By Agnes Constante
Alhambra City Councilman Jeff Maloney has always been interested in making his community a better place.
So when the opportunity to run for city council presented itself, he decided to enter the race for office last year.
“It was a big decision I had to discuss with my family, but … because I have that interest and that motivation to try to find solutions to all kinds of issues, big and small, I felt that it was the right thing for me to do,” Maloney told the Alhambra Source.
Before the 2016 election, Maloney attended a seminar hosted by the Center for Asian Americans United for Self Empowerment (CAUSE), a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing civic and political empowerment among the Asian Pacific American (APA) community. The seminar helped encourage and prepare potential Asian American candidates for what they should expect and what they should do, Maloney said. He added that it’s one of multiple CAUSE programs from which he has benefited.
Maloney was among elected officials who attended CAUSE’s 24th annual gala Thursday evening at The L.A. Hotel Downtown. The event celebrated and recognized individuals working to make a difference in the APA community. Also in attendance were Rep. Judy Chu, Los Angeles City Councilman David Ryu, Alhambra Vice Mayor Stephen Sham and California State Assemblymember Ed Chau.
During the gala, Chu said she has been a long-time supporter of CAUSE. As the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, a priority for her has been to get more Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) into office.
“For over two decades, CAUSE has played such an important role in building our next generation of leaders,” Chu said. “And that’s why I always have a CAUSE intern in my office every year.”
The organization issued three awards during Thursday’s event: the Partners in Public Service Award to Anthony Rendon, speaker of the California State Assembly, and Annie Lam, principal of Lam Consulting Group; the Community Championship Award to John Kobara, executive Vice President and chief operating officer of the California Community Foundation; and the Corporate Leadership Award to Patrick Niemann, managing partner of Ernst & Young, Greater Los Angeles.
Honorees thanked CAUSE for the work it has done to empower the APA community.
Yet despite the strides the AAPI community has made in the political sphere, it is still underrepresented and underappreciated, Kobara told attendees during his remarks.
“We’ve made progress, but it’s not enough. We’re still ignored, we’re still overlooked and we’re still thinking about where the opportunities can be,” he said. “There is an ocean of untapped talent in this community, an ocean of suffering in this community. We must help others know we are here, that our voices and needs matter and it cannot be ignored.”
Maloney echoes the sentiment and says that mobilizing the AAPI community is crucial.
“If there’s no diversity in our representation, then we aren’t going to be able to express and address the concerns of everyone in our communities,” he said.
In Alhambra, Maloney thinks the city has appropriate representation at the council level and that council members have established a good level of communication with each other.
“It’s been encouraging for to me to see that level of participation and input that all the different communities in our city have in the process,” he said.
Maloney noted that CAUSE, among other organizations, has served as a voice for communities that historically haven’t had one in politics. He also said that for young AAPIs interested in getting involved in politics, CAUSE is a good place to start.
“And I think for the most part, you’ll be embraced into that world and will be presented with a lot of opportunities,” he said.
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