Thursday, July 21, 2005

Local city politics

Normally my city, Rosemead, does not generate much news but that changed when our local city council voted to approve the building of a Wal-Mart Supercenter. Soon after the approval there was an election for city council for three of the five at large seats. A coalition of anti-Wal-Mart candidates won two of the three. Nonetheless, in losing one seat, the city council retained a majority in support of Wal-Mart.
Now a campaign has begun to recall the remaining city councilmen, Mayor Jay T. Imperial and Gary Taylor led by the anti-Wal-Mart slate, Councilmen John Nunez and John Tran and former write-in candidate Polly Low. Never mind that Imperial and Taylor served honorably during their tenure on council; Imperial himself has served his country well. While I do not criticize Nunez and Tran for their questionable moves when they were on the Garvey School Board, I am deeply disgusted at this recall campaign, and more specifically, disgusted by the style it is being waged.
Now, I pride myself as a son of immigrant parents. And like many immigrants in the San Gabriel Valley, my parents’ education and mastery of the English language are limited. This means my parents rely on their elected officials to do the right thing and explain to them policy. For many immigrant families in my community this is especially true for elected officials that share the same heritage.
Recently my mom signed a petition to put the recall on the ballot; this is peculiar considering she supports the incoming Wal-Mart Supercenter. She signed it because the people who claim to protect her, tricked her into it. What my mom expected was for the Nunez and Tran’s petitioners to tell the truth. What she did not expect was to be tricked into signing the petition when told that local Assemblymember Judy Chu supported it.
Three petitioners walked to my house where my mom was standing outside. One of them, a translator, tells my mom that “these people” (Imperial and Taylor) have served the city council for 30 years and what they wanted was a “regime change”. Despite the fact that their underlining reason for a recall was Wal-Mart (as their literature points out), none of that was mentioned to my mom.
After I told my mom about what the petitioners wanted, removing the two city councilmen so they could revoke Wal-Mart’s charter, she asked if there was a way to revoke her signature. She now realizes that this political machine is not there to help her; instead its purpose is to use immigrants her to meet its own objectives. They trick people who don’t know English well into supporting certain issues that end up harming the community.
Tran and Nunez are using their constituents for their own political game, taking advantage of a community that does not understand the language and ramifications of their actions. Instead of informing these people about Wal-Mart, their campaigners delve right into indoctrination and talking points as they coerce people to sign their petition. There are no real discussions to the benefits and consequences of a Wal-Mart. And yet these at-large city councilmen are supposed to be representing the city.
What Nunez and Tran’s petitioners do not mention is that under Imperial and Taylor, we’ve seen a growth of business in the community. These businesses include bringing commercial chains like a Target and Starbucks. But more importantly, they helped bring about small, ethnic, family businesses that showcase the diversity of the city. Also under their leadership, they are addressing the city’s changing demographics. This is a city whose population is growing as more immigrant families move in and make America home.
These actions cannot be accepted in a community that has faced adversity as they climb the latter toward the American dream. We cannot allow these practices to continue unabated. This is why I bring this issue to light and ask the citizens of Rosemead and the San Gabriel Valley to be vigilant against those who try to bully immigrants to causes that they do not truly understand nor support.
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