Tag Archives: Choon James

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 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 -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 Mayor Kirk Caldwell on a Rampage

Woman Criticizes Honolulu’s Government, Has Her Protest Signs Bulldozed

Nick SibillaNick Sibilla, Contributor   

How people respond to criticism can reveal a lot about their character.  Some might try to debate or reason with those they disagree with.  Others prefer to ignore critics.  City officials in Honolulu take a different approach: They use a bulldozer.

Choon James is a successful real estate broker with over two decades of experience in Hawaii.  But the city of Honolulu is seeking to seize property she’s owned for almost a decade to build what she calls a “super-sized” fire station in rural Hauula.

Since January 2010, she has put up signs to protest Honolulu’s use of eminent domain.  These signs declare “Eminent Domain Abuse: Who’s Next?” and “YouTube Eminent Domain Abuse—Hawaii.”  For more than three years these signs have been up without any incident.

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But now the city is showing a callous disregard for Choon’s freedom of speech.  Back in May, Honolulu seized two of her eminent domain protest signs.  Without her consent, city employees went onto the property and seized and impounded her signs before damaging them. Even worse, the city slapped her with a notice for trespassing, for property she is trying to defend in court.

After these signs were torn down, Choon placed three more signs there.  These lasted just a few months before the city once again seized the signs.  This time, Honolulu was much more dramatic.  On October 18, city workers, backed by police officers, squad cars and a bulldozer, came by and literally bulldozed those protest signs.

The city’s actions show a shameful lack of respect for the First and Fourth Amendments.  Citizens have a right to protest government actions.  The First Amendment was enacted precisely to protect citizens who criticize the government from retaliation.  Lawsuits challenging Honolulu’s unreasonable seizures and chilling attacks on free speech are now pending in federal court.

Unfortunately, Honolulu is not alone in trying to silence critics who question eminent domain.  The Institute for Justice has represented citizens in St. Louis, Mo., Norfolk, Va., Tennessee, and Texas who protested abusive property seizures and faced censorship.  Out of these four cases, IJ successfully defended free speech in three cases, while the fourth is currently in litigation.

After 24 of his buildings were taken by St. Louis, Jim Roos painted a giant mural on a building he owned advocating “End Eminent Domain Abuse.”  But St. Louis labeled the mural an “illegal sign” and wanted to force Jim to remove the sign (and stifle his right to protest) or face code violations.  He teamed up with the Institute for Justice and sued the city.  In a major win for the First Amendment, in July 2011, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Jim and allowed the mural to stay up.

In a similar vein, IJ has defended grassroots activists from a frivolous defamation lawsuit and protected an investigative journalist’s right to free speech from a vindictive private developer.

More recently, the Institute for Justice is suing the city of Norfolk for trying to squash a small business owner’s eminent domain protest sign.  The Central Radio Company, a repair shop, has been in Norfolk for almost eight decades.  But Norfolk had plans to seize the property with eminent domain for a private redevelopment project.

To protest, owner Bob Wilson displayed a huge banner on-site.  The city responded by telling Bob he had to take down the sign or face fines of up to $1,000 per day.  Fortunately, the Virginia Supreme Court unanimously struck down the city’s attempt to seize Bob’s land; his free speech case is still infederal court.

As the cases make clear, courts routinely respect Americans’ First Amendment rights.  Honolulu should do the same.

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Postscript: Mayor Kirk Caldwell also shut down the owner’s business with Reynolds Recycling on October 21, 2013. Public push back forced the Mayor to cut a deal with Reynolds to return to the adjacent city Lot 64 on December 20, 2013. The Caldwell Administration did not disclose that it is on a month-to-month lease. Should the Mayor gets permission from the courts to condemn, the last two commercial zone lots will be decimated and recycling business  gone.
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The only valid reason for Mayor Kirk Caldwell to shove this extra expensive fire station onto this small rural community is he owes a plum building contract to a donor!  The Mayor  wants to build a huge Kapolei City station in the small rural town of Hauula.
The Mayor can be contacted at mayor@honolulu.gov    808 768-4141
City Council Chair Ernie Martin  at emartin@honolulu.gov   808 768-5002
Choon James at ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com   808 293 9111

Choon James: Kahuku Plantation Camp Eviction Watch – Seven (7) More Families to Go

“Keep the Country Country” — from Kahaluu to Haleiwa — is an integral part of needed diversity and versatility for a thriving and sustainable Oahu. This cause has never sounded so pragmatic and urgent for this iconic region as the first shoe of gentrification drops in Kahuku. It’s not about the past; it’s about the future.”
Kahuku Plantation Camp will soon see seven of its old-time families being evicted.  The circuit Judge ruled in favor of Continental Pacific, LLC in the eviction proceeds.
Continental Pacific, LLC bought the plantation from the Estate of James Campbell in 2006.
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Simplicio  and Lenora Caban will soon be evicted from their home in the background.
The other families include:
 Tejada
 Salanoa
 Fernandez
 Caulford
 Lagua
 Angel Adversalo is in his 90s.
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Maghanoy was evicted during Thanksgiving of 2013.  Maghanoy claims that his personal possessions – guitars, deceased wife’s pearl jewelry, tools, and hidden cash were stolen during the eviction. He was on the mainland visiting his daughter during the eviction.
The Eugenio home may have been razed but the controversies continue.
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Response to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell regarding the Controversial Hau’ula Fire Station Relocation

REPRINT: Response to Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell regarding the Controversial Hau’ula Fire Station Relocation

A Response to Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s Letter to the Honolulu City Council  Relating to Provisions relating to the Deletion of the Hau’ula Fire Station Project.

http://www.civilbeat.com/articles/2013/06/21/19361-caldwell-brace-for-cuts-in-honolulu-city-services/

June 27, 2013

Aloha Mayor Kirk Caldwell,

Re: Your letter to the City Council Chair Ernest Y. Martin and Members of the City Council dated June 20, 2013 concerning Bill 12(2013) CD2, FD1, relating to the Executive Capital Budget; Provisions relating to the Deletion of the Hau’ula Fire Station Project. (Pages 4 & 5) 

Before we respond to your above-mentioned letter as distributed widely, including Civil Beat, we wish to share with you our family’s legacy with first responders.

My husband’s family has produced four generations of firefighters. His grandfather was buried in his fireman uniform.   We also have family members who are policemen, nurses, schoolteachers, and military servicemen. Many of our close friends are first responders, including lifeguards.  We are ever mindful of the services our first responders provide. We can never pay our first responders enough for the daily volatile and risky environment they’re thrust into.

Regarding your June 20, 2013 letter to the City Council, we also realize that any Mayor cannot possibly micro-manage or know every detail of city operations.  At face value, it’s understandable why you, as mayor, would object to the Deletion of the Hau’ula Fire Station Project this Budget session. We would probably react the same way if we were not intimately involved or had not carefully researched the facts and circumstances relating to this flawed Department of Design and Construction’s (DDC) relocation project.

Unfortunately, a person(s) with considerable influence continues to provide a overwhelming dose of one-sided bureaucratic jargon that does not provide a factual history of this controversial project. This bureaucratic process has become too politicized and evolves with ever-changing made-up premises along the way.

This modus operandi does not serve you as the Mayor, or the public, well.  No matter how thinly cheese is sliced, there are still two sides to it.

There are too much irregularities and evidences to put in this letter. The selected information we share with you here is based on documented facts and records.  We do not manipulate and fabricate new premises along this evolving process.

Mayor Caldwell, the GOOD NEWS is DDC can build another fire station in rural Hau’ula TODAY!

DDC supervised the purchase of Lot 64 TMK:1-5/4/18-24 of 20,297 square feet at 54-290 Kamehameha Highway, Hauula, 96717 on April 19, 2010, using Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.

 

This City-owned Lot 64 with 20,297.00 square feet is adequate for a typical fire station in Oahu.

For example:
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The new 2424 Date Street McCully-Moiliili Station, with an estimated price of $4.6M, sits on 19,555 sq. ft. lot and was dedicated on April 1, 2010.

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The 640 California Ave Wahiawa Fire Station that serves a much denser population than rural Hau’ula sits on 20,000 sq. ft. lot.

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The Kaneohe Fire Station sits on 20,075 sq. ft. lot. http://oeqc.doh.hawaii.gov/Shared%20Documents/EA_and_EIS_Online_Library/Oahu/1990s/1990-09-08-OA-FEA-KANEOHE-FIRE-STATION-RECONSTRUCTION.pdf

 

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The Ka’a’awa Fire Station sits on 15, 493 sq. ft.

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The 1610 Makaloa Street Fire Station by the Pan Am building by Kapiolani Blvd sits on 18,953 sq. ft. lot.

This average lot size holds true on the mainland as well. Metropolitan West Seattle, Washington deems 15,000 sq. ft. to 20,000 sq. ft. parcels as customary for their fire stations.

Why then, is the DDC Land Chief fixated on seizing our adjacent Lot 65 for an additional 20,300 square feet? DDC’s 2009 Environmental Assessment for this proposed relocation project stated there would be no increase in service area or personnel.

Why then, a Taj Mahal fire station in rural Hau’ula on twice the average lot size and triple the costs of an average fire station? (The relocation project in Hau’ula’s projected cost is $13M, as recorded in the Ko’olauloa Neighborhood Board minutes.)

After you review this information and others contained in this PDF file, we’re confident you’ll agree that the Honolulu City Council exercised fiscal prudence and protected the public treasury by deleting the $750,000 that was requested for “Planning & Design” by DDC this budget session.  DDC’s request for $750,000 was premature as the civil trial for “public use” had not even been set.

Furthermore, aggrieved citizens have the right to appeal to higher courts in this legal process.

The City Corporation Counsel initiated condemnation action (1CC10-000863 -04. Also see Civil NO: 10-1-0956-05 PWB) on April 21, 2010 during the Mufi Hanneman Administration.

The Carlisle Administration informed residents it was willing to explore alternative sites for this relocation controversy.

Peter Carlisle

This case was set aside by the city until December 12, 2012 when Deputy Corporation Counsel Winston Wong requested a “Valuation Trial”.

This again was a premature action and denied by Judge Rhonda Nishimura as the initial Trial for “Public Use” had not even been discussed yet.  Despite these circumstances, DDC requested $750,000 for “planning and design” for this project (in limbo) this fiscal year 2013-2014.

What was DDC thinking?

Should the City Council give DDC $750,000 to squander on “planning and design” when the outcome is unsettled and involved in a typically protracted legal process?  The only logical and fiscally responsible action for the City Budget Chair was to delete this so-called “construction funding” for this project for 2012-2013 Fiscal Budget Year.

The 2011-2012 Fiscal Budget Year also deleted this project and noted as “not needed”.  For the City Council to decide otherwise would be gross malfeasance on their part, based on the legal status and other circumstances. As a Hau’ula kupuna said, “Money no grow on trees.”

At the most recent Budget sessions, both the newly appointed Fire Chief and the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) Director initially stated to Budget Chair Ann Kobayashi they were willing to dialogue. We welcome that.  We’re aware city departments such as the Honolulu Fire Department routinely depend on DDC to do the footwork in projects such as this. Unfortunately, this controversial process has morphed into an art of the wordsmith, with bureaucratic jargon substituting as merits.

The record points towards one unelected bureaucrat who abuses government powers of eminent domain at will. There is no denying bureaucrats have easy access to decision makers at City Hall while the public generally enjoy no such privileges.

Sensing this unbalance, we have diligently provided the City Council documented irregularities and nefarious circumstances surrounding this flawed process.  The most affected residents are grateful that the City Council has listened to the other side of the story during its budgeting decisions.

Many residents are unhappy about perceived wasteful spending, perceived or real; others questioned why the city could not renovate the existing structure or tear it down and build anew instead of seizing the last two remaining commercial-zoned parcels in Hau’ula.

Life-long Hau’ula residents are unhappy they were not consulted with. This project would be situated directly next to their homes.

DDC’s failures to consult affected parties grossly violated the basic requisites of Chapter 343, HRS and Title 11, Chapter 200 Administrative Rules, and the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) as Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) funds were used in this project.  Hauula qualifies, being a low-income area. DDC’s request for seizing properties was hastily pushed through to meet CDBG’s date lines.
Many would like the city to prioritize scarce funds and allocate precious resources to installing more fire hydrants for fire safety as well. Many neighborhood pockets here do not have fire hydrants. This is a major setback for our firemen and a major public safety concern.

A case in point happened with a domestic fire in Punalu’u on March 23, 2011. Thirty-five (35) fire-fighters, five (5) engines, two (2) ladder-trucks, a water tanker truck and a fire battalion chief responded very quickly but could not effectively protect the public due to lack of basic infrastructure – water hydrants.

Besides lacking in public engagement, there are too many irregularities and nefarious facts and circumstances surrounding this Hau’ula relocation file. We could tell you about DDC hiring their favorite appraiser all the way from Maui   for this project; that DDC’s first choice for the Hauula Relocation site was a 1.65 acre beachfront lot;  or DDC’s careless 2006 request for eminent domain by necessity on another property only to discard  the action promptly after the city council unanimously granted powers to seize private properties.

We could also tell about the recent illegal seizing of free speech signs on May 29, 2013 on our Lot 65.  The crew was sent all the way from Halawa Maintenance Yard to Hau’ula to seize two “Eminent Domain Abuse”  free speech signs on our Lot 65 under the guise of Bill 54 (11-029 ROH).

Who gave the work order for this illegal seizure and bullying?

What are the incurred costs to the taxpayers for this rogue behavior?

In summary, bureaucratic malfeasance in rural Hauula, Oahu, Hawaii reveals the culture in which government will ignore the law, manipulate the process, and abuse its powers in order to seize property just because it can.

Government cannot become so powerful and arrogant that ‘public purpose’ and ‘public safety’ are conveniently used as mere pre-textual ‘legal weapon’ to threaten and brow beat property owners into automatic submission through eminent domain and other tactics.

Fortunately, this out-of-control bureaucratic malfeasance and abuse can be corrected.   The entire City Council is protecting the public in its kuleana by implementing the democratic process of “checks and balances”.

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As Mayor, you can also support their pono leadership by not allowing DDC’s slop-dash bullying via the big stick of government powers to prevail.

As always, we look forward to collaborating with the most affected parties in a fair and equitable due process. Justice and Equality apply to all.

We can reach a win-win conclusion to this eminent domain abuse story

Mahalo,

Choon James

ChoonJamesHawaii@gmail.com