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: Trained Alternative to “Politics As Usual”

Name on ballot: JAMES, Choon
Running for: Honolulu City Council
District (if applicable):District 2
Political party: Nonpartisan
Campaign website: www.VoteChoon.com
Current occupation: Real Estate Broker
Age: 61
Previous job history: College Instructor
Previous elected office, if any: Community Associations
What qualifies you to represent the people of Hawaii?

I’m a CITIZEN CANDIDATE, not a career politician or a career bureaucrat, like some candidates. I’ve been a successful small businesswoman for 30 years.

Status Quo has not served us well. I want to positively improve Oahu for my children and your children. I

do not accept donations from special interests so I’m not beholden to do their bidding or owe any favors. I’ve mostly paid for this campaign on my own. I’ve been happily involved in civic and public affairs for decades with no compensation expected.

I have been an environmental, social and economic justice advocate and activist at City Hall with land use issues such as “Keep The Country Country”, preserving farmlands, food sustainability, open space, preserving parks, capital spending issues and others.

For the past 10 years, I’ve personally been involved in budgeting process and workings of Honolulu Hale. I’ve grown older and impatient and wish to make a difference INSIDE City Hall. I don’t have an ego nor am I looking to save my job. I truly believe that a public office is to serve the public good; it’s not a profiteering office.

 

I have severe concerns about the direction that Honolulu is heading. We cannot continue to fund the runaway Honolulu Rail without firm fiscal scrutiny and accountability. I’m volunteering myself as an able and trained alternative to “business as usual” politics.

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

Choon James

808 293 8888 text

ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com

www.VoteChoon.com

www.CountryTalkStory.com

 

Choon James For Honolulu City Council District 2

Name on ballot: JAMES, Choon
Running for: Honolulu City Council
District (if applicable):District 2
Political party: Nonpartisan
Campaign website: www.VoteChoon.com
Current occupation: Real Estate Broker
Age: 61
Previous job history: College Instructor
Previous elected office, if any: Community Associations

Community organizations/prior offices held

Chair, Defend Oahu Coalition – Keep The Country Country; president, BYU-Hawaii Alumni Association; president, Laie Point Community Association; board member, Laie Community Association; founding member, Kahuku Hospital Board, Save Oahu Farmlands Alliance; member, Honolulu Board of Realtors; producer, Olelo Community Media; member, Hawaii Thousand Friends; member, Sierra Club; member, Ko’olauloa Sustainable Communities Advisory Planning Committee; member, Amnesty International; member, Friends of South Pass City; member, Relief Society Women’s Organization; merit badge counselor, Aloha Council BSA.
What qualifies you to represent the people of Hawaii?

I’m a CITIZEN CANDIDATE, not a career politician or a career bureaucrat, like some candidates. I’ve been a successful small businesswoman for 30 years.

Status Quo has not served us well. I want to positively improve Oahu for my children and your children. I

do not accept donations from special interests so I’m not beholden to do their bidding or owe any favors. I’ve mostly paid for this campaign on my own. I’ve been happily involved in civic and public affairs for decades with no compensation expected.

I have been an environmental, social and economic justice advocate and activist at City Hall with land use issues such as “Keep The Country Country”, preserving farmlands, food sustainability, open space, preserving parks, capital spending issues and others.

For the past 10 years, I’ve personally been involved in budgeting process and workings of Honolulu Hale. I’ve grown older and impatient and wish to make a difference INSIDE City Hall. I don’t have an ego nor am I looking to save my job. I truly believe that a public office is to serve the public good; it’s not a profiteering office.

If elected, what will be your highest legislative priority?
Many residents have several jobs to keep themselves afloat. Our seniors have to postpone retirement. Kupuna are worried about being priced out of house and home and not being able to pass the family inheritance on to the next generation. Our residents worry when the government is going to slam them with more taxes and fees!

We must protect our home front first! I want to champion and work with the other 8 council members to

~ ~ provide a property tax cap for local homeowners who have lived in their homes for 15 years or more. ( California did Prop 13 in 1978!)

~~ provide incentives to property owners who rent long-term to long term residents.

~~ Focus on increasing truly affordable rentals/homes inventory These foundation improvements will help mitigate some of the challenges we face in Oahu today. It will also protect our residents’ ability to remain in our island home and not be priced out.

What are the top three challenges facing the voters you seek to represent?

District 2 is the most diversified and largest land area in the City Council. We span rural communities from Kahalu’u to Wahiawa to an award-winning planned community in Mililani Mauka. We have wonderful residents!

1. Costs of Living & Housing – Hawaii is such a beautiful place with a stable political environment that does not discriminate real estate ownership; our local residents have to compete with international investors for real estate holdings. Increased property values and property taxes outpace many residents’ fixed social security and income. Our residents are feeling priced out on so many different levels.

Many work 2-3 jobs to make ends meet and sustain themselves. Our young people have to resort to exchange babysitting in parking lots on the way to work! Kupuna are worried about sustaining themselves in their golden years and passing on the family home to their children.

Most of us work very hard to make a living.

The government must deliberate carefully before imposing escalating fees and taxes on our people. Residents are not eternal money trees.

2. Quality of Life Ko’olauloa and North Shore is the Oahu’s golden goose for tourism. While residents are welcoming, the quality of life must be considered. Residents are overwhelmed by the increased amount of tourists. Tourism’ multiplier impacts on our infrastructure and public space are real. Traffic is a constant aggravation. The one hundred- year-old Kamehameha Highway, parks, other finite natural resources and other municipal services have to be considered into policy-making and deliberations .

3. Economic Opportunities This cash economy is leaving many of our residents behind. Homelessness is on the rise in our District. We have homeless camping in the streets, mountains, and other public places. This is not good for them and not good for the public. The world is changing. Jobs that are here today will not be here tomorrow.

Fortunately, we have very successful residents who are willing to help and share. As a city councilwoman for my District, I will also focus on this area – to help our residents explore start-ups, resources, education and options to lift ourselves and our families to the countless opportunities out there for economic gain.

If elected, what can you do to improve the lives of your constituents?

Our residents are working very hard to make a living and sustaining themselves. I truly believe government is for betterment of the happiness, welfare and prosperity of our people.

1. Thus, I will be very firm and cognizant in fiscal decision-making. Is the spending good for the residents? Are local residents the primary beneficiaries? Is it absolutely necessary?

2. We also need to maintain clean, safe, and efficient core municipal services for our communities.

3. I will become your good friend. I will visit you in YOUR neighborhood and work with you.

4. We MUST protect our residents FIRST. They are the major stakeholders in Oahu. The Honolulu City Council has tremendous leverage and oversight to mitigate development agendas for Oahu.

5. We must have an over-arching understanding of what we wish Oahu to become. We must base our decision-making consistent with the Oahu General Plan (and Hawaii 2050), which offers objectives and policy guidelines for Population, Economic, Social, Cultural and Recreation, Tourism, Natural Environment, Transportation, Energy, Public Safety, Health & Education, Government Operations and Fiscal management to sustain and maintain our island home.

Is there anything else you would like voters to know about you?

I’m a citizen candidate. I do not accept donations from lobbyists or corporations. I owe nobody favors or fear except to work with you residents to improve some basic challenges facing us.

I have severe concerns about the direction that Honolulu is heading. We cannot continue to fund the runaway Honolulu Rail without firm fiscal scrutiny and accountability. I’m volunteering myself as an able and trained alternative to “business as usual” politics.

You can rely on my decades-old record of activism and advocacy. I have been consistent. I maintain a world-view outlook. But I also recognize that we live on a small island.

Additionally, my profession as a real estate broker allows me to work with people from all walks of life and status. We treat every client with care and respect. Should there be a challenge, we quickly and methodically address them with all parties and professionals concerned and find solutions to the benefit of all.

I have great confidence we can tackle Oahu’s challenges together! It doesn’t matter if we’re young or old, rich or poor, Democrat or Republican, military or civilian, unionized or not – – we all have the same dreams for ourselves and our children. We can be fair and reasonable in decision-making; we can all win! There are solutions to the challenges on our island home.

You the residents have valuable local knowledge and wisdom to share. Many of us also have international experience, professionally combed the world, and 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.

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

Choon James

808 293 8888 text

ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com

www.VoteChoon.com

www.CountryTalkStory.com

Choon James: Adding my two cents in Red

Why would anyone want to enter politics in today’s hyper-polarized environment? Seeking public offices to offer solutions and honest service is severely needed in our democracy! Not every one is into that political pool of polarization and name-calling.  Being hyper-polarized is not conducive to our democracy. I’m happy that there are candidates who focus on issues/solutions in a civil and thoughtful manner.

Civil Beat set out to answer that question by interviewing eight candidates who hadn’t run for elected office before this year. They said they were lured by issues like Hawaii’s high cost of living, climate change, a desire for lower taxes and the need for more efficient and transparent government. Yes!

And while those are subjects longtime politicians frequently cite as well, new blood might be the key to actually addressing them, some newcomers say. I submit that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Are you happy with the direction Oahu is heading? Longtime politicians and bureaucrats had their chances, what have they done?

Zachary Stoddard CIty Council candidate 2018 elections stands and waves at Punchbowl and Beretania Street.

Zack Stoddard, a 31-year-old City Council candidate, works as a city planner.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

Anti-abortion candidate Andrew Kayes, a nonpartisan candidate for the state House seat that covers the greater Kahului area, decided to pull papers after the Legislature passed a bill to legalize medical aid in dying, which he opposes.

Others say politicians have stopped listening to the constituents who elected them.

“I’ve just been frustrated with politicians and how they don’t seem to really care at all about working-class people,” said Zack Stoddard, a candidate for Honolulu City Council District 6 that stretches from Makiki to Kalihi. “That’s essentially the number one thing I hear from people.”

Stoddard isn’t a total stranger to local politics. Last year he was appointed to the neighborhood board for the Nuuanu and Punchbowl areas. He volunteered to fill a vacancy for the seat that represents his community during the first board meeting he attended.

He decided to run for the City Council after the District 6 incumbent, Carol Fukunaga, killed a bill to ban styrofoam food containers.

Stoddard said he was concerned about the influence of money in politics. He was one of a few new candidates interviewed by Civil Beat who said they are declining donations and paying their own way.

But Tina Wildberger, a progressive socialist Democrat who’s running to represent the state House seat district that covers Kihei to Wailea-Makena, has a different philosophy about campaign finance.

“I feel like if the people that know about me, care about me, and the people in my community don’t want to support my campaign, I don’t have any business being in that office,” she said.

Wildberger, who advocated for environmental issues and managed Kelly King’s successful campaign for a Maui County Council post, said her run was partly inspired by the #MeToo movement, the Parkland, Florida, school shootings and women’s marches.

In a way, Wildberger got in the race by accident. She had approached Rep. Kaniela Ing, a congressional candidate who will soon vacate the district Wildberger is running to represent, to pick his brain. Wildberger was still weighing a run when she got a call from a reporter who said Ing had endorsed her.

“If we were not experiencing the systematic dismantling of our democratic and environmental protections and protections against women … I don’t know that I would’ve been motivated this much to run,” she said.

Fresh Faces

Some other first-time candidates got into their races without any political experience.

Kelly Kitashima, a candidate running to represent Honolulu City Council District 8 that spans Aiea, Pearl City and Waipahu, became politically engaged when she was promoted to higher management at the hotel where she worked. She opposed efforts to increase taxes on the state’s tourism industry and began submitting testimony to officials.

Kitashima said she found a council run appealing because the office handles topics such as rail, infrastructure and property taxes — issues that affect people’s everyday lives.

Kitashima, whose kids play sports, was frustrated with the state of local fields.

“I am a mom, and I know it sounds so repetitive, but I’m just deathly afraid that my kids won’t be able to live here,” Kitashima said. “It kind of felt like I had to roll up my sleeves and step up.”

Kitashima, a self-described “local girl,” said she started tuning into politics when Donald Trump became president.

“I definitely would say I became a little bit more vigilant that year,” she said, adding there was “more media coverage around politics that you couldn’t ignore.”

Kayes, the candidate for Kahului’s House seat, is also new to politics. He said Hawaii’s political atmosphere is an echo chamber for Democrats. The pro-life physician was vehemently opposed to the medical aid in dying law passed by the Legislature last session.

“I felt like our state was better than this, and I was shocked and I pulled papers within a week of that happening,” he said.

Donald Trump’s ‘Silver Lining’

Many new candidates disagree with President Trump’s politics, but said it’s a good thing that more people who aren’t career politicians have started running for office.

“The silver lining of this administration is that he made (running for office) so accessible to the everyday person that we realized we don’t have to have a Harvard law degree to run for office, we need community members,” said Natalia Hussey-Burdick, a Democratic candidate for a House seat in the Kaneohe area.

Hussey-Burdick has quite a bit of political experience for a first-timer — the 28-year-old has served as a community advocate and legislative clerk and held positions in the Democratic Party.

Natalia Hussey-Burdick says she sees another side to politics as a legislative clerk.

A self-described “political nerd,” said she had always felt she was too opinionated and unpolished to run for office.

She changed her mind after attending the Kuleana Academy bootcamp hosted by the nonprofit Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action. It’s free for prospective candidates or their staff members, but attendees who end up running are expected to fundraise and donate $1,000 to HAPA.

State Sens. Laura Thielen, Russell Ruderman and Donna Mercado Kim and Reps. Gene Ward, Andria Tupola, Nicole Lowen and Matt LoPresti spoke at the program Hussey-Burdick attended.

Democratic Party executive director Laura Nevitt told the participants that “women will give themselves 100 reasons why they shouldn’t” run for office. That resonated with Hussey-Burdick.

Choon James, a longtime testifier at the Honolulu City Council and now a candidate to represent District 2 on the North Shore, decided to run because she wasn’t happy with the way the field of candidates was shaping up to replace term-limited Councilman Ernie Martin.  Being involved in civil and public affairs for over 3 decades and testifying at the City Council for the past ten years have taught me me a few things about Honolulu Hale! In fact, the only two city council candidates this election year who have been steadfastly participating at Honolulu Hale are Natalie Iwasa CPA, CFE and I.

It also helped that her kids moved out of the house.  I’m an empty nester. My children are grown and are leading success and happy lives of their own. This allows me the opportunity to be more involved unlike my other friends with children or who have to take care of their parents and so forth.

James has been involved in environmental issues and the North Shore’s push to “Keep the Country Country.” I’ve also been a successful and experienced small businesswoman for 30 years. I’ve been involved in protecting private property right, social, economic and environment justice issues. She supports term limits for elected offices and caps on homeowners’ property taxes if they’ve lived on the property for 15 years.  Our residents have severe concerns of being priced out of house and home. They want to live in their homes in their golden years and they want to pass on the home to their children. California enacted Proposition 13 in 1978. What are we waiting for? I will also work with the other 8 city council members to provide incentives for those who rent long term to local residents. We should also focus on increasing the rental inventory, instead of luxury condos to mitigate our housing problems.

She’s not looking to run again if she loses. I’m offering my candidacy as a Citizen Candidate. I do not accept donations from lobbyists or Corporations. I’m paying my way. I’m not running to protect my job. No one is making me run to become a status quo at the City Council. I’m running because I offer an independent voice for ordinary people. The residents’ happiness, welfare, and prosperity come first. I will put residents FIRST!

“I can say as a citizen candidate I honestly have no fear and I have no favor,” she said. “I’m getting old and I’m getting impatient.” Yes, after decades of being an activist and an advocate in land use, economic, social and environment issues, I have seen first hand the workings of Honolulu Hale. I see  how status quo and the oligarchy continue to make life more miserable for our residents, not better. I’ve seen our residents having to work 2-3 jobs to sustain themselves. I’ve seen how the public treasury has been plundered and causing the costs of living to increase. If you are happy with the direction Honolulu is heading and happy with the escalating costs of living, then I’m NOT your candidate.

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About the Author

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.