And what really helps me make my decision to run for city council was the Alhambra Source article written by Eric Sunada, entitled “Why we need new leadership in Alhambra.” And I agreed with what he said is a lack of full transparency, and true public participation in our local government. These two issues are my main concern. Full transparency is when the resident get full information of all the issues. Only when they can make some good sound decisions as to whether the city council make good or bad decisions. And true public participation is when the city can go beyond what’s required by the law for public participation. Only then will it be true public participation.
I’m happy to say that I’ve not only received an endorsement from Eric Sunada, I also get his full support and help on my campaign.
Is he your campaign manager?
My campaign manager is Efren Moreno [Jr]. He was on the city council back in 2000 to 2004.
Was it like you read the op-ed and you decided to run? How did that work? Were you planning on running beforehand?
No, I wasn’t planning to run, but I read that article one day before the deadline to submit the declaration. [Laughs] Then suddenly something flashed on my mind, like, “Oh, I should do it.”
Did you have to collect signatures for that?
Yes, to run for city council, I had to collect at least 50 nomination signatures in my district [after submitting the Declaration of Intent]. That took me some time to get all those 50 signatures. It’s not easy.
What issues are you running on?
Like I mentioned, full transparency and true public participation are the two important issues that I mentioned just now. For full transparency to happen, the city needs to provide all the information available and easily and free to the public for all issues before the city council. And this can be done very easily, to include the staff report in the online agenda on the city website. Right now, this staff report only goes to the city council. So as residents, they do not know what’s going on when they attend the city council meetings. If they make available, they will know what exactly. This is what I call full transparency.
The other thing that we need to do is have live broadcasts of all the city council meetings on the city website. This should also be done for the planning commission.
And then for true public participation to happen, all the community meetings should be scheduled that is convenient for most of the working residents, which have traditional working hours. One way to help the community is also to create what I call the email notification system, where concerned residents can register or sign up to receive email notification of any community meetings, city council meetings or planning commission meetings. Only then will it be true public participation. If the residents do not know the meetings, then they won’t be able to participate.
If the community has full transparency and true public participation, then I believe the city council will be more effective, and lead with integrity.
Why the planning commission specifically?
Because a lot of planning commission meetings has something to do with our neighborhood. So I think it’s very important for the residents to get to know what is going on.
You were a fire inspector for the city and everything like that. How has your experience working for the city informed your campaign?
Like I mentioned to you just now, I worked with the city for 15 years. I know how the city operates and how each individual department operates, and if I get elected as a city councillor, I can improve the work productivity, with the city employees.
Because I was working with the City of Alhambra fire department, I built up a good rapport with the community. And in the community, a lot of the residents know me and that I am the type of person who believes in integrity and honesty. So I hope that if they see my name on the ballot, then if they got help from me, I’m sure they will vote for me.
I heard that there was a controversy with the city when you were there.
It was back in 2007. There was a structure fire that happened on 9th and Valley. Very unfortunate. I had to fight with the city, first in the criminal court, and then in the civil court, in order to get back my dignity and integrity. [The city] allowed the city employer to abuse their power in the fire department, and cover up the truth about what is going on in that fire. As a result, the city had to spend millions of dollars, because of this. And all of this can be avoided if they choose to truthful, you see.
I was wondering if that influenced your campaign or why you wanted to run and stuff like that.
It’s not really the reason why I wanted to run for city council.
Just general transparency—
Yes, general transparency, and full public participation. I think those are the two most important issues for me to run on for the city council.
And I know you’re from Malaysia and you speak five languages. You’re pretty close to the Chinese community—the Asian community here. I was wondering how your background and your abilities, how that has influenced your campaign.
Yes, I used to be very active in the community. Right now, I’m still quite active in the community service groups, you see. I volunteer at least 12 hours of my time every week to several community service groups, including the Buddhist temple here in Alhambra. I also joined the community group—the Fukianese association, and I’m also pretty active in several other groups, even though it’s not a community organization, it’s a group of friends that we get together once a week.
There’s one particular organization called the I-Chinese American Political Action Committee. They interviewed me, and they decided to endorse, because I used to be a member, and right now I’m still a member of their committee group.
What kind of outreach and fundraising have you been doing?
I’ve only had a kick-off campaign fundraising once. So far I do not plan to raise too much money. I’m the type of people I don’t like to ask people for money for help in my campaign, you see. Whatever I can afford, I will take it on. And if people are willing to donate to my campaign, then I will accept that.
And there’s one thing I want to mention, also. I run as a community candidate this time. So in order to curb the potential of a conflict of interest, I will not accept any donation from the city developers or contractors.
How have you been talking to residents?
You know, I just came back from New York, as you know. And I started my decision to run for city council later. So right now at this stage, I’m still at the early stage. [Laughs] So I haven’t had a chance to go out to talk to the residents, which I am planning to do very soon, go door-to-door, making phone calls to friends and family.
Is there anything else you want to add?
As you know, running for city council is not easy. As you can tell, I have a strong accent. [Laughs] But I have the benefit of speaking different Asian languages, which would allow me to talk to many of the residents of this city, and be their voice on city council. Like I say, I believe in integrity and honesty. I believe we need to have a city council leadership that’s not only willing to listen to resident concerns, but to take appropriate action.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.