47th National JACL Convention

By Neil Kozuma

 National Council Session - Neil Kozuma and Sharon Uyeda

National Council Session - Neil Kozuma and Sharon Uyeda

The 47th National JACL Convention was held July 11th- July 14th at the Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Nevada.

The JACL business session began Tuesday morning with a welcome message from outgoing National President David Lin. President Lin conveyed his appreciation of the work of the JACL staff. Highlights of President Lin’s speech follows:  “We have to figure out what we are going to do, we have a lot more to do; we had a recent change in leadership with the resignation of the Executive Director; we face difficult financial issues to resolve and we experienced a $500,000 deficit in Fiscal Year 2015; and the expenses of the Pacific Citizen has been a challenge for many years.” Following President Lin, the morning business session continued with reports from Interim Executive Director Bill Yoshino. He believes JACL can be a leader in education. VP of Membership Toshi Abe stated membership has decreased and is now at 9,374. National Youth Representative Kenji Kuramitsu stated there are 764 student members. VP of Public Affairs Jeff Moy highlighted discussions on internment camps in the 21st century, Syrian refugees, Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ issues.

As I listened to the reports from our National Officers, my thoughts reflected on a decreasing interest to the JACL as indicated by an annual decrease in membership and growing affluence of Japanese Americans; financial survival of the JACL and staff positions; saving the 87 year old Pacific Citizen news service; and continuing the work of the JACL organization. What are your thoughts on where JACL should go, do next? Contact the San Jose JACL Chapter for your comments.

The morning continued with a panel discussion on “What’s at Stake in the 2016 Election”, moderated by Secretary Norman Y. Mineta and panel members: Joe Liu, AARP; Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice; David Mermin, Lake Research Partners; and Tim Storey, National Conference of State Legislatures. A brief part of the discussion was on the possibility of a change in the majority party in Congress and there may be new U.S. Supreme Court justice appointments.

A panel discussion on the “Future of the Pacific Citizen was moderated by President David Lin with panel members:  Bill Imada, IW Group; Gil Asakawa, author and journalist; and Jay Kim, Asian American Advertising Federation. A few items discussed were on reducing the print to quarterly; publish as a newsletter; merger with Rafu Shimpo, and charge a small fee for the hardcopy.

Next, a recap of the 2015-2016 budget and the presentation of the 2017-2018 budget was provided by National Secretary/Treasurer Matthew Farrells. According to Mr. Farrells, the 2015 deficit of $490,000 was driven by a decrease in investment income; costs of the Pacific Citizen; decrease in grant funding, and unforeseen expenses. The 2017-2018 proposed budget makes significant changes by eliminating two staff positions and moving the Pacific Citizen office from Los Angeles to San Francisco.

The Tuesday business session adjourned and restarted Wednesday (July 13) morning with a Candidates Forum. Each candidate addressed the National Council with opening statements and followed with a Q & A. The Wednesday business session continued with a panel report on U.S.-Japan Relations and was moderated by Floyd Shimomura. Panel members were Consul General Jun Yamada and Minister Takuya Sasayama. Consul General Yamada recognized the importance of the JACL in raising issues and demonstrating leadership in promoting equity and justice. The JACL currently maintains a role with Japan with its Tohoku Disaster Relief Program; Tokyo JACL Chapter; and the Kakehashi Project.

The Wednesday Youth Awards Luncheon provided an opportunity for the JACL National Youth/Student Council to recognize an individual or organization that made strides in an unconventional field. The 2016 Vision Award was given to Black Lives Matter, Los Angeles Chapter.

Business continued immediately after the Youth Luncheon with a report from the Strategic Planning Committee. The goals of the committee are:  social justice advocacy; development of leaders; educating the public on the Japanese American experience; using social media to support JACL; creating activities for young professionals; diversifying funding sources and increasing membership.

Resolutions were presented and voted upon. Resolution 1 acknowledged the civil rights violations forcefully imposed on Canadian citizens of Japanese descent during and after WWII by the Canadian government. It further resolved that the JACL encourage the retelling of the wartime plights of the Japanese Canadians through teaching initiatives along with its own history in the context of a global stage. The resolution was adopted.

Resolution 2 sought additional funding for the Pacific Citizen by authorizing subject to concurrence of the National Board and determining an annual subscription fee not to exceed $25.00. The resolution was adopted.

Resolution 3 was pulled from consideration.

Resolution 4 directed the JACL to call upon the legislative and executive branches of the US to recognize that blanket prohibitions of entry based on nationality and that exemptions to prohibitions based on religious or racial tests are at variance with American values, the US Constitution, and American foreign policy interests. The resolution was adopted.

Emergency Resolution 1 was to form a JACL Fiscal Oversight Committee that would review the budget, finance and contractual activities of the National JACL because of the unexpected $509,193 deficit for Fiscal Year 2015. The emergency resolution was not adopted.

Emergency Resolution 2 sought to protect and preserve the entire Tule Lake Historical Site by supporting SB 2412, which would establish the Tule Lake National Historic Site and oppose HR 4387, which would establish the National Historic Site, but would require the National Park Service to consult with county, municipal and airstrip officials on impacts to the airstrip located in the middle of the historic site and prior to any expansion of the protected site. The emergency resolution was adopted.

Thursday, July 14th was the last business day. The election of National officers took place early in the morning. The National officers were announced after the ballots were counted. The 2016-2018 officers are National President:  Gary Mayeda; VP of General Operations:  Michelle Amano; VP of Public Affairs: Jeffrey Moy; VP of Planning and Development:  Matthew Farrells and NY/SC Representative:  Kota Mizutani.

The 2017-2018 JACL Budget presented on Tuesday was up for a vote on Thursday. The proposed budget to eliminate two JACL staff positions and move the Pacific Citizen was not acceptable to many National Council members. An ad hoc group worked to find a solution to saving staff and the moving of the Pacific Citizen. An amended 2017-2018 budget was proposed. The amendment would:  increase the distribution from the Legacy Fund from 4% to 5%; request chapters and districts to donate back its Legacy Fund distributions for 2017 and 2018; implement a national fund raising campaign with a goal of $17,000 in 2017; increase the membership dues in 2018; and implement a $17.00 annual fee for a hardcopy of the Pacific Citizen. The amended budget was adopted by a vote of 74 ayes and 7 nays.
The Awards Luncheon provided an opportunity to announce the 2016 George Inagaki Chapter Citizenship Award. The recognition went to the Seattle JACL Chapter for its tireless work in civil and social rights advocacy. Legacy Grants were also announced.

 Sayonara Banquet - Back:  Sharon Uyeda, Neil Kozuma, Bill Tashima. Front:  Henry Uyeda and Norman Mineta

Sayonara Banquet - Back:  Sharon Uyeda, Neil Kozuma, Bill Tashima. Front:  Henry Uyeda and Norman Mineta

The Sayonara Dinner provided an opportunity to recognize three JACL members with the Ruby Pin:  Larry Oda (54 years of service), Floyd Shimomura (43 years of service), and Ken Inouye (36 years of service). The 2014-2016 Japanese Americans of the Biennium were also awarded. In the area of Education and Humanities:  Carole Hayashino, President and Executive Director of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii; Business/Industry/Technology:  Delphine Hirasuna, author of The Art of Gaman:  Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps; Arts/Literature/Communication:  Dan Kuramoto and June Kuramoto, founders of the jazz ensemble, Hiroshima.

The 2017 JACL National Convention will be held in Washington, D.C. with the opportunity to view the Smithsonian exhibition, which will commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066 and feature artifacts from the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII. The JACL has been collaborating with the Smithsonian Institute on the exhibition. More information will be forthcoming.