Mayor Lee: Thoughts on Eastside Immigration

Excerpts from Mayor Lee’s interview with Michelle Tolfa of Seattle Magazine for a future feature article on immigration on the Eastside:  

I was born in China, raised in Hong Kong, came to the States in 1958, graduated with a B.S. in engineering from University of Michigan in 1962, and came to Seattle to work for Boeing. I was elected to Bellevue City Council in 1994 and Mayor in 2012.

Would you say that the quality of schools and education in Bellevue is a large part of what makes Seattle workers Bellevue residents?  And from your own personal experience?

People come to live in Bellevue because Bellevue is a great place to raise a family. It is safe. It has great schools. It offers an overall excellent quality of life. My family and I came to Bellevue for this very reason over 40 years ago and the same holds true today because we continue to provide this excellent quality of life.

Why would you say that the ethnic diversity/minority presence in Bellevue is not as tense or detrimentally competitive as it is in other cities such as Los Angeles? Would you say that Bellevue’s wealth has something to do with that?

The ethnic diversity in Bellevue has been positive because Bellevue attracts people who strive for success and excellence and share similar expectation and aspiration irrespective of their background and status. Diversity in Bellevue is a strength and not divisive as a weakness. Wealth is not considered divisive but rather a unifying goal. Consequently, I believe Bellevue has been growing up gracefully with its increasingly international and diverse population.

Would you say that, despite the assimilation of ethnic communities, the slightly lesser presence of minorities in today’s Eastside government has to do with the fact that Eastside ethnic communities are generally unconcerned about politics, that the communities are slightly too small, and that they are mainly focused on family and education?  In other words, would you say that survival is, generally, their number one concern?

The fact that we lack proportional representation of ethnic minorities in government is not limited to the Eastside. It is true at all levels of government. This is a sad fact for new immigrants. Their first and primary concerns are naturally that of survival in a new environment. Then it’s economic well-being and children’s education. It would take generations to learn and adapt to the culture, art, and skill of politics.

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