Chang Focuses On ‘Everyday’ Things

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - August 03, 2011

City Councilman Stanley Chang. File photo

Why would a nice, well educated young man want to spend his days debating where to ship Honolulu’s sewage? Honouliuli? Waianae? Kailua?

Or, if that weren’t the question of the day at the City Council, devote his Harvard-honed mind to the pothole problem in his district?

Two years ago Stanley Chang, honors graduate of Iolani, Harvard and Harvard Law School, decided just that: a glamorous recipe of sewage, potholes, smelly buses, unsightly rail transit, garbage and landfills would be his intellectual diet for at least the next four years.

In late 2009, Chang quit his job with the Cades Schutte law firm and began walking Oahu’s 4th Council District, from Ala Moana to Hawaii Kai. His hoofing paid off, and in election year 2010 Chang defeated fellow Harvard Law School graduate Rich Turbin by 2,000 votes.


“I was born with an interest in public service,” says Chang. “I always wanted to do this. Ninety percent of my class at Iolani went to the Mainland and haven’t returned. Every generation wants to have a better life, but it’s become harder to do that in Honolulu. The choice to move back to Hawaii shouldn’t be that difficult. There should be good professional jobs, affordable housing, a good transportation system.

“I wanted to bring back that sense of energy Honolulu had in the 1960s and ‘70s. Honolulu was a boom town then. We were like modern Shanghai.”

And Chang doesn’t mind dealing with government at its most basic: “I like city issues. Think about it. They affect people every day, from the time you flush your toilet in the morning, take out the garbage, ride on a city street to work. They’re not big, abstract ideas, but they’re important to everybody, every day.”

During his yearlong campaign for the Council, Chang heard a lot about the condition of the city’s streets.

“When I walked door-to-door, it was the No. 1 issue on people’s minds,” he says. “Honolulu has the second worst roads in the country. The Mayor’s budget cut repaving by 41 percent. We got it fully restored in the final budget.”

On the always-controversial issue of rail, Chang reverses the position held by his 4th District predecessor, Charles Djou he supports it so long as “it comes in on time and on budget. We don’t want new development in East Honolulu, and rail provides somewhere else around the rail stops for development to take place.”

Chang seems more concerned with the wastewater consent decree issued by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“It will cost Honolulu taxpayers $4.5 billion,” he says. “That’s bigger than the $5.4 billion cost of rail, $1.4 billion of which will come from the federal government.

“The EPA mandate includes a $1.2 billion secondary wastewater treatment plant. Our effluent is already dumped far out in the ocean, and deep. But the EPA based its decision on standards set for states on the shallow continental shelf. We’re not on the continental shelf, and I’ve yet to meet a scientist who feels that secondary treatment plant is necessary. I think we’ve got a good argument for a congressional exemption.”

As a newcomer to politics and the City Council, Chang has been pleasantly surprised.

“I wasn’t sure if I could have an impact,” he admits, but he feels his voice has been heard during the first seven months in office.

“It’s been an incredibly refreshing experience. What you see is what you get on the Council. There’s little cloak and dagger stuff around here. The press likes to cast everything as a fight, but that’s not the case.”

Ah, the press.

If Chang can avoid those troublemakers, maybe he can indeed find happiness dealing with sewage and potholes.

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