We, your neighbors across the street at Teramachi, like many in the community, are shocked at the recent resignation and revelations of the CEO and president of JACCC, Greg Willis. The question that first arises is “How could this have happened?” followed by “Didn’t anyone do their own checking up on him?”
Our disbelief and our concern is such that we wonder what is going on next door. We moved to and live in Little Tokyo for various reasons, but foremost is that we want to live in a community that we cherish and that reflects ourselves, our histories and culture. We participate on many levels in the organizations and programs that originate at the JACCC and it is for us the center of the community. Many of us have been involved in the JACCC for the length of its tenure.
The community entrusts the board to properly direct the JACCC and has given time and money to its success. However we now question the wisdom of the board. What steps does the board envision to try to win back the trust of the community?
Of course the board is responsible, but has the board apologized to the community for this debacle? Has the board sought out from the community ways to move forward in a positive direction and to “re-engage” the community? Has the board made any changes within the board to ensure that this and other such issues will not arise?
Some of us feel that the board seems to have taken the resignation as just a stumble and is telling us that with the resignation of Mr. Willis and the hiring of Bill Watanabe, Deborah Ching and Keith Shiozaki, the ship has been righted.
We understand with the current economic environment and the changing demographics in our community, its organizations must develop new and different ways to engage this community and sustain its relevance and importance. We are very concerned with the well-being of the JACCC as our cultural and community center.
As neighbors it is in our best interests that our organizations are responsible and do what is best for the community and not what is best for the board or its members. We hope to see that the board as a whole and its members, as individual members of the Japanese American community, seek out ways that we can work together to build a strong and sustainable community center. We encourage the board to take the lead in making changes toward this goal.
We suggest that the board:
1. Actively pursue community involvement, beginning with an apology for mishandling its trust.
2. Encourage all interested and concerned persons to participate in community meeting(s) in the very near future to discuss these and other concerns.
3. Assess its members and their future roles as board members.
4. Develop institutional systemic means for communication between staff and the board.
We are your neighbors. We care what happens next door.
San Ok Chang
Steve and Patty Nagano
John and Misao Tomita
David and Michi Yoda