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Election

2022 Election: Matthew S. LoPresti

Matt LoPresti
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Name on ballot:

Matthew S. LoPresti

Running for:

State House – District 41

Political party:

Democratic

Campaign website:

www.Matt4Ewa.com

Current occupation:

Legislator/Professor of Philosophy and Humanities

Age:

48

Previous job history:

State Representative, District 41 (3 terms: 2014-2018; 2020-2022); Before this I worked as a professor at various local, mainland, and international universities (Chaminade, Hawaii Pacific University, Kapiolani Community College, UH-Manoa, as well as at various places on the mainland, London, and India) and am currently a professor at a local liberal arts university. Community service-wise I currently serve as: Vice President, Sons of the American Revolution (Hawaii Chapter); Block Captain for Neighborhood Security Watch, KaMakana at Hoakalei; Navy League of the United States of America member; Parent Member for School Community Council at my child’s public school; Den Leader for Cub Scouts Pack 167, Boy Scouts of America. Formerly I served as an ‘Ewa Neighborhood Board member, Vice Chair, Sierra Club (Oahu Group) and am a lifetime member; as Co-Chair of the Platform Committee, Democratic Party of Hawaii (2016), and as a member of the O’ahu Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Previous elected office, if any:

State Representative, District 41 (3 terms: 2014-2018; 2020-2022); Ewa Neighborhood Board (2011).

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Hawaii.

Public service, for me, is a calling informed by my faith, my profession, and my commitment to helping others.

Ewa Beach in particular and West Oahu in general needs a strong voice to represent our interests, to speak up and take action on the issues that matter the most to my constituents. As a leader I continue to focus on everyday regular issues, like the state of our public schools, alleviating soul-crushing traffic, and our infrastructure that is either crumbling where it stands or nonexistent where it is needed most. While our community needs a leader who will is unafraid to stand up for our community, we also need someone with a proven record of accomplishments who can understand and work with people from all backgrounds to bring needed change to our current system as well as to bring home needed resources for Ewa Beach, as I have done time and time again. In just three two-year terms in office, I have been able to bring home over half-a-billion dollars in infrastructure just for our area. My constituents know that I am an effective fighter for causes and for our community. I feel that it is my duty to continue to step up and dedicate myself to public service, and I am deeply humbled and grateful to know that I have the faith and confidence of so many in our community and across our state. I will continue to do my utmost to represent the working families and individuals of our district and put my community’s needs above my own.

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

Overcrowded schools and overcrowded roads have long been equally the two greatest issues facing my district; yet our community keeps growing and more work needs to be done each year to meet the demands of this growing population. Even prior to being elected, my neighbors and constituents have voiced the same concern each year. Massive housing developments our state needs have largely been focused in the ‘Ewa and Kapolei region, but they constantly build the houses first while failing to require the new roads and schools needed to accommodate the growth. I discuss both education and traffic in this response and legislative actions I have taken to address them and in the final question of the survey, I address the growing need for more first responders in our area as well as climate change.

Since being elected I have made short, medium and long-term promises for addressing the conditions in our overcrowded ‘Ewa schools. I started by making them habitable for learning, then received CIP funding to get new buildings and facilities, and lastly to have additional new schools built for every grade level. In just three terms in office, I have kept every one of these promises and been able to bring home a whopping half a billion dollars to ‘Ewa Beach to pay for this massive influx of educational infrastructure to our area. Everyone knows that government normally moves at a glacial pace, but I have put all of my effort in ensuring that our state government moved swiftly to address these many issues in our ‘Ewa schools and it has paid off in a big way.

My first term I helped secure the $100M to cool the schools in ‘Ewa and statewide. My second term I worked to get new buildings, elementary and middle schools, and better athletics facilities (especially Title IX facilities), and was able to bring the money home for a 21st century science building, new portables, and the beginning of an athletics master plan for the Campbell HS Complex. In my most recent term, I fulfilled the promise to get the funding for a brand new mega high school ($355M) for ‘Ewa Beach to alleviate the overcrowding at Campbell. Additionally, we have secured the funding for a new Athletics Stadium and girls locker room for Campbell HS, as we are near the end of completing the Athletics Master plan I advocated for and started to help fund during my second term in office.

We need elected officials with real but bold plans like the ones I have fulfilled for our community, as well as with the gumption to fight for our district and follow through with real results. There is still more to do, like getting $25M for a new 6th grade building for ‘Ilima Intermediate and the $30M necessary to expand Fort Weaver Road, south of Foodland, where it bottlenecks every day. If re-elected, I look forward to completing that work for ‘Ewa Beach during my next term.

Traffic mitigation is also paramount. I have led the way in securing new stop lights, raised crosswalks, and traffic calming measures throughout the ‘Ewa Beach neighborhoods. As a member of the Transportation Committee, I have also advocated for better maintenance of our roads and highways and expanding the H-1 for our daily commuters. This past term included funding of $135M to expand Farrington Highway to parallel the H-1 with a new wide arterial roadway in to ‘Ewa Beach to accommodate the ever-growing development in the area. If re-elected, I hope to focus on expanding the zipper lane to Kapolei, installing a PM zipper lane, exploring contraflow lanes on Fort Weaver Road, smart lights (that don’t make you wait unnecessarily when there is no traffic), encouraging staggered work times and telecommuting, completing the rail project, and moving state and county office jobs to the long designated, but never yet built, state office building in Kapolei.

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 ensure that wages keep up with prices. The minimum wage increase should help with this and will create upward pressure for most wages. We should also consider a GET tax holiday on essential items of food and prescription medicine.

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, as the rising cost of living in our State continues to rise at such a fast pace, we must do whatever is necessary to give the needed breaks for our people. We can speculate about how much the gas prices will continue to go up, but I hear it from many of my constituents that even .50 cents a gallon saved at the gas pump makes a huge difference for anyone who is living paycheck to paycheck and has to sit in traffic and drive many miles just to make it to their first or second job.

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

As we continue to recover from the ongoing pandemic and as we begin to reopen our borders for mainland visitors and for our valuable tourists from Asia, we must do it at a pace that is sustainable and achievable for our recovering economy.

We should look to find a balance between numbers of tourists and the money that is brought in by targeting higher-paying tourists and finding ways to make the tourism industry work for the working people. We can do this by keeping more of the industry’s enormous profits generated by our state in our state. Part of this should include Hawaii having more locally owned and operated hotels where workers and community members have an ownership stake in the industry to ensure it thrives while also being respectful to the community.

If we have just more and more tourists, the prices for almost everything that we enjoy during for staycations or holidays, whether for dining or entertainment, will also rise and this will affect the cost of living for us locals. We need to focus more on high paying tourists to limit the impact from the number of people visiting while still maintaining that part of our economy that provides so many jobs for locals.

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


In the last two years, we have come to see what happens when we “put all our eggs in one basket” and COVID was a major stress test on our reliance on tourism. Even though we are slowly recovering from the impacts of COVID and as the state is taking the necessary steps to return to normalcy, we must take this opportunity to reevaluate and make reasonable and innovative changes in strengthening our economy by supporting and reinforcing other industries that would be successful.

I have been a strong advocate for pursuing major infrastructure projects by leveraging state lands along the rail route for genuinely affordable housing projects. Within three growing seasons, I believe we should also focus on producing local food for local consumption. Additionally, Hawaii should be a leader in the research and development of clean renewable energy technology that should move beyond solar, wind and geothermal to include supporting the development of harnessing wave energy. Our state has a genuine potential for growth in the development and implementation of emerging aerospace industries as well. With these last two, our children can have the choice of high-paying professional carriers right here at home.

Again, with regard to tourism (as noted in the previous response), we should look to find a balance between numbers of tourists and the money that is brought in by targeting higher-paying tourists and finding ways to make the tourism industry work for the working people. We can do this by keeping more of the industry’s enormous profits generated by our state in our state. Part of this should include Hawaii having more locally owned and operated hotels where workers and community members have an ownership stake in the industry to ensure it thrives while also being respectful to the community.

Lastly, if we are ever to seriously help create thousands of higher-paying jobs, we need to invest in our local universities to attract and keep the best and brightest researchers and professors to help build a local workforce that can take advantage of the diversification of our state’s economy. Without maintaining strong local universities and reinvesting in higher education, any discussion about economic diversification is just talk.

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

In my last two terms in office, we in the legislature have put $300M to affordable housing projects and specifically allocated $570M in a previous term to build 25,000 affordable housing units by 2030, put $50M to help people transition out of homelessness and into permanent housing, and more recently put $600M for Department of Hawaiian Homelands to help do away with backlog of homes for Native Hawaiians. I also authored and passed a bill to help the homeless to acquire/recover their legal documentations that they often need to get government help in the first place. These are all steps in the right direction, and I will continue this good work at the state level.

We also need to look at leveraging public land along the rail corridor for genuinely affordable housing. Altering the patterns of development is largely what the rail system is supposed to bring about, so let’s stop talking about transit-oriented development and start doing it by investing in large workforce housing projects on state land. The state can provide infrastructure costs to help developers reach real affordable housing needs. Alternatively, we could ourselves finance projects directly – so long as they serve an immediate public good, like designated teacher housing. High and medium density housing projects for urban infill face enormous financial burdens because of increased upfront costs and risk, so the state itself should look to provide low-cost loans for low-priced housing. This is the time when large public works programs for affordable housing along the rail line can do the most good for our community. Let’s do it.

In the end, however, we also need a change in attitudes towards affordable housing – everyone says we need it, but many communities refuse to even let simple multi-story walk ups be built in areas that are zoned for such development while expecting areas like the West Side to just constantly bear the brunt of massive development without giving us the necessary infrastructure along with the population. This attitude has been brutal for people on the West side who have being dealing with all of this growth while other communities protest even modest, well-designed and badly needed affordable housing in their areas. This is not OK.

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

We can only learn from what we have done in response to the ongoing COVID pandemic. First, we must formalize protocols across the board within our State government. We must begin with the level of authority the Governor can have during a declared pandemic, that it should not be open-ended and must have oversight from the Legislature.

The State agencies must be able to collaborate and work closely with all federal partners in implementing policies that is for the public good.

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?

There is still more to do for traffic and our schools in Ewa. Ilima Intermediate needs a new 6th grade building so that the feeder elementary schools can move their 6th graders there (like is done at Ewa Makai Middle) which also then directly addresses the problem at Elementary Schools – the problems of many schools solved with just one building. We also need the money to expand Fort Weaver Rd. to three lanes south of Geiger Rd where it bottlenecks every day. It was poorly designed to drop down to two lanes there when the largest population of Ewa Beach is south of that very place. With some restriping and a few more yards of pavement we can make sure the morning and evening commute is that much easier. We also need the Dept. of Transportation to study a morning and evening contra-flow lane along Fort Weaver and improve the design of the on-ramp to the H-1 which for our area.

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

I support women’s healthcare and the Governor’s moves to signal Hawaii being a safe place for Women’s healthcare and that we support any and all who seek and need healthcare in our islands no matter where they are from.

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

Most of my three terms have been dedicated to just this issue. Education quality is largely based on our ability to recruit and retain quality teachers and on top of that we need proper facilities in which out keiki can learn. In just three terms I have helped secure over half a billion dollars in the budgets for our region on the ‘Ewa Plain so our community could address overflowing capacity issues, 100-degree classrooms, and the desperate need for more new schools at all levels. I have helped do all of this in just three terms in office. We also need to retain and recruit quality teachers and this past year we addressed some significant pay issues that Hawaii teachers (the lowest pain the nation when adjusting for cost of living) have been struggling under for a long while. HIDOE is continuously recruiting each year for new teachers, but we need a plan to ensure that they stay in Hawaii for longer periods of time rather than for a short-term because the cost-of-living is not sustainable for what they are paid. The state government must incentivize that staying in Hawaii is affordable and that anyone can live here long-term rather than just a short-term “vacation,” or a temporary contract. We can do this with teacher housing projects and looking at requiring a set number of years teachers we recruit from out of state must stay in the job to keep the bonus incentives the state has been giving out to mainland teachers to work here and then leave after a short while. That money might be better spent on recruiting and training the local workforce, who likely have a better support network to make ends meet in the islands.

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

I have been introducing and co-sponsoring stronger ethics laws since I was first elected in 2014, but the legislature repeatedly refused to pass or even consider some of these bills. Now that there is much greater public scrutiny, I very much look forward to passing stronger ethics laws including limiting campaign contributions, the times they can be given, and increasing reporting requirements for lobbyists.

In the State Legislature, we must make it a permanent policy to allow for remote testimony for all citizens. Conducting business during the pandemic proved we can do this, and we should continue to do this for all, not just neighbor island residents. It takes massive amounts of time to follow a bill and wait around sometimes for hours just to testify for one committee hearing and many bills must pass through upwards of six committees at times. We need to make government and the hearing of legislation more open to the public so citizens can remain at work and still testify without having to take many days off just to do their duty as an active citizen. Empowering citizens in this way automatically reduces the influence of special interests because it makes it possible for average citizens to be just as engaged as paid lobbyists in the legislative process. There should be disclosure requirements for when and how often lobbyists meet with decision makers either inside or outside government buildings. Lastly, we must revisit both the rules of the bodies and the culture of power to see that political power is shared more equally amongst elected officials and not just concentrated into the hands of three or four individuals in each body. This is good for their sake as well as the sake of our democracy.

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

The legislature has created a working stakeholder group to help deal with this issue and we made sure that it included strong Native Hawaiian voices. This is about more than just any one issue: astronomy, our economy or respecting the host culture. It is about giving voice to all the issues and finding a way forward, as I ultimately do believe that any project that has undergone so much vetting at so many different levels should be allowed to do. My reasoning is thus: I think we must start with honor and respect native Hawaiians and concerns, and I believe that the best way to do this is through the process established that seeks public input in the future planning throughout the state. If this process can be improved upon then we should all work together to do so. However, if projects that have undergone years of proper hearings, court challenges, and so on and have done everything they are legally required to do to move forward and according to the law they are told that they should be able to move forward, like the TMT, then yes they should be allowed to move forward. Otherwise, the law itself and government and its processes as a whole all becomes utterly meaningless. What is more, and this is extremely important for all working families in our state, such an environment would actively discourage capital investment in Hawaii, which we desperately need to not only keep our economy afloat but to help diversify our economy in the future. If people want to revisit the process of how communities are able to participate in the planning process for future projects, then that is a different issue and the state and everyone in it can explore ways to improve the democratic process and find ways of empowering public input in meaningful ways, but even if people have a problem with the outcome of a process, that does not justifiably nullify the outcome, instead it should focus attention on finding ways we can all work together to improve the process.

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

High-density housing is increasing in areas we know for a fact will be underwater in just a few decades due to sea-level rise. It would be madness to not begin having the necessary, but uncomfortable conversations about which areas, if any, we are going to try to save by hardening shorelines or building seawalls, and which areas we will allow to naturally erode. Climate change is already here, and we need to codify the foundations for managed retreat now.

With the recent surge in crime and vandalism in both Kapolei and Ewa Beach, public safety has been a growing issue facing my district today. I have advocated in the past session that the City and County of Honolulu must make it a priority to create a new Police District, which we call District 9, in order to provide adequate services and law enforcement response just for Ewa Beach and Kapolei. It is unfeasible for the Honolulu Police Department to cover all of District 8 that begins from Ewa Beach to Kaena Point with the limited resources they currently have today. I am not only asking the City and County of Honolulu to create the new Police District, but we also need to make sure that they have funding to add more beat cops and provide the needed staffing and support for HPD to keep our communities safe on the Leeward side. To this end I authored and passed a bi-partisan resolution through the State House and the State Senate at the legislature just this year signaling the legislatures intent that the City and County take this growing problem more seriously. By spending the necessary funds to provide more patrol beat in our district and setting up a fully functional and stand-alone police station at the Waianae Police Station so that Leeward O’ahu can have two police districts will allow for better protection of both our citizens and our first responders.


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