State Senator Yee visits L.A., seeks support of Fil-Am leaders

SENATOR LELAND YEE (center) with Filipino American Service Group Inc. Executive Director Susan Dilkes and her husband Edward at Salakot Restaurant in Los Angeles. A friend of Filipino-Americans, the state senator is running for city mayor of San Francisco. Photo: Benny Uy

If all goes well, Yee may yet be the first Asian-American to become SF city mayor

To say that the Chinese are now dominating the globe – no thanks  to its almost 10% growth rate compared to the U.S.’ dismal 1.3 percent during the same second quarter  period this year – is an understatement. But one Chinese immigrant in San Francisco, where 30% of the city residents are of Chinese descent, may yet become the first Asian-American ever to be elected as mayor of the city come November.

Arriving in the U.S. when he was just three years old, Leland Yee, currently serving as California State Senator representing the Bay Area, was perhaps born to serve. Prior to becoming a state senator back in 2006, Sen. Yee served four years in the California State Assembly. In 1996, Yee was elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He then served in the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education for eight years prior to his stint in the Legislature. A son of a U.S. Army, Sen. Yee is the first Chinese American ever to serve in the California State Senate.

Last Wednesday, Sen. Yee was in Los Angeles to meet with several Asian leaders, Filipinos among them. Together with our friend and colleague, Francis Espiritu, the man behind Philippine News, who traveled with Yee all the way from up north, the senator granted BALITA MEDIA a one-one-one interview to share with our readers what he has in store if elected San Francisco mayor.

Jarred by what just happened in Washington where the U.S,. Congress almost caused the U.S. to go into a default and the biggest drop in the stock market since 2008, Yee said the city of San Francisco is still reeling from an economic crunch where unemployment is over nine percent, even if tourism may be on the rebound in 2010.

Yee told BALITA MEDIA that growing business in the city will be his first priority if elected mayor of San Francisco. A Democrat, Yee said this will involve giving tax breaks to businesses but not just to big corporations but to small businesses as well. “Tax incentives will be tailored to specific business,” Yee said, and that training of the unemployed and of those still in school will be “extremely critical” if the city intends to address its present economic state.

A pillar of public education, Yee also took notice of the rising cost of education that he said is impacting the city but at the same recognized the deteriorating state of education in the whole of United States whose students are faring miserably compared to other students in other  states, not to mention the whole world.

“We are the eighth economy in the world,” Yee said of California. “Yet, we are ranked 47th among the 50 states in funding public education. This is wrong.” Yee said that with the state’s resources, “we can be the very best in educating our children.”

As a result, Yee said many of the Bay Area’s more influential and affluent families are choosing to go to private school. “What’s happening is that we’re losing the more influential with the loudest and strongest voice because they’re no longer in public schools. More and more of these individuals with money and power have been forsakenly leaving  our public schools.”

When asked if immigrants, in particular undocumented children, are impacting public schools, Yee said he supports the Dream Act – a measure to allow undocumented students to earn permanent residency after attending high school in the U.S. – because “it is important that we educate any child so that they will not become a burden to the society.”

Any student who doesn’t go to college, Yee said, “will not realize his or her potential.” Most importantly, Yee said, “anyone whom we educate, it’s not that they intend to leave the state,  they’re here to stay and contribute to the economy.”

Interestingly, while Yee may yet be the first Asian-American mayor of San Francisco, supporters said Yee wants a Filipino to win a California Senate seat. A friend to many Filipino leaders in Los Angeles, Filipino-Americans look up to Yee in the State Senate, where has always been a proponent of measures to help the Filipino-American World War II veterans and other measures that benefit the community.

Yee told BALITA MEDIA that he also looks forward to establishing better trade relations with the Philippines to enhance economic cooperation between San Francisco and Manila to bring more business to the city, where a huge number of Filipinos reside and work in the San Francisco’s financial district. Yee said he came to Los Angeles and meet with local leaders because he knows that many relatives of Fil-Ams in Southern California reside in San Francisco.

Yee is running against current board members Board President David Chiu and Supervisor John Avalos, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, former supervisors Bevan Dufty, Michela Alioto-Pier and Tony Hall, and venture capitalist Joanna Rees. And according to recent reports, interim San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is also contemplating on running for mayor for the city, which is home to more than 800,000 people, which according o Wikipedia, is the 13th most populous city in the U.S.

Luchie Mendoza Allen

Luchie Mendoza

Luchie Allen


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