Category Archives: NW Asian Weekly

Editorial: Getting involved in politics should not be limited by state borders

Originally published in the July 23-29 edition of the NW Asian Weekly

A controversy is stirring in Oregon as United States Congressman David Wu is receiving criticism for out of state donations for his reelection campaign. Wu, a Democrat, is the first Taiwanese American to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. As he heads into a tough season of campaigning to retain his seat in Congress, he has received a heavy amount of donations from Asians, mostly out of state.

“His latest financial disclosure report reveals that about three-quarters of the $230,000 he raised in the last three months came from donors with Asian surnames,” reports the Oregonian.”It’s friends helping friends,” stated Cupertino, California councilman Barry Chang in the Oregonian article, “that’s about it.”

Chang was one of those that helped Wu with fund raising for his campaign in Northern California.  Wu’s list of donors also includes many residents of New York.

One of Wu’s supporters, Howard Li, owner of the New York-based Waitex Group of Companies, reports company revenues exceeding $110 million a year.

Opponents of Wu argue that his donations are coming from outside of Oregon.

Thus, the argument is that Wu is lacking support inside Oregon. The most recent campaign financial disclosure report indicates that only eight percent of Wu’s campaign donations came from Oregon donors. Meanwhile, Wu’s chief opponent, Brad Avakian, has raised $195,000 between April 1 and June 30 with most coming from Oregonians.

While opponents may make the argument that Wu is seeking favor from friends outside the borders of the state of Oregon, he is not breaking any campaign laws.

The fact that donors have “Asian surnames” should not have negative meaning. In fact, it should be seen as a source of pride and community. Notably, Wu’s opponent, Avakian, an Armenian-American, has received donations from the Armenian-American community. But, not as much as Wu. This does not mean that just because you are Asian or Mexican or Italian that you should write out a check to a politician with the same ethnic background. But Wu’s donors show that Asian Americans are increasing its involvement in politics. It also means that they are making a political statement with their checkbooks.

The modern political campaign demands cash and its necessary to seek out campaign funding where you can find it. Out of state contributions does not stop Wu’s opponents from doing the same.

Wu is not the only politician receiving out of state contributions. In the state of South Carolina, Republican Governor Nikki Haley brought in $52,210 in campaign contributions in the past three months. Nearly 88 percent of the money came from out-of-state businesses, political action groups and individuals.

Asian American candidates from Hawaii and California have come to Seattle to raise funds for their campaigns back home. The practice goes back to the 1980s (and maybe farther) to former Delaware Lieutenant Governor Shien Biau (“S.B.”) Woo. He sought help from outside the state of Delaware seeking contributions to his senate campaign.

Race is not only a factor when political candidates seek contributions outside their state. Women candidates have sought funding from outside women’s groups to fund their campaigns.

The amount of money raised by Wu from Asians is a positive sign that Asians are becoming more involved in politics. Contributing to campaigns should know no state boundaries.

It is likely that opponents facing Wu this year may argue to Oregon residents that Wu raised money beyond the borders of Oregon and therefore is not representative of the voters in his district. However, soliciting contributions and serving your constituents are two separate things. The fact that Wu is receiving donations from other states does not mean he would neglect the voters that would reelect him. ♦

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Yao Ming for NBA Hall of Fame

Originally published in July 16-22 edition of NW Asian Weekly

Many National Basketball Association (NBA) fans were stunned when news came down that Houston Rockets Center Yao Ming would retire from basketball. Although he spent just eight seasons in the NBA, his legacy will extend much farther than his massive wingspan and last longer than his time playing basketball. Although Yao may not have had as long of a career as most NBA Hall of Famers, his impact on the game of basketball has been great.

As the top pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, many Americans did not know much about this 7′6″ man from China. Many thought that this was a grand experiment and that he would fizzle out of the league. Some thought his success was based on taking advantage of lesser competition in China and that he would fall apart under the pressure of playing at the highest level. However, Yao flourished. Many found out that Yao was more than just tall. He was athletic. He had nice footwork and a nice shooting touch. In his first season, he was voted to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He finished second for Rookie of the Year honors. He later became an eight-time all-star.

Yao was a force off the court as much as he was on the court. He was a pitchman for such major companies as Visa, Apple, and McDonald’s. Yao became one of the most recognizable NBA players in the world. His success in the NBA gave the league the opportunity to market the game in China and other countries in Asia. Yao’s presence (and success) in the league fostered the globalization of the NBA. Without Yao, the NBA’s popularity in China would not be as high as it is today. He has become an icon in his homeland and a hero to many aspiring basketball players. He also became widely popular in the United States. Yao’s teammate Chuck Hayes best described the uniqueness of being around Yao, “Michael Jackson was before my time. Elvis was before my time, but if I had to guess, it was like being around Yao Ming.”

In addition, Yao donated $2 million to the relief efforts after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and created a foundation to rebuild schools in the area. He also participated in various charity endeavors including the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders program, which conducted events in countries in Asia promoting positive social change, education, and health.

Despite a demanding NBA schedule, Yao continued his commitment to play for the Chinese National team. Unfortunately, the constant play took a toll on Yao’s body. The same feet that allowed him to move with such grace hobbled him. Yao’s last seasons with the Rockets were filled with injuries due to issues with his feet.

Yao’s NBA statistics were impressive. He averaged 19 points and almost 10 rebounds per game. Prior to his NBA career, he averaged 32 points and 15 rebounds in five seasons with his Chinese Basketball team in Shanghai.

It’s unlikely that we will see anyone as important to the global reach of the sport of basketball as Yao Ming. At the early age of 30, Yao’s career in professional basketball is over. Still, his legacy will live on much longer and his popularity will remain. He is truly an ambassador of the game and should be rewarded with the honor of being in the NBA’s Hall of Fame. ♦

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$14 million up for grabs: Community fund developing strategic plan to help businesses in Rainier Valley

From the NW Asian Weekly:

Offering below-market-rate loans for the Rainier Valley business community, the Rainier Valley Community Development Fund (RVCDF) continues its role in reviving business development after the light rail construction in the area. Former Seattle City Councilman Richard McIver was appointed as interim executive director in October to help guide the fund and draft a strategic plan for its future.

History of RVCDF

The RVCDF was established in 1999 in response to the massive construction project for the light rail in the Rainier Valley neighborhood. It was created as a self-sustaining, community-controlled, financial institution to stimulate economic development in the Rainier Valley area. The City of Seattle and Sound Transit committed $50 million to the fund. McIver hopes that the RVCDF will remain self-sustaining, and the strategic plan will address RVCDF’s sustainability. It is anticipated that funding from the City of Seattle’s Office of Economic Development will provide ongoing support for RVCDF activities through 2012.

The RVCDF first served as a fund to mitigate losses for existing businesses along Martin Luther King Jr. Way during the light rail construction. It now supplies loans for businesses in the Rainier Valley area.

At this time, approximately $14 million remains for business loans. For established businesses, loans average about $200,000 for a term of 5 years.

However, the range for loans is $50,000 to more than $500,000. For smaller or newer businesses, loans range from $10,000 to $50,000. “Our organization … assisted 99 Asian businesses during the light rail project and … made several loans after the project was completed,” stated RVCDF’s Business and Retention Program Officer Charleete Black in an e-mail.

Helping businesses after light rail construction

As interim executive director, McIver listed three priorities for the fund. “The first priority is to work with people that have survived the light rail,” McIver explained. This is in reference to business owners that endured the construction and are continuing or expanding small businesses. The next priority is real estate development, which includes looking at new investments from developers. The final priority is recruiting new businesses to the Rainier Valley area. He sees opportunities in building businesses in areas near the light rail stations at Henderson, Othello, and Columbia City to enhance ridership on the light rail line. McIver also hopes to develop a marketing brochure for the RVCDF to attract new businesses.

McIver indicated that his role at the RVCDF is temporary. “I agreed to take it on for 6 months, and we’ll see what happens,” McIver said. Prior to the end of his tenure, McIver will draft a strategic plan for the RVCDF, which will provide a roadmap for the future of the fund. A draft will be submitted to the board in May for consideration.

Although the RCDVF was welcomed by many businesses, there has been some criticism. Seattle City Councilman and former legal counsel to the RVCDF, Bruce Harrell, acknowledges the challenges the RVCDF faced, despite the fact that the vast majority of people were pleased with its work. “The feedback was very good, but some vocal people believed that the fund should do more, as they felt their businesses were still impacted.” Harrell added, “Some believed that the loan process was too difficult and the mitigation payments were too low.”

McIver recognizes that the RVCDF has denied businesses loans. “Some [business owners] are concerned with providing their personal finances [in order to qualify for a loan],” explained McIver.

“We are here to help people with business loans.”

RVCDF looks at factors including character, business capacity, and projected cash flow, as well as the impact a business will have on the Rainier Valley community. The RVCDF also provides one-on-one counseling and technical assistance.

Success story: Filipino Community of Seattle

One of the organizations that the RVCDF has helped is the Filipino Community of Seattle (FCS). A mainstay in the Rainier Valley since 1935, the Filipino Community Center sought help from the RVCDF when it looked to make improvements on its building. FCS received a $250,000 loan to finish renovations on its building.

“We knew that we would be able to afford their interest rates on their loans and, since the Filipino Community Center is one of the anchor institutions in Rainier Valley, they would understand our situation and they would be more willing to help us than a traditional bank,” stated FCS President Alma Kern. “As everyone can see now, we were able to add another 5,000 square feet to our building, including a second story with two big classrooms [and] meeting rooms, offices on the first floor, and a beautiful lobby.”

The funding for the renovation has produced positive results. “Since our renovation was completed in 2008, we have tripled the number of people visiting our center, doubled our rental income, and the numbers of meetings that are held at the center from various nonprofits and government agencies have tripled,” said Kern.

Future RVCDF leadership

Harrell hopes that the RVCDF will continue to assist businesses in Rainier Valley. “It is needed now more than ever because lending requirements are so tight. [This is] all the more reason for the RVCDF to have a strong portfolio.” He added, “The [RVCDF] board needs to be more aggressive to be established in the community.”

Harrell is positive that McIver will help lead the RVCDF in the community. “Richard McIver will do a good job in ensuring that new leadership is moving forward.” Kern mirrored Harrell’s comments, “Nobody knows and understands the Rainier Valley and its residents more than Richard McIver,” Kern said. “Richard McIver has the vision, compassion, and dedication to transform Rainier Valley into a community that is for everyone.

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The top 10 Asian American sports figures of 2010

Originally posted at the Northwest Asian Weekly.

2010 was another great year for sports. This year saw big international events with the Winter Olympics and the World Cup. It saw the return to play of Tiger Woods and the continued dominance in boxing by Manny Pacquiao.

Locally, the Mariners had a disappointing season as hopes of a World Series were quickly dashed and Don Wakamatsu was let go midway through the year. Former University of Southern California head football coach, Pete Carroll, began his first year as the Seahawks head coach. The University of Washington football team made it back to its first bowl game since 2002. On the women’s side, the University of Washington’s softball team made it back to the College World Series. Finally, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm claimed its second WNBA title.

There were landmark firsts in the NFL and NBA. Ed Wang became the first Chinese American to be drafted in the NFL Draft. Harvard University guard Jeremy Lin became the first Taiwanese American to play in the NBA. Also, former Sonics executive, Rich Cho, was chosen to be general manager for the Portland Trailblazers. Cho became the first Asian American sports executive in this position in the NBA.

The following is a list of the top sports figures from 2010:

  1. Manny Pacquiao

OK, so the Pac Man isn’t Asian American, but I couldn’t resist giving him a nod, as he was the most impressive Asian athlete of the year. He won both of his fights this year in dominating fashion. Additionally, he was elected to the House of Representatives in the Philippines Congress, representing his province of Sarangani. He was chosen as 2010’s World Boxing Organization’s Fighter of the Year. Last year, he was awarded the Boxing Writers Association of America’s Fighter of the Decade. His next fight will take place on May 7 against a yet-to-bedetermined opponent.

2. Apolo Anton Ohno

Ohno made history this year when he became the most decorated American Winter Olympic athlete of all time by earning a total of eight medals in short track speed skating. In Vancouver, Ohno won silver and two bronze medals in short track events.

3. Rich Cho

A former Seattle Supersonics intern, Cho moved with the Sonics to Oklahoma City where he assisted in the turnaround of the former Sonics franchise. Cho was named the Portland Trailblazers’ general manager this summer by owner Paul Allen. Cho is the first Asian American general manager in NBA history.

4. J.R. Celski

Celski won two bronze medals at this year’s Winter Olympics in short track speed skating. Growing up in Federal Way, he learned to skate on inline skates. The 20-year-old was turned onto speed skating on ice after watching the 2002 Winter Olympics. Celski’s mother is Filipino, and father is Polish.

5. Julie Chu

Chu is the first Asian American to play on the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey Team. Chu attended Harvard University where she played hockey and became the all-time leading scorer in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) history. In 2007, she won the award for best female collegiate hockey player. During the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Chu scored two goals and four assists in five games. The U.S. Women’s team won the silver medal in Vancouver.

6. Jeremy Lin

When I chose him for my top 10 last year, no one knew his name. Now, Lin is the first Taiwanese American to play in the NBA. Lin went undrafted after a stellar career at Harvard University but his exceptional play during NBA’s summer league led to signing with his hometown team, the Golden State Warriors. His replica jersey was on sale to the public prior to the NBA season, unheard of for an undrafted rookie. Although Lin plays sporadically for the Warriors, he has a cult following of fans largely due to his Asian heritage.

7. Ed Wang

Wang, an offensive lineman from Virginia Tech, was chosen in the NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. He is the first Chinese American to play in the NFL. Recently, he spoke with Chinese sports journalists about the NFL as part of a program to market American football in China.

8. Nonito Donaire

Donaire is the best Filipino boxer in the world not named Manny Pacquiao. The 28-year-old known as “the Filipino Flash” has 25 wins and one loss and fights in the Bantamweight (118 pounds) division. Donaire lost his second fight and has reeled off 24 straight wins. He won all three of his fights this year by knockout. Born in the Philippines, Donaire relocated to California with his family when he was a child.

9. Tim Lincecum

The two-time Cy Young winner was a key during the San Francisco Giants World Series victory over the Texas Rangers as he won two World Series games for the Giants.

 10. Zhaira Consiniano

Zhaira Constiniano is a 15-year-old Filipino American teenage ice skater who will compete for the Philippines at the 2011 Asian Winter Games in Kazakhstan. A native of Texas, the 9th grader is the youngest ever Filipino Senior Ladies Figure Skating champion. After the Asian Winter Games, she will compete at the 2011 World Junior Figure Skating Championship in Korea. Constiniano’s family and friends fund her international travel to competitions. Her dream is to be the first women’s figure skater to represent the Philippines in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia.

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Making the grade:Former sportswriter wins 2011 teacher of the year

From the NW Asian Weekly:

“A shock.” This describes Jae Maebori’s feelings after learning he had won Washington State’s 2011 Teacher of the Year. Maebori, a Kentwood high school English teacher to sophomores, was chosen from a list of 10 highly qualified nominees from across the state. Maebori was given the honor at an awards ceremony that took place Sept. 27th at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.

As the state teacher of the year, Maebori will travel to the White House in Washington D.C. and will be honored at a ceremony along with other state winners this May. Maebori and other honored teachers will meet President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and the Vice President’s wife Jill. Maebori expressed his excitement to meet all three but is interested to speak with Ms. Biden since she is a fellow educator. As a result of winning the award, Maebori and his family receive a trip to Washington D.C. Maebori’s parents are traveling from Hawaii and his brother and his family from California so that they can have a mini-family reunion while attending the ceremony. Maebori is 4th generation Japanese American. His mother was born in Hawaii, 6 months prior to Pearl Harbor. His father was born in an internment camp in Tule Lake, California.

Maebori, 38, grew up in Hawaii and moved to Seattle in 1990 to attend the University of Washington. He has lived in Washington ever since.

A sports writing career, a natural fit

“I fully expected, since my high school days, after being cut from the football team (in high school) that I would be a sportswriter,” recalled Maebori. “It was a natural fit and something I wanted to do the rest of my life.”

Maebori was a sportswriter for the University of Washington’s campus newspaper, The Daily. “I didn’t really have any fall back (career) except writing sports.” After graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in Communications with an emphasis in editorial journalism, Maebori interned with the Seattle Times. He then worked in the Tri Cities and then found work back in Western Washington with the South County Journal and Valley Daily News. In his seven years as a sportswriter, Maebori covered the Seattle Supersonics, the University of Washington football team, Mariners, and even horse racing at Emerald Downs.

Maebori’s coverage of the UW football team was his greatest thrill as a professional. “I had to do that (cover Husky football) in college, but then to do it on a professional level was a real dream.”

But, it was his work with high school sports that made him think about doing something more. “It was kind of push pull,” Maebori described. “I was kind of being pulled in another direction.” Speaking with high school athletes Maebori thought about how society was heading in a wrong direction. He thought to himself, “[h]ow will we get these kids in the right direction.”

Deciding whether to teach, Maebori found that his interviews with high school athletes were the most fulfilling. “High school athletes were eager to talk with me. I thought that it would be great to talk with them for more than just a 30 minute interview.”

It was a slow process to decide to become a teacher but Maebori made the decision. He volunteered in local high schools to see if he liked working with kids. “That was a blast. It confirmed everything.” Maebori’s second career was about to start.

Juggling work and school

Maebori went to Seattle Pacific University (SPU) from 1999-2001 for a Teaching Certificate. He later earned a Master’s in Education from SPU.
“It was the toughest thing I ever did,” recalled Maebori about working and going to school full time. “It tested my resolve and if I wanted to do this.” Maebori had to be organized in order to get his work done as well as his school coursework.

First teaching job from last sports column

When Maebori decided to close the door on his sports writing career, his teaching career began. During his sports writing career Maebori befriended the Mariners’ scoreboard operator, Frank Manthau. Manthau read one of Maebori’s last sports columns and inquired on what he would do next. When he learned that Maebori was going into teaching, Manthau, a teacher at Kentwood high school, informed Maebori of the opening. After a 20 minute interview, Maebori had his first teaching position at Kentwood. Manthau became Maebori’s mentor.

Relating to youth

At Kentwood, Maebori teaches English, Yearbook and coaches junior varsity boys’ tennis.   

Maebori acknowledges that class sizes are a challenge. He works with 100 kids a day in classes that have over 30 students.  Despite the numbers, Maebori tries to make sure he connects with each individual student. “It’s a challenge because there are so many kids.”

As a way to connect, Maebori attends his students’ sporting events, plays and other extracurricular activities.  “I believe in supporting kids outside the classroom.” Maebori says it shows that he is investing in them. He feels this connection outside the classroom helps inside the classroom.

Maebori’s teaching style tries to use current student interests in teaching plans. “Everyone wants to be an expert on something. If I can tap into something that they are interested in, it’s a win-win.” Maebori has used everything from analyzing rap lyrics, snowboarding, cars, video games, to looking at the characters of MTV’s “The Jersey Shore.” The enthusiasm in the subject matters is driving everything and its Maebori’s job to make the connection between students’ interests with what Maebori is teaching. The process takes more work and challenges Maebori to be more creative.

 “Jay is not every student’s favorite teacher.  He challenges and stretches their thinking,” said Kentwood Principal Douglas Hostetter, “Sometimes students equate this challenge with Jay being too difficult. But in the end, students appreciate and respect Mr.  Maebori for increasing their ability to think and communicate (read and write).”

Winning teacher of the year

Maebori’s path to winning state teacher of the year is similar to winning a basketball tournament. In order for Maebori to win state teacher of the year, he was nominated by his supervising administrator at Kentwood. He won Kent School District Teacher of the Year which entered him into the regional award. Maebori won Regional Teacher of the Year. Maebori was chosen in a region comprised of 35 school districts in the Puget Sound area. After regionals, he went on to the state level where he was awarded 2011 teacher of the year.

The overall process spanned over six to seven months. Throughout it all, he met some impressive teachers in the state. “Education is in good hands,” Maebori said.

Missing sports

Maebori vividly recalls the last big sporting event he covered was the 2001 Rose Bowl, the last Rose Bowl the Washington Husky football team played in. Maebori had hoped that he would get a chance to cover the Rose Bowl as a professional and was fortunate to do so before he left sports writing.

Although he misses sports, he has found teaching just as rewarding if not more. Maebori analogized missing his prior career to missing his childhood home of Hawaii. “I love Hawaii, I do, but I miss it less because I love living in Washington,” Maebori added, “I miss sports writing less because teaching is so fulfilling.”

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Local Filipino Girl Debuts on Big Screen

The latest from the NW Asian Weekly features NW native, Jada Morrison debuting in her first film, Dear Lemon Lima.

Photos courtesy of Morrison family and film poster courtesy of Dear Lemon Lima.

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Love, Basketball and the Philippines

The latest from the NW Asian Weekly. Rafe Bartholomew’s newest book, I highly recommend, about the love Filipinos have for hoops.  The fact that Manny Pacquiao balls to get ready for fights tells you something about how much people love hoops.

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