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.

One comment

  1. Missing in the SJ Mercury News coverage, but stated in the East Bay Times, was the claim that CW Watanabe only extended her invitation on March 30th, thereby giving the other six Councilmembers 24 hours’ notice of the Stop Asian Hate rally.

    Time context does matter here.

    Had I been on her staff, I would have made damned sure that notice of CW Watanabe’s rally – protesting the very serious, evil and vicious criminal acts on our streets and directed against one racial group – would have gone out at least a week before, and in particular, to her six colleagues on the Council.

    In fact, the Agenda of the Council and Authorities meeting of March 23rd would have been the perfect place to get this on the record. (Agenda Item 21-460 that afternoon was the Resolution against anti-Asian hate, but Item 21-461 should have been the invitation to the rally.)

    A misstep on the part of CW Watanabe, maybe. But no one’s hands are really clean in this uproar: Unfortunately, CW Watanabe has now given the five “49ers Friendlies” on our city council just the ammunition they are now using against her.

    This is bad news, because it undercuts CW Watanabe’s responsible representation of her Council District in Zip Code 95054 against the ripoffs perpetrated against the city and Stadium Authority by the suits in the San Francisco 49ers’ front office.

    And all of this is happening at a time in which the office of the City Attorney is trying to defend the city and Stadium Authority in seven separate actions involving the Forty-whiners – and in which most of the five “49ers Friendlies” have actively refused to aid in our defense.

    I wouldn’t minimize in any way the justifiable public outrage over the stream of violence directed at Asian-Americans on our streets. But after the events of March 31st, there now should be another, new, bigger public rally protesting that same public violence. Central Park on Kiely would be perfect.

    And at that time, all seven of our City Councilmembers need to be on that podium. At least three of them, I’ll bet, will have much to tell us.

    Then, all seven of them, and not just Mayor Gillmor and CW Watanabe, need to cooperate fully in the defense of our city against the San Francisco 49er’ Stadium Mob.

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