comscore 2020 Election: Choon James | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

2020 Election: Choon James

Honolulu Star-Advertiser logo
Unlimited access to premium stories for as low as $12.95 /mo.
Get It Now
Name on ballot:

Choon James

Running for:

Honolulu mayor

Political party:


Campaign website:

Current occupation:

Small Businesswoman



Previous job history:

Real Estate sector for 34 years

Previous elected office, if any:


Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.

I am a mother of 4 Eagle Scouts/1 super girl and 12 grandchildren. I also do not accept donations from Lobbyists and PACs. I’m not beholden or connected to any oligarchy in Oahu. I want to take back the government for we the residents first!

I ‘ve been advocating for good governance, fiscal accountability, environment, land-use, ethics, Keep the Country Country at City Hall for decades. For the past 12 years, I’ve focused on saving Oahu Farm lands, open spaces and fiscal accountability for Honolulu Rail. I KNOW what is going on at City Hall.

I’ve been a successful small business woman for 34 years. My profession requires me to produce a 100% result every time there are any obstacles or discrepancies. Unlike the City’s Majority Rule decision-making, our industry standard is 100% agreement from all parties in an amicable and timely manner. I listen to all affected parties, understand their needs, get all parties to kokua and come to an agreement that has a 100% consensus quickly and amicably. We have dealt with people from all walks of life. I have dealt with billions of dollars through the decades in an open and transparent manner always. This is actually the first time i’ve talked about my professional management skills in such a public manner.

I’ve also been involved in community grassroots for decades. I’ve also served in hospital, international alumni and women’s organizations as a Board member or its President. I’ve started community associations/groups and involved in land use advisory committees and so forth.

What is the most pressing need for the people you seek to represent, and what can you do to address that need?

The Cost of Living is our top needs in Oahu. As the Mayor, I cannot promise I will solve every thing in a quick manner. But cities rise and cities fall with its fiscal management. Without fiscal stability and strength, we cannot service our core services too well without raising taxes and fees on our already-burdened residents.

I will manage all major city budgets with a fine-tooth comb. I will not engage in any pork, play-to-play or wasteful spending.

As Mayor, I will first meet with all departments and know what their top priority needs are. I will bring in public-service financial experts to assist us.

When we can put our financial house in order, we can better address the houseless, housing, social services, public infrastructures, the arts and culture, farming, entrepreneurship enterprises and much more, without placing more burdens on our residents.

As Hawaii faces the COVID-19 pandemic, what more should county government do to protect residents’ health?

Residents First. The city must make sure all our residents have basic public health and support system needs. Our transportation and public facilities and other services must be clean and sanitized regularly. Our essential workers have sufficient materials and support.

The City County has community health centers. As Mayor, I would have channelled more funds to these areas to help our residents. Many are still jobless and without health insurances.

I would also channelled more funds to our non-profits and farmers and related enterprises to make sure that the basic needs of our residents are adequately met.

I would focus on education and expounding on ways to short-circuit the spreading of COVID19. Obviously, we expect all businesses, hotels and visitors to adhere to strict public health standards. Testing is good but testing is a point-in-time practice. Someone can be tested negative today and contract the virus later.

I’m aware that much of the CARES ACT funds must be expended by the end of the 2020. But my inclinations as the Mayor in 2021 will be in the same direction. About 34% of our residents appear to be unaffected by COVID-19 financially. We need to address the 66%.

Our people are resilient and LIVE ALOHA! Five years from now, we can all look back and be proud of ourselves that we helped each other out as neighbors and as one Oahu Ohana.

What should county government do to help residents who have been economically affected by the pandemic?

The city is now shifting some CARES ACT funds to our residents. I try to support civic leaders in time of crisis. The city received about $378M and also has access to the Rainy Day Fund. I would not have $19 Million on creating and relocating a new office of Economic Revitalization. There is already an existing office of Economic Development. Changing the name would costs practically nothing.

I would quickly channel the bulk of the CARES ACT funds to our residents, small businesses, non-profits, farmers and other food providers, community health centers and so forth. I would highly encourage communities helping each other out. I would go to the extend of having local community business, providers assisting needy residents in their own communities, with the city using some of the CARES funds.

We must fully support our businesses, help them get back on their feet, and also help set up diversified economic ventures that many of them have been engaged in.

The best the city can do is not dig a deeper hole into our fiscal management that will require more taxes and fees on our residents.

Should public worker furloughs, pay cuts or downsizing be used to help the county deal with lower tax revenues and higher expenses during the pandemic? Why or why not?

I would want to comb through the budgets carefully first before any furloughs or pay cuts as the last resort. I will look at downsizing, especially those vacant positions. As Mayor i will not need a big team of PR workers promoting and covering me. I will be open and transparent.

As a citizen, I’ve consistently testified that we must be fiscally prudent. I believe that there are needed cuts in expenditures, including pork, waste and pay-to-play expenditures that will be carefully examined. I will do the same as Mayor

The Honolulu Rail is the biggest white elephant at city hall. I have consistently testified against the runaway costs. I want to STOP rail at Middle Street because portions of the route will be in the Honolulu Sea Level Rise Flood Zone. Why should we throw billions more into the flood zone area?

I will invited the FTA to Oahu to effectuate the STOP RAIL AT Middle Street. This is relieve a significant fiscal load off our backs.

What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?

As an over-arching view to this issue, I want to place a property tax CAP for our kama’aina who have lived in their homes for 20 years or more. They are worried that they may be priced out of house and home. They are worried that they may not be able to age in place and that their children may lose the family home. Many of our kama’aina homes are multi-generational. This property tax cap will help stabilize the housing situation and prevent more homelessness.

There is no one silver bullet to homelessness that include mental challenges, substance abuses, LGBT youths, mainland loafers, and those who simply cannot pay the rents.

I have been in the real estate sector for 34 years. I KNOW what’s going on. One of y first priorities is to increase the rental inventory through various options. That would include several concepts like that of the Waianae Harbor group. I will personally visit the house with non-profits, ALCU and other groups to effectuate the relocation of our houseless. It’s not good for them and it’s not good for us. We all need clean and safe public spaces.

Incrementally, I will work with all groups and parties and developers to create affordable rentals geared towards the specific income of needy residents. The HUD median of $92K as low income is not realistic.

At this point, I say rip up all the Master Plans and Blue Prints from candidates from the Establishment! Their plans reflect the elite oligarchy. Our residents and non-profits and other public interest groups must have a place at the decision-making table. For years, in-the-trench knowledge have been ignored and dismissed. We don’t want the same old entrenched politicians and insiders to provide us the same old directions and ideologies that have failed us.

Do you support or oppose stopping construction of the rail project at Middle Street? Please explain.

We must STOP at Middle Street and branch out with other modern options. It makes no sense to continue to pour billions of dollars into the portion from Middle Street to Ala Moana that will be in the Honolulu Seal Level Rise Inundation Zone. I’ve been testifying against the Honolulu Rail’s runaway costs for years to the extent of throwing dollar bills in the air to make a point.

Candidates are now beginning to dance around this ideas of “pausing”, “maybe” or “we must complete to Ala Moana”.

It’s disingenuous to claim that climate change is the crisis of our generation but push for completion of the rail to Ala Moana and ignore the Honolulu Sea Level Rise Inundation Flood Zone. It’s disingenuous to tell the public that property taxes will not be affected. The truth is that horse has already left the barn!

I’m asking for HART and all concerned to not further encumber the city into any more contracts and agreements. Public-Private-Partnerships ( P3) are dangerous and problematic to our public interest. Private corporations enjoy a high degree of confidentiality in their finances. Our city operations must be open and transparent.

Do you support or oppose using new city funds to cover any shortfall in HART’s construction or operating costs? Please explain.

The city already has a significant amount of debt service. The city was warned in 2012 Porter Report that it cannot afford BOTH the rail and its core services without raising taxes.

Unfortunately, this encroachment into the city treasury’s approved by the Mayor and Council in 2017. This contradicted past promises to the public. HART was supposed to be self-sustaining. I OPPOSE further intrusions of budget requests from HART for its construction or operating costs.

I want an investigative audit. I want to STOP RAIL at Middle Street. I want close scrutiny of every dollar requested.

Do you support reforms to policing in Hawaii? If yes, please explain what reforms you support.

Reforms are always necessary in any organizations. We love our first responders. We want them to return home each time they leave for work. They are also our community members.

There will always be bad apples in any organization. I would want to work with the Honolulu Police Commission and SHOPO to balance Civil Rights, Free Speech, Free Press, Law and Order.

It must be made clear to all concerned that any one who willfully and intentionally violate the laws of the land will enjoy the backing of the city and county of Honolulu under my watch.

As Mayor, I will also set up a “whistle-blower” hotline to cut down on corruption so the public and city personnel can report in confidence.

What can county government do to mitigate the affects of sea-level rise on Oahu?

Lots! The office of climate change has done a lot of legwork and has significant information and files. We must use them across the board at all departments. The Department of Planning and Permitting must specifically be most aware and cognizant of this during the permitting and land-use processes.

First, we must STOP at Middle Street and branch out with other modern options. It makes no sense to continue to pour billions of dollars into the portion from Middle Street to Ala Moana that will be in the Honolulu Seal Level Rise Inundation Zone. I’ve been testifying against the Honolulu Rail’s runaway costs for years to the extent of throwing dollar bills in the air to make a point.

It’s disingenuous to claim that climate change is the crisis of our generation but push for completion of the rail to Ala Moana and ignore the Honolulu Sea Level Rise Inundation Flood Zone. It’s disingenuous to tell the public that property taxes will not be affected. The truth is that horse has already left the barn!

Is there anything more that you would like voters to know about you?

I answered these questions on my own in own sitting. I do not have hired hands to provide textbooks answers. This is my first and only run for Mayor. I’ve been fighting for good governance for decades. I’ve grown older and more impatient. To see change, WE must get inside city hall.

For too long, the oligarchy has controlled the money, power, decision-making and opportunities. We cannot continue to go this route. Why would we want the entrenched politicians and insiders who have profited from the system but failed us to continue to direct our lives and future.

I say, tear up the Oligarchy’s Master Plans and Blue Print for Oahu! We the residents and local grassroots must have a big place at the decision-making table.

The office of the Mayor is a public office. It must be open and transparent. It must have the highest level of ethics and helpfulness to you. My job as Mayor is to promote your safety, your happiness, your prosperity and your well-being.

I will work with every one. Whether we are Democrats or Republicans, unionized or not, young or old, poor or rich, military or civilian, we all live on a tiny island in the vast Pacific Ocean. We all have the same dreams and hopes. Let’s work together for ourselves, our children and their future.

View more candidate questionnaires or see more 2022 Hawaii elections coverage.
Comments (0)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature

Scroll Up