So I am “friends” with some random people on Facebook. For a while I was pretty much just accepting most friend requests without a lot of scrutiny until I got paranoid and started wondering if that people were friending me to figure out my personal life or something like that. I don’t post a ton of personal stuff just the occasional witticism from one of my kids. Typically it just ends up being a thread of my twitter feed because it all cross posts from there.
Anyway one of my “friends” on Facebook is Stewart Chen, yes former City Council person Stewart Chen. When he asked on Facebook whether he should take another shot at running for City Council it took a lot of will power to not type in “yeah, I think not” in his comments section. Figured it wasn’t really my place to tell him that he squandered his incumbency and support the last time around by not being more forthcoming about his checkered past. And while I think his dismal performance on the City Council was more meaningful for voters to take in consideration I’m pretty sure that the expose was more damning than anything else.
But anyway, that was the least of the ugh-worthy. At Tuesday night City Council meeting there was an agenda item about the Circle K convenience store on Webster Street. A while ago the Circle K owners went to the Planning Board to get a use permit to sell beer and wine. For a variety of reasons the Planning Board voted down the use permit which, at the time, I disagreed with the Planning Board’s decision. Not because I’m a huge consumer of alcoholic drinks that I need to pop in when I’m pumping gas, but just because it would be an allowable use by right (retail sales). At that time City Staff had recommended approval of the use permit. Anyway that 2012 decision was appealed to the City Council (Marie Gilmore, Rob Bonta, Lena Tam, Doug deHaan, and Beverly Johnson) which voted unanimously to uphold the decision of the Planning Board.
Fast forward to last year and the owners again attempt to secure a beer and wine sale permit, this time City Staff recommends to the Planning Board to decline because nothing had changed from 2012 to 2015. The owners appeal to the City Council which is what was heard Tuesday night. Tony Daysog decides to recuse himself from the discussion because he lives “close” to the property in question. When the City Planner remarked that he checked to make sure Tony Daysog was more than 500 feet away so he was eligible to vote on the project, Tony Daysog excused himself from the discussion and vote anyway.
The vote came down to two against two. Because there were not enough votes to reverse the decision of the Planning Board, their decision held.
Yesterday afternoon Stewart Chen who has recently become a champion for Asian American progressive issues in Alameda posted a tsk tsking post on his Facebook page about the vote taking Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Frank Matarrese to task for not voting to reverse the decision of the Planning Board. But what was really infuriating about the post was the framing as, and I quote “Another blow to Asian Americans in Alameda !”
I’m not sure what the first or second “blow” was but what. the. fuck.
Look, I’m fairly hyper sensitive to social justice issues and I’m always good and ready to point when I feel like something is discriminatory or unjust. But this is not it. It’s not. This vote was not an issue of the owners being Asian, this vote was because the two City Councilmembers who didn’t want to reverse two Planning Board (and the 2012 City Council) decisions because they found their findings to be compelling and reasonable.
This is what I wrote to Stewart Chen’s Facebook post:
That’s ridiculous, the owners being Asian had nothing to do with the denial of the beer and wine sale. The City Council didn’t have enough votes to overturn the Planning Board’s decision. I hope that your March newsletter will not improperly report what happened. It’s not a blow to Asian Americans, it sucks for the owners but its not some sort of civil rights issue.
Shortly after that Stewart Chen edited his initial post to add in some Chinese text — FYI, I’m not Chinese so I can’t read it — but the only name in the Chinese text was that of Marilyn Ashcraft. So unless Frank Matarrese’s name suddenly has a Chinese equivalent that I was unaware of Stewart Chen is pointing his Asian faux rage directly at one of the people he intends to run against. So then, I posted this:
With your update to include a Chinese translation and only targeting Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft I feel like you are attempting to create some sort of false narrative in order to smooth your run for City Council. As Malia Vella pointed out there are –arguably — more important Alameda specific Asian American issues deserving of attention and affects a much more vulnerable population. As an Asian person I am uncomfortable with you using a completely unrelated issue, dress it up in the clothing of discrimination in order to tar someone with an unfair feather.
Pretty sure I’m going to be unfriended by Stewart Chen in no time. Anyway it’s pretty gross to take a fairly innocuous agenda item and turn it into some huge slap in the face to Asians everywhere.
Besides where was this rage, these calls for discrimination four years ago when the exact same set of circumstances were on the table, but no on was crying about “blows” to Asian Americans in Alameda. If Stewart Chen wants to direct his impotent rage at someone he should direct it at his good friend Tony Daysog who could have been the third vote to overturn the Planning Board’s decision, but instead took the coward’s way out and recused himself when it was not required.