8 Asians

Inevitably, when discussing San Francisco politics, one will read about a behind-the-scenes “power broker” named Rose Pak. I haven’t really blogged about her because, to be honest, I did not know much about her. Pak was one of the driving forces to get Ed Lee appointed as interim mayor of San Francisco, as well as influencing him to run for mayor, despite Lee’s initial promise not to as a condition of becoming interim mayor.

Pak’s name is often brought up in the context of Chinatown and city politics, so I had heard the name but have never had the chance to meet her. The New York Times does an excellent background piece on this her rise from San Franciscan citizen, activist to “power broker” status:

Ms. Pak, 63, might at first glance be mistaken for one of the grandmothers who play cards on Chinatown benches. She has never held office and is listed only as a consultant to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce. … Since she became a community organizer in 1980, Ms. Pak has been a savvy networker, mobilizing Chinese votes and donations for a succession of mayors in return for city financing of social programs and building projects in Chinatown. Now she has, by all accounts, played a prime role in achieving her generation’s dream, electing one of their own to the city’s highest office.

Apparently, Pak was first motivated to get involved in politics by the very the reluctance of immigrant Chinese to get involved in politics. This is what got me initially involved when I started volunteering in the 2004 presidential election when I was wondering, where are all the Asian Americans?

Pak organized other like-minded activists within Chinatown to lobby for more funding for nonprofit groups like the Chinatown Community Development Center. Voiceless constituents will be served accordingly and Pak and her supporters essentially were trying to correct an imbalance.

She built her influence over time to support up-and-coming Chinese Americans get appointments in city agencies and win elections. To be honest, from what I got from her profile is that Pak is no different than any other community organizer in any major city trying to make a difference to gain more visibility and prominence for their community.

Maybe my opinions of Pak will change once I meet her, learn more about her and understand more of her breadth and depth of influence. Having lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1999, I’m surprised I haven’t read or heard more of a detailed background around Pak given her influence.

[Image courtesy of The New York Times.]

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