Saturday, September 17, 2011

Councilor At-Large 2011 - Hong Net continues it's Election series with a Councilor At-Large roundup. I asked each of the candidates 3 questions. Here is the response from Hong Net.  To see more on this series, please visit the Lynn, MA Councilor At-Large 2011 Series.

1. Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? What on your resume or in your life experience makes you qualified for this office?

I was born in Cambodia and was separated from my family in the war at the age of seven. At eleven, I escaped into Thailand after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime and lived in an orphanage center in a refugee camp. I arrived to the U.S. alone in October 1982 and lived with my foster family, the Johnsons in South Hadley, Massachusetts. I received my high school diploma from Holyoke Catholic High School in 1988. In 1992, I graduated from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst with a degree in Political Science. After college, I took a position as a teacher aid for the Chicopee's public schools and pursued a masters in International Relations. When I went back to Cambodia in October 1993 and have seen the destruction of the country and the living condition of Cambodians made me cry. When I saw children, elderly and the handicapped veterans begging on the streets reminded me of my childhood while living in a refugee camp without my parents. I promised them that I would go back to help them. In April 1994, I went back to Cambodia to help rebuild a war-torn country and worked for the Cambodian-American National Development Organization (CANDO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) assisting the Cambodian government on job creation, education and tourism. I also found an international language center in the capital city of Phnom Penh and taught English and computer skills to over 800 local students. I came back to the U.S. in July 1997 and taught immigration and citizenship classes to New Americans in Lowell, also worked for the South Cove Community Health Center in Lynn and Boston as a Case Manager. I helped to prevent young people from returning to gang activities and substance abuses. Currently, I am working for the Department of Revenue as a Child Support Enforcement Specialist.

2. Why are you running for Councilor At-Large?

I have two small children in the Lynn public schools and have lived in Lynn for 14 years. It is my home and I want to give back in a public capacity. I want to work with the city council, the mayor, Lynn's civic institutions, and neighborhoods to strengthen public safety, education, and economic growth. Lynn is a very diverse city and it needs a diverse representation. I decided to run for city councilor-at-large because I want to represent all voices. My vision is a unified Lynn where all residents have a voice at the decision-making table.

3. What do you see that is in most need of change? How will you change it?

Regionally, there are perceptions that Lynn has a public safety issue, a high rate of school drop-outs and economic downturn. However, Lynn has a wealth of resources like the Lynn Beach, the beautiful waterfront, Lynn Woods, the North Shore Community College - just to name a few that make this city a great place to live. In order to improve the city's image, it is our job to promote our strengths and work together to address our weaknesses. We need to work to promote strong police-community relations to ensure public safety. We need to work to find ways to increase foot patrols because they are effective methods to build relationships within communities and to get reliable information from community members. Some of my interests include: providing cultural training to police officers in order to build trust between communities and police; building capacity of neighborhood groups and crime watch; working to increase youth opportunities like after-school programs and supporting efforts to fund school resource officers to keep schools safe. For education, schools alone cannot educate our children. It requires strong partnership between family members, community groups and the schools. We will work to increase access to after-school enrichment programs that educate the whole child. Promote parent involvements through intensive community outreach, such as a bilingual parents task force and create community schools which provide critical resources for parents like ESL classes. Local businesses are the backbone of the city's economy. We need to help them survive the economic downturn. We need to work to promote business-friendly policies and regulations, such as reviewing fees and fines to ensure that they are not restrictive. We need to be proactive - walk the streets reaching out to business owners and make sure they are aware of grant opportunities. We also need to promote the arts district - a lively and walkable downtown brings customers to our local businesses.

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