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Council Candidates Showcase Experience Versus Promises

At Wednesday's forum sponsored by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association, all six candidates running for two council seats answered questions about retail, traffic, Lehigh, donations, diversity and new immigrants.

While the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA) is an Asian American organization, the city council candidate forum it hosted Wednesday night was not centered on Asian American issues.

Although a question about how to help new Aisan immgrants did arise, the forum mostly addressed general concerns such as retail, in particular, traffic, campaign donations, and .

At the forum, all six candidates running for two council seats answered questions posed by different organizations and individuals but all read by moderator Hsing Kung, honorary chair of APAPA.

When addressing issues, the candidates emphasized either their experiences serving the city or their unprecendented ideas that could make the city a better place.

Current Mayor Gilbert Wong, who is the only incumbent among the candidates, said he feels "humbled and honored" to have served the city for four years, and hopes to continue his endeavors such as keeping the library open seven days a week and supporting programs that promote diversity.

Planning commissioner Marty Miller stressed his familiarity with the city's land use. He also said only Wong and himself have real experiences working for the city among all the council candidates.

"Positive actions count more than promises," he said.

Another candidate Homer Tong strongly objected and pointed out his own 19 years of experience with the Fremont Union High School District as a five-time board member and four-time president.

Retired teacher Donna Austin used her teaching and volunteering experiences to demonstrate her understanding of city affairs and determination to improve them.

Entrepreneur Rod Sinks, on the other hand, said he would bring his success formula from the business world to the city council. He called for "new energy and vision."

Attorney Chris Zhang as another newcomer in politics also named new ideas as the city's future hope.

"I have detailed plans for all the issues featured in my campaign, to do what's best for our community," he said.

As for the six candidates' concrete solutions to the issues raised at the forum, some of them overlapped.

To bring more businesses to Vallco, Miller, Austin and Zhang all said the city could offer temporary tax reductions as incentives, and shorten the permit process. But Zhang added that transforming Vallco into an outlet mall may be a radical but positive solution.

In terms of Lehigh, all the six candidates said they would closely monitor the cement plant to make sure it complies with federal and county environmental standards. They all conceded that Lehigh is not under Cupertino's jurisdiction, so the city needs to work with federal and county agencies on Lehigh problems. 

Even so, Sinks said, "We can do what Los Altos and Los Altos Hills have done." (See a related story on Los Altos Patch ).

As for school traffic, Zhang and Wong both said the city can increase crossing guards to make walking or biking safer in order to reduce cars around the schools. Austin said there should be parent education to encourage car pooling.

In helping new immigrants, Wong named existing city programs such as Leadership Cupertino and citizenship classes of the Senior Center. Tong detailed his endeavors in keeping adult English as Second Language classes in the FUHSD strong. Sinks said he hired countless new immigrants and helped with their H1 visa and greencard applications.

Miller suggested translation services at city council meetings. Austin elaborated on her involvement with muliti-lingual services in the library and a multicultural TV program. Zhang said he would provide more multicultural activities in the senior center.

Despite some shared opinions, the candidates confronted one another on the campaign donation issue. Sinks questioned those who received donations from real estate developers.

Wong said the donation process was "transparent and legal," stressing that he has been an independent voice on the council.

Tong said it has been his rule to abstain from voting on the FUHSD board when there is a conflict of interest, and he would take that to the council. Miller said he always votes fairly on the planning commission, and would also keep himself from voting on anything with a conflict interested if elected to the council.

Neighbor NextDoor October 28, 2011 at 07:37 AM
It was odd that Mayor Wong could not say what he has accomplished in four years of his first term, declined to recuse himself from voting on items involving his large donors and yet still wishes to be re-elected to do the same all over again. To answer the question of how to solve traffic problems around schools, the "experienced" incumbent and two veterans of the planning commission did not explain why they did not solve the very problem on their watch in the last ten years.
Susan October 28, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Conflict of interest question: "Would you recuse yourself from the voting or any items before the City Council if it involved someone who has donated a large contribution to your campaign." Gilbert Wong and Donna Austin are the only candidates who failed to answer whether or not they'd recuse themselves, while Austin viewed the conflict of interest issue as a "distraction." See for yourselves. APAPA Candidate Forum: http://www.cupertino.org/index.aspx?page=128#video The question's timecode: 57:52

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