Glendale approves controversial 'comfort women' memorial
By Christina Villacorte, Staff Writer
POSTED: 07/08/13, 9:00 PM PDT |
Over the objections of dozens of Japanese-Americans who crowded City Hall chambers, the Glendale City Council voted Tuesday to install a controversial memorial at Glendale Central Park honoring "comfort women" -- a euphemism for the mostly Korean women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.
"I think we're doing the right thing," Councilman Frank Quintero said. "I'm very proud of the city of Glendale."
Aside from Quintero, council members Zareh Sinanyan, Ara Najarian and Laura Friedman voted to let the Korean American Forum of California, a nonprofit human rights organization, fund and build a memorial on a plot of land adjacent to the park's Adult Recreation Center.
"We're taking a meaningful step to show our moral support, sense of camaraderie, and our sharing of the pain that our Korean-American brothers and sisters feel about this issue," Sinanyan said.
"I don't see this as designed to be a monument to shame Japan," Friedman added. "What happened to those girls was a tragedy, and that's what this monument is about."
Mayor Dave Weaver cast the lone dissenting vote -- not because he opposed the memorial, but because he refuses to approve any construction at the park until a master plan is developed.
Dozens of Japanese-Americans addressed the council, many of them denying that comfort women existed, even though historians believe about 200,000 women and girls -- mostly Koreans, but also Chinese, Taiwanese, Filipina and Dutch (from the then-Dutch colony of Indonesia) -- were rounded up and forced into brothels where they were raped and tortured by Japanese soldiers.
The Japanese government issued a formal apology in 1993.
Yoshi Miyake, 60, a massage therapist from Los Angeles, warned the memorial would "bring out hate crimes and conflict."
"Comfort ladies were nothing more than prostitutes," he added, drawing applause from some members of the crowd.
Andy Naoki, 63, a tour guide from East L.A. warned Glendale that it would appear to the world as a "city praising prostitution."
Few Korean-Americans spoke during the council meeting, but dozens of them posed for pictures on the steps of Glendale City Hall after the vote.
They held up signs saying "End Sexual Slavery" and "Government of Japan Must Apologize!"
The memorial will be unveiled July 30, and a surviving comfort woman will attend the ceremony. It will be a replica of the famous "peace monument" that Korean civic leaders erected across the street from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in 2001, near where surviving comfort women have held a protest every Wednesday for more than 20 years.
The peace monument is a bronze statue of a teenage girl wearing traditional Korean attire, hands in her lap, feet bare and sitting on a chair.
Andrew Kim, a member of the KAF, stressed the organization does not want to strain relations between Koreans and Japanese.
"We are a human rights organization and our mission is to promote public awareness of this issue," he said.
KAF President Joachim Youn said he was proud that the council heard both sides of the issue, and voted in the end to approve the memorial.
"That's why I'm so proud of being a citizen," he said. "A 4-1 vote, God help us -- we really, really appreciate that."
Attempt to oust councilman tied to gun-show vote, lawyers say
June 15, 2013|By Brittany Levine
Glendale Councilman Frank Quintero.
Glendale Councilman Frank Quintero. (Tammy Abbott / News-Press )
An attempt to remove Glendale Councilman Frank Quintero from office has more to do with his support of a recent ban on gun shows on city-owned property than allegations he violated an employment policy, attorneys for the city contend in court documents.
Quintero retired when his term ended in April but he was appointed a short time later to fill the seat left by colleague Rafi Manoukian, who was elected city treasurer.
In May, two Glendale residents, John Rando and Mariano Rodas, filed a request with the state's attorney general for permission to file a lawsuit that would seek to remove Quintero from his appointed seat. They contend the city is violating a 1982 provision that prevents council members from being employed by the city until two years after they leave the dais.
In the city's response filed last week with the state attorney general, an attorney for Glendale contends that Rando and Rodas are misconstruing the provision and calls their complaint "misguided, unconstitutional and contrary to both the voters' intent and the city's longstanding, well-established interpretation."
Andrew Rawcliffe, an attorney hired by the city, contends in the filing that Rando and Rodas are targeting Quintero because he voted to ban gun shows from city property earlier this year, a prohibition they fought against.
Their attorney, Sean Brady, also represented the Glendale Gun Show's operator during the proceedings. But Brady has said the filing is not connected to the gun show ban but rather is intended to make sure the city follows its own rules.
He said he plans to respond to the city's filing Monday.
"That is what this action is about — keeping the government honest, not the gun show," Brady said. "Their response shows the city thinks some people's voices that don't agree with the city should be disregarded or discounted."
Rando and Rodas must get the attorney general's permission before filing a lawsuit against Quintero — a protection against frivolous lawsuits filed against elected officials.
According to court documents, Rawcliffe argued that when voters approved the revolving-door policy, it was never meant to prevent people from holding elected office. Rather, it was meant to clarify a former policy that seemingly prevented council members from holding outside employment, he said.
In his filing, he points to the 1982 ballot pamphlet in which elected offices are not mentioned in a description of the provision. Council members work part-time and many have other jobs outside of City Hall.
Quintero announced he was retiring after 12 years in office before the April municipal election. When Manoukian won the city treasurer's seat, his two-year term was left open.
The City Council chose to appoint Quintero to a 14-month term rather than hold a special election.
At the time, City Atty. Mike Garcia said the revolving-door policy exempted elected positions. Although the Charter language doesn't specifically do that, Garcia said the voters intended to prevent council members from taking cushy positions with the city after their terms, not to create a term limit.
"It is clear that this … action would discourage citizens from holding elected office and/or at the very least, discourage elected officials from taking positions unpopular with the National Rifle Assn.," Rawcliffe wrote in the filing.
It could be months before the attorney general's office makes a decision.
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To City Councilman Frank Quintero, and the members of the City Council of Glendale.