Post-Election, Former Candidates Remain Civic-Minded

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The election may be over, but for the four candidates who weren’t elected to the City Council, it certainly isn’t the end of the line when it comes to helping out their community.
In many ways, it’ll be back to business as usual for them. All seven of the City Council candidates for the election two weeks ago were involved in a variety of local charities, clubs and nonprofits when they declared, and while the three victors will take the next step as elected officials, their four friendly opponents will simply take what they’ve always done to the next level.
At the City Council meeting the night immediately following the election, Dennis Kneier — a former City Councilman — started off the public comments section of the agenda by lauding the seven candidates as the latest example of San Marino’s residents willing to give back in an entirely volunteer fashion. With three seats available in a city with around 8,000 registered voters, a seven-candidate race was quite competitive, and Kneier said the city was better off for it.
“I think that is a proper reflection of the community,” said Scott Kwong, who ran his second bid for City Council this year. “What makes San Marino completely different from all the other communities is the willingness to volunteer. That is something I think no other city has and I’m very proud of my city. For all the candidates, all of their volunteer experience in the past has been to improve the city of San Marino.”
Kwong, a 2008 graduate of San Marino High School, has been the youngest City Council candidate in each of the last two elections, but his resume doesn’t reflect that. In addition to running his auto repair garage in Montebello and smog-testing facility in Azusa, Kwong dedicates time to, among other things, Rotary Club of San Marino, Chinese Club of San Marino and East Meets West Parent Education Club.
Last weekend, he led his SMHS Interact Club (described as the high school version of Rotary) in a charity project in which they assembled bicycles; they’ll soon pick up speed on their orphanage drive, in which they send food, clothes and school supplies to communities in need in Mexico.
Technology and youth were keys to Kwong’s campaign. He still hopes the city will begin video recording public meetings and uploading them to its website (or even YouTube) as a way of improving accessibility and transparency, and also wants to find ways to get local students more in touch with their government.
“I’m definitely pushing for new tech and youth involvement,” he said.
Calvin Lo, who is a Realtor and also owns a real estate management company, stressed the importance of preserving both San Marino’s historic look and its premium public services.
“It was a great experience for me,” he said. “I learned quite a bit myself and I got to know more people in town. It’s amazing we have so many people willing to contribute their efforts and talents. That’s what makes San Marino, San Marino: the people.”
Lo, who has been a member of the city’s Traffic Advisory Commission, also volunteers with Rotary Club, Chinese Club and with the local schools where his children still attend. With Rotary Club, Lo has relished being on the club’s charity foundation and also teacher mini-grant committee.
“That’s a very meaningful program, to give teachers extra money so they can create innovative programs for the kids,” he said. “I’ll always continue to be a member of this committee.”
Eugene Sun, who served two terms previously on the City Council before losing re-election in 2015, was a late entry in this election — he decided to run in the last hours of the registration period. He said at the time he decided the people should have the option of selecting someone with experience while the city was dealing with so much change and turnover.
His views on some issues were certainly contrarian: Virtually every other candidate ran on a platform of strengthening historic preservation and home design guidelines here, but Sun said he would urge caution against “draconian” restrictions of property rights.
“I’ll continue to be involved with the community and the issues,” Sun said. “Off the council, perhaps I can be more outspoken. On the council, sometimes you have to refrain yourself. As a citizen, you can speak your mind. I’m not going to go away.”
On other issues, such as the Stoneman building or the unfunded pension liability, Sun said he would continue to advocate for his suggestions to give people “food for thought.” Meanwhile, the self-employed Realtor said he may not retire as soon as he thought, and that continue his work at Rotary Club, City Club and Chinese Club.
“It’s nice to have a place to go to during the day,” Sun admitted. “With the volunteer work and real estate work, I think there’s no pressure. I like the arrangement, actually.”
Dr. Hai-Sou Chen drew upon his time as a member of the city’s Design Review Committee in his campaign, which he used to advocate for greater historic preservation. He hopes to establish San Marino’s legacy of historic architecture in that way and also increase revenues long-term, thanks to more impressive property prices.
“I promise to continue to stay engaged and do all I can to keep San Marino beautiful, safe and unique,” he said in a statement.
While continuing to work as a dentist, Chen plans on remaining involved in Chinese Club, Rotary Club and City Club. Part of his campaign also included bringing the city closer to San Marino Unified School District and broadening outreach to new residents from China or Taiwan through volunteer initiatives.
With that in mind, each of the four candidates whose campaigns fell short had only words of encouragement for their peers.
“I’m glad I ran again,” Kwong said. “It was a fun campaign. I learned a lot this time, and last time as well. The people did say who they want and I respect that. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“They will do a good job, and any way I can help as a resident, I will always be there,” Lo added. “Of course, I will continue to serve in those organizations and I hope I can make them all work together for the community.”
“I sincerely wish the new City Council members all the best, as they will unite the community and prepare to lead our city into the future,” Chen said. “I trust they will make decisions that will keep our city safe, balance its budget and preserve the housing features and will work hard to provide all residents an opportunity to have their voices heard.”
“I wish the best for the new City Council,” Sun said. “Because they’re all new, I think they may have a learning curve. But I think they’re all smart and capable people, and it will work out better for the city.”

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