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The importance of preparation and participation

Today we welcome CA City of Sierra Madre’s Mayor Pro Tem, Rachel Arizmendi, a proud Filipina-American elected official.

She starts by giving an update on the #bobcatfire which, at the time of the interview, was moving north and away from foothill cities – “We are on the 10th day of the fire there only has been 3% containment as of and over 43,000 acres burned,” she adds. All cities at the foothills of the San Gabriel Valley are impacted in one way or another and each have small pockets of Filipinos within the communities. But the good news is – those who have been evacuated may be able to return to their homes soon, if they have not already.

Ms. Arizmendi reminds everyone that preparation is key when it comes to acing calamities. She advises that people would need to be more prepared for evacuation i.e. knowing what to take with you – 6Ps to take with you during evacuation:

  • People and pets
  • Paper and important documentations (insurance and medical records)
  • Prescriptions
  • Pictures Personal laptops/computers
  • Plastic (credit cards and/or cash)

She adds that it helps to know the policies and procedures in place and be aware of notifications. And she also advises viewers to regularly check official websites and emails coming from your city and local government.

In 2014, Hon. Rachelle Arizmendi was the first woman of colour elected to the City of Sierra Madre City Council. In April 2017, she was selected by her colleagues to serve as Mayor and is currently the Mayor Pro Tem in her second term on Council. 

She says her active involvement in the community, working for a non-profit was what pushed her to run for office. Ms. Arizmendi has been working for non-profit organizations targeting Asian Pacific Islanders who are considered to be under-represented. And what really makes a difference for her is seeing the impact she can have in this type of work. She says being part of the community is something that naturally becomes a passion for her.

Although there is a rich history of Filipinos in America, Filipinos remain the most underrepresented Asian community in Politics. Ms. Arizmendi notes that Filipinos are the largest Asian group in California and the second largest Asian group in the United States at “4Million strong.” But we truly do not have the same representations in government. and this is why she notes that it is really up to her and fellow Filipinos in politics to ensure that they are talking to communities to explain how important it is to groom the next generation of leaders. She says she believes that it is extremely crucial to encourage the youth to get excited about making a difference in politics. She suggests that this can be done by building a pipeline of leaders through mentoring, coaching, and reaching out – “They need to see more people that look like me – that look like us – so they too know that they can be an elected official one day and speak on behalf of the needs in my community,” she says.

However, Ms. Arizemndi also admits that – “In terms of campaigning, one thing that is difficult to say is that it costs a lot of money to run for elections.” She adds that it makes it even more difficult knowing that Asian-Americans are one of the most difficult groups to get campaign funding from. This means it is also as important to show monetary support to fellow Filipino Americans.

Host Jannelle So notes that when one contributes to a campaign, it is not a donation; but rather an investment in your community.

Her view regarding the upcoming election is that “it will be the most important election of our lifetime.” She knows that there are Filipino Americans on both sides of the election who are very vocal and passionate. But the bottom line is for people who are still undecided, to continue pay attention and educate themselves – by listening to debates and by researching policies and platforms. This is because at the end of the day, “we need to make a decision that is based on our values and principles.”

She notes that it is also important to look at down ballot which means looking at everything that is down the ballot (propositions). As a parting message, Ms. Arizmendi reminds everyone that “voting is our responsibility and we need to exercise that right. Because every election is determined by the people who show up so we need to be able to show up and vote!”

She is part of a campaign called Your Vote Matters To Me, launching by the end of September. This campaign will be focused on the Filipino American community to bring awareness on why their vote is important.

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