EDITORIAL: 2014 looks promising for APIs in leadership roles

December has been a great month for Asian Americans in Seattle. First, Mayor-elect Ed Murray selected three Asian Americans for leadership positions. Then, in a surprising twist of fate, Mia Su-Ling Gregerson was appointed to the state House of Representatives. No one expected that.
Murray’s addition of Aaliyah Gupta, Mike Fong, and Hyeok Kim to his staff is a welcome sign that the new mayor is forward thinking in his efforts to create a City Hall representative of Seattle’s diversity.

Kim will be the mayor’s “external-facing” deputy mayor, meaning that she will maintain a “systematic engagement with the many diverse communities and groups throughout Seattle and beyond.” As executive director of InterIm Community Development Association, Kim’s work has focused on preserving and revitalizing Seattle’s Chinatown/International District, and she has worked on child welfare, human services, and affordable housing issues. In fact, a lot of her work has involved improving the lives of children. Kim, whose family emigrated from South Korea when she was 5, is a good fit for the job.

Fong, originally from Spokane, an analyst with the Seattle City Council central staff, will be deputy director of the office. His experience with the City Council makes him an optimal choice. His primary areas of focus have been transportation and human services, but his policy portfolio spans nearly every department of the City, and he also coaches youth basketball.

Murray named Aaliyah Gupta as interim director of the Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.

A native of India, Gupta is the founding executive director of Chaya, a community-based nonprofit working on domestic violence issues in the South Asian community. She is an excellent choice for this position.

We look forward to seeing how these three appointees will bring their skills and passion to City Hall.

Meanwhile, King County Council’s choice of Mia Su-Ling Gregerson over Elizabeth Alberston to fill Dave Upthegrove’s vacated House seat — against the recommendation of the 33rd district’s precinct committee officers — is a clear indication that council members also understand the meaning of the word “represent.”

Minorities make up more than half the district’s population. That makes people of color, like Gregerson, the majority. Democracy is all about the majority.

Both Albertson and Gregerson are well-qualified candidates (the third candidate, Omaha Sternberg, said she did not want the appointment and was supporting Albertson). Both would obviously represent all the citizens of the 33rd district. When Albertson won the committee’s nod over Gregerson, the district’s website called them “two excellent examples of progressive women candidates,” and congratulated Albertson on her victory and expected appointment.

“Barring the unexpected,” the Democrats said, “the Council will choose the first nominee of the PCOs.”

It’s these small, jarring moments of the unexpected that let us know that big city politics is not always just a machine. It’s a relief to see that it is actual people, using their actual minds, to make actual decisions. We support the Council’s thoughtful use of their minds. (end)

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