By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
I looked out into the ocean, and I pondered the best moments in our community in 2018. The ocean symbolizes vastness, stillness, resources, and reflections. Yet, its vastness could instantly become a monster if we get lost, its stillness could suddenly rise as treacherous waves, and its resources could erode if we don’t know how to manage it.
It’s the same with our community, the line between the worst and best would be blurred if the parties involved don’t know how to give and take, praise instead of blame, become proactive instead of passive, and appreciate instead of criticize. In no particular order, this is my list for the best of 2018.
- Carmen Best as Seattle Police Chief
Best is the first woman of color to head the force. Her appointment signifies hope and confidence that people of color, especially women, can serve in leadership positions. This promotion from within also boosted morale in the organization.
Although Chief Carmen Best was not originally on the list of the top contenders, community outcry prompted Mayor Jenny Durkan to drop one of the candidates and appoint Best as the chief. What if ego got in the way and the administration refused to admit its mistake, allowing combativeness, bitterness, and destruction to flare through? Fortunately, Durkan’s decisive action showed that she tried to do the right thing for the city.
Best wasted no time and appointed Asian American Steve Hirjak to be assistant chief — a culmination of years of effort by the late Al Sugiyama and community leader Frank Irigon who both wanted the Seattle Police Department to promote Asian American officers. If Best had waited until next year to make the appointment, it would have illustrated that the Asian community was not her priority. Now, the Asian community can cross that one off its wish list.
2. A unified police precinct
The 2015 murder of community hero Donnie Chin brought up an important safety issue in the community — why the Chinatown-International District (C-ID) was served by two different police precincts.
Formerly, the East and West precinct boundaries followed I-5, which ran through the middle of the C-ID, and divided Chinatown on the west side of the freeway and Little Saigon on the east side.
When Teresita Batayola, International Community Health Services CEO, raised the question at Chin’s public vigil, I asked then-Mayor Ed Murray if he would unify the C-ID. He understood the challenges when officers couldn’t work together as one team.
“It would cost too much money,” Murray told me. “$40 million,” he said.
This year, the boundaries were redrawn to include Little Saigon in the West precinct. It doesn’t matter how the city did it. The fact is, the city did it through a new mayor. I doubt that it cost $40 million. Our community can now feel less frustration when working with the police. Another one crossed off our wish list.
3. Crazy Rich Asians
When the all-Asian cast and Asian-directed movie Crazy Rich Asians was released, I was only mildly interested, even though the Asian Weekly had published three stories about it. Pushed by my son, my whole family finally saw the movie. We all enjoyed it (one son saw it a second time).
Never had I seen such a phenomenon. So many of my white friends saw Crazy Rich Asians, and couldn’t stop talking about it. However, some Asian Americans are critical of the movie. I wonder if our people would evaluate non-Asian movies with the same unforgiving standards. Asian movies cannot be considered successful unless the mainstream audience are enthusiastic as well. The box office, and not necessarily the talent, measures the success of stars, writers, producers, and directors, and that’s how future opportunities are created.
One Asian blogger said, the movie not only put the Asian community in the spotlight, it thrived in the spotlight. So far, the actors involved in the movie seem to be handling his or her newfound fame quite well.
4. Getting rid of the Wah Mee Club
The memory of the notorious 1983 Wah Mee Massacre is still vivid among the older generation of the Asian community. Thirteen people were killed in the gambling den in Chinatown, inside the Louisa Hotel. For years, the site remained an eyesore and some community members believed it was haunted.
Now, in the process of rebuilding after a 2013 fire destroyed the empty building, we can’t wait to see the new Louisa completed.
Hopefully, Louisa will have a new face, identify, and purpose. May blessings bring new energy and life. Thanks to the Woo family, and their hard work and belief that Louisa can still contribute to the community. We will see the fruition of their vision in 2019.
5. Satya Nadella and Microsoft
When Nadella became the first Asian American to lead Microsoft, I was ecstatic. For years, the glass ceiling was a huge issue at Microsoft. The majority of Asian Americans at Microsoft were software engineers and mid-level managers. Only a few had landed in top management in the past five years.
Nadella is the opposite of former CEO Steve Ballmer, a good talker and marketing guy — never flashy. Microsoft’s stock price was at a low point under Ballmer — who never admitted his mistake in acquiring Nokia and laying off thousands of workers.
Ballmer took it personally when I asked his reaction towards the public slogan, “It’s time for Steve Ballmer to go.” Under Nadella’s leadership, Microsoft’s stock has risen consistently and it recently surpassed Apple as the world’s most valuable publicly traded company. It has become profitable through new strategies, including investing heavily in cloud technology. Nadella has proven himself through his performance and vision.
6. The league is growing
With the election of Mona Das and Joe Nguyen, the two are now joining a big league of Washington state Asian American elected officials. Next year, we will have 10 senators and representatives, including Steve Hobbs, Bob Hasegawa, Sharon T. Santos, Mia Gregerson, and Cindy Ryu. Our elected officials are growing not only in size, but influence.
However, we shouldn’t rest on our laurels. We should continue to groom our young people to take over as the next generation of leaders, by running for office and learning the importance of public service and giving back. It’s time for us to identify potential young Asian American candidates and build a base to support them.
7. Bruce Harrell
No Asian American has been selected as the Seattle City Council President for three terms until Bruce Harrell. Harrell, of Japanese and African American descent, also made history as the only Asian American mayor in Seattle, even though he was mayor for only four days. He has been a tough act to follow at the City Council.
8. The split Asian community over the police salary increase
Is it bad to see the Asian community divided? Some would like to see a unified Asian community when it comes to issues such as the Seattle police wage contract. Impossible. The Asian community is more diverse than ever, and thus, our needs vary.While progressive Asian leaders wanted to see more police reform binded into the contract before they committed, many Chinatown residents and leaders saw it differently. Chinatown residents and businesses rely on the police directly for their safety, and indirectly for prosperity. Some activists think police reform will be put in the back burner once the police got their raise. It will not go away. There are merits and demerits on both sides of an issue. It’s healthy for the Asian community to agree to disagree. Keep in mind that the community doesn’t need to agree, it just needs to understand one another and respect each other’s decisions.
9. Expanded Hing Hay Park
With the red sculpture bridge installed at Hing Hay Park, the upgraded park has finally been completed this year. It distinguishes Hing Hay from other city parks with unique features. Colorful flowers bloom during different seasons. Its night lighting enhances the park’s beauty and cultural elements.
From ping pong, to dancing, to concerts, to people enjoying lunch, the amount and varieties of activities and traffic at the park have increased many fold.
10. ID parking rates are going down
In the C-ID core, parking rates are decreasing from $1.50 per hour to $1 per hour, between 8–11 a.m.
How about the worst of 2018?
The homeless issue is still a concern in the ID. Although the Navigation Center helps the homeless, it hasn’t eliminated the problems caused by the homeless in the community, such as security, litter, and encampment issues.
Donnie Chin’s murder is still unsolved. It has been a while since Seattle police have given us some updates on the case.
The death of billionaire Paul Allen sucks. He died too young. We miss his talent, wisdom, and generosity. He was good to the community and he gave millions of dollars to Asian and people of color organizations.
The Nagomi Tea House is gone. The community lost a valuable community gathering space for its location, access, and affordability.
What will be ahead for the Asian community?
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.