OTISVILLE, New York — On Oct. 23, the Mount Hope Chinese Association and the newly-minted Asian American Advisory Committee gathered local residents and city officials under one roof to address concerns facing the Asian American community.
Held at the Mount Hope Senior Center, the event saw the attendance of several VIPs, including, Richard Guertin, City Court Judge for the City of Middletown; Paul Rickard, former Mount Hope Police Chief; Amanda Davis and Christopher Furman, Council Members for the town Mount Hope; and Curtis Hahne, Deputy Chief at Mount Hope’s Police Department, among others.
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“This [event] is a way to promote communication, as many residents have language barriers,” said Mount Hope City Councilor Amanda Davis. “But we’re making an effort — and we’re trying to make changes to bridge that gap.”
Mela Wu, Chairperson of the Mount Hope Chinese Association and President of the Asian American Advisory Committee, emphasized the two-fold role of these events. “The main issues people are concerned about are civil rights, and the persecution by the current Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime.”
“[Asian American residents] hope officials understand this,” said Wu, highlighting how the Advisory Committee engages officials and works with the Chinese Association to implement community events to raise awareness, foster community growth, and enhance communication between residents and town representatives.
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Over the years, the scenic town of Mount Hope — nestled in upstate New York — has seen a rise in Chinese immigrants. In response to this evolving demographic landscape, local authorities have recognized the need for integration initiatives, which include the implementation of a “Welcome Handbook,” as well as bilingual language courses offered in both Mandarin Chinese and English.
Wu’s sentiment was shared by many, including Judge Richard J. Guertin of Middletown’s City Court, who’s running for the position of Orange County Court Judge. Seeing the event as an “opportunity to meet people and discuss what we do in court and my desire to serve the people as a judge,” Guertin expressed his eagerness to further engage with the community and address their concerns directly.
“My intention is to treat everyone with respect,” said Guertin, adding, “[I want to] treat everyone equally, treat everyone impartially [based on their cases], and to be as fair as I possibly can.” Speaking on his role as a judge, Guertin said, “[We must] apply the law evenly and do justice. That’s really what my job is as a judge — and that’s what I want to do.”
Advocating for residents
Similarly, Mount Hope councilman Chris Furman, expressed his support for the Asian American community at large, noting, “This event is fantastic. I love meeting new community residents, which is also why I’m running for re-election — because I enjoy helping people.”
As the night progressed, the focus shifted towards the upcoming general and special elections slated for Nov. 7th. A myriad of candidates — some vying for court judge positions outside of New York City — were also in attendance.
Karen Ostberg, town justice for the town of Minisink, and candidate for the 9th Judicial District of the New York Supreme Court, shared her observations, saying, “Residents’ main concerns are about families, family protection, child rights, education rights. I hope to be one of the judges protecting these interests.”
Attorney John Sarcone, who is also a candidate for New York’s 9th Judicial District, shared with Vision Times that he hopes to see “Asian Americans become more proactive in politics,” and emphasized the importance of diverse representation to best reflect and serve Mount Hope’s multifaceted community.
Meanwhile, Paul Rickard, who’s eyeing the role of Town Supervisor for Mount Hope, seeks to implement government accessibility and fiscal transparency, bolster small businesses, and enhance public safety. “I think that we need to have an ethical government; I think that’s key,” said Rickard, adding, “One of the things I’d do day one, as promised, is to introduce a local law to change the ethics law and present it to the town board.”
For City Council candidate Keri Lee Carey, it’s all about understanding and fostering new connections. She stressed, “With the influx of a large number of Chinese residents into our community, mutual understanding is crucial. This way, we can collaborate and understand each other’s cultures.”
Monisha Maldonado, another town council hopeful, highlighted her dedication to promoting cultural diversity through local events, and bringing awareness to social justice initiatives. “I orchestrated the Black Lives Matter march inside the town, and helped host the first Juneteenth in the town.”
Highlighting her dedication to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for the community, Maldonado expressed her belief that by celebrating different cultures and backgrounds, residents can foster understanding and unity to bridge gaps and enhance communication.
Early voting for Mount Hope’s special elections begin Oct. 28th through Nov. 7th. For more information on community events and programs, visit the Mount Hope Chinese Association’s official website here.