Author Archives: ChoonJames

About ChoonJames 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

Public Officials Cannot Block Your Comments on Their Facebook Page

Just you know, your comments cannot be deleted or blocked on a public official’s page. It’s probably Facebook that is used most frequently by politicians and bureaucrats.

If you feel that you’re likely to be censored by a public official or page, contribute your comments and take a screenshot. This way, if your comments disappear, there is proof.

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

I’m sharing the entire report from the ACLU for easy reading.

By Vera Eidelman, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology ProjectJANUARY 9, 2019 | 12:00 PM

One of the core purposes of the First Amendment is to allow people, regardless of their views, to hold the government accountable through expression. So, if your elected representative has an official Facebook page where she invites comments, can she block you from commenting because you criticize her work?

According to a federal appeals court, the answer is a resounding no.

On Monday, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the interactive portion of a public official’s Facebook page is a “public forum,” so an official cannot block people from it because of the opinions they hold.

The case arose after the chair of a local board of supervisors in Virginia, Phyllis Randall, briefly blocked a critic from her official Facebook page and deleted a comment he made about her colleagues’ management of public funds.

The critic, Brian Davison, represented by the Knight First Amendment Institute, filed a lawsuit arguing that Randall had violated his First Amendment rights by removing him from a public forum — space the government makes available for people’s expressive activity — because she disagreed with his views. Randall countered that she has the authority to control the page’s content — including the comments. (President Trump has used some of the same arguments in a lawsuit against him for blocking people on Twitter.)  

We filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Davison, arguing that officials cannot prevent people from joining in a public conversation because of their viewpoints,  and the three-judge appeals court panel agreed.

It is important to remember that people who hold public office can wear two hats: Sometimes, they act as private individuals, and other times they are government actors. While they maintain their First Amendment rights when acting as private individuals, they are subject to the limits the First Amendment places on the government whenever they’re doing government work.

As the court rightly held, that includes any time that they’re controlling a Facebook page they maintain in their official roles. Specifically, the court recognized that when a public official uses a Facebook page as a tool of governance — that is, when she uses it to inform the public about her government work, solicits input on policy issues through the page, and swathes it “in the trappings of her office” — she is controlling the page as a government actor.

And if she opens that page to public comment, the interactive space of the Facebook page constitutes a public forum. The fact that the page exists on a website owned by a private company doesn’t change that.

That means that, when a public official blocks critics from the page because of their viewpoints, she violates the Constitution. Indeed, the right to criticize the government is at the heart of the First Amendment. The court specifically recognized blocking as infringing on that right, noting that blocking someone in order to silence criticism of government work is itself evidence of government action.

The Fourth Circuit is the first appellate court to opine on this issue, and its order controls public officials and agencies in Virginia and nearby states. Elsewhere around the country, public officials have also stopped censoring critics on their social media pages thanks to the work of the ACLU.

These cases help to ensure that our First Amendment rights remain protected as our democracy increasingly moves online. The fact that a public official disagrees with you on an issue doesn’t mean she can silence you. Indeed, it means the opposite — and that holds true whether you’re speaking out in a public park, at a town hall meeting, or on a Facebook page. “

Needless to say, you have the responsibility not to use threats or violence on their page. That’s not covered under Free Speech.


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Words of Advice From Famed Actor Sir Anthony Hopkins About Toxic Relationships

Sir Anthony Hopkins

There appears to be too many “love triangle” murders in Hawaii recently. The people involved appear to be contributing citizens with good training and good jobs. But anger management or jealousy control seems to lacking in these cases.

Life has its own challenges, twists and turns. Learning how to cope is part of growing up. These words from the famed actor Sir Anthony Hopkins are worth reading, contemplating, and sharing with family and friends.

′′Let go the people who are not prepared to love you. This is the hardest thing you will have to do in your life and it will also be the most important thing.

Stop having hard conversations with people who don’t want change.

Stop showing up for people who have no interest in your presence.

I know your instinct is to do everything to earn the appreciation of those around you, but it’s a boost that steals your time, energy, mental and physical health.

When you begin to fight for a life with joy, interest and commitment, not everyone will be ready to follow you in this place. This doesn’t mean you need to change what you are, it means you should let go of the people who aren’t ready to accompany you.

If you are excluded, insulted, forgotten or ignored by the people you give your time to, you don’t do yourself a favor by continuing to offer your energy and your life.

The truth is that you are not for everyone and not everyone is for you.

That’s what makes it so special when you meet people who reciprocate love. You will know how precious you are.

The more time you spend trying to make yourself loved by someone who is unable to, the more time you waste depriving yourself of the possibility of this connection to someone else.

There are billions of people on this planet and many of them will meet with you at your level of interest and commitment.

The more you stay involved with people who use you as a pillow, a background option or a therapist for emotional healing, the longer you stay away from the community you want.

Maybe if you stop showing up, you won’t be wanted.

Maybe if you stop trying, the relationship will end.

Maybe if you stop texting, your phone will stay dark for weeks.

That doesn’t mean you ruined the relationship, it means the only thing holding it back was the energy that only you gave to keep it. This is not love, it’s attachment. It’s wanting to give a chance to those who don’t deserve it. You deserve so much, there are people who should not be in your life.

The most valuable thing you have in your life is your time and energy, and both are limited.

When you give your time and energy, it will define your existence.

When you realize this, you begin to understand why you are so anxious when you spend time with people, in activities, places or situations that don’t suit you and shouldn’t be around you, your energy is stolen.

You will begin to realize that the most important thing you can do for yourself and for everyone around you is to protect your energy more fiercely than anything else.

Make your life a safe haven, in which only ′′compatible′′ people are allowed.

You are not responsible for saving anyone.

You are not responsible for convincing them to improve.

It’s not your work to exist for people and give your life to them! If you feel bad, if you feel compelled, you will be the root of all your problems, fearing that they will not return the favours you have granted.

It’s your only obligation to realize that you are the love of your destiny and accept the love you deserve.

Decide that you deserve true friendship, commitment, true and complete love with healthy and prosperous people. Then wait and see how much everything begins to change.

Don’t waste time with people who are not worth it.

Change will give you the love, the esteem, happiness and the protection you deserve.”

Waiting For The Real Estate Market To Collapse Is Unrealistic

I’ve been helping with residential real estate in Hawaii for 30 years. People continue to say that the real estate market will bottom out. I have not seen it happened and I don’t think it will. It not like we can split the stocks into half. But I have seen highs and lows in a cyclical fashion. It has not “bottom-out” in my experience but bounced back.

During the Great Depression, many bought real estate knowing that the market would rebound.

Here’s an example of real estate values in my country of birth. We are familiar with these roads and locations. As secondary school students, we were always admiring the big homes. Lee Kuan Yew‘s home is also in this area. Here is a new listing in Singapore. It’s asking for S$300 million.

SINGAPORE – A sprawling mansion at 5 Oxley Rise, where Jewish businessman Manasseh Meyer and real estate tycoon Cheong Eak Chong once resided, has been put up for sale.

The hilltop two-storey bungalow, which sits on a 151,205 sq ft freehold site in prime District 9, is expected to attract offers in excess of $300 million, marketing agent CBRE said on Monday (April 18).

The property is owned by seven members of the same family, all sons of the late Mr Cheong, founder of listed developer Hong Fok Corporation and Tian Teck group, according to The Business Times.”

Here is another angle to this property and the people who used to live in it. It’s so fantastic that there are so many people who are willing to share their interests and knowledge in history.

“Sir Manasseh Meyer, a Baghdadi Jew who was said to have “owned three-quarters of Singapore” as well as being the “richest Jew in the Far East” being richer than the Sassoons (who were described as the “Rothschilds of the East”).

The opium trade, enriched many in the Baghdadi Jewish community including the Sassoons. Like the Sassoons, who operated in Shanghai and Hong Kong, those in the community who found themselves in Singapore, came through Bombay (Mumbai).

Many saw the trade, as community historian Eze Nathan would describe it “The History of Jews in Singapore, 1830-1945”, as a “legitimate short cut to wealth” and the members of the community in Singapore, such as Meyer, made a fortune from it.Having acquired wealth initially from the trade, Meyer branched out into other businesses and into property. He would come to live in Belle Vue, which was originally built by Thomas Oxley as Killiney House and among the properties associated with Meyer were the Adelphi Hotel, Sea View Hotel, Meyer Mansions, Meyer Chambers and the Crescent Flats.

Belle Vue was demolished in the 1980s to make way for a condo development of the same name. A reminder of Meyer’s estate off Oxley Rise does however exist in the form of the Chesed-El synagogue, one of two synagogues in Singapore that Meyer erected. “

Honolulu City Council Votes to Shut Down Short-Term Vacation Rentals With Bill 41

The Honolulu City Council voted today at its monthly Hearing with 8 “YES” and 1 “NO” vote to adopt Bill 41. This April 13, 2022 action presented a much stricter approach to this decades-old controversy for the island of Oahu, Hawaii.

Predictably, the Opposition against Bill 41 came from the Board of Realtors and short-term vacation rentals operators. Support came from die-hard community activists and community groups who had been protesting for decades. Labor Union Unite Local 5 and housing advocate groups also supported Bill 41 on the argument that affordable housing is being usurped by the more affluent.

However, there were accusations of corruption, conflict of interest, and it being a “rush job”. There were questions as to who made the decision to draw the boundaries or decide which building was included and which building was out. There were also accusations of “insider trading”; did people in the know invest in these properties before hand?

The Director of Planning and Permitting Dean Uchida chose to recuse himself and was not seen today at the Council Hearing. However, several testifiers mentioned that the DPP Director should have recused himself at the onset. His wife is an Executive Officer with the Aqua-Ashton Hospitality which has interests include short term condo-tel in Waikiki.

I hope the Department of Planning and Permitting comes out with a Q & A information so it it will be easier to understand.

For now, those who have their Non-Conforming Units Certificates ( (NUC) will be grandfathered in. They will have to pay yearly registration fees and probably higher property taxes. This list here shows the exceptions that were provided by DPP in 1987. Other than this list, operators in residential areas are ruled out as illegal.

Notably, the 30-day contract (instead of the 29-days short term rental category) that many vacation rental operators use will no longer be allowed. It’s now changed to 90 days.

Operators can be fined up to an initial fine not to exceed $5,000 and a fine not to exceed $10,000 for each day thereafter that the advertisement is on public display. (This raises questions here too. Not every operator needs to use the standard platforms. What about private alumni or business groups?)

Here are the areas that will be permitted to have new operations:

In the North Shore of Oahu, both the Kuilima West and Kulima East Estates are allowed. Note that this area is zoned “Apartment “, not “Resort” :

Below is the west side of Oahu in Ko’olina. However, certain Makaha areas do not appear permitted even though it was designated as “resort” in the recent Oahu General Plan. However, note the Apartment-zoned areas are now allowed in Bill 41.

Below is the Waikiki area. Note again that these are Apartment-zoned, not “Resort”.

If you wish to read the fine print, here is the council approved Bill 41 document. Note the underlined language.

Enforcement is the buzzword for both sides of this issue.

At the Hearing, City Councilwoman Andria Tupola who casted the lone “NO” vote and expressed her frustrations about getting correct data and clarifications. She noted that the Deputy Director was new and trying to educate herself on this issue. This was a valid point. With our years of observing and participating at Honolulu Hale, one can see the uncertainty, lack of experience, and institutional knowledge. The former Acting DPP Director Kathy Sokogawa knew the DPP workings inside and out through her decades of employment.

The DPP Deputy Director told the City Council that they would be hiring seven new inspectors. The big question is how DPP is going enforce its long list of requisites, besides registrations and so forth. And how DPP is going to handle the thousands of illegal vacation operators?

I believe that the city can expect challenges because there appears to be irregularities, inconsistencies, and discrepancies. But as the City Council likes to say of any bill, ” This is not a perfect bill, we can improve in the future.” Any lawsuit expenses against the city will be paid for by the taxpayers of Honolulu.

Prior to Bill 41, there was Bill 89 that adopted and signed by Mayor Kirk Caldwell on June 25, 2019. Bill 89 would have allowed an approximate 1,700 new vacation rentals through lottery. However, there was no traction from the Caldwell Administration despite holding rule-making discussions.

Upon being elected, Mayor Rick Blangiardi nominated Dean Uchida as the Director of Planning and Permitting. Former Acting DPP Director Kathy Sokogawa resigned and a lot of institution knowledge left with her. Bill 41 was then proposed with this first version that included the Gold Coast. It has since been taken out from the final version. There had been amendments along the process.

What is my take on this?

Before Bill 89 was finally approved and adopted, I initially testified that DPP should start by addressing the most egregious cases first. DPP did not appear to have the organization to enforce so much so quickly. It should take the bite of the elephant incrementally.

Also, I objected to making mom-and-pop bed and breakfast rentals pay more fees and taxes. How would it help our local residents if they had to keep paying more?

Will Bill 41 work? Again, the devil is in the enforcement. How is DPP going to clam down? Through the use of fines and then non-judicial foreclosures? We’ll have to wait and see how this is rolled out.

On the other side of the coin, real estate agents are already farming neighborhoods to list properties to sell. It’s a fact that luxury homes are not going to be affordable even if it’s a long-term rental. There are quite a bit of those in Oahu where properties are owned by LLCs and out-of-state investors.

Will vacation rental owners sell or will they hold? Chances are high that many will hang on because Hawaii is still a politically stable place to invest in. We should see more rentals open up to create a little more rental inventory. Even then, the value of real estate does not need to come down.

Choon James has been a real estate broker for over 30 years. She’s been involved in environmental and social justice activism since her high school years. She was a Honolulu mayoral candidate in 2020. She can be reached at 808 293 8888

TESLA CEO Elon Musk’s April Fool’s Tweet

Apparently Elon Musk made good on his outrage against the lack of Free Speech with Twitter. The US Securities and Exchange Commission reported Musk’s purchase of 73,486,938 shares of Twitter valued at $2.89 billion based on April 1, 2022 Friday’s closing price.

The following tweet was posted after Elon Musk became Twitter’s largest shareholder.

On March 24, 2022, Musk tweeted his question below. It’s a great question that many have been asking. But it takes a larger-than-life person like Elon Musk with 80 million followers to bring it to the collective consciousness.

The marginalization of Free Speech and Free Press has been collectively going downhill. It used to be that journalism and reporting was primarily about bringing the news in print and through radio/TV to the public. We now have too many talking heads and posers.

Now, there are so many options and venues. The internet obviously has opened up new worlds of communications. In the 1970s, when 24/7 cable news was start, there was a group of forward-thinking and public good minded citizens who fought for Free Press and Free Speech. The ideals and intent of the Public, Education, and Governmental (PEG) Access Channels and support services have since been incrementally undermined, neglected, and pushed out by many new communications platforms.

Additionally, many relatively big or small newspapers and communication outfits have been out-paced and out-spent and forced to close. Others have to resort to “pay wall” where unfortunately only those can can afford to pay can read.

There are benefactors who impose and insist on their own idealogy relating to their so-called Free Press and Free Speech forums and businesses. There is censorship by editors on which public comments and accepted and which are not. Many comments have no “threats” or “bullying” or other anti-social behavior. The censored comments are simply under the whims of the editor or publisher’s ideology.

Enter the social media platforms like Facebook, Tweeter, Instagram and Tick-Tock and there goes the opportunity for the general public to read and digest and analyze in details of a good printed report.

Tweeter has now increased its Tweet text content of a Tweet up to 280 characters or Unicode glyphs. It used to be 140 words. That at least increased the attention span a little.

In a way, it forces the tweet to be concise and succinct. In other ways, there are inherent limits to further delving into careful reading or sufficient information.

Still, it’s nice to see Elon Musk take a stand for Free Speech and be able to do something about it. Twitter had taken to censorship of information. A public forum must be open to ALL forms of idealogy. Diversity of thoughts and information enhance better results in the end.

Let the people use their brains, analyze, and decide for themselves.

Democracy can only function and thrive when there’s Free Speech and Free Press. It’s that fundamental and basic.

While we’re at this, remember we can all be like Elon Musk in our own ways and own spaces. Speak up for Free Speech and Free Press where you live. Write a blog. Host a public community radio or television or Pod.

If you see something that is not right in the Public Square, speak up. Object. Raise your concerns. Hold your own water. Stand your ground.

That’s the only way the Free Speech and Free Press can survive and thrive.

Oscars And The Smack That Was Heard Around The World

Saturday Night Life Comedian Chris Rock had used Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith as the butt of his jokes. Actor Will Smith went onstage to give the comedian a smack . Which is worse? Verbal abuse or physical abuse?

Jada Pinkett Smith has “Alopecia Areata” – a common autoimmune condition that results in unpredictable hair loss and can affect people of all genders and ages.

The Associated Press reported:

After Rock as a presenter joked to Jada Pinkett Smith that he was looking forward to a sequel to “G.I. Jane,” Will Smith stood up from his seat near the stage, strode up to Rock and smacked him. After sitting back down, Smith shouted at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your (expletive) mouth.” When Rock, who joked about Jada Pinkett Smith while hosting the Oscars in 2016, protested that it was just a “GI Jane” joke, Smith repeated the same line.

The moment shocked the Dolby Theatre audience and viewers at home. At the commercial break, presenter Daniel Kaluuya came up to hug Smith, and Denzel Washington escorted him to the side of the stage. The two talked and hugged and Tyler Perry came over to talk as well.

The wisest advice for the night came from Danzel Washington to Will Smith: “At your highest moment, be careful because that’s when the devil comes for you.”

Hawaii Elections: You Don’t Need Privilege or Pedigree to Run For Office

Hawaii needs authentic candidates who will consistently put the Public Good and Public Interest First. We need candidates who are not asked to run by their employers, lobbyists or corporate interests or self-promotion.

We need authentic and independent candidates who are not vulnerable or susceptible to corruption or self-interest, and Status Quo.

We need independent candidates who will consistently be bold, be fair, and be thorough and analytical in their decision-making and not simply join the crowd and succumb to peer pressure.

We need candidates who will consistently remember that we live on an island with finite resources. We need candidates who must appreciate and invest in human capital, fiscal accountability, the environment, cultural, social and economic equity, and all other essential and sustainable needs of island living.

We must protect and promote clean water, clean air, clean soil, clean food, and a clean government. We must think of the future and Hawaii’s children and their children. We must put Hawaii and our Residents First!

Elections 2022 is quite messed-up and confusing. There are boundaries changes. When it happens this way, it tends to benefit the Status Quo. Here are some important information to note:

  1. ALL positions on the State Legislature are OPEN this elections because of the Reapportionment.
  2. The Honolulu City Council has vacancies for District 2,4,6,8
  3. Use this Website as your guide. If you don’t understand anything, call them. They’re paid by YOU.
  4. You can pull nomination papers now. The Office will provide you more info to follow.
  5. The Deadline to file for your Candidacy is June 7, 2022.
  6. The Website says that Mail-in Ballots will be in the mail for the AUGUST 13, 2022 PRIMARY by July 26, 2022. I would strongly suggest you expect the ballots in the mail by July 15, 2022. People start voting quickly. I’m saying this because at the 2020 Elections, the Office of Elections spent so much money advertising and telling the public that ballots will be in the mail in LATE July. Even Frank Delima kept saying “LATE July”. But the public began receiving their ballots on July 15, 2020. July 15 is MID July! This switcheroo negatively affected grassroots candidates with limited funds because some had to choose their mailings and were timing their delivery towards LATE July.
  7. General Elections is November 8, 2022. Voters receive their ballots in the mail for the General Election by October 21, 2022. Again, beware of the ballots in the mail dates.
  8. In other words, candidates are in crunch time. It again favors those with name recognition or incumbents but have no fear. Go for it and participate in democracy!
  9. Stand up and step up. We need YOU!

Ketanji Brown Jackson: President Biden’s Nominee to The United States Supreme Court

It’s unfortunate that Jackson will be forever tainted as Biden’s “first Black female” pick. What’s the next pick? The first Asian female? I submit that Ketanji Brown Jackson’s professional qualifications, achievements, and life experiences would have prevailed on the philosophy of ” Meritocracy” in our Democracy.

As protocol, the encumbent President of the United States gets to nominate someone of his choice. It was President Trump’s choice of Amy Coney Barrett before this. This time around it’s Ketanji Brown Jackson.

This is a short excerpt from The New York Times:

There have been three main career paths to becoming a federal judge in recent decades: defending corporate clients, serving as a prosecutor or working in politics. 

She spent seven years as a corporate lawyer, in Boston and Washington, including a year at the same boutique firm where Barrett once worked and Kavanaugh spent a summer.

She spent two and a half years as a federal public defender in Washington, representing defendants who could not afford to hire a private lawyer. In that role, unlike many other legal jobs, she could not choose whom she did and did not represent.

More from The New York Times

Her parents worked as public-school teachers and administrators, and Jackson graduated from a public high school in the Miami area (the same one that Jeff Bezos attended). If she is confirmed, she would become only the third public high school graduate on the new court, along with Alito and Kagan. “Every other member of the court is a graduate of a Catholic high school,” The Times’s Linda Greenhouse has written. All the justices — as well as Jackson, a Harvard graduate — attended private colleges.

I like the fact that she is from a public school. Any position in the public offices of the United States should be open to all who are qualified. Privilege and Pedigree should not be requisites in these opportunities.