who have been economically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We have to modernize our unemployment insurance system. Too many people are waiting for too long to receive unemployment insurance during this pandemic, in part because the computers being used to process claims were made in the 1980s. Also, since the $600 per week federal boost to unemployment assistance is set to expire at the end of July, we need to increase revenue to maintain this benefit for people who have lost their jobs. Finally, this crisis has shown our critical need for truly affordable housing, which we should build in partnership with nonprofit housing developers for residents who earn no more than 60 percent of area median income.
Should public worker furloughs, pay cuts or downsizing be used to help the state deal with lower tax revenues and higher expenses during the pandemic? Why or why not?
No, furloughs and pay cuts should not be on the table. Each day, state workers are striving to keep our state running, including our public health and education systems. Cutting pay would increase the severity and duration of the economic crisis we’re in, according to economists from the University of Hawai’i. Instead, we should raise revenue by increasing taxes for our state’s wealthiest residents, closing corporate tax loopholes, taxing real estate investment trusts, and investing in high-growth industries, like clean energy, sustainable agriculture, and hemp.
Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy has suffered greatly due to the pandemic. If elected, what would you propose to support and diversify the state’s economy?
To begin, we need to establish a cap on tourism to prevent our visitor industry from overwhelming our communities and natural resources. The coronavirus pandemic has given us a chance and a reason to diversify our economy away from tourism, which has seen our state surpass 10 million visitors annually in recent years. Diversifying our economy away from tourism will, in turn, reduce the amount of carbon emissions produced by the visitor industry.
I believe that Hawaii has all of the natural resources needed to establish a vibrant renewable energy industry, including solar, wind and wave power. Research into renewable energy is vital as climate change continues to threaten our shores and presents numerous opportunities for economic expansion. Additionally, we should prioritize sustainable agriculture, which will increase food security for Hawaii’s people and decrease our reliance on volatile and carbon-intensive food imports.
Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.
The protests spreading across our country are born out of frustration with injustice and inequality. George Floyd, like so many other people of color before him, was killed in an act of unmitigated police brutality. We’ve been here before.
But we don’t have to be here again. People’s patience is being tested right now, but our common humanity is not on trial. It’s time to learn the lessons of the past, one of which is surely that we can no longer abide the suppression of our most vulnerable neighbors.
We should absolutely enact police reform, including mandatory public disclosure of misconduct records and fully funding law enforcement oversight boards. That’s the least we can do. We should also demilitarize our police force and reallocate funding from policing to public health, education and rehabilitation programs.
It’s not easy work. It’s a challenge that each generation faces, a responsibility we have to those who will inherit the society we create. The senseless violence committed against minorities each day makes our task more urgent. It’s a mission we are all asked to perform, together.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
As a proud Native Hawaiian, I am opposed to building the Thirty Meter Telescope, especially given that little action has been taken to decommission and remove the telescopes that are already on top of the summit. Additionally, the University of Hawai’i has been a poor steward of Mauna Kea and should be replaced by the Department of Land and Natural Resources as the manager of Mauna Kea’s lands. The displacement of Native Hawaiians from their ancestral lands is an issue that must be rectified by state leaders, who have consistently failed to fulfill their public trust obligations to the Hawaiian people.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
I come from a working class family with two daughters in Kailua, which is why I am dedicated to addressing our state’s exorbitant cost of living. We have the highest housing, electricity and food prices in the nation. Despite those well-known problems, however, workers still fail to earn the wages necessary to pay their bills, while developers continually price housing units beyond the reach of working families.
We can’t pay lip service to addressing the cost of living through meager tax credits and incremental adjustments to the minimum wage. We need to institute major policy changes immediately to make Hawaii affordable for all who call our islands home.
I will work to create a living wage of at least $17/hour, establish paid family and sick leave, build truly affordable housing for those earning less than 60 percent of area median income, and implement measures to control our state’s rising cost of child care. As a legislator, I promise to work for the only interest that matters: the people’s interest.
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