By Rev. Norman Fong

July 17, 2018

norman fong

Mayor London Breed, at her inauguration, asked everyone to take a moment of silence in honor of former Mayor Lee. She had Yau Gung Moon Lion Dancers kick off the inauguration ceremonies in front of City Hall. She also mentioned that she would be there for immigrants from Chinatown to the Mission. She came to Chinatown to join us at the Ping Yuen’s July 4th Celebration and BBQ to meet our residents (which was cool because she grew up in San Francisco’s public housing too). She gave Chinatown CDC a Certificate of Honor for our work in renovating the Ping Yuen and empowering low income residents. On Thursday, July 12, there was a big dinner to “Welcome Mayor Breed”. I also participated in the Church Service for her inauguration as the new Mayor and appreciate her deep faith. Her pastor said London will not be a typical politician because she is fearless and will follow what God leads her to do: “the Right Thing”. I was impressed by her faith, strength and verbal commitments. Oh Yes and London told me that she graduated from Galileo High School where I went to along with many of us Chinatown youth. It has been a pretty good beginning for this new Mayor. We should all wish her the best in her administration, but of course, we need to continue to advocate for our Chinatown concerns with her. She has also stated that she wants to help the poor and homeless. I’m hoping that she can help us with the families and seniors who live in Chinatown’s Single Room Occupancies (SROs) and our Ping Yuen residents.

july 4 ping yuen bbq

july 4 ping yuen bbq

San Francisco Mayors have a huge impact on Chinatown and San Francisco’s priorities. There are so many appointments, department heads, commissioners and funding that the Mayor has huge influence upon. Looking back in recent history, since Chinatown CDC was formed in ’77, there have been eight Mayors we have experienced. Each have influenced our community (positive and negative) in different ways.

When I was at Galileo High School in the 1960’s, there was a school mate named Fred Lau who wanted to be a San Francisco Police Officer and most Asian Americans were discriminated against because of “Height Requirements”. Fred tried to stretch a lot in the gymnasium to make himself taller! It didn’t work but he fought to change those height requirements so he and other “shorter” people could qualify. He won! Hurrah Fred! When Mayor Willie Brown became Mayor (after negotiating with Rose Pak) he announced at his Inauguration speech that he would appoint Fred Lau to become the New Police Chief of San Francisco! Wow! That had a huge impact upon our community and many more Asian Americans became police officers and were promoted.

six sf mayors

Different Mayors have made appointments to city positions and commissions which has really impacted the voice of Chinatown and the larger Asian American community. Do you remember Mayor Art Agnos? He has been a positive voice for justice and the poor in San Francisco. However, after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, he advocated for the demolition of the Embarcadero Freeway which Rose Pak and all of Chinatown was against because we considered the freeway to be a life line traffic connection to Chinatown. Mayors can make a huge difference!

Mayor George Moscone in April 1977 (when CCDC was started); I recall he supported a huge protest by 100 people with disabilities taking over the federal building for 25 days! His support for the 504 Sit-in helped pave the way for the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) thirteen years later! For Chinatown, what I recall most is that under Moscone’s administration, DISTRICT ELECTIONs for the Board of Supervisors came into being. Before, Chinatown votes didn’t count as much as Supervisors were from votes city-wide. It was in November 1977 when we got the first Chinese American Supervisor GORDON J. LAU elected because of district elections.

The Mayors of San Francisco have a huge impact not just on Chinatown, but sometimes upon the nation. Mayor Ed Lee was a rock star and hero for Chinatown and the Chinese around the world! Ed Lee loved Chinatown and he was the Mayor who got Chinatown CDC to repair and take over the Ping Yuen for the community! We were all so proud of him. Today is the Aids Walk in San Francisco and everyone remembers how Gavin Newsom uplifted the concerns of the Gay/Lesbian community. Gavin led the charge for Same-Sex Marriage across the country! For Chinatown, he made many new appointments of Asian Americans. However, some of his appointments replacing Mayor Willie Brown’s appointments were challenging for our community as well. I try to go with the flow, but politics can get pretty ugly at times. I always wish that people would always put “the Community First” and not use political campaigns to hurt others. In fact, my Chinatown CDC board does not even allow me as Executive Director to publicly endorse any San Francisco political candidates. I’m hoping that Mayor London Breed will do as her pastor said: “The Right Thing” over and against political favoritism. I’m hoping she will help Chinatown do as she says she wants to help the poor, do justice as Chinatown is one of the most crowded and poorly housed communities in San Francisco (50% of our community lives in SROs). I’m hoping that Mayor Breed will have a positive impact on Chinatown as well as the whole city. Well, it’s been a great first week for us and we’ll see how it goes in the future!

mayor ed lee

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on July 15, 2018

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