comscore 2020 Election: Philmund Lee (Phil) | Honolulu Star-Advertiser

2020 Election: Philmund Lee (Phil)

  • Phil Lee
Name on ballot:

Philmund Lee (Phil)

Running for:

Honolulu city council – District 5

Political party:

Democrat in a nonpartisan race

Campaign website:

Current occupation:

Veteran Legislative Attorney



Previous job history:

Attorney Philmund Lee was born & raised in Hawaii and is a veteran Hawaii legislative attorney and public interest advocate. He earned his Juris Doctor and MBA at the University of San Francisco. He studied international human rights and humanitarian law at the International Institute of Human Rights, Council of Europe, in Strasbourg, France. He also studied international and comparative law at the University of Santa Clara School of Law. He is an expert on comparative law and has done extensive research in almost 100 countries on all six continents. He passed the Hawaii, California, Massachusetts and New York Bar Exams and earned a master’s degree all in one year.
He also did humanitarian relief work in the holocaust in the Middle East and worked at the Henry Dunant Institute, International Red Cross in Geneva, Switzerland advocating for covenants against genocide, torture and disappearances at the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the Council with renown advocate like Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa. He served as a Judicial Law Clerk at the ICA, a Deputy Corporation Counsel for former Mayor Frank Fasi and as the Chief of Staff for Councilman Tom Berg. He served as legal counsel to Veteran groups and Community Care Homes was the Associate Editor of the Fil-Am Courier.

Previous elected office, if any:

Manoa Neighborhood Board

Please describe your qualifications to represent the people of Oahu.

I have been working in Government public policy in the City and County, public interest, and State for over 25 years.
I served as a Judicial Law Clerk at the Intermediate Court of Appeals with Chief Judge James S. Burns where I learned valuable lessons in seeking justice for the public.
As a Deputy Corporation Counsel for former Mayor Frank Fasi I advised the Mayor, City Council and City Department Heads. I served as legal counsel to the Police, Parks and Transportation Departments.
As the Chief of Staff for Councilman Tom Berg we analyzed every bill and resolution and issue before the City, scrutinized the budget and advocated for a better community.

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

Keeping healthy and safe from covid-19 while trying to maintain our standard of living and free and open Hawaiian Aloha lifestyle. All the while trying to prevent the spread of covid 19 and staying healthy and well. Dealing with the financial and economic challenges of record unemployment and loss of jobs. Trying to keep working or finding work in a depressed economy with few jobs to provide a living for our families.

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

Counties need to work closely with the State and Federal governments to develop criteria, requirements and regulations to open businesses and get back to business as soon as possible. We need to create a working group for each type of business to get feedback from the businesses themselves to suggest possible solutions.

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

First Counties need to evaluate the greatest and urgent needs of the public and distribute and spend Federal and State and Counties monies immediately and appropriately. We need to open the economy and business and create more jobs and higher quality jobs as well.

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?

No, not under normal conditions. However, we can not rule any cost item out until we balance the City’s needs for services and public safety versus the actual size of the funds available for the City budget. I would prefer to eliminate vacant positions rather than warm bodies. We may have to prioritize new programs and reevaluate existing ones as we prioritize the budget.

What specific solutions do you propose to combat homelessness?

First promote and advance County laws to strike a better balance and not burden the middle and working class. Development infrastructure for a better business environment to create more jobs and get residents back to work. Stem the tide of over burdening migration from out of state to Hawaii. Create incentives to Buy and Hire locally to help retain Hawaii residents here in Hawaii instead of constantly hiring and importing workers from out of state who not only take away Hawaii residents Jobs but also their housing and force Hawaii residents to relocate to the mainland. Reduce or eliminate regressive taxes and fees that disproportionately burdens the poor.

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

Mass transportation may become a thing of the past. As we change the way we do business to distance ourselves the less need there is for commuting and for the rail. Currently traffic has dropped drastically removing much of the need for a rail. And with increasing future social distance rules may make mass transit obsolete or non existent. Sharp decline in bus ridership indicated the same fate for the rail. Sitting too close for comfort and fears of catching covid19 may make the rail useless. We may very well need to compare and balance the need of rail versus covid-19 funding.

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

I am adamantly opposed to using new city funds to fund the rail because monies are urgently needed to save lives elsewhere. The pandemic has totally changed the world we live in and we need to prioritize monies to combat covid 19 for the health, safety and welfare of Hawaii’s people. Much urgently, monies are needed to develop infrastructure and systems to get people back to work and to prevent the pandemic from exploding. With more restrictive and mandatory social distancing rules, the ridership of the bus has sharply fallen and such is anticipated for the rail.

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

As the former Deputy Corporation Counsel for the Police Commission and the Police Department, I have much respect and confidence in Honolulu finest. But the Hawaii voters are demanding and marching for greater Police accountability and the Legislature has responded to those cries by passing a couple of bills, like removing the Police exception to government employee discipline disclosure laws. I would consider a civilian review board with greater investive powers and a healthy and functioning Police Standards Board to enforce Police policies and practices and have police licensing.

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

First, the County can immediately take global warming and rising seas seriously. It must speed up efforts to reduce and ban all generators and sources that burn or erode the ozone that protects the world from global warming. We must reduce our dependence on burning gasoline etc.
And we must begin to plan for the eventual reality of rising sea level by mitigating those areas that can be saved from the sea; like they do in the Netherlands. We need to stop building in low lying areas that will soon be the first to be under water.

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

Philmund Lee, Esquire, JD, MBA, BS Bio.
Philmund Lee is a distinguished humanitarian relief, humanitarian law and human rights advocate. Conversant in many languages, he worked as an international human rights advocate for the International Red Cross Henri Dunant Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. Having been himself a victim of inhumane torture, he continues to advocate for the universal recognition of international covenants against Disappearances, Torture and Genocide at the U.N. Center for Human Rights in Geneva. He has had the pleasure of working with other human rights advocates such as Lech Walesa and Nelson Mandela and has traveled to 100 countries on all six continents.

He is one out of a tiny handful of attorneys to have the privilege of studying International Human Rights and Humanitarian law at the International Institute of Human Rights at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. He received his Juris Doctor and Masters of Business Administration degrees from the Jesuit, University of San Francisco. He received his certificate in international studies from the Santa Clara University Institute of International and Comparative Law. He also studied the International Protection of Human Rights at the UH Richardson School of Law and was a graduate student in the Masters of European Languages and Literature degree.

Philmund Lee holds the distinction of being the only attorney in Hawaii to pass the Hawaii, California, Massachusetts and New York bar examinations and earn a master’s degree all in one year. After a distinguished career in humanitarian relief, humanitarian law and international human rights advocacy, Philmund returned home to advocate in his native Hawaii. He served as a judicial law clerk for Chief Judge James Burns of the Immediate Court of Appeals, and was appointed by former Mayor Fasi to serve as a Deputy Corporation Counsel.

A dedicated public servant and advocate, he has worked as Chief of Staff and/or Legal Counsel/Committee Clerk for Rep. Terry Nui Yoshinaga, Rep. Romy Mindo, Council member Tom Berg, Rep. Michael Kahikina and Rep. Rida Cabanilla and is considered an expert in legislative and public policy issues. He is a prolific writer and served as the Associate Editor of the Fil-Am Courier newspaper. His community service includes operating a legal aid community clinic for working families, and advising Filipino Veterans & Care Homes.

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