By Ruth Bayang
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
If you read this newspaper’s front page story, you saw that InterIm is challenging the results of the recent International Special Review District (ISRD) election.
InterIm had two employees, Henry Liu and Lizzy Baskerville, running for two of three seats available. Liu was born and raised in Seattle and works as a community organizer for InterIm. He ran against M. Faye Hong—the co-chair for the Kin On Community Health Care Center and founding member of the Chinatown-International District Business Improvement Area.
Baskerville is the garden manager for the Danny Woo Community Garden. She ran against Matt Chan who volunteers with community newspapers, InterIm, and the Wing Luke Museum.
Neither Liu nor Baskerville won, and now InterIm is claiming that the “will of many voters was unfairly compromised.” The complaint goes on to name Beth Ku and others who “were telling the seniors who to vote for, mostly in Chinese,” which violates election rules. One of the people who told InterIm about Ku’s alleged actions (telling seniors who to vote for) was Zhu Hua Huang, the grandmother of candidate Liu. Hmmm.
Also, I wonder if the non-Chinese-speaking people who saw Ku speaking to seniors actually know what she was saying?
The Seattle Department of Neighborhoods, which oversees the ISRD, had a Chinese and Vietnamese translator on-site who was within earshot of Ku. That translator, Anna Tang, along with election monitors, did not notice anything amiss. Or if they did, did nothing to stop Ku.
Oh, and let’s not forget that InterIm has a project—Uncle Bob’s Place at the site of the Four Seas Restaurant—that is under review by the ISRD board. Could it be that InterIm wants its own people on the board so it can get a favorable outcome for its project? It seems to me like a major conflict of interest.
If Vibrant Cities (owner of the Bush Garden building)— which also has a project (Jasmine) under review by the ISRD board—had any of its employees running for the ISRD board, I’d bet my bottom dollar that InterIm and their friends at CID Coalition would have raised hell and staged protest after protest after protest.
Does InterIm have a right to have a seat at the table? Absolutely. But not during a time when that table is deciding on a project in which InterIm has a vested interest.
Maybe the election results will be nullified, maybe not. It’s in the city’s hands now. Either way, it stinks to me of conflict of interest, nepotism, cronyism, favoritism… how many other ways can I say it?
InterIm needs to withdraw its challenge, honor the results, and move forward to co-creating a more harmonious Chinatown. Nobody thinks homelessness, gentrification, or displacement are great. How about starting from that common ground? This ‘us versus them’ mentality is getting old and benefits no one.
Ruth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Update: At the Dec. 10 ISRD board meeting, it decided to approve the demolition of the Four Seas Restaurant.