By ELLEN ENDO, Rafu Shimpo

MONTEREY PARK – Monterey Park was once known as the “Golden Ghetto,” a section of the San Gabriel Valley where, beginning in the late 1950s, upwardly mobile Japanese Americans could buy nice homes free of racially restrictive zoning laws.

Vinh Ngo was a youngster when his family fled Vietnam and lived in various refugee camps before settling in Monterey Park in the 1970s. He has seen the region develop, grow, and awaken politically over the past 40-plus years. Ngo is making a bid for a seat on the Monterey Park City Council in the Nov. 8 election.

Ngo sees infrastructure and public safety, which includes driving conditions and anti-Asian hate crimes, as a priority for the region.  

Vinh Ngo

Reps. Mark Takano and Judy Chu have announced their support for Ngo. Kelsey Iino, L.A. Community College District trustee, and Kerry Doi, founder of the non-profit PACE, also joined in support. Longtime Monterey Park community leaders Yukio and Lillian Kawaratani and former Assemblymember and Monterey Park Mayor Mike Eng also endorse Ngo. 

“Vinh is what the City of Monterey Park needs, a home-grown civic leader serving on the Garvey School Board, who keeps our community safe, brought hundreds of thousands of dollars in PPE, vaccines and test kits to the San Gabriel Valley, and provides strong business acumen from his work as a banking executive,” stated Takano.

However, the Japanese American migration to the San Gabriel Valley began much earlier in the 20th century when workers in wholesale nurseries, vegetable farms, and fruit stands were allowed to move into the valley but expected to stay socially segregated.

After World War II and the incarceration camps, Japanese Americans began to resettle in suburbs like Monterey Park and Gardena. “My family and I understand what it means to be uprooted, living behind barbed wire, and then having to start over again just to meet basic necessities,” Ngo said in an interview with **The Rafu Shimpo.**

Simultaneously, a political awakening was taking place. In 1960, Al Song became the first Asian American to win a seat on the Monterey Park City Council. The following year, Song was elected to the State Legislature.

By the 1980s, 40 percent of the Monterey Park population was Japanese American, a factor in the 1983 election of Lily Lee Chen, the first Chinese American woman to serve as mayor of an American city.

Today, 66 percent of the Monterey Park population includes Taiwanese, Chinese and Vietnamese Americans, with Japanese Americans accounting for less than 10 percent, largely seniors and Shin-Issei (post-World War II Japanese immigrants).  

Ngo is an executive with Bank of America, where he co-chairs the Greater Los Angeles Asian Business Council, a group of over 40 senior bankers across the county. “We need to make sure that no one is left behind when it comes to meeting the needs of our diverse population,” he said.

He faces three other candidates in Monterey Park’s District 5: Joe Ray Avila, Delario M. Robinson, and Teresa Real Sebastian.

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