Name on ballot:
Shannon Lopeka Matson
State House – District 3
Social Services Navigator, Yoga Teacher
Previous job history:
Store manager, Small business owner, Legislative Aide
Previous elected office, if any:
No answer submitted
Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.
I have been involved with local politics now for over a decade as a community organizer, and working for various campaigns. I have also served as a Legislative Aide for a State Senator. Most recently I have worked as a social services navigator through Vibrant Hawai’i and connected people with various Federal, State, and County programs to find assistance and financial support through the COVID pandemic and our resulting economic downturn.
Above all else, I understand that the purpose of this job is to be a voice for my community. To be successful in this role I would use my powers of listening, collaboration, and my focused work ethic to make sure I was giving my community the representation they deserve.
What is the most pressing issue facing residents in your district and how would you address the problem?
My district has very unique needs, as it encompasses: Keaukaha, Pana’ewa, Hilo, Kea’au, Orchidland, Ainaloa, Hawaiian Acres, and Fern Acres. There are numerous unimproved subdivisions, as well as Hawaiian Homelands, much of which is without basic infrastructure. People living in these subdivisions drive long distances on unpaved roads to get to work and school; many lack access to utility power; some don’t have reliable internet; some fill water jugs at the end of a long day’s work, for safe water to drink. These subdivisions were created decades ago, yet their residents have never had their needs represented at the legislature. Instead, needs of more densely populated areas with high voter turnout, where residents have reliable mail delivery, water, electricity and paved roads, have always come first. Lack of access to clean water is unacceptable; it puts a burden on the district’s families and is a public health safety concern. This longstanding problem won’t be solved in a single session, its eventual solution depends on a professional assessment of both needs and solutions; securing funding for this in-depth analysis is a priority. Supporting infrastructure development as a way to provide jobs post-pandemic while meeting the needs of some of Hawai’i’s most under-represented working families is crucial. Addressing the crisis of affordable housing and getting DHHL properties up to code and move-in ready for beneficiaries is key.
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?
We need to reduce the growing cost of living by increasing wages and supporting our working families through publicly funded preschool, paid family leave, and universal healthcare, including dental and vision. I am also in favor of an exemption of our General Excise Tax for necessities like food and medicine. We need to be making additional changes to our tax code to close loopholes that allow corporations and the wealthy to avoid paying their fair share.
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, our leaders should be doing everything in their power to provide both short-term relief and long-term environmentally sustainable solutions for our dependance on imported fossil fuels for both our transportation and other electricity needs.
Do you support or oppose efforts to slow or limit the number of tourists to Hawaii? Please explain.
I support efforts to encourage quality tourism over quantity. I support the Pono Pledge and other efforts to engage our visitors in leaving our islands better than they find them by taking care of our environment, being cautious when exploring trails and beaches, being culturally sensitive to Native Hawaiian sites of significance, etc. I support efforts to put into place reasonable moratoriums in areas of our State that need to address infrastructure and planning issues first before being able to welcome more visitors to their communities.
Can Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy be diversified, and, if so, what can state government do to support the effort?
Absolutely, diversification is not only possible, it is necessary. We need to invest in education for in-demand fields outside of tourism: medical personnel, teachers, social workers, etc. We need to make conscious steps to focus on regenerative agriculture, supporting the growth of green technology jobs and alternative energy production as priorities. As we currently still import over 85% of our food, but we have a year-round growing season, I would like our top priority in diversification to be improving support for local, small-scale, sustainable agriculture. I support farm-to-table programs at the DOE level and through other State programs. Creating opportunities for students to have active participation in learning about and supporting farming practices in school is crucial; growing, harvesting, preparing, and eating their own food. If we create interactive, and fun programs where our keiki learn the importance of being food self-sufficient and experience the joy in feeding themselves from food they grow, we will help create the next generation of family farmers.
What is your plan to increase affordable housing in Hawaii, and to help the counties deal with homelessness?
As a social services navigator one area to focus on is making sure we are doing everything we can to keep vulnerable people housed. I have helped numerous folks on the edge of losing their properties or homes remain housed through various federal, state, or county programs. The population that is on the edge of becoming unsheltered is crucial to connect with and support. The affordable housing crisis has reached a pinnacle that needs numerous solutions. Building more affordable housing is only one way to address this, and one that doesn’t seem to be coming fast enough, therefore; rent control, and additional tax incentives for landlords to encourage affordable rental prices are all solutions that must be considered. Corporate and off island real estate investors must pay their fair share instead of allowing them to evict our neighbors while raking in profits from some of the most expensive properties in the world.
What would you propose to help protect Hawaii residents’ health during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic?
I would encourage people to continue to do their part in protecting themselves and others. Due to our Aloha for one another we have made good choices throughout this unprecedented time by wearing masks when around other large groups, getting vaccinated and boosted, and staying home when not feeling well. No matter what next challenge we face, I have confidence that we will continue to work together to protect our keiki and kūpuna and other vulnerable community members.
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?
I would be prioritizing: affordable housing programs and infrastructure, (including broadband access and roads) a comprehensive study on clean water in our rural/catchment tank based communities, as well as education, and healthcare initiatives.
What, if anything, should state government do in response to the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs Wade?
The recent SCOTUS decision is devastating. However, I am hopeful that it will motivate people to be more politically active and get involved in working towards expanding the Supreme Court, and electing pro-Choice leaders. We still have much work to do here in Hawai’i to ensure safe and accessible abortions are available for anyone who may need them. Abortions are not accessible for many in Hawai’i, we don’t have a Planned Parenthood on Hawai’i Island. Many who need these crucial services on our rural islands have to travel off-island or to the continent. It is expensive and time consuming and emotionally and physically exhausting.
If the services aren’t accessible it doesn’t matter how legal they may be; they might as well be illegal if people cannot access them. In fact, multiple people I know just had to reschedule abortions multiple times due to doctor unavailability or travel out of State to have these life-saving procedures done. I say life-saving because it’s a mental health emergency (regardless of any other circumstances surrounding the pregnancy) for a person to be forced to carry a pregnancy to term.
Also let me correct for the record, abortions are still subject to specific regulations here in Hawai’i. Our laws are confusing and the language is not clear. Our medical professionals are not properly educated on the details of the law either. Let’s put our values into practice and reform our laws to be clear and actually guarantee reproductive healthcare to all, with full privacy protections included, and then fund the hospitals and clinics to staff them with people who are qualified to preform these procedures safely. And while we’re at it, let’s give all nurse practitioners the power to prescribe abortion medication when the pregnancy is still at an early enough stage to do so safely.
What should state government do to support and improve public education in Hawaii?
Above all else we need to properly fund our education system and pay teachers the salaries that show we truly value the work they do. I fully support the 10 points in the ‘Schools Our Keiki Deserve” plan from the Hawai’i State Teachers Association. If elected I would be working to make sure all of those points are implemented and supported by our State leaders.
What reforms, if any, would you propose to make local government more transparent to the public?
As an active participant in my County Government, having served on my County’s Real Property Tax Working Group, and currently serving as a Commissioner for the County of Hawai’i Cost of Government Commission, I believe the Sunshine Law is an important step towards government transparency. If we are requiring County Commissioners and Councils to follow these laws, why should the State Legislature be exempt? I am in strong support of banning campaign contributions and fundraising during session. I also support mandatory ethics training and am glad to see that bill passed this past session.
Another solution I firmly believe in is to focus on election spending reform; including further limits to campaign spending maximums, and providing higher rates of matching public funding, with even greater incentives to encourage candidates to run on public funds and small donations rather than large corporate donations.
Do you support or oppose the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope on the Big Island and why?
As a former frequent volunteer at the Visitor Information Station on Mauna Kea I have utmost admiration and respect for Hawaii’s astronomy community. Spending time eating dinner at Hale Pōhaku and learning from world-renown astronomers was one of my fondest memories of my time in UHH. When I was a child my father worked on building the mirrors of the Keck Observatory. I have the utmost appreciation and respect for the construction workers who have helped to build the telescopes. As someone born and raised here, I feel a deep sense of gratitude for the ways Hawaiian cultural values have shaped me as a person and I understand the frustration at the years of mismanagement of this culturally significant and environmentally precious site. Regardless of how I or anyone feels about astronomy or Hawaiian values, the standoff on Mauna Kea showed that, throughout the permitting process, the TMT project developers failed to accurately assess the impact their project would have on Hawaiian culture. Moving forward, the full extent of this impact must be taken into consideration as the stakeholders seek a resolution.
I will approach this issue as I will with any policy decisions I make which is to truly listen to all members of the community and work to create positive change that will benefit the majority of our community and protect our environment for future generations.
Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?
No answer submitted
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