Rafu Staff Report
CARSON — The Helen’s Dream Coalition held a rally outside Carson City Hall on Sept. 4, again demanding that the City Council Chambers be named after former City Clerk Helen Kawagoe immediately.
This is the second time the group has picketed, but this time Kawagoe herself was among those holding up placards.
After serving as the elected city clerk for more than 37 years, Kawagoe suffered a debilitating stroke a year ago and had to step down. She now lives at South Bay Keiro in Gardena and just turned 85 on Aug. 30.
Looking very different from her official portrait and sitting in a wheelchair with her daughter, Sheryl Miyamoto, by her side, Kawagoe was surrounded by friends who were protesting the City Council’s 3-2 decision earlier this year to rename the chambers after Kawagoe’s passing. The council majority maintains that it is against city policy to honor a living person in this manner.
Wearing yellow T-shirts reading “Helen’s Dream Now,” coalition members attended that evening’s council meeting and spoke during the public comment period. Most were harshly critical of Mayor Pro Tem Julie Ruiz-Raber, Councilmember Lula Davis-Holmes and Councilmember Mike Gipson, who are at odds with Mayor Jim Dear and Councilmember Elito Santarina over the renaming issue.
Dear, who welcomed Kawagoe to the chambers, called the council majority “cold-hearted” for not granting her wish and accused them of misrepresenting his position at various public events. He stated for the record that he sides with the coalition.
There were also acrimonious exchanges among the council members and city staff over how many coalition members would be allowed to speak.
The room fell silent when Kawagoe attempted to address the council. She was unable to articulate the words as her speech has been severely impaired by the stroke, so her daughter read the message: “Please help make my dream come true now. Thank you for your support. Thank you all for coming.”
Her supporters applauded and shouted, “We love you, Helen” and “This is Helen’s house.”
Although no further action by the council is scheduled, the coalition plans to keep the issue alive and hopes to change the mind of at least one of the three councilmembers who voted to honor Kawagoe posthumously.