ROTH, Mitch

1 Can you describe your connections to the Native Hawaiian community on your island, and how you would address issues that may have a particular impact or be of particular concern to Native Hawaiians? Would you consult with or seek advice from OHA on such matters?
2 If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that economic dependence on tourism is fragile and that greater economic diversification is necessary. What are your views on creating a more diversified, sustainable economy for Hawaiʻi and what specific industries do you think would most benefit Hawaiʻi and its people?
3 What role, if any, can the county play in resolving issues regarding the management and use of Maunakea?

Photo: Mitch Roth

AGE: 56
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP: Los Angeles, California (moved to Hawaiʻi at 17)
SCHOOL(S) ATTENDED: GED, Kaimukī High School; B.A., University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa; JD, Whittier Law School

  1. My history with the Native Hawaiian community comes from 27 years of grassroots experience addressing issues such as domestic violence, crime prevention, traffic safety, youth programs, and helping formerly incarcerated individuals transition back into society. This took me to Waiʻanae, Nānākuli and Waimānalo when I began my career on Oʻahu and to Panaʻewa, Keaukaha and Puna since moving to Hawaiʻi Island. I believe that the most effective way to solve problems affecting the community is to involve them in finding solutions. I continue to work with Hawaiian serving agencies and organizations such as Hui Mālama Ola Nā ʻŌiwi, Liliʻuokalani Trust and Men of Paʻa.
    I have great respect for my Native Hawaiian colleagues and strive to be inclusive in all aspects of my professional endeavors. Currently 30% of my leadership team in the Hawaiʻi County Prosecutor’s Office is Native Hawaiian, as well as many key members of my mayoral campaign organization.
    I would welcome OHA’s counsel and seek the advice of Native Hawaiian agencies and organizations on issues facing our Hawaiian community.
  2. Tourism will continue to play a key role in our economy. The challenge is to use the “pause” that the pandemic created as an opportunity to refocus the visitor industry from growing market share and pushing our carrying capacity to more qualitative experiences (i.e. cultural, eco, agro and edu-tourism). We need to help the industry regain a foothold as this shift is in process, and keep our attention toward diversifying the economy.
    Prior to the pandemic, many of the county’s residents were already struggling, with more than half of island families either falling into the ALICE (asset limited, income constrained, employed) category or living in poverty. Native Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in these categories and substantial investment into educational, training and employment programs are going to be necessary for those families to recover economically.
    Aside from upgrading infrastructure through capital improvement projects already in the queue, we have to build our broadband capacity to increase high tech business opportunities and allow more people to work remotely, develop our agricultural resources so farmers, ranchers and nurseries can be successful, support green technology and renewable energy to increase sustainability, and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation to further grow our economy. The county must also help businesses and the community thrive by streamlining procedures and being advocates rather than compliance officers.
  3. Although the management and stewardship of Maunakea is ultimately a state responsibility, it is clear that Hawaiʻi County residents will be impacted by the state’s actions. I am committed to providing leadership that brings people together to address concerns in an open collaborative manner. I believe that almost everyone on Hawaiʻi Island is connected socially, culturally or by familial ties, and those relationships will provide a foundation to move the dialogue forward.

View more of this candidate’s manaʻo from the Ka Wai Ola News 2020 Primary Election Survey