Chinatown Mayor Stays On The Move

At age 89, retired dentist Dr. Joseph Young is still very much active, especially with his work in the community. Just last Friday, he was inaugurated by Mayor Kirk Caldwell as Honorary Mayor of Chinatown.

“I think the job of Honorary Mayor of Chinatown is No. 1 public relations,” says Young. “No. 2 to keep up with Chinatown, and go to the different areas to ask what their problems are. The big thing right now is homelessness. It’s all over Chinatown, but trying to solve this problem is very difficult. The mayor (Caldwell) is doing his best.


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Dr. Joe Young with wife Barbara PHOTOS COURTESY YOUNG FAMILY

“I want to help make Chinatown cleaner and safer because most people come and they tell me it’s kinda smelly. Also, they don’t go late at night because they’re afraid. These are problems we need to address and it’s not easy. It’s been like this since (the days of) Mayor Jeremy Harris, who was very good too. But now it’s gotten worse.”

Young and wife Barbara have four grown children and nine grandchildren. As for his secret to staying, well, young, he says he walks at least five days a week around his Aina Haina neighborhood, takes luk tung kuen exercise classes and is learning tai chi.

Like a true Chinese, he admits he enjoys eating, but tries to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into his diet, such as papaya.

And while the community benefits from his time as a member of countless clubs and community organizations, he credits his volunteer work for helping him to stay physically active and mentally alert.

“Socializing and exposing yourself to people keeps your brain going,” he explains. “Also, I read the newspaper daily.”

Young’s long list of community involvement includes member of the Honolulu Fire Department Commission, City Planning Commission, former Neighborhood Board member (District 2), and member and past legislative chairman for the Mayor’s Downtown Chinatown Task Force.

He also is past president of many organizations, including Hawaii Chinese Civic Association, Lung Doo Benevolent Society and Chung Shan Association.

For his tireless efforts, Young has been recognized with various awards throughout the years, including Chinese Citizen of the Year in 2004 and Model Chinese Father of the Year in 1998 both by United Chinese Society.

As for the future of Chinatown, Young notes one change to come is the Chinatown rail transit station to be located at Nimitz Highway and Kekaulike Street. His hope is that the station will be unique to the area with a pagoda and nice signs in Chinese.

“My hope is that they can relocate the homeless in Chinatown, power wash the sidewalks and clean the area,” says Young, whose father and uncles owned a grocery store in Chinatown. “Chinatown is a vibrant community. Aside from Waikiki, I think Chinatown is the engine of economics. You can see people go there to shop, play, work, live.

“Pretty soon we will get the influx of Chinese (tourists). They always hear about Hawaii, and now they’re coming here and, of course, they’re going to want to come to Chinatown. So, we’ve got to be prepared for that.”