comscore 2022 Election: Michael Lee | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Election

2022 Election: Michael Lee

  • Michael Lee
Name on ballot:

Michael Lee

Running for:

State House – District 50

Political party:

Democrat

Campaign website:

mikeleeforhawaii.com/

Current occupation:

Director of Education and Stewardship Programming – Moanalua Gardens Foundation

Age:

40

Previous job history:

Director of Education, Moanalua Gardens Foundation
Founder and Executive Director, TeamWorks Interactive
Director of Education, Kualoa Ranch
Teacher, Punahou and ʻIolani School
Mediator, Certified by Oregon Mediation Association

Previous elected office, if any:

None

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

As a father, husband, Kailua homeowner and small business owner, I believe that I can bring a down-to-earth perspective to our State government. We need experienced leaders who understand the challenges of raising a family and struggling to make it in Hawaii with our high cost of living.

My professional experience as a teacher and mediator also gives me unique skills to bring to the 76-member Legislature. First, I am a lifelong learner. I am always seeking out information and trying to understand all sides of an issue. As a mediator, I help parties in conflict find mutually agreeable positions and solutions to their disagreements. My strengths include listening without bias, facilitating objective dialogue, mitigating power dynamics, identifying mutual goals, and creating fair processes for parties to work with. I will utilize all these skills to advocate for our community and work with other legislators who may hold different points of view.

What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?

As I have been walking door-to-door, meeting community members, the biggest issue that comes up is public safety. Residents are concerned about increasing crime rates, vandalism, dangerous driving and generally feeling unsafe in their neighborhoods. If elected to the State House, I would work closely with neighborhood security watch groups to address suspicious activity and deter criminals. I would also make sure our parks are kept clean and well-maintained. I am deeply grateful to have the endorsement of the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers (SHOPO) and I will partner with HPD to increase enforcement of our laws.

Rising inflation has significantly worsened Hawaii’s already high cost of living. What can be done at the state level to help Hawaii residents cope with high consumer prices?

As we are dealing with increasing inflation, I think we should revisit an exemption from the general excise tax for food and prescription drugs. We are one of the few states that tax these essential items and if we are able to help families with these costs, it could help them to cover additional expenses.

Hawaii’s rising gasoline prices are among the highest in the nation. Should Hawaii lower or temporarily suspend state taxes on gasoline to help ease the pain at the pump?

Yes. I am willing to explore all options to help ease the pain at the pump and lower gas prices in Hawaii. I also support state tax credits for electric or hydrogen vehicles, so that we can reduce our dependence on imported fuel.

Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.

The district I hope to represent has been heavily affected by overtourism, from illegal vacation rentals to busloads of tourists being dropped off in the middle of Kailua town. I support the efforts of HTA’s Kuleana Campaign and Mālama Hawaii to educate and reframe the expectations of visitors’ experiences. I also think we need to offer more regenerative and sustainable tourism opportunities for visitors.

Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?


One of the silver linings of the COVID-19 pandemic was the increased opportunity to telework and bring many of our young workers back home. I hope to increase this trend to diversify the economy in a number of industries and support remote working opportunities for the next generation. State government can support deployment of high speed broadband internet across the island. For example, the state recently received $115M in federal funds specifically for broadband and we can invest those resources to improve our broadband capability.

What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?

If elected, I would work closely with the Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corporation to increase the number of affordable units both for rent and purchase. Housing is the greatest household expense and we need to increase the supply of affordable housing for local residents. I also support concentrating development in the urban core around the rail system, through transit oriented development. We need to increase density around rail stations and build vertically in those areas to increase the housing supply.

I would also collaborate with the City and County of Honolulu to address homelessness, through programs such as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), which is designed to divert low-level offenders from citation and/or arrest, and increase connections to harm reduction based, individualized case management. Homeless individuals can benefit from the LEAD program and get the services they need.

What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?

One of the biggest lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that our health is in our own hands. By social distancing, wearing a mask and washing our hands, we can all help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses. I also support the Department of Health public awareness campaigns and other educational tools to get the word out in the community. We need to ensure our schools, hospitals and long-term care facilities have the PPE and resources they need to address any future surges.

Hawaii isn’t likely to see a repeat of this year’s $2 billion revenue surplus which allowed higher-than-normal spending on state programs and projects. If elected, what will your top spending priorities be?

One of my top priorities will be investment in better infrastructure. Our highways, harbors and airports are critical to our economy and the movement of goods and people. Improved infrastructure can help open up new areas for further development of affordable housing and improve quality of life. Local construction projects will also mean local jobs for local families, helping to further stimulate the economy.

What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?

We are fortunate to live in a state where abortions are still safe and legal. I believe that a woman’s right to choose is a personal decision and should not be dictated by the government. State government can help protect our local doctors and nurses who may be subject to criminal or civil lawsuits if they provide reproductive health care to out-of-state patients. We should also reduce barriers to access, especially on the neighbor islands, where providers are hard to find and patients may have to travel long distances to receive care.

What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?

As an educator, I think that we need to recruit and retain high-quality teachers in every classroom. Too often we are losing our talented teachers to higher paying jobs on the mainland. I support salary incentives for hard-to-fill positions and more teacher training and mentoring. I also am excited about the initiative to expand early learning to all 3- and 4-year olds in Hawaii. By giving our keiki the best start, we are improving their chances of success in K-12 and beyond.

I would also like to see unions, industries, and non profits working with high schools to provide hands on learning opportunities and career paths for juniors and seniors. By the end of high school students should be prepared to go to college as well as enter a specific trade or industry at an entry level position.

What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?

I support all efforts to make it easier and more accessible for the public to participate in the legislative process. For example, allowing testifiers to appear via Zoom and recording committee hearings has greatly improved access for private citizens. Not everyone can afford to take time off from work or even fly over from a neighbor island, so these changes during the pandemic have helped. If elected to the State House, I will hold regular Town Hall meetings to hear directly from the community about issues that affect their lives. I’m working hard to make sure that I speak to as many voters as I can to understand their needs and how to best represent them in the State House.

Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?

I support the original decision made to construct the Thirty Meter Telescope, but I believe a broader discussion is needed about the future management of Mauna Kea, respect for wahi pana, and how these decisions are made in the future. The Legislature recently passed HB2024 to establish a Mauna Kea Stewardship and Oversight Authority. This is an important first step. We need to closely monitor the transfer of authority from the University of Hawaii and make sure that we are protecting Mauna Kea for future generations.

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

As an educator and coach, I believe in the next generation. I always tell my students and athletes they are stronger, smarter, and more capable than they know. I am running for the State House to show them that public service is important and to be an example for them to also give back to the community.


View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2022 Hawaii elections coverage.
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