In another life, Hanalei resident Ray Chuan wore the hats of a scientist-researcher and an educator.
Today, Chuan, 78, wants to wear the hat of a politician, able to help provide solutions to problems facing Kaua’i County – development, affordable housing, public access and the proposed purchase of Kaua’i Electric.
Chuan, an independent, will be among 29 Kaua’i residents vying to fill the seven seats of the Kaua’i County Council in this election year.
Chuan was thrust into the public eye through his leadership of the Limu Coalition a few years ago. The group successfully supported efforts to oust the bulk of the motorized commercial boat industry out of the Hanalei river and bay. The Limu Coalition cited the need to protect marine and coastal resources.
Today, Chuan is a fixture at meetings of the Kaua’i County Council and the Kaua’i Planning Commission, stressing the need for government to do a better job of heeding the demands of the public.
If elected, Chuan said he will “devote the major part of my energy and political skills to contain and lessen the ecnomic and cultural impacts on our longtime residents caused by the heavy infusion of massive new wealth from the mainland.”
The impacts are good and bad, Chuan said in a statement. The arrival of new, wealthy property owners has contributed to “significant increases in real estate and construction sectors.”
Yet, county assessments of properties have jumped, leading to large increases in property taxes, accompanied by “the severe loss of affordable housing for the kama’aina,” Chuan said.
The council should look to California for a solution, Chuan said.
Proposition 13 froze assessed valuations of homes regardless of how the market values rose, and similar legislation could work on Kaua’i, Chuan said.
As a councilman, Chuan said he will tackle these other issues:
– Protect public access to the mountains and beaches.
– Make the Kaua’i County Planing Department and the County Public Works Departments more accountable and efficient.
– Halt the issuance of after-the-fact permits to property owners.
– Make sure laws and rules are “effectively and equitably enforced on the rich and the not rich-alike,” Chuan said.
Chuan was born in China and came to the United States at age 17 to attend college. But Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on O’ahu on Dec. 7, 1941, left him stranded in the mainland.
While times were tough, Chuan said he supported himself through a doctorate program in atmospheric science at Caltech in California.
Later, Chuan taught ten years and directed research at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.
In 1964, he started the first of three research companies that conducted research and development in aerospace and defense work.
Chuan said he specialized in diverse fields for three decades, becoming involved in projects dealing with air pollution control, high speed transport of freight, equipment for the detection of drugs and explosives and “stealthing” of submarines, Chuan said.
In the past two decades, Chuan said he became an expert in the research on the atmospheric effects of volcanic eruptions and their effects. He got involved in field work that took him to the north and south poles.
That type of work would later take Chuan to Hawai’i, where he studied the physical and chemical parameters of vog on the Big Island.
Chuan’s love for education runs deep. Although busy in his work, Chuan co-founded a private school in Pasadena, Ca., in 1958., serving on the school’s board for 14 years.
Chuan said he dedicated himself to educating youths who were economically disadvantaged, and from different ethnic backgrounds.
He taught science at elementary schools and in a graduate school at the University of Southern California.
He also worked as a research professor at the University of New Hampshire while conducting research in the Antarctica for six years.
Chuan first came to Kaua’i in 1968, bought a home in Hanalei in 1982 and became a full-time resident in 1988.
Staff Writer Lester Chang can be reached at mailto:email@example.com or 245-3681 (ext. 225).