Choon James has spent a lot of time in Honolulu Hale over the past 20 years, but never as a public official. The Singapore-born real estate broker has been a long-time advocate before the City Council on issues like land use. This year, she decided that was no longer enough.
“I’ve finally come to realize that if we want to make real change, we need to be inside,” James said in explaining her decision to run.
James says what motivated her to jump into the race was a third consecutive year of population decline on Oahu, a trend she blames on the island’s high cost of living.
“I have been sounding the alarm for many years that it’s going to come to a point where the cost of living is going to drive our residents out of Oahu, and it’s finally happened. In the last three years, we have more residents going, than coming to Oahu,” James noted.
As a prescription, James initially told HPR that she wanted to reduce the property tax burden by giving long-time residents a discounted rate.
But as the coronavirus recession deepened, James later said that would not be enough. She now says the city needs to stop construction of its rail transit project at Middle Street, and use the savings to cut taxes more broadly for all residents.
When asked why she would make a good mayor, James says her experience in the private sector has taught her how to build consensus.
“As a real estate broker, our job is to bring everyone together and bring everyone to an amicable solution. Look at the facts, look at the challenges at hand, and then everybody come to the table and come up with a solution, in a very prompt manner, that will benefit for all,” she explained.
Find the rest of our interviews with mayoral candidates here.