City Council Review: Council Members Criticize Kathy Watanabe for Anti Asian Hate Rally, Downtown Community Task Force Gets Additional Funding

By Robert Haugh

In another long City Council meeting, about an hour was spent criticizing Councilwoman Kathy Watanabe for a Stop Asian Hate Rally she organized on March 31.

Councilman Kevin Park requested to speak at the rally but was denied. Park took his complaints public to a variety of media sources, saying he had been snubbed by Watanabe. Park believes that was wrong since he is the only Korean-American on the City Council.

Watanabe said that Park never RSPV’d to the event and only requested to speak just before it was about to end. Watanabe had personally paid for a permit for the event at the Northside Library. The time limit was one hour.

Of the approximately dozen speakers, more than half were Asian.

Watanabe was taped at the podium saying this to Park: “No, I’m sorry, no, this is my event, so, that’s OK. Thank you, anyway. Thank you for being here. I appreciate the support.”

On Tuesday night, Park appeared for the first time since his election on camera at a City Council meeting. You can watch his initial statement here.

“I understand the desire to help the young girl, the young Asian girl, that was abused. She’s just a child,” said Park. “But what about the Asian man that was abused (himself) by a mother (Watanabe) who acted like a child?”

During his comments, Park also made it clear that he felt Watanabe had also snubbed him in the past. Park said she had issues with him going back to their time serving on the Sister City Board. 

Other Councilmembers also criticized Watanabe for denying Park the chance to speak. Councilmen Anthony Becker and Raj Chahal said they have also felt disrespected by Watanabe at various times.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor defended Watanabe. “Everyone who knows you and many, many people in your district and throughout the City know that you would not do anything to hurt people or to not include people,” said Gillmor.

“I am sorry I could not accommodate him (Park),” said Watanabe. “If possible I would have done so as he is an important member of the AAPI community and as a leader in Santa Clara and his participation would have truly made the event better.”

In her statement, Watanabe apologized to the Asian community and to Park.

Downtown Community Task Force

On Tuesday, the Downtown Community Task Force (DCTF) made a presentation to the City Council about their work to date. 

They’ve worked with an urban planner, toured other successful downtowns around the state, studied zoning issues, and discovered “best practices.” The City has spent $500,000 on these efforts.

The DCTF outlined their next steps that will cost approximately $448,000.

The City staff will review the budget request and return to the Council with recommendations. The funds will have to come out of the City’s rainy day fund.

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