ARCADIA — A group organized to draw Asian-Americans into local politics, encourage racial harmony and support public education is planning to endorse candidates in the April 16 school board election here.
Chairman David Ma said the new Asian-American Assn. for Arcadia is the first grass-roots Asian political organization in a San Gabriel Valley city. The school board endorsements, he said, will be the first step toward creation of a political force to influence officeholders and, "somewhere down the line," to work for the election of Asians.
Ma estimated that 10% of Arcadia's 46,000 residents are Asian, most having moved here in the last five years. Arcadia school officials say 17% of their students are of Asian descent.
Ma said the association will focus initially on community relations, helping Asian immigrants adapt to new surroundings and offering schools and other institutions advice on dealing with the newcomers.
Ma said the influx of Asians could lead to "tension and misunderstandings." Indeed, he said, race-related fights have already occurred at Arcadia High School.
Schools Supt. Elbert Souders downplayed racial violence, saying, "We've had two fights in four or five years," but he said he welcomes the association's involvement with the schools. "I look at it as a very positive group," he said, adding that organizers have already helped open communication to parents who do not speak English.
Ma said the group is beginning with about 50 members. Vice presidents are Sheng Hsiung Chang, a physician and president of the Arcadia Chinese Club, and Victor Tseng, a bank manager. Others on the board include a research scientist, a real estate broker, a surgeon, a civil engineer and a teacher.
A membership drive will be undertaken to try to enroll at least 10% of the city's Asian population, Ma said, adding that support from non-Asians who share their concerns also will be welcomed.
At one point, the group considered entering an Asian candidate in the school board race, Ma said, but there was no time to develop support and create an effective campaign. Instead, the group will offer endorsements after interviewing the candidates individually or at a candidates' forum. Five candidates, none of them incumbents, are competing for two board seats.
Though the Asian-American Assn. for Arcadia is believed to be the San Gabriel Valley's first Asian political group at the municipal level, there are other Asian political organizations.
The Chinese-American Political Action Committee, headed by Monterey Park attorney Michael Eng, was organized two years ago and has worked for city office-seekers in Monterey Park and Los Angeles, but it is regional in scope, drawing members from throughout the west San Gabriel Valley.
Eng said he welcomes the new Arcadia organization and hopes other cities will organize similar groups. He noted that there are plans under way in Monterey Park to organize an Asian Democratic Club.