Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-27) has nearly 30 years of elected official experience, including the Board of Education for Garvey School District, Monterey Park City Council, California State Assembly, and State Board of Equalization. In 2009, she became the first Chinese American woman elected to U.S. Congress, representing Alhambra and much of the San Gabriel Valley in the House of Representatives. Now she is running for re-election in November, again facing off against former FBI agent and small-business owner Jack Orswell.
Chu was born in Los Angeles and lives in Monterey Park with her husband Mike Eng, who succeeded her on the California State Assembly. Chu spoke to Alhambra Source about the San Gabriel Mountains, overdevelopment in the region, and why it’s important that you vote in the Nov. 4 election. Read her responses below.
What are you most proud of accomplishing during your time in Congress?
I am the proudest of the naming of the San Gabriel Mountains as a national monument on Oct. 10. This is something that will have an impact on our area for decades to come, and it will have a positive impact on the 17 million people of Los Angeles County who live within 90 minutes of driving time to the San Gabriel Mountains. Now we can finally utilize it as the beautiful resource that it is.
Will the designation impact recreation?
In a positive way. Right now there are tremendous problems up there. There is trash and graffiti, not enough signage for trails, and safety hazards. In fact, people have fallen to their deaths at Eaton Canyon because of a lack of safety signs. But now we will finally get the resources that we need. On the day of the signing, there was $4.5 million committed to the San Gabriel Mountains.
I still have my bill to make the San Gabriel Mountains and rivers a National Recreation Area. It will cover more of the San Gabriel Valley region and ensure that not only the mountains but the rivers get the resources that they need for our local residents.
Recent studies show that Asian Americans and Latinos have a lower turnout rate than other groups. Have you been trying to increase civic participation in the diverse District 27 during your time in Congress?
I have participated in voter education and participation drives because I feel that this is a very important issue. This is the way to have a voice in your future.
I have attended town halls where I've had as many as 8,000 people participate from all across the district. And what I try to impart to them is that the issues of governance are important to their future, that their voice can determine the future of education, jobs, small business, and immigration reform. When people can see that there's a connection between governance and their future, then I think they are motivated to participate in an election.
Many of our readers have said that they feel Alhambra, and especially Main Street, is overdeveloped. What is your stand on development in the San Gabriel Valley?
It’s important to maintain a balance between growth and the preservation of quality of life. When I first got elected to the Monterey Park City Council, there was overdevelopment. And I was actually part of the push on the City Council to change the code so that there would be lower density and higher standards for building. The key is ensuring that there's enough public input so that local residents are feeling that they are being listened to. I definitely believe in local control.
Some Alhambra residents are advocating for a historic preservation ordinance that will protect historic and cultural resources in the city. Do you think cities should implement preservation ordinances in the region?
I definitely support efforts towards historic preservation. And it's actually key in our area. I was particularly impressed with the excavation that took place at the San Gabriel Mission. Archaeologists and the Alameda Corridor East-Construction Authority discovered a 20-foot-long, 15-ton segment that had to do with the early mission period in which the San Gabriel Mission was first founded. The history of it was incredible. They went above and beyond the call of duty in preserving the ancient relics. When you consider the history of our area, we need to go above and beyond the call of duty for historic preservation.
Five cities in the San Gabriel Valley are moving forward with a regional bike plan, but Alhambra is not participating. The city developed its own Bike Master Plan in 2012 but it has not come up in City Council in over a year. Do you support improving biking infrastructure in the region?
I am a full advocate for the regional bike plan and for increasing biking in our area. In fact, I recently honored BikeSGV with my Congressional award for DiverCities in 2014. I believe that there are so many important aspects to increasing the bike lanes in our area, including the promotion of safe routes to schools. So this is such a positive project for our region. That's why I sent a letter of support to the Caltrans Active Transportation Program, the largest state set-aside for bicycling and walking in the nation, up to the tune $129 million.
Alhambra officially supports closing the 710 Freeway gap between the 10 and 210 Freeways. What is your stance on this issue?
I have not taken a position on it. I still have a responsibility to listen to both Alhambra and South Pasadena, both of which have their strong feelings about this. So I am waiting for the Environmental Impact Report so that I can take a serious look as to what the impact of the tunnel will be.
What are you hoping to achieve in your next term?
I am running for re-election to Congress in order to ensure that every American has access to a good middle-class job. The greater the opportunities for people to climb the ladder, the stronger our economy will be. That means that we have to ensure that our young people can have access to higher education. As a former college professor of 20 years, I'm working to ensure that students have access to federal grants and loans and that they're free from excessive debt.
That also means we have to provide better help for people to start and expand small businesses. That's why I've brought small business development centers (SBDC) to the San Gabriel Valley. However, I want to make sure that people utilize these SBDCs, so I am embarking on a publicity campaign for that.
Why should an Alhambra resident vote for you?
I believe that I am working on the issues that are critical to the residents of Alhambra. I have an open door with regard to communication and I will work as hard as possible to represent their needs.
Editor's note: This interview was edited and condensed. This piece does not represent the views or opinions of the editorial staff and is not an endorsement.