12/31/15 Daily Kos: “The Most District: What’s the most Asian district in America? Welcome to California’s 17th”
By Jeff Singer
Of the nation’s 435 congressional districts, no seat has a higher proportion of Asian-American residents than California’s 17th District. According to the Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey, 52 percent of the district is non-Hispanic Asian, compared to 5 percent nationwide. CA-17 narrowly edges Hawaii’s 1st District, located in Honolulu, for the title.
U.S. Census 2000 on California City and county numbers from Census 2000. http://www2.census.gov/census_2000/datasets/demographic_profile/California/2kh06.pdf 11/21/12
Contra Costa Times: “Survey: Latinos, Asian-Americans have transformed California electorate” By Matt O’Brien
A report released by The Field Poll this week illustrates the major transformation Latino and Asian-American voters have brought to California’s electorate over the past two decades. California has added 3.5 million voters since 1994, of whom 2 million are Latino and 1 million are Asian-American, together comprising nearly 86 percent of the total. The change has coincided with an increasingly liberal electorate’s outlook on social issues, the economy and immigration. Latinos, Asian-Americans and African-Americans together made up 40 percent of state voters in the 2012 election and were pivotal in passing the Proposition 30 education tax measure, handing President Barack Obama a double-digit victory here and sending new lawmakers to Congress. Turnout among minority voters was also equal this year to the turnout of white, non-Latino voters, “a first in California election politics,” said Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo. In 1994: California’s registered voters (percent of total) White: 10.8 million (73) Latino: 2.2 million (15) African-American: 900,000 (6) Asian-American: 750,000 (5) Other: 124,000 (1) In 2012: California’s registered voters (percent of total) White: 11 million (60) Latino: 4.2 million (23) African-American: 1 million (6) Asian-American: 1.8 million (10) Other: 250,000 http://www.mercurynews.com/census/ci_22043396/survey-latinos-asian-americans-have-transformed-california-electorate
11/20/12 Orange County Register: “Wisckol: O.C. Asian Americans – GOP in name only? They’re more likely to register as Republican than Democrat, but appear to have supported Obama.”
By Martin Wisckol
Orange County’s Asian American voters, led by Vietnamese Americans, are more likely to register as Republicans than Democrats. But party allegiance is loose and there are indications the demographic favored Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.
11/13/12 Los Angeles Times: “Op-Ed. CA to GOP: Adios. The demographics of California’s congressional delegation tell it all: a broad ethnic and racial mix for the Democrats, and solid white male for the Republicans.”
By Harold Meyerson
There are many ways to illustrate the descent of the California Republican Party into oblivion. A starting point is the demographic breakdown of the members of Congress elected last week in the state. Assuming the leaders in the few remaining close races hold their leads, there will be 38 Democrats and 15 Republicans representing California in Congress come January. Of those 38 Democrats, 18 are women, nine are Latinos, five are Asian Americans, three are African Americans, four are Jews and at least one is gay. Just 12 are white men. Of the 15 Republicans, on the other hand, all are white men – not a woman, let alone a member of a racial minority or a Jew, among them.
5/14/09 San Jose Mercury News: “Asian, Latino populations continue to surge in Silicon Valley,”
by Ken McLaughlin and Mike Swift
The numbers of Asians and Latinos in Santa Clara County continued to surge from 2007 to 2008 even as the population growth of those two ethnic groups unexpectedly slowed nationwide. So what’s going on? For years, Silicon Valley ‘s diverse population – with more minorities than whites – has served as a bellwether for the rest of country. But suddenly, armed with the latest data released today, the U.S. Census Bureau is expected to push back the projected date that minorities will outnumber whites across the country by a decade. The souring economy and changes in immigration policy have curbed the growth in minority populations across the country, but Silicon Valley – with its high-tech economy, safe neighborhoods and strong public schools – continues to be a magnet for Asians. Despite predictions that Asian growth would slow as the worldwide economic slump slammed Silicon Valley, the new data shows Santa Clara County from 2007 to 2008 added more new Asian residents than any other county in the nation: nearly 18,000 people. Census estimates show the number of Asians in the county grew by 3.4 percent year to year. The number of Latinos in the county grew by 3.2 percent and the number of whites decreased by 0.2 percent, according to a Mercury News computer analysis of the new data. According to the latest national data, the percentage growth of Hispanics slowed from 4.0 percent in 2001 to 3.2 percent last year. That slowed growth would have been greater if not for a high fertility rate – nearly 10 births for every death. In California , for the first time in modern history, a majority of births are to Latino mothers, state records show. In the South Bay, births are driving much of the population growth of both Latinos and Asians. In 2007, more than 70 percent of all births in Santa Clara County – about 19,000 – were to either Asian or Latino mothers. Nationwide, Asians also slowed their population increases from 3.7 percent in 2001 to about 2.5 percent. It was just this past August that the Census Bureau projected that white children will become the minority in 2023 and the overall white population will follow in 2042. The agency now says it will recalculate those figures because they don’t fully take into account the current economic crisis and anti-immigration policies enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The new projections, expected to be released later this year, would push back the expected date when the nation becomes a “majority-minority,” said David Waddington, the Census Bureau’s chief of projections. “Policies changed,” he said, in explaining why the scientific estimates were no longer valid. But Santa Clara County , which became a majority-minority county a decade ago, and much of the Bay Area are clearly an exception to the nationwide trend. Perhaps most surprising was the continued strong growth of the Asian population, even as some H-1B visa holders return to India , China and Taiwan and the Silicon Valley job magnet loses strength. The annual census estimate does not break down whether the growth in the Asian population is driven by immigration, birthrates or migration from other states. But demographers, scholars, and people of Asian descent who live here, say the reasons Asians find Silicon Valley a desirable place to live are no secret. “When most Americans buy a home, they’re looking for things like a view and amenities like swimming pools,” said Ling-Chi Wang, professor emeritus of Asian-American studies at the University of California-Berkeley. “For Asian-Americans, though, the first priority is finding the best elementary and secondary schools they can find. The second consideration is neighborhood safety.” So Silicon Valley , with its low crime rates and abundance of good schools, is a natural fit. “Santa Clara County is a great place for families,” said Hoi-Yung Poon, a native of China who came to this country at age 14. A consultant to nonprofits who worked for the Census Bureau during the 2000 census, Poon is married to an Indo-American chemist. With their 5-year-old son, they live in West San Jose in the heralded Cupertino Union School District. She said many Asian-Americans love the valley’s leafy neighborhoods, manicured parks and open space. “I grew up in New York ‘s Chinatown and Hong Kong , and I don’t think I could live in a big city anymore,” she said. Another important reason for the valley’s increased popularity for Asians: “Critical mass,” said Hans Johnson, a demographer with the Public Policy Institute of California. With such a high concentration of Asians, he said, the valley becomes more of an attraction for new immigrants looking for family, friends and networks in finding jobs, great Asian restaurants and a nice place to live. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
12/9/08 San Jose Mercury News: “Census shows Cupertino , Milpitas have Asian-majority populations,”
by Mike Swift
Cupertino has joined Milpitas as the second city in the South Bay where a majority of residents is now Asian, a rare cultural phenomenon that sets the two communities apart – even in one of the most diverse counties in the country. Its Chinese population was already well established, but Cupertino’s rapidly growing Indian community has pushed its overall Asian population to 56 percent of residents, according new census data released today – making it one of just 18 cities of 20,000 or more people in the country where Asians are more than half of all residents. All of those cities are in California or Hawaii . Asians already were a narrow majority in Milpitas in 2000, but with a growing population of Chinese, Indians, Filipinos and Vietnamese, Asians now make up nearly 60 percent of Milpitas ‘ population. What is happening this decade in cities like Milpitas and Cupertino , demographers say, is partly the culmination of years of immigration, as growing immigrant communities act as a powerful magnet, drawing relatives and others lured by cultural comforts and good schools. The economic downturn after 2007 may well put the brakes on that growth, however. While Asians are close to being the largest racial group in several Silicon Valley cities, the real story in the new demographic portrait of California ‘s mid-size cities is that no single group commands the majority, demographers say. San Jose is one example: Whites, Latinos and Asians were all about 30 percent of the population for the three-year period of 2005 through 2007, the new census data shows. Cities like Cupertino and Milpitas are “really the exception. More typically what we have in the state is a mix,” said Hans Johnson, a demographer with the Public Policy Institute of California. “And it’s not the East Coast, white-black mix. It’s the West Coast, Asian-Latino-White, and to a lesser extent black, mix.” Some things in Silicon Valley didn’t change. Much of the valley defended its creme de la creme status in wealth and education, despite the economic roller-coaster the region has endured since the Census Bureau last plumbed smaller cities’ social and economic status. Los Altos and Palo Alto, respectively, were among the top three places among U.S. cities with 20,000 people or more with the highest median household income and with the largest share of adults with a master’s or doctoral degree. Both cities were among a handful of Bay Area cities that saw their incomes grow faster than inflation through the down-and-up economic cycle since 1999. Palo Alto , Saratoga , Los Gatos , Los Altos and Menlo Park were among the only 19 places in America – all but three in California – where the median-price home was more than $1 million. There were some surprises in the first new data since the 2000 Census for cities and counties between 20,000 and 65,000 people. Among the surprises was the city with the fastest-growing white population in Silicon Valley . The distinction belongs to East Palo Alto, a once a predominantly African-American city that is now 55 percent Latino, and includes a small but growing white and Asian population, as new retail and residential developments have come to town. Meanwhile, Palo Alto, historically a city that was predominantly white and has recently been roiled by racial tension over remarks by the police chief, had one of the valley’s biggest percentage increases in both its Asian and Latino population. Milpitas ranked fifth and Cupertino 11th in the United States among places where Asians made up the largest share of the population, according to the new census data. When Taiwanese immigrant Ignatius Ding first moved to Cupertino in 1978, he and his family had to travel to Redwood City or San Francisco for good Chinese food. But the quality of the city’s schools soon became so well known in Taiwan that Cupertino ‘s 95014 ZIP code became common knowledge there, said Bernard P. Wong, an anthropologist at San Francisco State University and the author of “The Chinese in Silicon Valley .” Now there are so many Chinese restaurants and stores in Cupertino that a visitor from Shanghai , Taipei or Hong Kong would feel right at home. In the parking lots of some Asian-dominated shopping areas such as Cupertino Village , “it’s almost impossible to find a parking spot at lunch,” said Ding, a retired Hewlett-Packard engineer. While people from Taiwan and Hong Kong were the first Chinese in Cupertino , the growth more recently has come from mainland Chinese. Meanwhile, the Indian population more than doubled since 2000 to nearly 10,000. The main reason: Cupertino schools. For Patricia Rod, a 17-year Cupertino resident who is white, most of the changes that have come from having “lovely neighbors” who are Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese have been positive, including her property values. Rod, a cardiac sonographer, also feels her kids are “so much more worldly” because of Cupertino ‘s diversity. But while two of her daughters flourished in the increasingly competitive schools, Rod had to enroll another of her children in private school. “It has raised the bar educationally for the kids to the extent that those kids who are high achievers do very well,” Rod said. “But those kids who cannot achieve that much tend to fall in a class that is less than desirable, and don’t succeed.”
2/22/08 Asian Week: “Asian Americans Who Run The City [San Francisco],”
by Angela Pang
Twenty-one percent of city’s commissioners are Asian Pacific Americans
Although San Francisco has the worst proportional representation of Asian Americans on the city’s governing Board of Supervisors of all cities nationwide (one out of 11), a first-ever look at commission assignments by AsianWeek indicates a slightly brighter picture among the city’s commissions though still not up to par with San Francisco’s one-third Asian Pacific American population. AsianWeek has conducted an analysis of Asian Pacific American representation in the citys 42 commissions, whose members are selected by the mayor and Board of Supervisors. Asian Pacific Americans currently hold 21.4 percent of commission positions 74 out of 345 seats as of Feb. 15, which is roughly 12 percent less than their population in S.F. That number is not bad, but it is not enough, said Fire Commissioner Steve Nakajo. Out of 42 commissions, 36 currently have at least one APA member on board; six have no Asian Pacific Americans. Those commissions without any APA representation are Entertainment, Environment, Health Service Board, Rent Board, Southeast Community Facility and the War Memorial Board of Trustees. After Mayor Gavin Newsom asked hundreds of city officials to hand in letters of resignation last fall, 13 commissions saw a change in their APA count. Eight commissions experienced an increase Aging, Health, Human Rights, Immigrant Rights, Municipal Transportation Agency, Relocation Appeals Board, the Status of Women and the Small Business Commission, while five underwent a decline Arts, Elections, Entertainment, Environment and Housing with the remaining 29 commissions experiencing no change. Some of the APAs that have left those agencies have transferred to other commissions. Alan Mok, for example, departed from the Environment Commission but has joined the Immigrant Rights Commission, while Irene Yee Riley left the Housing Commission for the Small Business Commission. I know the mayor definitely feels strongly about putting more Asian Pacific Islanders in commission seats thats one of the first things he told me when I met with him to discuss my position, said Jason Chan, who became the mayors first API liaison to commissions, and the person responsible for making recommendations for commission seats, in January. We do want to reflect the breakdown of the constituents in the city, but it is challenging on our end, Chan said. We don’t keep track of commissioners ethnicities, and that isn’t a factor when they are appointed. Our main concern is to have the best and brightest in these commission seats. Planning Commissioner Bill Lee said that the city’s commissions should mirror the population of the city, but qualifications and skills are a factor, especially in the more powerful commissions, such as the Board of Permit Appeals, Building Inspection, Civil Service, Police, Planning and Public Utilities commissions, and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. Some of these top commissions require commissioners to be appointed both by the mayor and the Board of Supervisors; some have the power to select, appoint and fire management; and some also control the allocation of resources and decide public policies that affect living conditions. Bill Lee said there is enough representation in these top commissions that truly affects how APAs live and do business in the city. Its vital to have representation that directly affects what we do and need as Asians, Bill Lee said. For us to have three APAs out of seven on the Planning Commission and two APAs on the Redevelopment Commission out of seven members, thats good. Yet Ron Lee, vice president of the Chinese American Democratic Club, said that with such a large Asian population in San Francisco, the Asian and Chinese communities should be totally outraged. We deserve our fair share, not more, not less, Ron Lee said. How many [APAs] are at the mayors office now? Not enough. Parks and Recreation Commissioner David Lee believes that there’s no lack of APA representation at the top commissions, but said that doesn’t extend to other branches of city government. What we should be looking at is the Board of Supervisors, David Lee said. Out of 11 seats, there is only one Asian American Carmen Chu, who was appointed by Mayor Newsom. Thats where we lack representation most. In terms of API representation, the city can certainly do a lot more, said Ling-chi Wang, associate professor of Asian American studies at U.C. Berkeley. Fire Commissioner Nakajo said APAs can increase their representation by getting involved in their neighborhoods and communities, and taking leadership roles where they can that is the first source city officials look at for commission candidates. Juvenile Probation Commissioner Jacqueline Ricci said Asian Americans dont assert themselves in taking leadership roles. We have to step up to the plate, Ricci said. Asians tend to be humble in putting ourselves first. If you’re interested in serving for a commission, you have to go for it and let it be known. Dennis Normandy, a 14-year Public Utilities commissioner, notes more APAs are now serving on commissions than when he started. The quantity and quality of APA representation has improved throughout the years, Normandy said. I think its a testament to both the willingness of each mayor to open doors, but also to APA communities, which have grown in number. Now we have much more talent to choose from and push forward. With Jason Chan as a bridge to the APA community, were on the right track, and I believe the number of APA commissioners will grow. But we can’t just be passive and expect each mayors administration to actively look for nominees for commission positions, Normandy continued. As APA community members and leaders, we have to do our part, by keeping ourselves visible and on the radar screen. With additional reporting by Melissa Chin. Amy Lin and Rainier Ramirez also contributed to this report.
2/5/08 Dallas Morning News: Candidates court California Asians,
by Christy Hoppe
In the past few days, Asian-American leaders have been stumping the state for Hillary Rodham Clinton, AsianWeek endorsed Barack Obama and John McCain announced high-ranking Vietnamese-American supporters. Beyond the high-visibility pitches for Latino and female voters, the presidential campaigns have reached out to Asian-Americans, one of the fastest-growing California constituencies and a group that could play a big role in who takes home the delegates. Asian-American and Pacific Islanders are 12 percent of California ‘s registered voters and almost evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. But because of tight-knit communities, the AAPI, as they are known, are much more powerful in pockets of the state for instance, they are 30 percent of the Democratic voters in the San Francisco area. “Both the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates have been courting the AAPI community,” said Republican state Assemblyman Van Tran, who represents a part of Orange County with an Asian-American population of about 450,000. He said candidates have held fundraisers and met with AAPI groups beginning months and, in some cases, years ago. Because California delegates will be determined by the winner in each of the 53 congressional districts, the AAPI could help award dozens of delegates. ” California is the big enchilada in terms of delegates,” Mr. Tran said. “The AAPI is going to have impact.” Sunnyvale City Council member Otto Lee, a leader for Mrs. Clinton’s outreach campaign, said the main issues for AAPI Democrats are the same as others: economy, education and health care. “The overall trend is that the younger people are still more excited with Barack Obama. When you talk about the older voter, the idea of knowledge and strength is what matters, and they tend towards Hillary Clinton,” he said. Although the AAPI population is equally divided between the GOP and Democratic Party, Mr. Lee believes that the immigration issue and open-door policy for independents will probably drive record numbers into Democratic voting booths today. Almost a third of Asian-Americans are registered independents, and the GOP primary in California is open only to registered Republicans. On immigration, many in the AAPI are concerned that the tougher Republican stance will prevent family members from being unified, Mr. Lee said. Mitt Romney has national Asian-Pacific leaders as advisers and leaders in his campaign, but his efforts have not been as visible as Mr. McCain’s. “I’ve been working closely with him,” said Mr. Tran, adding that the Arizona senator has visited his district numerous times dating to the 2000 presidential campaign. Recently, the campaign has been hit with a revival of a comment that Mr. McCain made on the 2000 campaign bus, when he used an ethnic slur for Asians and said: “I will hate them as long as I live.” Mr. McCain later explained that he was referring only to his sadistic Vietnamese captors, but the quote remains offensive and is something Mr. Tran has been dealing with lately. “They’re trying to throw everything at him” now that he’s the front-runner, Mr. Tran said, predicting that Mr. McCain will nevertheless win California and the AAPI vote. “Senator McCain is perceived as a man who is firm with his conviction and straightforward with his opinion,” he said.
12/2/07 San Francisco Chronicle: Asian Americans flex political muscle in wider Bay Area,
by Vanessa Hua and Matthew B. Stannard
The elderly Chinese American men in dark suits passed through ornate doors guarded by stone lions, then ambled into a soaring hall lined with flowers and history. Holding court inside was Harrison Lim, the outgoing president of the Chinese Six Companies, the San Francisco fraternal organization whose fetes regularly draw such political luminaries as Mayor Gavin Newsom and Aaron Peskin, president of the Board of Supervisors. As Lim did the meet-and-greet with a sea of representatives from Chinese family associations and service organizations, the white faces of Newsom and Peskin stood out, as did one glaring fact: In a city that is one-third Asian, the majority Chinese Americans, there are few prominent politicians of Chinese descent. Next year, the Chinese American population of San Francisco will mark the 160th anniversary of its presence in the city. Gone are the exclusionary laws that held the populace in check, the policies that curtailed Chinese immigration and citizenship. Gone is the official discrimination that kept many in the ghetto. Yet such progress has not translated into political power. No Chinese American has held the top office of mayor, and except for a few years in the late 1990s, they have never been proportionately represented in the city’s top political body, the Board of Supervisors. “I was dying to be working on the election of a Chinese American mayor,” said Rose Pak, the Chinatown wheeler-dealer who has spent decades grooming and supporting candidates for office. “But now I … wonder if I’ll see it.” The longtime political frustration of Chinese Americans in San Francisco has been placed in sharp relief in recent months with the scandal-plagued first year of Chinese American Supervisor Ed Jew. Yet the political fate of Chinese Americans in San Francisco will not hinge on the Jew saga. Instead, the future could rest on what happens in the South Bay , where the Chinese American community’s dramatic strides could make San Francisco a virtual backwater on the Chinese American political landscape: Kris Wang, an immigrant from Taiwan , is mayor of Cupertino . Otto Lee, a Hong Kong native with a degree in chemical and nuclear engineering from UC Berkeley and a law degree from UC Hastings, holds the top elected office in Sunnyvale . San Jose ‘s Kansen Chu, who hails from Taiwan , is the city’s first Chinese American councilman. Evan Low is the first Chinese American elected to the Campbell City Council. “The South Bay – in particular Santa Clara County and the Silicon Valley area – is really kind of leading the charge for Asian American political incorporation in the continental United States,” said James Lai, associate professor of political science and ethnic studies at Santa Clara University. A new generation of Chinese Americans in San Francisco hopes to grasp the gold ring, but it won’t be easy. In San Francisco , Lai says, Asian Americans are “one of many in line, and not necessarily first in line.” ——————————————————————————–
In 1973, Mayor Joseph Alioto appointed George Chinn as the first Chinese American on San Francisco ‘s Board of Supervisors. In 1977, Gordon Lau was appointed and eventually elected. “Non-Chinese perpetuate the myth that Chinese can and should take care of their own problems, that nothing is wrong in Chinatown ,” Lau told The Chronicle in 1969. “And I want to dispel that myth, which results in lack of responsiveness from government agencies and officials. I want to start people talking, not only about what is wrong, but about what can be done.” Tom Hsieh Sr. – San Francisco ‘s third Chinese American supervisor – was appointed in 1986 and was re-elected twice. A successful architect, Hsieh realized he needed to get involved in politics or neither he, his family nor his community would advance further. It seemed then that Hsieh would be followed by politicians like him: professional, educated, politically aware Chinese Americans. It didn’t happen. In 1991, the fiscally conservative Hsieh ran for mayor and got about 10 percent of the vote – the most any Chinese American candidate has received before or since. But Hsieh ran into the Chinatown conundrums that perplex Chinese American politicians to this day, such as the far greater willingness among Chinese Americans to donate money than to vote. The result: Chinese Americans lacked the ballot-box power to push their own into office or even attract the interest of mainstream politicians outside of fund raising. The consequences of lacking political power were clear after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the Embarcadero Freeway. City leaders proposed replacing it with a sunken expressway. Hundreds of Chinatown merchants went on strike and closed shops for three hours to attend a Board of Supervisors hearing on the proposed demolition, saying that business would be hurt without the important transportation link. But the city moved ahead with its plans. In the late 1990s, some observers heralded a new era of Chinese American power in San Francisco when Chinese American property and business owners successfully demanded a rebuilding of the Central Freeway. About the same time, three Asian Americans – Mabel Teng, Leland Yee and Michael Yaki – joined the Board of Supervisors, the first time the populace was proportionately represented on the board. It lasted less than five years. ——————————————————————————–
At the dawn of the 21st century, as Chinese Americans’ brief experience with proportionate representation was coming to an end in San Francisco , a new generation to the south was finding success – on a startling scale. In 1980, Kris Wang borrowed $1,000 from a friend and spent $700 on a plane ticket from Taiwan to San Francisco . But where previous generations of immigrants might have arrived with few connections and gravitated to Chinatown with the help of the Six Companies, Wang arrived with family on the East Coast and friends in Campbell who let her stay and stretch her remaining $300 long enough to get a job at a San Jose firm. Where a previous generation’s story might have ended with finding a job, Wang’s was just beginning. In the years that followed, she earned her MBA, got married, had kids, moved to Cupertino for its good schools – and discovered an opportunity in a city in which Apple Computer was within sight of many Chinese shops. While volunteering at Cupertino ‘s schools, Wang came to the attention of then-Mayor Michael Chang – the city’s first Asian American mayor, elected in 1999 – who suggested she attend Leadership Community, a city program that introduces people to volunteer and public service opportunities. Suddenly, Wang was parks and recreation commissioner, a position she held until 2003, when Chang left office. “A lot of people came to me and said, ‘Are you ready? We want you to serve, want you to run,'” Wang recalled. At first, Wang was uncertain. It was a comment from her youngest son, she said, that made up her mind. “He said, ‘Mom, I want to ask you a question,’ ” she recalled. ” ‘Tell me, if you get elected, do you think because you’re a Chinese American, you’ll be an advocate for Chinese Americans? Or are you serving the whole community?’ “I said, ‘Of course, the whole community.’ ” “He said, ‘Go, mom. Then you go.’ ” Wang ran for re-election last month and won. ——————————————————————————–
Ask why Chinese Americans in San Francisco have not seen their numbers translate into political power as in the South Bay , and you will get dozens of responses. Chinese American leaders, academics and observers are far from agreement on the reason – or even on whether it’s a problem. Some say the differences between the two regions come down to simple demographics: The immigrants moving to San Francisco for much of the past century were limited to working-class jobs, with limited education, limited English and little interest in politics. Those arriving in the 1980s – many of whom, like Wang, immediately headed south – often came to advance their educations and arrived with degrees and experience in politics and opening markets. They were joined by American-born Chinese who had left San Francisco after benefiting from the social reforms of the 1960s, which helped them gain better housing, better jobs, better incomes and educations. Chinatown remained a jumping-off point for newcomers, offering cheap housing and a multitude of Chinese groceries, shops and social services within walking distance. But cities such as Cupertino , Sunnyvale and Foster City had their own large Asian American populations. These populations were different from San Francisco ‘s: better educated, less likely to be linguistically isolated, and wealthier – and more likely to vote or run for office. San Francisco ‘s Chinese Americans, in turn, became poorer, older and less educated – and still disinclined to vote. Some say demographic differences don’t tell the whole story. At the heart of it, they contend, is the lingering connection that many Chinese Americans, particularly in San Francisco ‘s Chinatown , feel to their homelands. “We have several factions,” said Hsieh, the former San Francisco supervisor. “One is for mainland China . One is for Taiwan . One is for Hong Kong . And they don’t really have that much in common.” The walls of Chinese Six Companies at 843 Stockton St. still bear framed calligraphy by Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. When new leaders are installed at the Six Companies, everyone sings along to a tinny recording of the national anthems of the United States and of Taiwan , in accordance with the group’s long allegiance to that government. Today, governments of Taiwan and China still court local Chinese leaders, showering titles and preferential treatment to win them over. A stroll down Stockton Street , the main drag of Chinatown in San Francisco , reveals competing loyalties: the red flag and yellow stars of China and the white sun in a blue square against a red flag of Taiwan . “There’s still albatrosses around our necks that we haven’t even moved in the last 50 years after the Cold War. Chinese politics! China politics!” roared Pak. “It still comes down to pro-China, anti-China. Still.” But in Cupertino , Wang sees the China-Taiwan split as largely irrelevant: “I think we’re all the same citizens, whether you’re from China , from Taiwan , from Hong Kong , or if you’re African American. I always disagreed with the saying that you have a number percentage of Asian Americans, the representation should also match the number percentage. It should all come natural.” Some San Francisco leaders bemoan the lack of an infrastructure that could groom and support up-and-comers, such as the traditional role churches play in many African American communities. In theory, it is a role that could be played by Six Companies. But a number of observers, including some within the organization, say it doesn’t deliver in those terms and instead eschews much mainstream political debate. “The immigration bill. How come they never discuss anything about that?” said Thomas Ng, a Six Companies board member. On top of that is the structure of the Six Companies, in which a complex formula designed to balance power among the main family groups requires a new presiding president every two months. “How can you represent a community still using the Qing dynasty mentality on the bylaws? They may not like me saying it, but that’s the reality,” said Bok Pon, the commander of the Chinatown post of the American Legion. “Those associations have become social clubs. It’s not actually doing anything for the community.” On the surface, the association seems important. Assemblywoman Fiona Ma recently dropped by the Six Companies board meeting to tout her legislative agenda, and the turnover of the president attracts local politicos every two months. But skeptics say the real reason the politicos come is for coverage in the Chinese-language press. “Maybe 20 years ago, the Chinese Six Companies was very powerful,” said Lim, a longtime member. “If the Chinese Six Companies said yes, everybody would support. But now, no. Still has influence, but not as strong.” By contrast, Lai said, several South Bay communities have organized efforts to nurture future Asian American leaders, such as DeAnza College ‘s Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute. “Take a look at the Web sites for all these cities and look at the commissions,” Lai said. “You’ll see Asian Americans serving in key positions.” That doesn’t mean there are no political contenders in San Francisco today – Eric Mar, a San Francisco school board member and Asian American studies professor at San Francisco State , recently filed to run for supervisor, and Claudine Cheng, president of the Treasure Island Development Authority, also is considering a bid. But Chinese American candidates face a fundamental challenge: They must try to appeal both to their conservative communities and to the city’s progressive majority. That presents a hurdle to leftists like Mar, who some analysts say might attract Chinese American votes on the basis of his ethnicity, but may not be able to be re-elected, because of his politics. “If you stay as conservative as I was, you know you’re wasting your time,” Hsieh said. “You have to be 40 percent on the conservative side, say, and 60 percent on the progressive side. You have to understand that you are not running for office to serve one community. You really want to serve the city as a whole, and with an emphasis and reminder that you are from that community and you want to give them very special attention.” South Bay Chinese Americans have learned that lesson, Lai argued, and with it has come power. “They’re really giving back to the community, and their interests are just like everybody else’s,” he said. “That’s why you see people like Kris Wang being able to cross over, and that has always been the key to success for Asian American candidates.” To some observers, the obstacles for San Francisco ‘s Chinese American candidates seem insurmountable. Some suggest that the city’s Chinese Americans should focus on issues important to them instead of tilting at windmills with their candidates. But others see hope in a new generation of immigrants with its own unique experience that may change the political face of San Francisco yet again. ——————————————————————————–
When they called his name, the man stood and made his way to the front of the packed, stuffy auditorium of San Francisco ‘s Gordon J. Lau Elementary School. He was short and slight, his face youthful beneath the brim of a small, olive-gray cap. “My name is Zheng Zhao Xin,” he said. “I’m also a new immigrant. I’m a student at City College in Chinatown .” Seated before Zheng were the members of the college’s Board of Trustees, which was hearing comments on plans to rebuild its rundown Chinatown campus with a $122 million, 16-story building, one of several proposals. Most of the hundreds in the boisterous audience were Chinese Americans in favor of the plan. The handful of mostly white opponents worried about parking and called for a shorter building. Zheng spoke in Cantonese, but his words were quiet and firm, and he waited patiently as a translator interpreted his comments. “Immigrants such as myself, Asian born, who want to get into the mainstream society of the United States , we need to receive a quality education, not only in English but also to receive job skills and other skills,” he said. “So I urge the board as the decision maker … you should listen to the voices and the opinions of the community.” Zheng sat down to applause. It was the second public meeting he had ever attended. He had been in the United States for six months. Zheng came of age as China developed rapidly – and with wealth came more mobility, a wider perspective and greater openness. He was learning English at City College when he heard about opposition to the proposed new campus. If he didn’t get involved and participate, the building might never be built, he thought. He was nervous about speaking in public and questioned whether marching or demonstrating was illegal or might cause him to be deported. This fall, Zheng helped mobilize students at City College in support of the campus – perhaps the first step in a budding political career. The night he spoke at the hearing, Chinatown elder Harrison Lim also was in attendance. The Six Companies leader has strived to make this an issue for the organization to rally around. The men represent the past and future Chinese America. In China , “what they think is, well, we are just ordinary people. Even if you do something, it may not change anything at all. So why bother to do it?” Zheng said. “In the society I live in now, I think if you think this is right, and you try to do something, there is a chance you may get things done.” Zheng’s diligence paid off: The City College trustees approved the new campus on Oct. 18. And Zheng was elected to the student council. 11/21/07 Philippine News: Rising Harassment of Asian American Students, San Francisco — Civil rights advocates representing broad sectors of communities gathered at the downtown offices of the Asian Law Caucus (ALC) recently to call attention to the rising incidence of bias-related harassment of Asian Pacific American youth in California s public schools. Race, ethnicity, religion, disability, and sexual orientation were cited as the most common factors that instigate harassment, ridicule, and threat of violence in the schools. Angela Chan, ALC staff attorney, said she continues to receive a steady stream of complaints from APA students regarding harassment and violence perpetrated against them by other students or even employees. Other minority groups are not spared either. Senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, Tamara Lange, reported that in the last six weeks alone prior to the San Francisco press conference, her group reached a settlement with an elementary school system in Bishop, where Native American children were being harassed and assaulted by a school resource officer. Chan said the alarming trend continues despite state laws to protect students that went into effect seven years ago. In 2000, the California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act, AB 537, was implemented to prohibit discriminatory harassment and violence in schools. More recently, California Assembly member Lloyd Levine authored the Safe Place to Learn Act (AB 394) requiring the states education department to play an active role in ensuring full and proper implementation of existing anti-discrimination laws that apply to schools. This problem of school harassment will not go away without leadership by the Department of Education, Lange insisted. We look forward to the implementation of AB 394 and urge the Department to do more than the bare minimum required by this new law to ensure that all of our children know that they are entitled to be treated with dignity and respect. Chan told Philippine News during the open forum While California may seem ahead of other states in the institution of anti-harassment laws and policies, it lags behind in implementation and compliance. Nevertheless, she added, the findings from a recent study ALC conducted have shown that many school districts do not even have anti-harassment policies in place. The survey, conducted just last spring, found that 31 percent of the 75 California school districts surveyed did not have any anti-harassment and anti-violence policies in place. Another recent study done by the California Safe Schools Coalition indicated many students and parents are unaware of nondiscrimination policies, with 23 percent of students and 29 percent of parents not being informed of the policies. Civil rights organizations, therefore, are advocating the prompt and effective implementation of local and state initiatives, more so in the light of recent incidents of harassment in schools. Lance Chih, a recent graduate of Folsom High School, recounted his experience as the victim of hate crimes at his school. Three years ago, I experienced a series of hate crimes for being gay, starting with a death threat, moving on to a physical attack, and ending with sexual harassment in front of a teacher by two male students, he narrated. Reports of Muslim American students being harassed by both students and school employees are also becoming more frequent, according to Mahrukh Hasan, civil rights coordinator for the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). In one recent case handled by CAIR and the ALC, a school employee in Monterey repeatedly demanded that a 13-year-old girl remove her hijab, a headscarf she wore for religious reasons, in front of a cafeteria full of students, Hasan recalled. At the local level, Jen Gasang, coordinator for the Asian Pacific Islander Youth Advocacy Network announced the launch of a new system for reporting incidents anonymously in the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD). Gasang said, The Safe School Line aims to make our school community safer by providing three ways for students and parents to anonymously report to the District incidents of harassment, violence, and intimidation via e-mail at email@example.com, telephone at (415) 241-2141, and online at http://www.sfusd.edu. Christina Wong, director of community initiatives at the Chinese for Affirmative Action, also discussed a project called the Culturally Responsive Initiative that will obtain funding and develop training for teachers in SFUSD to prevent bias-related harassment.
10/10/07 UCLA Today: Asian Americans are California ‘s new ‘sleeping giant’
By Paul Ong
In the 1980s and 1990s, Latinos were considered the “sleeping giant” in California politics because of their growing numbers. New research conducted by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, together with the University of California’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy Initiative Multi-Campus Research Program, shows that Asian Americans are now the “sleeping giant” of state politics. The center’s research points to several major demographic trends that began to take shape in the 1990s. First, the Asian-American population has increased steadily. From 2000 and 2005, the number of Asian-American residents in California increased from 3.8 million to 4.7 million, accounting for 38% of the 2.2 million overall net gain in California ‘s population. During the same period, the number of Asian Americans in California eligible to register as voters climbed by more than half a million. If this growth continues, more than 3 million Asian-American adults will be eligible to register to vote by the end of the decade, making up about 14% of all Californians eligible to register. Asian Americans are also showing an increase in their citizenship rates. As many as 71% of Asian-American adults are U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization, illustrating how Asian Americans have gone from being an “alien” population to one fully integrated into society through citizenship. In addition, Asian Americans are making a significant impact on both state and national politics as donors, politicians, state officials and community groups. These demographic trends bring both new opportunities and challenges for Asian Americans. As they contribute to the nation’s cultural diversity and economic success, the remarkable growth in the number of Asian Americans means that public services and elected representation will also need to grow to accommodate the particular needs of the community, as Judy Chu, vice chair of California’s State Board of Equalization has said, echoing an opinion widely shared by other community leaders. However, fully transforming their demographic power into voting power remains a significant challenge for Asian Americans. Recent data suggest that Asian Americans are less likely to register and vote than non-Latino whites and African Americans. The good news, according to leading Asian American scholars, is that Asian Americans can become an effective voting bloc by formulating a common political agenda that appeals to the community regardless of its racial, cultural, linguistic and economic differences. As sociologist Yen Le Espiritu, a graduate of UCLA’s Asian American Studies program, has noted: “History has shown that Asian Americans can overcome differences to build viable, pan-Asian, political coalitions to promote and protect both their individual and their united interests.” Ong is a professor in the School of Public Affairs and Asian American studies.
8/9/07 San Jose Mercury News: Santa Clara County adding Asians at nation’s fastest pace; Births, Economy, Immigration Fuel Continuing Rise,
By Mike Swift
For a suburban county smaller than multi-ethnic urban giants like Los Angeles , Miami-Dade and Queens , N.Y. , Santa Clara County recorded a notable population milestone last year: It gained more Asians than any county in the United States . Population estimates being released today by the U.S. Census Bureau say Santa Clara County gained nearly 18,000 new Asian residents in the year ending July 1, 2006, a 3.3 percent increase from 2005. That was nearly 2,000 more than the U.S. county with the second-largest growth, Los Angeles . Santa Clara County ‘s Asian population has jumped by 20 percent, or about 91,000 people, so far this decade, the Census Bureau estimates. The county is fast overtaking San Francisco , with more than a century of Asian history, as the county in the continental United States with the largest share of Asians. Santa Clara County’s continuing Asian boom is being fueled by births, immigration and economic growth, demographers say. In California , only Los Angeles County had more Asian births than Santa Clara County ‘s 8,395 in 2005, according to state Department of Public Health records. And although Asians for now still make up a slightly larger share of the population in San Francisco , a baby born there is less likely to be Asian than one born in Santa Clara County . The booming Asian population is diversifying the culture, forcing non-Asians to adapt and spawning business opportunities across ethnic lines. Loann Tran, a real estate agent with Judy Wang Realtors in Milpitas and San Jose , says an influx of young Asian families buying homes has insulated her from some of the pain of this year’s real estate slowdown. “Most of the buyers are either from China or India ; they are a majority of those that are still buying,” said Tran, whose clientele is predominantly Asian. There are now about 40 Asian ethnic media outlets based in the South Bay , including multiple newspapers serving South Asians, Vietnamese and Chinese readers, according to New American Media, a San Francisco-based collaboration of ethnic media organizations. Wells Fargo Bank this year began outdoor advertising in all-Chinese characters in San Jose neighborhoods with large numbers of Chinese speakers. “You’re seeing more of a concerted focus and effort to reach out to customers and those that may be willing to do business with Wells Fargo in their language of choice,” said Chris Hammond, a Wells Fargo vice president. To be sure, Santa Clara County ‘s large Asian population is not new. But in informal discussions this week, residents said the volume of the growth and the persistent evolution of the South Bay ‘s population over the past decade and a half continue to rewrite personal and business relationships in myriad ways. “I’m going to a Vietnamese restaurant right now, and I’m going to order in Vietnamese,” said Alex Rodriguez of San Jose , a Mexican-American business developer. He took college courses to learn Vietnamese because of religious outreach he does as a Jehovah’s Witness. Growing pains Mike Riggsby, co-owner of West Coast Store Fixtures, a San Jose company that sells everything from store counters to mannequins, said he is having to learn new ways of bargaining and negotiating on the job. He estimates half his customers are now Asian, up 50 percent in the past decade. “I’m learning as I’m going along,” Riggsby said. “It’s us understanding them and them understanding our culture, and working together so we don’t offend each other.” Nevertheless, he still has misunderstandings, and it bothers him sometimes when customers speak to one another in a language he doesn’t understand. A fourth-generation Californian who is ethnically Chinese, Cindy Colbert of Campbell often felt out of place as a baby boomer growing up in San Jose . She thinks the growth of the Asian population has made people here less likely to stereotype. “When I was growing up, you needed to blend in – you needed to be white. If you weren’t white, you stuck out like a sore thumb,” said Colbert, whose great grandfather came to California from China to work on the railroads. “I used to walk up to the supermarket checkout and the clerk would be hostile until I opened my mouth and he saw I was a native English-speaker,” she said. “They are kind of more accepting now because of the volume of (Asian) people here.” Five of the 10 U.S. counties with the largest Asian population growth in the past year were in California , including Santa Clara and Alameda counties. Asian immigrants have been somewhat slower than Latinos to spread out across the United States , demographers say. Asians “are still very heavily attracted to areas which have been the traditional gateways to the United States ,” said Bill Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution in Washington , D.C. From Chinese actresses like Gong Li starring in mainstream Hollywood movies like “Miami Vice,” to the rise of five-star Asian restaurants and the ubiquity of Pokemon, marketing experts say there is increasing cross-pollination between Asian and non-Asian cultures across the country, especially in places like the South Bay. Mainstream absorption Conventional wisdom has been that the rapid growth of ethnic supermarkets like 99 Ranch Market would make them takeover targets for mainstream supermarket chains, said Saul Gitlin, executive vice president with Kang & Lee, a New York advertising firm that helps organizations from AT&T to the NBA target Asian consumers. But Gitlin isn’t sure that will happen. “I can’t tell you it’ll be the mainstream stores that acquire the Asian stores. It could very well be the reverse,” Gitlin said. Lee’s Sandwiches, a chain of Vietnamese eateries headquartered in San Jose , began in 1983 with a largely Vietnamese clientele, said Jimmy Le, assistant to the chief executive. Those stores featured an array of traditional Vietnamese foods and flavors. But its newer stores are intended to feel more like standard American fast-food outlets. The chain has now expanded to Arizona and Texas and will open in Oklahoma City this year. “No matter what nationality you are, everyone is willing to try new things,” Le said. “Our focus is not just Vietnamese customers or Asians any more, but any nationality. Just like McDonald’s or Burger King.”
8/7/07 New America Media: “Asian-American Youth Venture Into Cal Politics,”
By Lizeth Cazares
Editor’s Note: Asian-American participation in politics has been traditionally low but that’s changing, at least in California , reports NAM contributor Lizeth Cazares. Cazares is an English Major at the University of California Davis and a participant of the Journalism program at University of California Center in Sacramento and New America Media.
SACRAMENTO — Jessica Zous parents want her to go to school, get good grades, find a high-paying job and avoid causing trouble — like getting into politics. Culturally, most Asians in my generation are taught to not cause trouble, that is to say, not stir things up, says Zou, 19, a junior at the University of California , Irvine . I think this is partially because, coming from our parents’ generation, politics can end up in riots, chaos and even death. After seeing the violence at Tiananmen Square in 1989, Zou said her parents decided to emigrate from China to the United States , where they thought she could live a peaceful life. But political advocacy organizations are actively trying to dispel that notion and encourage young Asian Americans like Zou, an intern at California Assemblyman Ted Lieu’s office, to participate in politics. In recent years, several Asian Americans have risen to prominent political positions, such as U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta. Californians have also elected several Asian and Pacific Islanders to state legislative office, including Sen. Leland Yee, Assemblymen Mike Eng and Van Tran, and Assemblywoman Fiona Ma. But despite increasing leadership in this community, Asian Americans make up less than 10 percent of the California legislature even though they are 13 percent of the population. As the Asian American population continues to grow, organizations are working to inspire young Asian Americans to pursue careers in public policy and ensure diversity in the states legislature. Some of these political advocacy efforts in California include the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus Internship Day at the Capitol. This year, the event brought together about 50 young Asian and Pacific Islander youth to meet legislators, students and staff members to get insight on working with state legislation, said Pam Chueh, consultant to the caucus. We want to create a better understanding of public policy for these young people and to encourage them to become part of the process, she said. During the one and a half day program, students posed candid questions to Asian-American lobbyists, staff members and Senate fellows about their work at the Capitol. The low pay of political staffers is an issue that concerns some young people. Legislative staff members do not make nearly as much as a doctor, lawyer, engineer or other steady careers that Asian-American parents may prefer. A California Senate Fellow receives a monthly $1,972 stipend while a legislative assistant can earn anywhere from $32,500 to $64,200 a year, according to the Assembly Committee on Rules. While some acknowledge that their stipend is small, Senate fellows emphasized the impact their work has on public policy. Kiyomi Burchill, recent Stanford graduate and Senate fellow, works with Sen. Darrell Steinberg in researching bills. Because many of the legislators dont have time to research all the bills, Burchills and other legislative staffs opinions become important to the Senate members. Im astounded how much legislators take staffs comments into consideration, she said. The political participation of young Asian Americans is becoming increasingly important, according to Asian Pacific Islander Caucus Chair Alberto Torrico, because current political issues like immigration, healthcare and language access will impact them and their families. Yet many young people arent taking part in public policy and government issues because there is a general distrust in the government in youth, he said. We keep raising their tuition, so how do you expect young people to trust the government when the consequences of our choices are affecting them all the time? he said. The caucus holds several youth outreach programs like Internship Day at the Capitol. In the past, the caucus sponsored Asian-American members to speak at schools, created voting programs and created job shadowing and intern opportunities. But outreach is expensive and labor intensive, he said. Overall civic participation in the Asian-American community, including voting, has been historically low. A study conducted by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center showed that, overall, 53 percent of registered voters went to the voting booth in the 2006 primary elections, while only 43 percent of registered Asian and Pacific Islanders voted. Some young people believe that family viewpoints and obligations are reasons for the lack of political involvement in Asian-American youth. Siddharth Kulkarni, a 19-year-old sophomore at University of California , San Diego , said the lack of political discussion within Asian-American households also contribute to a lack diversity in the state legislature. Im pretty sure that politics isnt the first thing that many Asian and Pacific Islander families discuss over dinner, he said. Francais Choi, a 24-year-old senate fellow and graduate of University of California , San Diego , believes that the lack of involvement of Asian-American youth also stems from their families. When there is a lack of political involvement with our parents, political activity may seem less relevant in our lives, he said. Yet Kulkarin said he has noticed more families are becoming involved with politics as more realize the importance of discussing issues that affect the community. A lot of people are realizing that it takes more than just a well-paying job and that we need some way to influence political decisions, he said. We need to be politically involved. Assemblyman Torrico said its important that more young people realize the benefits of becoming involved with public policy and understand that the government can be a vehicle for positive change — especially since the Asian-American population nationwide is projected to increase from 10 million to 30 million by 2050. “They have a tremendous responsibility to make sure everyones voices are being heard as the demographics keep changing in California , he said.
5/17/07 Los Angeles Times: California is leading nation in diversity: Minorities make up 57% of the state’s population and one-third of the nation’s, data show. The growth is likely to affect public policy,
by Teresa Watanabe
Deepening the nation’s diversity, the minority population of the United States reached 100.7 million in 2006, led by California as home to the largest numbers of the two fastest-growing racial groups, Latinos and Asians, the Census Bureau reported today. Minorities now account for one-third of the nation’s 300 million U.S. residents, with the largest share of them 21% living in California . They now constitute 57% of the state’s population, including 13.1 million Latinos, 5 million Asians, 2.7 million blacks and 689,000 Native Americans and Alaska Natives, according to population estimates taken between July 1, 2005, and July 1, 2006. Non-Hispanic whites were still California ‘s largest racial group, at 15.7 million, but represented a shrinking proportion of the state’s population. “As goes California , so goes the nation,” said Marcelo Gaete, senior program director for the Los Angeles-based National Assn. of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund. Gaete and others said the nation’s increasingly diverse population would probably have a significant effect on politics and public policy because minorities tend to vote differently than whites. In California , minority voters have shown “systematic differences” from whites in their electoral choices, with more support for more generous immigration policies, taxation and public investment in schools, according to Dowell Myers, a USC professor of urban planning and demographics. He said the difference is partly rooted in the fact that minorities are younger, with a greater personal stake in public schools, for instance. Nationally, the median age for Latinos was 27.4, compared with 30.1 for blacks, 33.5 for Asians and 40.5 for whites. “There is a schism,” Myers said. “Older folks want older folks’ benefits. They don’t want to invest in younger folks’ benefits, especially if they’re minorities. But these people are the future workers, taxpayers and homeowners. To not embrace them is putting your dollar into the wrong end of the life cycle. “Fundamentally,” Myers said, “people have to realize we all have shared fates. It’s necessary to pull together to have one shared future.” The Census Bureau’s estimates are based on population change from 2000 using annual data on births, deaths and international migration. Gaete said the new numbers underscored the importance for California to hold an early presidential primary election in February 2008. Otherwise, he said, states with largely white populations, such as New Hampshire and Iowa , will end up with oversized influence in narrowing the field for a national population they do not demographically reflect. “The country is becoming increasingly diverse, increasingly colorful, and our political system should reflect that,” Gaete said. The demographers added what many political experts already know: that multicultural coalitions are the key to winning a growing number of elections today. Nationally, Latinos accounted for almost half the nation’s population growth of 2.9 million. Their numbers increased by 3.4% to 44.3 million in 2006, constituting 14.8% of the nation’s population, with the largest numbers in California, Texas and Florida. Blacks increased by 1.3% to 40.2 million, making up 13.3% of the nation’s population. New York , Florida and Texas had the largest black populations. Asians grew by 3.2% to 14.9 million, accounting for 5% of the nation’s population. The largest numbers were in California , New York and Texas . The census also counted 4.5 million Native Americans and Alaska Natives and 1 million native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders. The total of non-Hispanic whites who indicated no other race grew 0.3% to 198.7 million in 2006. Increasing diversity Minorities now account for one-third of the nation’s 300 million residents and make up 57% of California ‘s population. Census Bureau population estimates as of July 1, 2006 (in millions) California Nation White* 15.7 198.7 Latino 13.1 44.3 Asian 5.0 14.9 Black 2.7 40.2 Native American 0.7 4.5 Pacific Islander 0.3 1.0 Total population 36.5 299.4 * Non-Hispanic whites who indicated no other race Note: Group totals do not add up to the population totals because members of minority races may be counted in more than one group. Source: Census Bureau (A1) Minorities California is home to 20.7 million members of racial and ethnic minority groups, 21% of the nation’s total. California – 21% Rest of U.S. – 79% Source: Census Bureau estimates 2006 11/06 Los Angeles Times: Asian American voters flex muscles: Rebounding from a scandal, they see gains in both the electorate and the winners’ circle, by David Pierson A study released by the Asian American Pacific Legal Center that showed the Asian American electorate grew by nearly a third in Los Angeles County and more than two-thirds in Orange County in the last few years. Of 22 million eligible voters in California , about 2.5 million are Asian Americans. Southern California has the nation’s largest and most diverse Asian American population. The Asian Pacific American Legal Center ‘s study documented dramatic Asian American voter participation gains in L.A. and Orange counties but also showed that percentages did not equal the two counties’ overall turnout numbers. In the 2004 general election, 78% of registered voters in L.A. County and 73% of registered voters in Orange County voted. By comparison, 71% of registered Asian American voters in L.A. County and 68% of those in Orange County voted. Although L.A. County ‘s electorate grew by 11% and Orange County ‘s by 12% between the 2000 and 2004 general elections, the Asian American electorate in L.A. County grew by 29% and Orange County ‘s grew by 68% in those years. The survey found that 40% of Asian American voters in L.A. County and 37% of Asian American voters in Orange County were deemed to have limited English proficiency. Koreans and Vietnamese voters struggled the most with English, the survey showed. The majority of Asian American voters in the two counties were foreign born. In L.A. County , they represented 67% of 271,497 Asian Americans who voted in the 2004 general election. In Orange County , foreign-born voters made up 80% of the 137,583 Asian Americans who voted in the same election. Voters Recent years have seen sharp growth in the Asian American electorate in Southern California . The breakdown by ethnic groups: Asian American voters, 2004 general election Los Angeles County Group Voters Percent Filipino 78,770 29% Chinese 74,496 27% Korean 35,109 13% Japanese 31,130 11% Vietnamese 24,712 9% Asian Indian 12,616 5% Cambodian 3,706 1% Orange County Group Voters Percent Vietnamese 52,508 38% Filipino 25,358 18% Chinese 16,999 12% Korean 12,612 9% Japanese 9,860 7% Asian Indian 7,097 5% Cambodian 1,811 1% Note: Does not include all Asian American groups; numbers do not add up to 100%. Source: Asian Pacific American Legal Center .
11/8/06 Sacramento Bee: California Insider: Exit poll entrails, Some interesting stuff in the exit poll: Schwarzenegger made huge strides among minorities. He won 27 percent of the black vote, 39 percent of the Latino vote and 62 percent of the Asian vote. 9/14/06 Sacramento Bee, p. A4: New faces, but same old voters: State’s diversity grows, but whites account for most going to the polls, By Aurelio Rojas
The more the face of California changes, the more the state’s electorate stays the same: older white voters, college graduates and homeowners still account for the majority of voters, according to a new study. Seventy-two percent of likely voters are white, 53 percent are college graduates, 77 percent are homeowners and the majority are age 45 and older, according to the report by the Public Policy Institute of California. That profile does not square with the demographics of a state in which the majority of the population is nonwhite and under 45 years old, fewer than one in four adults are college graduates and 57 percent are homeowners. “We are a state that continues to experience rapid growth and demographic change overall in terms of our population, said Mark Baldassare, PPIC’s research director. “But we see less growth in the voter rolls and less change in terms of the demographics of voters.” Titled ” California ‘s Exclusive Electorate,” the report concluded that if nonvoters made their views known at the ballot box, state policies would dramatically change. For example, a large majority of nonvoters — 66 percent to 26 percent — prefer higher taxes with more services to lower taxes with fewer services, according to the survey, based on 23,000 interviews between May 2005 and May 2006. Baldassare said voter participation is particularly important in California “because our state brings democracy closer to the people through the initiative process.” He said greater voting participation, for example, would improve the chances of the $3 billion affordable housing bond on the November ballot. Voter participation has been decreasing for years. Baldassare said only 8 million of the 15 million registered voters in the state are expected to vote in November. Since 1990, California ‘s population has increased by 25 percent, but voter registration has increased by only about 15 percent. Only about 56 percent of adults are registered to vote, compared to a high of 65 percent in 1994. And only a third of those who are registered voted in the June primary, a record low, Baldassare said. Immigration accounts, in part, for low voter participation, since registered voters must be born in the United State or be naturalized citizens. One in three adults in California is foreign-born, but people born in the United States account for nine in 10 frequent voters, according to the study. Still, more than half of the 12 million nonvoters in the state are eligible to vote, Baldassare said. He said the most common reason people give in PPIC surveys for not voting are “interest and time.” “Time is one of those flexible things: If people have the interest, they find time to vote,” Baldassare said. “(But) we find that many of our nonvoters don’t find the political process today particularly relevant to their lives.” Baldassare said one of the most startling findings in the report is that there is the same number of registered Democrats and Republicans — about 12 million — than there were in 1990. The growth in registration has been in voters who declined to state their affiliation. “I think the political parties have really failed to seize the day in California and provide a reason for new voters,” Baldassare said. “I think it is a real statement about people’s alienation from the two-party system that we haven’t seen any growth.”
9/7/06 The UCLA Asian American Studies Center: The New Sleeping Giant in California Politics: The Growth of Asian Americans
by Letisia Marquez
Los Angeles , CA (September 6, 2006) In the 1980s and 1990s, Hispanics were considered the sleeping giant in California politics because of their growing numbers. Asian Americans are now the new sleeping giant and are at a point where Hispanics were about two decades ago.(1) They have significantly increased their potential power at the polls in California , according to an analysis conducted by researchers affiliated with the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and with the UC AAPI (Asian American & Pacific Islander) Policy Initiative. The analysis uses data from the 2005 American Community Survey (ACS) released on August 15 and 29, 2006 by the U.S. Census Bureau, along with previously released data from the Census Bureau.(2) The number of Asian Americans in California eligible to register to vote (citizens who are 18 and older) climbed by over a half million between 2000 and 2005, from 2 million to 2.5 million. The Asian American share of the a proportion of the state’s population eligible to register as voters increased from 10% to 12% during this time period. Two factors behind the emergence of the new sleeping giant are the overall increase in the total Asian American population and the higher rate of citizenship. Between 2000 and 2005, the number of Asian Americans residing in California s households increased from 3.8 million to 4.7 million, accounting for 38% of the net gain of 2.2 million persons in California s population.(3) Along with population growth, Asian Americans experienced an increase in their citizenship rate — 71% of Asian American adults are U.S. citizens by birth or naturalization, representing an increase from 67% in 2000.(4) These figures show that Asian Americans are not an alien population, but a population that has become fully integrated into American society through citizenship. The growth in the potential Asian American electorate over the last five years is a continuation of a pattern that began in the 1990s. In 1990, there were slightly more than one million Asian American adult citizens, comprising about 6% of all adult citizens in the state.(5) If recent trends continue, there will be over 3 million Asian American adults eligible to register to vote by the end of the decade, making up about 14% of all Californians eligible to register. The growth in the absolute number of Asian Americans and those eligible to become voters can have political ramifications. California State Assembly Member Judy Chu states that the overall growth of the Asian American population will open up new opportunities and challenges: “The incredible growth of Asian Americans in California and in the United States brings as much opportunity as it does challenges. Asian Americans continue to contribute to the cultural diversity and economic success of this nation, but the growing population also means that public services and elected representation will need to grow to accommodate the unique needs of our community.” Community leaders point to the potential impact on a number of public policy issues. Vivian Huang, Legislative Advocate of Asian Americans for Civil Rights & Equality, states, “With increasing population growth, Asian Americans are poised to dramatically escalate their political representation and power in politics and highlight key issues important to the community, such as civil rights, immigrant rights, and access to language assistance.” This opinion is widely shared by other community leaders, including Lisa Hasegawa (Executive Director of the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development), JD Hokoyama (President & CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics, Inc.), and Elena Ong (former member, California Commission for Women). According to Professor Don Nakanishi, a political scientist and director of UCLAs Asian American Studies Center, “This growth has contributed to the increasing number of Asian American state and local elected officials in California and nationwide. The Asian American political infrastructure of voters, donors, politicians, and community groups has also undergone remarkable growth and maturation, and will likely have an increasingly significant impact on state and national politics.” However, there are still barriers to fully translating the population numbers into voting power. According to Paul Ong, an economist and professor in UCLAs School of Public Affairs , The challenge is to convert the growing numbers of Asian American citizens into voters. Previous research and data for California from the 2002 and 2004 November Current Population Survey show that Asian American citizens are less likely to register and vote than non-Hispanic whites and African Americans.(6) (See Table 3.) For the upcoming November elections, community activists have focused on voter registration and voter-turnout drives. David Lee, Executive Director of the Chinese American Voters Education Committee, notes “Our bilingual voter registration efforts are yielding record numbers of Asian American voters in the immigrant community. Thanks to absentee ballots Asian American voter turnout has been growing rapidly.” Leading Asian American scholars believe that this group can become an effective voting bloc by formulating a common political agenda both among Asian Americans and across racial lines. The Asian American population is culturally, linguistically and economically heterogeneous. Despite these divisions, Professor Yen Le Espiritu, a sociologist in the department of Ethnic Studies at UC San Diego notes that, history has shown that Asian Americans can overcome differences to build viable pan-Asian political coalitions to promote and protect both their individual and their united interests. Moreover, Professor Michael Omi, professor of Ethnic Studies at UC Berkeley, predicts, different racial and ethnic groups will increasingly see the necessity of defining areas of common political concern and mobilizing significant voter blocs to wield political power.” The UCLA Asian American Studies Center is the nations leading research center in the field of Asian American Studies and houses a Census Information Center , which will continue to analyze data from the ACS as they become available. The UC AAPI Policy Initiative brings together University of California researchers and community organizations to conduct research focusing on the policy concerns of the AAPI community. Attachments: Graphs; Tables; Technical Note; Contact Sheet (1) In 1990, Hispanics made up 14% of adult citizens in California . In 2005, Asian Americans approach that level, with 12% of California s adult citizens. See Table 2: Percentages of California adults who are eligible to register to vote by race. (2) See technical note. (3) The 2005 American Community Survey covered only individuals living in households, that is, it excluded those living in institutions, college dormitories, and other group quarters. In California , Asian Americans represented over 13.4% of the total population in 2005, an increase from 11.8% in 2000. California s population grew by 2.2 million (33 million to 35.2 million), with the Asian American population growing by over 850,000 (3.8 million to 4.7 million). Nationally, the Asian American percentage of the nation’s population grew from 4% to 4.8%, an increase of over 3 million Asian Americans (10.8 million to 13.8 million). The national population increased by over 14 million persons, with Asian Americans accounting for more than 20% of this national population increase. (4) See Graph 1. (5) See Graph 2. (6) The national statistics for Asian American citizens are very similar, and there is very little difference in the statistics for U.S. born Asian American citizens and naturalized Asian Americans. 5/14/05 Pasadena Star News: Asian influence growing at polls: Population gains slowly taking hold, by Cindy Chang, Staff Writer It has been more than two decades since immigrants from Taiwan and Hong Kong began their massive influx into the San Gabriel Valley. Yet Asians have not achieved political power anywhere close to their numerical dominance. A smattering of Asians sit on local school boards and city councils. Two of the area’s representatives in the state assembly are Chinese American. But of the eight area cities with majority or near-majority Asian populations, only Monterey Park and Walnut have more than one Asian city council member. Rosemead , a city with an Asian population of just under 50 percent, elected its first Asian-American council member in March. Matthew Lin of San Marino and Chi Mui of San Gabriel are the first Asians to occupy the city council dais in those near-majority Asian communities. “So many Asians I spoke to when I was campaigning were so happy that they might get representation,” said Gary Yamauchi, the third-generation Japanese American who became Alhambra ‘s first Asian council member in November. “I had a lot of Japanese saying, We’re so happy a Japanese American is getting in there, starting to get involved in politics.’ ” The reasons for the lag in political representation are many, experts and Asians say. Some would-be candidates are too busy trying to establish themselves in a new country, or are not confident enough in their English skills, to run for office. Those who do run may find it difficult to break into old-boy networks that still operate in some cities. Racism is not as prevalent as it once was, but some Asian politicians say they still encounter subtle forms of discrimination. At the same time, Asian candidates are unable to fully tap into their natural base: Asian voter turnout is substantially lower than the group’s share of the general population. But politicians and academic experts say the seeds for change are in place, and it is only a matter of time before there are as many Asian faces on local diases as there are in local classrooms. Much progress has been made in the last decade, with the number of Asian officeholders creeping upward and new faces like Yamauchi, Lin and Mui winning breakthrough elections in their cities. “(Chinese residents) feel more comfortable with me — they feel we have a connection,” Mui said. “I speak Cantonese and some Mandarin, I can read and write. They feel more comfortable getting involved.” The vital structures of minority politics — Asian networking groups and fund- raising arms, nonprofits specializing in registering Asian immigrant voters — are already functional, if not fully developed. As more Asians rise to positions of power, they will evolve their own systems of patronage, just as their African- American and Latino predecessors have, political analysts say. And as the Asian population continues to grow in both influence and numbers, politicians running for statewide and national office will begin to pay attention to the needs of a group that has been labeled a “model minority” but still has many members who are limited by poor English skills and are struggling to obtain citizenship and establish themselves financially. “For sure, you’re going to see a lot more Asian-American elected officials at all levels — the city council, the school board, the assembly, the state senate for sure. The only question is how fast the pace will be,” said Paul Zee, an immigrant from Hong Kong who in the 1990s became the first Asian to serve on the South Pasadena City Council. Blueprint for victory From the outset of his Alhambra City Council campaign, Yamauchi enlisted a cadre of Chinese-American volunteers who were plugged into both the city’s business establishment and its Chinese-speaking immigrant circles. In what was shaping up to be a tooth-and-nail battle between two factions for control of the city, Yamauchi was backed by Alhambra ‘s political establishment. But he still needed every vote he could get. He was not sure how his Japanese ancestry would play. Unlike most of Alhambra ‘s Asian residents, he was not a Chinese or Vietnamese immigrant and could communicate with non-English speakers no better than any other candidate. His main opponent, a young Latina attorney, had the backing of a powerful, regionwide Latino political machine. Yamauchi’s strategists mapped out a campaign schedule that included stops at nearly every restaurant opening and awards ceremony where the Chinese- language media would be in attendance. He won endorsements from Asian groups like the Chinese American Business Association, emphasizing the need for an Asian representative who would have a natural sympathy with immigrant constituents. ” Gary ‘s got a very good opportunity, because at least he’s Asian and he’ll get a little bit more coverage in the Asian papers,” said Stephen Sham, a Yamauchi campaign aide who is contemplating his own City Council run in two years. Sure enough, Yamauchi’s candidacy was featured in publications like Sing Tao and the Chinese Daily News, primary sources of information for Alhambra voters whose poor English keeps them from accessing the mainstream media. But any advantage conferred on Yamauchi by his Asian ancestry was diminished by a simple calculus: Many of the city’s immigrant voters are not U.S. citizens, and many of those who have made it through the lengthy naturalization process are not registered to vote. In the November 2000 elections, which like 2004 included a presidential contest and city council and school board contests, Alhambra ‘s Asian voters cast 38 percent of the city’s ballots, according to a study of U.S. Census and county voting data by the Asian Pacific American Legal Center . That constitutes a sizable voting bloc but one that is still much smaller than Asian residents’ 48.6-percent share of the population. Getting immigrants to the polls The voting gap begins with citizenship. Only 49 percent of voting-age Asians in Los Angeles County are U.S. citizens, according to the APALC study. Those who are citizens are registered to vote at rates much lower than the population at large. Between 55 and 60 percent of the county’s eligible Asians are registered to vote, compared with 82 percent of the general population. In Alhambra , only about 45 percent of eligible Chinese were registered. In Rosemead and El Monte , the figure was about 38 percent for Chinese voters. Those Asians who are registered to vote generally turn out at lower rates than the rest of the population, though there are exceptions. Race-specific data for the 2004 elections is not yet available. “They say they’re too busy. They’re afraid it’ll mean jury duty. They say they don’t speak English or they can’t take off from work,”said Sandra Chen, former executive director of the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment, or CAUSE, a Pasadena-based group that registers Asian- American voters. Experts cite a variety of reasons for low voting rates among Asians, most centered on the immigrant population’s continuing adjustment to life in the U.S., whether it is poor English, burdensome work schedules or unfamiliarity with democratic institutions. The same factors, the experts say, have likely limited the pool of qualified Asians running for office. Local observers credit CAUSE with registering many new Asian voters and guiding them through the voting process. But CAUSE, the only group in the San Gabriel Valley that focuses on Asian voters, operates with four full-time employees and can only do so much to reach the tens of thousands of Asian citizens who remain unregistered. Some of the slack is taken up by Asian candidates looking to give themselves an edge by narrowing the gap between the population figures and turnout figures. Those candidates describe running into the same obstacles as their counterparts at CAUSE. “It’s so labor-intensive, my God. You have to take them by the hand,” said Joaquin Lim, a Hong Kong immigrant who is in his second term on the Walnut City Council. “If they’re newly registered, that doesn’t mean they’ll vote. You have to call them, remind them there’s an election coming up.” While African Americans and Latinos lean heavily Democratic, Asians split about evenly between the two major political parties and register Independent at a rate twice that of other ethnic groups, according to a study by the Public Policy Institute of California. In part because of the difficulty of crafting a message for such a diverse audience, most candidates for statewide office have done little to reach out to Asian voters, even though they constitute 12 percent of the population and 8 percent of registered voters statewide. A community that is already culturally and linguistically diverse is becoming even more fragmented as it grows in numerical and political strength, some observers say, making it harder for Asian politicians to establish a base. “Community leaders often struggle to find common ground between different Asian-American groups. That can mean divisions along ethnic lines, religious lines, gender lines or generational lines,” said Janelle Wong, a professor of political science at USC. “I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to bring the Asian-American community together to vote as a bloc.” Becoming one of them’ With the influence of a core constituency diminished, Asian politicians cannot rely exclusively on the Asian vote, even in majority or near-majority Asian cities. The need to capture mainstream votes may be one reason why Asian political representation has lagged. “With any minority group growing through immigration, you always have a lag. There’s a chunk not eligible to vote, and the population is a little higher than the voting power. Gradually they’ll gain power and do it in their own way,” said Fred Register, a Pasadena-based political consultant who worked on the re-election campaign of Assemblywoman Carol Liu, D-Pasadena. Some Asian candidates run “outsider” campaigns or live in one of the few cities where they can afford to draw support mainly from Asian constituents. Others, like Yamauchi and Zee of South Pasadena, were supported by mostly white establishments — still the most feasible route to power in many jurisdictions. Barriers at community service organizations like the Rotary Club and the YMCA, where local politicians traditionally cut their teeth, have fallen, with many Asians now serving as board members. “In Alhambra you haven’t been able to elect an Asian because of the old boys — a small group of old-timers that controls the city. Not one of them is Asian,” said David Lang, who has worked as a campaign consultant to Chu and former Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Woo and heads the Indochinese American Political Action Committee. “To overcome that, there are no shortcuts. You have to develop relationships with these people, become one of them.” That is just what Yamauchi did, serving as Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce president before running for City Council with the support of the Alhambra business establishment — a path that would have been unlikely for an Asian American a generation ago. Sham, the Hong Kong immigrant who helped Yamauchi with his campaign, has followed in Yamauchi’s footsteps, holding many of the same offices and cultivating relationships with both mainstream power brokers and the Chinese community as he eyes a City Council run in two years. “I’m 60. Guys 50, 60, 70 are truly lucky to be where we’re at because of our parents opening doors. They went through the bigotry and the discrimination, not us,” said Yamauchi, who was born in 1944 shortly after his parents were released from an internment camp for Japanese Americans in Arkansas . We’ve come eons’ Even as some old barriers remain and the numbers show that there is still a long way to go, the progress made by Asian-American politicians in the last decade is tangible. While Asians in Alhambra are just getting started, Monterey Park in 2003 elected a majority Asian City Council for the first time. In a city with an Asian population of over 60 percent, residents typically have a long list of Asian- surnamed candidates to choose from. A group called Chinese Elected Officials has about 25 members who currently hold office in Southern California and another 10 or so who are former officeholders. That’s a long way from its beginnings in the 1980s when Monterey Park Councilman David Lau and just a handful of others, including Judy Chu — then a Monterey Park councilwoman and now a state assemblywoman — held meetings at a local restaurant. Chu, D-Monterey Park , who started her political career during a time when white residents were pushing for “English only” signage and an us- versus-them mentality prevailed, is finishing her third and final term in the State Assembly, a beneficiary of a redistricting map that was expressly drawn to favor an Asian candidate. There are eight Asian-American assemblymembers, up from zero a little over a decade ago. The overtly racial issues that marked Chu ‘s days on the Monterey Park City Council have been replaced by more pedestrian concerns like balanced budgets and traffic. “We’ve come eons, I think. It’s almost like a whole new world today,” Chu said. “In those days, people said the most insensitive things and did not expect the Asian-American community to push back. But today, people are more careful to say such things. Today, we also have people in the Asian community who are more involved in the political process, so they are there to catch things before they get to such a polarized point.” Just a matter of time? All indications point to a continued influx of Asian immigrants into the San Gabriel Valley the coming decades. Asians, like Latinos, will have to contend with the eternal uphill battle of registering new immigrants to vote. While undertaken to some extent by political candidates themselves, the task is left mostly to under-funded nonprofit groups like CAUSE. But as immigrants who arrived in prior decades put down roots in the San Gabriel Valley and a native-born second generation comes of age, the Asian political presence is almost certain to grow, local politicians and analysts predict. The Asian Pacific American Legal Center and research institutions like the UCLA Asian American Studies Center are churning out policy papers, and networking groups like Chinese Elected Officials are showing neophyte politicians the ropes. Lawmakers like Chu are moving beyond the local level and will use both their name recognition and their backroom credentials to lay the groundwork for successors to be elected. “I think that as Asian Americans recognize how important politics is, they’ll recognize that they have to get involved, that if they want their interests to be reflected in politics, that Asian Americans have to be there,” said Leland Saito, a USC professor and the author of a 1998 book on racial politics in Monterey Park . 3/24/05 Los Angeles Times: Nearly Half of Blacks, Latinos Drop Out, School Study Shows by Duke Helfand Nearly half of the Latino and African American students who should have graduated from California high schools in 2002 failed to complete their education, according to a Harvard University report released Wednesday. In the Los Angeles Unified School District , the situation was even worse, with just 39% of Latinos and 47% of African Americans graduating, compared with 67% of whites and 77% of Asians. The report concluded that the public remains largely unaware of the true extent of the problem because the state uses “misleading and inaccurate” methods to report dropout and graduation rates. The California Department of Education reported that 87% of students graduated in 2002, but researchers pegged the rate at just 71%. Nationally, about 68% of students graduate on time, according to the analysis. The troubling graduation rates are most alarming in minority communities, where students are more likely to attend what researchers call “dropout factories.” The exodus of tens of thousands of students before 12th grade is exacting significant social and economic costs through higher unemployment, increased crime and billions of dollars in lost revenue, according to the report by researchers from Harvard, Johns Hopkins, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara, among others. “A diploma is a passport to economic success. If our high schools can’t get students the education they need, that will be an economic and social problem moving forward into the next generation,” said researcher Christopher Swanson of the nonprofit Urban Institute in Washington, which produced data for the report released by Harvard’s Civil Rights Project. Statewide, just 57% of African Americans and 60% of Latinos graduated in 2002, compared with 78% of whites and 84% of Asians, the report said. Using enrollment data, researchers produced what they believe are the most definitive graduation rates for California and its largest school systems. They cast aside the state’s method, which even California Education Department officials acknowledge is flawed. The state officials say they are forced by the federal government to use a formula that relies on undependable dropout data from schools. The Harvard report found that African Americans and Latinos in the state were far less likely to graduate than their white and Asian peers, reflecting an achievement gap that first appears in elementary schools. UCLA researchers noticed one troubling pattern in Los Angeles Unified: Most students who leave high school do so between ninth and 10th grades. In several Los Angeles high schools, UCLA researcher Julie Mendoza found that less than one-third of ninth-graders graduated on time. Principals at two of those high schools Jefferson and Manual Arts said students leave for a number of reasons but that their schools are taking steps to boost graduation rates. Jefferson High School Principal Norm Morrow attributed his school’s graduation rate pegged by UCLA at 31% partly to a transient student population and overcrowding that leave little opportunity for personal attention. He said that gangs, drugs and students working to support their families also figured into high dropout numbers. Jefferson serves large numbers of students from immigrant Latino families. To retain more students at the South Los Angeles campus, Morrow said, he has been working on dividing the school of 3,800 students into smaller learning centers.
2/28/05 Los Angeles Times; Commentary: Do Asian Americans Count in L.A.?
by Raphael J. Sonenshein,
Raphael J. Sonenshein, a political scientist at Cal State Fullerton, is the author of “The City at Stake: Secession, Reform, and the Battle for Los Angeles ” (Princeton University Press, 2004). When people talk about the L.A. mayoral race, four voter blocs are almost always discussed: African Americans, Latinos, Jews, and Republicans. Yet one of the largest groups in the city is rarely mentioned: Asian Americans. The 2000 census revealed that Asian Americans represent about 10% of the city’s population. When it takes as little as 25% of the vote for a mayoral candidate to make a runoff, 10% matters. Additionally, Asian American voters in California are increasingly showing a partisan orientation, moving into the Democratic column. From the late 1990s to the present, national and statewide Democratic candidates have been beating Republicans among Asian Americans by a 2-to-1 margin. Even in nonpartisan L.A. mayoral races, Asian Americans picked favorites, supporting Mike Woo in 1993 and James K. Hahn in 2001. So, if they have the numbers and are showing signs of group voting, why aren’t they more prominent in the power equations of city politics? Citizenship and voting rates among Asian Americans are part of the problem. They may represent 10% of the population, but Asian Americans make up only around 6% of the city electorate. But that cannot be the whole answer, because even a 6% bloc that makes a clear choice in big races should be a factor. One reason for their low political profile is that, district by district, Asian Americans in Los Angeles lack opportunities to win elective office or to control who does win. And yet this is the level where leverage is created and issues that build a constituency get articulated. Los Angeles election districts are simply too big and Asian Americans are too scattered to get a foothold. There are 15 City Council districts in Los Angeles , each with about 230,000 residents. Latinos account for a significant share of the population in half a dozen districts; African Americans hold voting majorities in three; Jewish voters are concentrated in several Westside and Valley districts; and Republicans are numerous in the northwest and eastern Valley. By contrast, Asian Americans are numerous everywhere, but dominant nowhere. Even Koreatown has a majority Latino population. And because neighborhoods with lots of Asian Americans are divided geographically from each other, they cannot be easily combined into one or two council districts. That means Asian American candidates are most likely to emerge in heterogeneous districts. Mike Woo was elected to the City Council from the old 13th District, including Hollywood , where no blocs dominated. Woo had a quality that Asian Americans must cultivate to solidify their clout crossover appeal. The role of demographic concentration can be seen in comparing Asian American political prospects at the state level with the situation in Los Angeles . There are eight Asian Americans in the state Assembly, five Democrats and three Republicans. Most of them represent districts with higher shares of the Asian American population than Los Angeles , such as San Francisco , Monterey Park and Garden Grove , and they are more likely to represent suburban than urban areas. Of course, even in these races Asian American candidates must build crossover coalitions. One way to jump-start Asian American electoral success in L.A. would be to create smaller City Council districts or separate boroughs, with their own elected councils, but such ideas may never materialize. More immediately, the city’s new neighborhood councils provide leadership opportunities with a real electoral future, and these positions could supplement current Asian American civic participation as public employees, community activists and members of city boards and commissions. The more Asian Americans who get elected, the more the population will have a political focus. With that may come even more voting and wider citizenship efforts in a reinforcing cycle that can make Asian Americans a major force to be reckoned with in Los Angeles politics.
2/23/05 Los Angeles Times: California Natives Trail in Finishing College: Lower rates than for rest of U.S. stem from poor public schools, families’ income, study says,
By Stuart Silverstein, Times Staff Writer
Young adult whites, Asian Americans and Latinos born in California have earned bachelor’s degrees at moderately lower rates than their counterparts from other states, according to a study being released today. The findings indicate weakness in college achievement among native Californians that is often overlooked because so many people who move to the state hold bachelor’s degrees. According to the report from the Public Policy Institute of California, even the highest-achieving group it tracked young adult Asian Americans from California lagged somewhat in educational performance. Based on figures from the 2000 census, the institute found that 67% of young adult Asian Americans born in other states had earned bachelor’s degrees, compared with 62% of those born in California . The young adult category in the study consists of those ages 25 through 29. Among whites, the bachelor’s degree rate was 32% for young adults born in other states, compared with 31% for those from California . For Latinos, the rate among young adults from other states was 15%, compared with 13% for their counterparts from California . Deborah Reed, the study’s author, attributed the weaker college achievement among California natives to low public spending on preschools and K-12 education, along with low family incomes and other factors. “Ultimately we end up with these differences in who gets a college degree, but the problem really starts way back in the beginning, before students go to kindergarten,” Reed said. However, she noted that so many people moving to the state have graduated from college that 30% of all young adult California residents hold bachelor’s degrees. The overall figure for the 49 other states is 28%. Joni Finney of the nonprofit National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education in San Jose said the state’s heavy reliance on its community colleges may also hurt. Students at those two-year schools often face difficulties in transferring to four-year colleges, she said. Reed acknowledged that some of the “born in California ” young adults included in her figures undoubtedly left the state as young children. However, she said there was no more precise gauge for determining from census figures the bachelor’s degree attainment of California-educated students. To test her findings, Reed looked at young adults born in California and living in the state as of 1995. She found that the percentage of bachelor’s degree recipients in that group was even lower, albeit only slightly. Among some demographic groups, there were exceptions to the general pattern. For young adult blacks, the percentage earning bachelor’s degrees was 15% around the nation and for the California-born. The study also showed that Californians of all racial and ethnic groups, like their counterparts across the country, increasingly earned bachelor’s degrees in the 1990s. Among the California-born, the rate climbed from 21% in 1990 to 25% in 2000. Nevertheless, the college achievement gap widened between higher- performing whites and Asians and lower-performing Latinos and blacks. The report found that among the California-born, the percentage earning bachelor’s degrees jumped over the decade from 53% to 62% for Asians, and from 23% to 31% for whites. By contrast, the figures rose from 10% to 13% for Latinos, and from 11% to 15% for blacks. She said a possible reason for the widening gap could be the ban California imposed on affirmative action in public college admissions during the 1990s. William G. Tierney of USC’s Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis noted that large numbers of Latinos are concentrated in poor-performing public schools in Southern California . He said the inability of urban public schools to prepare students for rigorous college courses “is a chronic problem that is moving toward a crisis.”
2/3/05 San Gabriel Valley Tribune: Asians lacking in areas of report: Health insurance, home buying cited,
by Ivy Dai Korean
Americans have the lowest percentage of health-insurance coverage in the state, despite a median income on par with Chinese and Japanese residents, according to a report released Thursday on Asian Americans in California . Koreans also have the lowest percentage of home ownership, falling below African Americans, Latinos and whites, according to the Asian Pacific American Legal Center report. “In contrast to popular opinions that Asians are doing well, the reality is that we’re facing many challenges in different areas,’ said Kimiko Kelly, an analyst with the center and co-author of the report. “Health-care coverage for the Asian population as a whole is average, but 40 percent of Koreans don’t have insurance.’ Legislators, educators, business representatives and nonprofit groups gathered in Los Angeles on Thursday at the Cathedral Plaza Center for the release of the report analyzing the fastest- growing minority in California . Despite the myth that Asians and Pacific Islanders are a “model minority,’ the report found they fell below the mark for per capita income, home ownership and college graduates. The 4.5 million Asians in California also have a higher percentage of crowded households, with three or more family members working and receiving public assistance. The disparities are more sharply evident in Pacific Islanders. Cambodian, Hmong, Laotian, Samoan and Tongan residents have the highest poverty rates statewide. “I think the biggest issue is to get the Hmong, Cambodian and other Pacific Islander groups together,’ Monterey Park Mayor Mike Eng said. “They really need to bring them to the table they lack funding, visibility and nonprofit groups.’ Monterey Park has the highest Asian concentration in Southern California at 64 percent, and is one of six cities in the San Gabriel Valley with an Asian majority. Thirty-nine percent of Asians in the state have limited English proficiency, according to the report. The language barrier is the biggest challenge educators, legislators and healthcare officials face in helping the Asian-American community, said the center’s Executive Director Stewart Kwoh. “People need to be able to communicate, so they can go to hospitals and other places for help. We need to train more people to engage in the community,’ Kwoh said. “It’s also a two-sided responsibility. More Asian Americans need to get involved.’ Monterey Park has developed linguistic and cultural outreach programs for new immigrants and seniors, Eng said. The Alhambra Unified School District also employs multilingual home school coordinators, said Quoc Tran, the district’s English language development coordinator. “We have 20,000 students in the district, and about 40 percent have limited- English proficiency,’ Tran said. “We have 26 different languages other than English.’ The report is based on 2000 U.S. Census data, and includes San Francisco Bay Area figures for the first time. The Legal Center plans to release a national report on Asian Americans next year with projections for 2010.
10/12/04 Sacramento Bee: Elections still province of white voters, The outcome of several races and measures on the Nov. 2 California ballot is uncertain, but experts say one thing is sure: Three in four likely voters are white. When the Census Bureau announced in 2000 that white residents had slipped below half the state’s population, many people assumed a political power shift was imminent. But white voters will dominate the electoral process for decades because voting is highly correlated with education and income, according to the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. In “The Ties that Bind: Changing Demographics and Civic Engagement in California ,” PPIC researchers warn that the imbalance between the populace and policy decision-makers could aggravate the chasm between the haves and have-nots in the state. ” California is headed into unchartered waters – the most diverse population in American history, voting rates lower than those in the rest of the nation and disproportionately low rates of voting,” PPIC President David Lyon wrote, summarizing the findings of authors S. Karthick Ramakrishnan and Mark Baldassare. Using data from numerous statewide surveys, the PPIC found only 13 percent of likely voters are Latino, 7 percent African American and 5 percent Asian. White residents make up three-quarters of likely voters. A list of counties with the highest and lowest voter turnout in the 2000 general election and 2004 primary election is telling. At the upper end, affluent counties such as Marin and Placer are clustered with overwhelmingly rural, white counties such as Amador, Alpine, Plumas and Sierra. Holding down the rear are largely agricultural counties with high percentage of Latinos and low personal incomes – places such as Imperial, Merced and Stanislaus counties. A third of the state is Latino, the lowest per-capita income group in California . Many Latinos are too young to vote, not citizens or illegal immigrants. Others who can vote don’t; Latinos account for a majority (57 percent) of adults who are not registered to vote, according to the PPIC. Marin and Imperial counties represent the polar extremes of wealth and political participation in California . A whopping 84 percent of registered voters cast ballots in Marin County in the last presidential election; little more than half did in Imperial County . Statewide, turnout was more than 70 percent. First and last among California counties in participation, Marin and Imperial are sums of their parts. Marin is largely white (84 percent) with a median household income of $71,306, according to the 2000 U.S. census. Only one in five residents is below the voting age. “Folks here pay attention to what’s on the ballot, the connection between candidates and measures, and what that means not only to their community but their household,” said Registrar Michael Smith. Imperial is agricultural and poor, with a median household income of $31,870. Abutting the U.S.-Mexico border, it is predominantly Latino (72 percent) – nearly a third of whom are too young to vote. “Because of our agricultural community, a lot of people work hours that exceed the hours the polls are open,” said Registrar Dolores Provencio. California counties have been receiving record numbers of applications for absentee ballots because of a 2002 law that allows anyone – not just the elderly and the homebound – to permanently vote absentee. But only 13 percent of registered voters in Imperial County have requested absentee ballots compared to 40 percent in Marin County . Counties depend largely on local funding to operate their elections office and conduct registration drives. A recent infusion of federal and state money is mostly earmarked for replacing voting machines. “We don’t have a person go out and promote voter registration drives because we’re so limited here,” said Provencio, who has only three full-time employees. Marin County , by comparison, has a full-time staff of 10 people to serve a larger population – 246,000 to 149,000 – and far more eligible voters. “While the office does not have a lot of people in it, there’s a community that we call on at election time,” including 20 part-time workers and 700 volunteers, Smith said. “They get engaged, involved and, as such, get the vote out.” Voter registration is largely the responsibility of political parties. Democrats have a big edge on Republicans in registration in California : 44 percent to 37 percent, according to the PPIC. But lack of political engagement has made recruiting minority voters a low priority. Ramakrishnan said money that could have been spent in California this presidential year by the parties was diverted to more competitive states. “Another thing that’s happened to discourage spending is a large increase in independent voters,” Ramakrishnan said. “The parties like to know who they’re targeting.” In the past decade, the number of “decline to state” or independent voters in California has increased from 1.5 million to 2.5 million even as turnout has declined. In the 2002 primary, California slipped below the national voter turnout average for the first time in a decade. Some analysts blamed the record low 34 percent participation of registered voters on lackluster support for Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and his Republican challengers. Turnout jumped to 61 percent in the historic 2003 recall that swept Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger into office – but receded to 39 percent in this year’s primary. In an effort to bolster voter participation, Schwarzenegger recently signed legislation ending California ‘s experiment with March primaries and returning the elections to June. Davis ‘ election in 1998, which ended 16 years of GOP governors, was widely attributed to a rapid increase in minority voters, especially Latinos. They were said to have become permanently politically energized by anger at Republican Gov. Pete Wilson’s endorsement in 1994 of Proposition 187. The voter-approved measure to deny public benefits to illegal immigrants was overturned by the courts in 1994. But the minority share of the California electorate dropped from 36 percent in 1998 to 24 percent in 2002, according to exit polls. The white share rose from 64 percent to 76 percent. The margin continued in this year’s primary. In Los Angeles County , where 40 percent of the state’s Latino voters reside, only 37 percent of registered voters turned out. Turnout has been above the state average in recent years in Sacramento County – 72 percent in the 2000 presidential election, 66 percent for the gubernatorial recall and 50 percent in this year’s primary. The county has a lower Latino voting population than other urban areas in the state. It did not pass the 5 percent federal threshold requiring the printing of Spanish-language ballots until after the 2000 census. Fewer than 2,000 Spanish-language ballots have been requested this year. “We still don’t have the numbers some other counties have,” said Registrar Jill LaVine. “This is something we’re going to have to build on.” Smith, the Marin County registrar, laments other residents of the state are not as politically engaged as the people he serves. “People who don’t vote, don’t have a political voice,” he said. “If they want to be heard, they darn well better get involved.”