Pan Asian group flunks Rahm, but gives del Valle a top grade

11 Feb

(Photo by Maham Khan)

By Maham Khan

Rahm Emanuel’s absence was conspicuous at the recent Pan Asian mayoral candidate forum, organized by the Pan Asian Voter Empowerment (PAVE) group of the Asian American Institute.

The four candidates present were Carol Moseley Braun, Gery Chico, Miguel del Valle and Patricia Van Pelt-Watkins; plastered to the candidates’ table was plain white poster board with the words “Rahm Emanuel?” written on it.

Gery Chico made the most obvious reference to his missing rival with a “Certain people who are not here want to raise taxes…” approach.

“I think it’s a huge mistake that Rahm Emanuel didn’t participate,” said executive director of the Asian American Institute, Tuyet M. Le. “This event was meant to show the candidates our ability to mobilize and vote—in unity our votes really count.”

Over 800 people packed St. Augustine College’s brown-brick and cement room. Large screens on both ends translated the discussion into Chinese. The Pan Asian room was a mix of people from Pakistan, India, Korea, China, Vietnam and more.

The evening’s format involved representatives from various Pan Asian groups presenting a question or issue common to the community. Candidates were then given one minute each to address the concern and issues. Issues ranged from redistricting, small business and entrepreneur support to more security in culturally diverse neighborhoods.

ABC Channel 7 reporter and anchor Ravi Baichwal moderated, asking questions that confronted illusions between the candidates and this specific community.

After several candidates offered up plans for making information more accessible and transparent through the web to help adress the needs of this community, Baichwal asked the question: “How many people here actually go to a website to get information on government programs?”

Less than a third of the room raised their hands.

“That’s what we’re looking at,” Baichwal said to the candidates.

Hot promises for Asian support were made this bitter cold night in Chicago.

“I will hire more Asians to the administration so they can see their reflection in the city,” Chico promised.

Both del Valle and Watkins promised to generally “empower the people.”  Van Pelt-Watkins added that she would create a government funded ladder program to help new Americans learn English so they can acquire jobs.

Braun also promised to add more Asian police officers to the police force to cater to neighborhood language needs.

Candidate popularity for the evening was most notable for del Valle, whose fervor-filled remarks met with frequent whistles and applause. In charismatic preacher style he stood and gestured passionately towards the audience, repeating a “we need to empower the people” mantra.

The forum’s organizers said they felt the event was a success and they hoped all candidates—those present and not present, realize the important role Asians play in Chicago.

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