All posts by ChoonJames

About ChoonJames

http://www.CountryTalkStory.com Choon James is a real estate broker in Hawaii and has a B.A. in English and TESL as a minor from Brigham Young University - Hawaii. She's the proud mother of four Eagle Scouts and one daughter. Choon is originally from Singapore. She comes from a family of ten children. Her mother was the second of her father's three wives. In the Chua household, they have Methodists, Catholics, Buddhists, Mormons, atheist and Taoist believers. "We're fortunate to grow up with diversity. My father’s best friend, Chandra, was a Hindu Indian who spoke Hokkien. My best childhood friends at school were Malay Muslims. We learned to focus on the merits and content very quickly and forget about the superficial exteriors. Like many in Hawaii, our immediate household is quite chop-suey as well. My husband is a Caucasian born in North Dakota and grew up in Massachusetts. In our immediate household, English, Mandarin, Fijian, Japanese, Hawaiian, Tahitian, French, and Spanish can be spoken. We love Hawaii. Its diversity and aloha represent the best in all of us!" Choon's past and present civic involvement includes the following: Defend Oahu Coalition - Founding member for Grassroots for smart planning Save Oahu Farmlands - Founding member Ko'olauloa Sustainable Communities Planning Advisory Committee Kahuku Hospital Board of Director Laie Point Community Association President & Board Member Laie Community Association Board BYU-Hawaii/CCH Alumni Association President Sierra Club Member Refugees Language Tutor Volunteer Amnesty International Freedom Writer Friends of "South Pass City", Wyoming, USA Boy Scouts of America Host - Country Talk Story - Olelo Public Television North Shore News columnist Huffington Post Hawaii Blogger

Choon James: Civil Beat Question – Affordable Housing

  1. Oahu has one of the most expensive housing markets in the country. What specific proposals do you have to make housing more affordable?

 Concentrate on true affordable rentals first.

 However, placing time limits on affordable rentals with developers is kicking the can down the road. Housing affordability will only get worse in time.

 I would check and see how many properties are owned by the city, state and federal and go on from there.

Singapore provided affordable rentals tied to a percentage of the tenants’ income.

 It’s been estimated that it would take a 3.19 fireman, a 3.6 school teacher, or a 5.2 hotel clerk salary to afford a medium priced home in Oahu.

 We don’t just have a housing issue; we have an income issue.  

Choon James: Honolulu Civil Beat Question – City Revenues

5. Does the city need to boost its revenue? If so, how should that be done?

Why do I think of Nobel Prize Economist Milton Friedman who stated that if you put the government in charge of the Sahara Desert, it would run short of sand in five years?

 I’ve been participating in the city budget process for ten years. There are misguided fiscal priorities like the $1.2 Million consultant from NY and $20 Million to upgrade the Ala Moana Park that irritates local residents to no end.

 There are also systematic failures in the budgeting system that limit the Council’s ability to control budget priorities and spending.

 Huge amounts of funds were expended into consultants, planning and design renderings for the Blaisdell Center Master Plan but recently, Mayor Caldwell said he would hold off. So,  are we going to repeat another expensive master plan again down the road?

 One of the best lines I heard was Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi telling HART CEO Dan Grabrauskas that she took risks with her own money, not the taxpayers’.

Our residents work very hard for their money. Our job is not to plunder the city treasury but to protect it.

Choon James: Answer to Civil Beat Questions – Traffic Congestion

  1. Honolulu has some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation. Some see rail as part of the solution. What else should the city do to alleviate congestion?

There have been various suggestions ranging from work schedules amongst civil government workers or UH and public/private schools students, bus rapid transit, telecommuting, and so forth.

 I am no expert in this area. I could list some of the ideas put forth by others but it does not do the city justice.

 What I think would be good is if we offer a substantial cash prize  for a traffic decongestion competition.

 NASA does competitions regularly for solutions.

 We need to be sure to keep the lobbyists, publicists, marketeers, and the good old boys club at bay.

 Allow the independent and fresh minds to have a go at the solutions.

 Then, allow the public to review and opine on the ideas put forth and choose the most viable and effective ones that reflect our island values and sense of place.

 Our residents have valuable local knowledge and wisdom and can contribute to the solutions.

 

 

Choon James: Answer to Civil Beat Questions – Homelessness

  1. A recent survey found that homelessness remains a problem on Oahu. What should be done? Do you support an islandwide sit-lie ban? Why or why not? 

There will always be the poor amongst us in this modern cash economy. There is no one silver bullet to this homeless issue. Some require mental health/ addiction help, but most need rental units. Coordination with state and federal is imperative.

 Singapore efficiently provides affordable public rentals tied to the tenants’ income. We need to concentrate on creating more truly affordable rental units.

 I do not support an island-wide ban.

 Since the first sit-lie bill in 2014 for the Waikiki Special District, I’ve consistently testified at Council hearings that ‘sit-lie” bills must be accompanied with options for those affected.  Pushing the homeless around does not solve the problem.

 Undoubtedly, we must maintain clean, vibrant and safe public spaces for the public and businesses.    

 However, burning personal items into ashes is cruel. Confiscating personal papers and medication is inhumane and creates more complications for the down trodden.

 Over a million dollars were squandered through court settlements and legal fees because the city violated due process in its sit-lie implementations.

 HUD CDBG funds have been diverted from non-profits and homeless shelters for pork and pay-to-play projects.

Tents line both sides of Olomehani Street in Kakaako near the Ohe Street intersection. 30dec2014 photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

 

 

Choon James: Answers to Civil Beat Questions

                                                      CIVIL BEAT QUESTIONS

1. How do you think the city should pay for the operation and maintenance of rail once it’s built?

Shouldn’t this O & M costs be addressed at the initial stages?

This flawed Rail project began with Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB) executive Wayne Yoshioka being appointed by Mayor Mufi Hannemann as City Transportation Director.

City then contracted with PB to design the rail route. City then hired InfraConsult LLC to coordinate with PB. (Three PB principals formed InfraConsult prior to the City’s contract).

HART, the semi-autonomous transit authority, was formed with nine appointed directors with no transit background. (Mr. Robert Bunda, fellow candidate, joined the HART Board in 2013.)

The 2012 federal Porter Report stated that Oahu had the ability to pay for its rail project, but must forgo other expenses!

 HART recently shifted this unknown O &M duty to the City Transportation but retained the lucrative Transit Orient Development (TOD).

Earlier, Mayor Caldwell and HART disputed city council’s jurisdiction over HART fiscal decisions. Today, Caldwell and HART want the council to sell $44M bonds to appease the FTA!

 Experts have questioned the ridership estimate of 119,600 trips per day. It’s nearly twice the ridership per kilometer of Miami’s heavy rail – a metropolitan area five times the size of Honolulu.

This ridership estimate is also little higher than Atlanta’s with a population six times the size of Honolulu, according to Erick Guerra, assistant professor of city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Tren Urbano in San Juan, Puerto Rico achieved only 23% of its ridership projection. Rail bonds contributed to its accumulated $74 Billion bankruptcy.

When will the oligarchy stop this fiscal insanity and reassess this runaway project?

Choon James For City Council – Happy 4th of July

 

 

                                   I Always Remember This Poignant Family History!

After 69 years, WWII pilot comes home for burial

Niece’s search to end with return of the remains of the uncle she knew only through letters and stories.

Springville •

In March 1944, 2nd Lt. Vernal J. Bird took flight in his A-20G Havoc bomber in an attack on Japanese airfields in western Papua New Guinea. He was last seen trailing his squadron.

But after his niece, Lorna Bird Snyder, launched a years-long search for her uncle, Vernal Bird’s remains will arrive in Utah this month to be buried with full military honors in the Bird family plot at the Evergreen Cemetery.

For Lorna Bird Snyder, it’s been a long time coming. She began her search in 2003, not knowing at the time that a bone had been found at a crash site in the mountains of western Papua New Guinea two years earlier. After moving into her late mother’s home, she found “boxes and boxes of letters,” including Vernal’s. And she took to the Internet to research the American and Australian offensive against the Japanese.

“Every time I found something, I sent for it,” she said. “It took years, on and off. Spurts of every day, then it would lie for while. My [late] mom and dad were beside me: ‘You’re going to do this, dear. Keep moving.’ “

After hearing the news on Tuesday, she said, “I feel relieved and just immensely grateful. It’s kind of united the family again; cousins we haven’t seen coming together. So, OK, things are moving.”

Vernal Bird, the 12th of 13 children, enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1941. Three years later, he was at an American base in Nadzab, Papua New Guinea, where he wrote frequent letters home.

“I have been assigned to a [squad] up in the forward, area, and, to put it short, this is going to be a sun-of-a-gun,” he wrote on March 3, 1944. “I feel damn lucky to be flying with them. I like our ships, fast and maneuverable, but the [Japanese] don’t like them so well.”

Bird flew with the 5th Air Force’s 13th Bombardment Squadron, which flew B-24 and B-25 heavy bombers, and A-20G light bombers. His A-20G was equipped with machine guns, heavy bombs and the lighter parafrag bombs, which floated down onto the enemy slowly enough to prevent the plane from being caught in the blasts.

The A-20 pilots routinely flew just above the treetops, sometimes even through them as they attacked. That campaign was brutal for both sides, as they fought ferociously in jungles, mud and monsoons.

Lorna Bird Snyder learned that captured U.S. pilots in particular suffered brutal treatment at the hands of the Japanese, who were as exhausted and angry as the Allied forces when they closed in.

On that March 12, the squadron set out for the Japanese base of Boram with the A-20Gs low and fast over and through the the treetops. But Bird and his co-pilot, Staff Sgt. Roy F. Davis, veered toward a mountain range. Then they vanished.

Although a search was begun, it was deemed impractical at the time, according to a report by the Army’s Individual Deceased Personnel File on Vernal Bird.

In the late 1940s, the Army’s American Graves Registration Services searched for and disinterred, the remains of U.S. servicemen in the Pacific Theater for return to their homes. In 1950, the Army “confirmed the finding of non-recoverability for 2nd Lt. Bird.”

But in 2001, a Papuan national named Charles Wintawa found the wreckage of Bird’s plane in the steep, wet jungle. He also found a fibula and took it and the engine identification plates to an American recovery team.

Later, a team from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command in Hawaii went to the wreckage of Bird’s plane. It cannot be explored, however, until and if a still-attached 500-pound bomb is defused.

Meantime, Lorna Bird Snyder said, “It finally dawned on me — DNA.” Vernal Bird’s sister, Elaine, was the sole surviving sibling, and she gave a sample for testing.

On July 12, Michael Mee of Fort Knox told Lorna Bird Snyder that the fibula matched the DNA sample. The next day, Thomas Holland, scientific director of the Central Identification Laboratory at Hickham Air Force Base in Honolulu, met with her and her husband in Salt Lake City to explain the lengthy and exhaustive process of identification.

“He told us exactly what he’d gone through,” Lorna Bird Snyder said. “It was very impressive, very touching.” Looking over photos in her Springville home, she said that while she’d never known her uncle, he was her father’s little brother.

“He was a constant presence in our house,” she said. “They talked about Vernal all the time, how much they loved him.

“It was a little bit frightening to me, as a little kid, to think he was just gone,” said Lorna Bird Snyder, now 66. “What is a war where they take people and don’t give them back? You could just read the heartache in the parents’ faces.”

In Vernal Bird’s last letter, dated March 10, 1944, he told his brother and sister-in-law that “The sun is setting in our sky and it is really a lovely site. Much more peaceful looking than it really is … I’d like to give you a ride, Nick, along the trees we fly right in the leaves at times. Love to all, Vernal.”

His remains, accompanied by a military escort, will be returned and buried on Sept. 28 in the Evergreen Cemetery with military honors. His military headstone will be close to the memorial stone his family placed in the late 1940s.

One day, if that 500-bomb is rendered safe, Lorna Bird Snyder would like to see the place where her uncle’s remains were found, and “look for the sergeant, too.”

“`

 

Uncle Vernal’s Last Letter to the Family,

March 10, 1944

Dear Free, Elaine and kids,

The sun is setting in our sky and it is really a lovely site. Much more peaceful looking than it really is. I am now flying with the [illegible] a good bunch of boys. Not much I can say but at times its plenty exciting. I can hardly believe that a few months ago, flying was just my dream, but now, I am flying with some of the So. Pacific aces. Makes you feel plenty good — oh yes, we got our little hut finished. We’ve got plenty of room (3 …. electric lights and water piped in to our back porch, not bad for a bunch of johns like us. We add something new every day, if it’s nothing but a new [illegible] to arrange our mosquito nets ??

Hope you guys are well. I’d like you to write me … letters are damn welcome here, you just don’t know how much.

Hoped to get to [illegible] in a few months for a period of relaxation…

Like to give you a ride, Nick, along the trees we fly right in the leaves at times.

Love to all, Verna

Choon James: Robert “Bobby” Bunda and I Meet Again!

Choon James: City Council Candidate Robert Bunda Served on  PLDC and Honolulu Rail Board

City Council Candidate Robert Bobby Bunda and I are on the opposite ends of many public policies.  Mr. Bobby Bunda was on the PLDC Board and we were challenging him.

The PLDC  – Public Land Development Corporation – was a moment in time when all of the Hawaiian Islands combined to repeal Act 55.  PLDC caused so much anger amongst the residents. The name itself was an oxymoron.  PRIVATE developers should not be given unfettered access and authority to use PUBLIC lands.

People Power from all the islands of Hawaii ganged up and repealed the bad action in 2012.

Mr. Bunda was also on the Honolulu Rail HART Board. He recently resigned from the Honolulu Rail HART ( Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transit) Board. Honolulu Rail issue is another concern that we citizens tried very hard to insert some sanity into the fiscal process.

Choon James is shown here at the State Legislature trying to prove a point – Don’t keep throwing good money into the fiscal black hole. The state Senate Ways and Means Committee narrowly voted to advance the $2.37 billion  bail out for the city’s financially troubled rail project on August 28, 2017.

Choon James -Honolulu City Council District 2

 

                     RESIDENTS FIRST!

Choon James For Honolulu City Council District 2

Aloha! 

I’ve been involved in city affairs as an activist and advocate for decades.  I’ve grown older and impatient! I would like the opportunity to make a difference in  the lives of our residents INSIDE city hall.

I truly believe the government exists to improve the life and happiness of its citizens. I want to put residents FIRST! You are the major  stakeholder.

So many of our residents face economic and social pressures.  Many of our residents have to carry 2 or 3 jobs to survive. Our kama’aina  folks worry about escalating costs of living and being priced out of Hawaii. 

One fundamental issue I want to champion and work with the other eight council members is to provide a property tax cap for local homeowners who have lived in their homes for more than 15 years and to provide incentives to property owners who rent long-term to long term residents. (This is not out of the blue. Case in Point – The city has provided property tax relief where developers only paid $300 per year instead of  about $160,000 .00 per year for property taxes. )

Of course, there are other issues like traffic, tourism impacts, infrastructure, homelessness, jobs creation and business opportunities, oligarchy, gentrification,  Aloha Disconnect, parks and resources, retirement, families in distress, carrying capacity, crime, drug addiction and so forth. Jobs that are here today may be obsolete tomorrow.

There are solutions to the challenges on  our island home.  You the residents have valuable local knowledge and wisdom to share.   Many of you  have have international  experience, professionally combed the world,  gained insights and expertise.  Collectively, we can improve our island home! 

Let’s put your smarts, imagination, expertise, common sense and aloha together to improve our lives and communities.  WE can all win!

Let’s gang up for the public good!   I humbly ask for your vote!

                      Mahalo, Choon

Mililani MaukaWahiawā, Schofield, Whitmore VillageMokulēʻiaWaialua,
HaleʻiwaWaimeaPūpūkeaSunset BeachKahukuʻieHauʻula,PunaluʻuKahana BayKaʻaʻawaKualoaWaiāholeKahaluʻu

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART) Meddles With State Auditor

State Auditor Says Rail Agency Is Interfering With His Work

Marcel Honore

Marcel Honore is a reporter for Civil Beat.
You can email him at mhonore@civilbeat.org

In blunt public testimony during Thursday’s Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation board meeting, Les Kondo said that HART staff members are being required to record their interviews with auditor personnel, then deliver those recordings to HART management to be transcribed.

“I have strong concerns about that. In my opinion, that is akin to management sitting in the interview itself,” Kondo said during his latest surprise appearance at a HART meeting. “Big Brother is there. Big Brother is listening. And whether intended or not, the implication in my opinion to the employees is that they better tow the company line.”

“This is an audit. It is not litigation. It is not discovery as part of a lawsuit,” he said, adding the recordings are “frankly unprecedented” for his office.

Choon James: Eminent Domain – Honolulu Rail Transit Line & Corridor

Do not enable a runaway city project that provides 2% traffic relief

Aloha Hawaii State Senators and Representatives:
The Honolulu Rail Fiasco is not just about runaway and unknown costs. 
There are other irreparable damages that will forever alter the physical, economic, cultural, and social landscape of Oahu. 
Rail Chnatown-Stn-Elevated-Final2
One economic and social injustice is the assault on small private properties and businesses along the 21-square mile Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) corridor, not just along the rail line.
 

tod

The recent  eminent domain case between Hardwoods Hawaii versus City and County is just the tip of the condemnation iceberg.
This is only a condemnation  of private properties along the rail line.
Rail Map
The future condemnation aka “land assembly” along the 21- square miles CORRIDOR is one of the best-kept secrets in this project.  This is the 1/2 mile radius around each proposed rail station that balloons to 21 square miles!
The city through “private/public partnerships” can easily seize private properties to allow other bigger private entities to develop! How is this fair?
EMNeighboodTOD
We respectfully request that you be a STATESMAN or STATESWOMAN in these sessions.
 
We’ve seen too many politicians who are easily influenced by lucre or favors or friendships or status quo.
 
Please be bold and legislate in the best interests of the public good and the future of Hawaii. We must leave our children a better future, not one yoked with never-ending debt. History will judge us all.
Mahalo!

Choon James  808  293 9111