LOS ANGELES (Feb. 22, 2013) — Nearly 100 community members of Chinatown, Lincoln Heights, and neighboring communities attended a candidates’ forum on February 21st, featuring the four candidates running to replace Councilmember Ed Reyes as the representative for the Council District 1.
Councilmember Reyes will term out, making this the first time that Chinatown and Lincoln Heights will elect a new representative.
“While there were 11 days remaining before the Primary Election on March 5 as of the forum, many community members had not yet made up their minds about which candidates to support,” said An Le, community engagement project director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), an organizer of the event. “We wanted community members to have an opportunity to hear directly from the candidates about how they stand on issues important to the community, including affordable housing, quality jobs, and cultural preservation, so voters can be better informed when they enter the polling place.”
In addition to APALC, the forum was co-organized by the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance and Chinatown Community for Equitable Development (CCED), with co-sponsorship from Chinatown Service Center, Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress, Organization of Chinese Americans – Greater Los Angeles, Pilipino Worker Center, and Southeast Asian Community Alliance.
According to the preliminary results of a community survey conducted by the class of UCLA Professor Paul Ong, community respondents overwhelmingly identified job opportunities as among the top three most important issues facing Chinatown. “We’re still seeing a lot of poverty in Chinatown, and there are limited job opportunities for the current residents here,” said King Cheung, a member of CCED. “We really need to have a Councilmember who understands the economic needs of the community and will work with residents and stakeholders to come up with solutions for Chinatown and adjacent neighborhoods that benefit the low-income communities in the district.”
Candidates fielded three pre-determined questions addressing issues of quality jobs, redevelopment and its impact on communities, and accessibility of the council office to the Asian, limited-English proficient constituents in the district. They then answered questions from audience members, covering issues including prevention of displacement as a result of revitalization projects, particularly along the Los Angeles River; the controversy of Wal-Mart’s expansion into Chinatown; and the cultural preservation of Chinatown.
Audience members also heard a presentation from Deanna Kitamura, senior staff attorney in the Voting Rights Project of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center, about their right to request language assistance to vote in Asian languages, including Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean. Voters can also bring anyone into the voting booth to assist them, except for their employer or their union representative.
The Primary Election is on March 5. If no candidate receives over half of the votes, the top two candidates will face each other in a runoff during the General Municipal Election on May 21.