BART Director James Fang: Asian Vote Crucial in Election

More than 28 years ago, then San Francisco Mayor George Moscone appointed a lawyer, St. Ignatius graduate and Richmond District resident Gordon Lau, to the SF Board of Supervisors. It was the first time a resident of the Richmond District of Asian-American ancestry had ever been tapped to serve on San Francisco's highest governing board.

Later, Lau would become the first Asian American ever to be elected to the Board of Supervisors. He credited his victory to his ability to reach out and seek the advice and support of San Franciscans of all stripes and backgrounds.

Today, San Franciscan Asian Americans make up more than one-third of the city's 739,000 residents, and one in every six voters. They are steadily making the transition from being a supporting actor to assuming a leading partnership role with their fellow San Franciscans in deciding the future of our wonderful and diverse City.

This desire to participate with their fellow San Franciscans in the electoral and civic process is evident in the Sunset and Richmond districts. Residents in these districts provided the margins of victory, by voting more than 2-to-1, for mayors Frank Jordan, Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom.

While Asian Americans may come from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures, it is my belief that many Asian Americans, particularly those in the Richmond and Sunset districts, share the same values as those who have come before us and continue to live in these districts. Common values, such as a belief in family, home ownership, good public education and public safety, are common desires for all residents of the Richmond and Sunset districts, regardless of background or duration in the City.

Indeed, the election of Leland Yee to the California Senate, Supervisor Fiona Ma to the California Assembly, and the election in San Francisco of Phil Ting as assessor, Jeff Adachi as public defender, Kamala Harris as district attorney, and myself as a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) director, are all direct manifestations of the common values we share with a majority of residents of San Francisco. We are public servants of all the people. We just happen to be Asian Americans.

For me, I approach my duties as a BART director for all of the people living in BART's District 8, which includes the Sunset and Richmond districts, not as an Asian American. Completing BART to the SF International Airport, achieving a 94 percent on-time performance rating, eliminating graffiti on BART trains, ensuring that BART remains safe, running consecutive balanced budgets, and ensuring that the taxpayers and homeowners of San Francisco are getting their money's worth out of BART are not Asian American issues but San Francisco issues. Furthermore, my commitment to seismically retrofitting BART, dealing with security threats and working to create a universal ticket are all items which help all of us.

I believe the future and well-being of San Francisco will be in large part dependent on the continued partnership and integration of the Asian American community and those communities which have come before us and continue to make an important impact in San Francisco.

Gordon Lau was not only a symbolic figure of this wonderful and purposeful collaboration, he was also right to understand that in San Francisco we must all work together.

James Fang is a BART board director and founder of the Asian American Voter Project, which has worked to register voters since the early '90s.