Cleveland's new ward map is also an open invitation for new political drivers

By Phillip Morris, The Plain Dealer 
on March 30, 2013 at 9:00 AM, updated March 30, 2013 at 2:13 PM

(Read the original news article here. )
Johnny K. Wu didn’t say it. It’s not his style.
The son of a career foreign-service diplomat, Wu, who ownsMedia Design Imaging, a Cleveland production and video company, seems much more comfortable with tact and circumspection than blunt candor and bombast.
That’s why he didn’t exactly say that Cleveland’s Asian-American community is tired of sitting at the children’s table when it comes to having a say in the way Cleveland is governed and its political spoils are rationed.
But it sure sounded as if he said something close to that when we spoke in his 40th Street studio Friday morning.
“I didn’t hear where anyone from the Asian-American community was approached to see if we were interested in being part of the discussion about [Cleveland’s] ward realignments or a discussion about how changes could affect the continued growth of the city’s AsiaTown.
“That’s too bad.
“Cleveland’s Asian-American community continues to grow, and we don’t want to lose any of the momentum.”
Very strong words.
And while those words are the sentiments of just one noted Asian-American civic leader, they reflect powerfully on a community that has never elected anyone to the Cleveland City Council or any office of note in Cuyahoga County.
Cleveland’s Asian-American community continues to grow and prosper. Nearly 33,000 Cuyahoga County residents identified themselves as Asian-American in the 2010 census. Such growth should lead to expanded civic involvement. That would be¬†good for everyone. New political partnerships and awakenings are needed.
In all fairness, of course, it’s not entirely clear who, in addition to Cleveland’s Asian-Americans, failed to have even the most informal say in the new ward boundaries thatthe Cleveland City Council approved in a 17-2 vote.
Perhaps we should just celebrate the fact that the work is done. It should also be noted that the drawing of past ward maps was no less contentious and secretive. Try to remember when former Council President George Forbes held the pen in his hand.
What is clear is that come 2014, the St. Clair-Superior neighborhood, which includesAsiaTown, will have its fifth different council representative in a decade. It will be part of Ward 7, currently served by Councilman T.J. Dow.
This lack of consistent council representation concerns Wu and other stakeholders in AsiaTown. Will the community’s remarkable growth continue? Will the ambitious vision remain the same under new ward leadership?
“When we heard that we were going to lose Jeff Johnson as our councilman, a lot of us were very concerned because we know that he has a strong vision for this neighborhood and he was advancing it.
“We just hope that the next councilman will remain just as committed to continuing the growth and development that is already under way,” said Wu, who sits on the board of directors for the St. Clair-Superior Development Corp.
In May, the AsiaTown neighborhood will host its fourth annual Cleveland Asian Festival. This terrific event continues to grow with each year.
Some 42,000 people attended last year’s festival, resulting in $2 million in spending, according to Wu, who is one of the festival’s originators.
But the far bigger value has been the festival’s ability to better help the Asian-American community see the enormous public footprint that it could have in this town.
And the festival has better introduced Greater Cleveland to one of the more vibrant, young and prosperous emerging groups in town.
These efforts, it’s hoped, will result in more strident and vibrant voices coming out of Cleveland’s Asian-American community. The time has never been better.
“The conversation now has already begun to focus on whether someone in the Asian community should begin to start thinking seriously about becoming directly involved in the political process.”
“I’m not interested,” said the 46-year-old filmmaker. “But we have many talented young people in the community who may be. We cannot continue to remain passive about the changes happening in this town. We have to be part of the change.”
This is exactly the type of homegrown diplomacy and engagement this town needs more of if it is to prosper. It’s time for emerging communities to help frame Cleveland’s civic agenda now.
Too much talent is sitting on the sidelines — wasting time at the kids’ table.