This week, there is great news coming from the New York City Council. There are new faces on the council. A quarter of its members are new.
The amount of diversity on the council is also changing for the better. Four members on the council are openly gay — the most ever — the Republican minority has grown from three to five, and finally for the first time, the majority of the council is made up of people of color. Another first for New York City is that an Asian American, Margaret Chin, will finally represent Chinatown.
We are gratified and inspired that the New York City Council is closer to reflecting the diversity of its constituency. Council speaker Christine Quinn stated that she sees the new council as a change for the better.
She anticipates debates becoming more rigorous, which will help the council make better decisions in the long run because it is challenging itself on important issues.
Though the new ethnic makeup of the New York City council is something to be lauded, let’s put this in perspective. Currently, there are two Asian Americans on that council — a new accomplishment with the recent election of Chin — whereas Seattle had three Asian Americans on its council in the late 1990s: Martha Choe, Cheryl Chow, and the late Charlie Chong. The first Filipino councilmember in the country was our own Dolores Sibonga. Seattle’s first Asian American councilmember and the first Asian American to hold an elected office in the Pacific Northwest was Wing Luke, who was elected in 1962.
This says a lot about our city’s commitment to diversity. Seattle has had a great history of being a progressive city and has set an example for others.
We are very excited for New York City and hope the council will use its new perspectives to make the city stronger.
One lesson it can take away from Seattle is how important it is to work with one another. Though debating and approaching an idea from many sides is a great way to examine issues, it’s also important to stay flexible and open to different ideas. Competitiveness or infighting can actually inhibit progress.
This happened on Seattle’s City Council. Insiders have said that the Asian Americans on Seattle’s City Council didn’t get along and often fought. Though we know personality conflicts are inevitable sometimes, it’s also important to keep the community in mind. The community suffers when its representatives refuse to come to a consensus on its best interests.
We urge the New York City Council to remember to look toward the greater good of the community. We urge its members to support one another when they can. ♦