YEAR IN REVIEW: Some of the Major Stories of 2012

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JANUARY

Jan. 13: The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center announces the appointment of former Toyota executive Gregory Willis as its new president and CEO.

Gregory Willis

Jan. 17: Assemblymember Warren Furutani loses to Joe Buscaino in the Los Angeles City Council election. Furutani will serve in the Assembly for the rest of the year but will not seek a third term.

Jan. 17: The Carson City Council votes 3-2 to name the City Council Chambers after former City Clerk Helen Kawagoe after her passing. Supporters of Kawagoe, who resigned after 37 years due to a stroke, want the chambers renamed immediately and will hold protests throughout the year.

Jan. 18: Robert Nakamura, professor of Asian American studies and motion picture/television at UCLA for 33 years, announces his retirement effective in July.

Jan. 20: Dr. Greg Kimura of the Alaska Humanities Forum is named as the new CEO of the Japanese American National Museum.

Jan. 27: Dean Matsubayashi, long-time staff member at the Little Tokyo Service Center, is named as LTSC’s new executive director. He will succeed Bill Watanabe, who retires in June.

FEBRUARY

Feb. 1: L.A.’s Community Redevelopment Agency is dissolved along with CRAs statewide under a state budget-cutting decree.

Feb. 2: Two photos of civil rights icon Fred Korematsu are unveiled at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The unveiling follows celebrations of Fred Korematsu Day throughout California on Jan. 30.

Feb. 2: Steven Ronald Honma of Westlake Village is sentenced to 21 years in prison for fatally shooting Pasadena Art Center College of Design instructor Norman Schureman at a party in March 2010.

Warren Furutani

Feb. 8: Tom Hayashi becomes executive director of OCA (Organization of Chinese Americans), a national civil rights organization.

Feb. 12: The final service at West Adams Christian Church is held, marking the end of over 60 years of worship. The congregation was led by Issei pioneer Rev. Kojiro Unoura.

Feb. 19: The 70th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment of Japanese Americans, is observed on or around this date at Day of Remembrance events nationwide.

Feb. 24: The Aiso Street Parking Garage and Rev. Howard Toriumi Plaza in Little Tokyo are officially opened. The plaza is also the new home of the bronze Japantown monument.

Feb. 24: The court-martial of the third Marine implicated in the death of Lance Cpl. Harry Lew, who killed himself in Afghanistan after being subjected to hazing, ends in a not-guilty verdict. Rep. Judy Chu, Lew’s aunt, calls for congressional hearings on military hazing.

Feb. 28: The Carson City Council votes 3-0 to appoint Donesia Gause as city clerk, replacing Helen Kawagoe. Wanda Higaki, Kawagoe’s chief deputy for more than 30 years, also applied for the job.

MARCH

March 8: The Oxnard Police Department and Ventura County District Attorney’s Office announce the arrest of two men in connection with the 2001 rape and kidnapping of a student from Japan.

March 10: The Ishibashi produce stand at Torrance Airport holds a going-out-of-business sale. The Ishibashis are the last of the Japanese American families that farmed on the Palos Verdes Peninsula for more than a century.

March 11: The first anniversary of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan is observed. A prayer vigil is held in Little Tokyo. Relief efforts continue throughout the year.

March 11: Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for veterans of the 100th/442nd and MIS held in San Diego.

March 20: The National Cherry Blossom Festival gets under way, celebrating the centennial of Japan’s gift of cherry blossom trees to Washington, D.C. Celebrations are held in Los Angeles and across the country throughout the year.

March 22: The Department of the Interior announces that the National Park Service is awarding nearly $3 million in grants to preserve and interpret sites where Japanese Americans were confined during World War II.

March 29: The LTSC Community Development Corporation gets a $5 million grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation to build the Budokan recreation center in Little Tokyo.

APRIL

April 3: District of Columbia Councilmember Marion Barry’s remarks against Asian-owned businesses in his ward are condemned by local and national APA organizations.

April 4: Tatsuhiko Sakamoto is arrested for fatally running down a construction worker on the San Bernardino Freeway while intoxicated. The victim, Connor Penhall, was the son of racing champion Bruce Penhall.

April 6: Edward Stanley Butler is convicted of vehicular manslaughter for a drunken-driving collision in Orange that killed Tamiko Kaminaga in September 2010. He is sentenced to two years and eight months in jail.

April 10: Lillian Kawasaki loses to Al Austin in the race for the District 8 seat on the Long Beach City Council.

April 25: LAPD Deputy Chief Terry Hara kicks off his campaign for the District 9 seat on the Los Angeles City Council. The election is in 2013.

April 26: The Metro Board certifies the final environmental impact report/statement for the Regional Connector Transit Corridor Project, which includes a Little Tokyo/Arts District underground station.

April 27: Jian Hong Li pleads guilty to first-degree murder for the killing of Hideko Oyama, manager of the Chetwood Hotel near Little Tokyo, in January 2010.

April 29: LTSC Executive Director Bill Watanabe and Mikawaya CEO Frances Hashimoto are named recipients of Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun. Watanabe will receive his medal in Los Angeles in May and Hashimoto will receive hers in Tokyo in June.

April 29: The 20th anniversary of the Los Angeles riots is observed in Koreatown and across the city.

April 30: Atsushi Yamagami of Osaka is sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for smuggling 55 live turtles and tortoises from Japan into the U.S. at LAX in January 2011.

MAY

USC Nisei graduate Frank Tokufuji and Taylor Yee.

May 3: Daniel Patrick Wozniak of Costa Mesa is indicted for murdering his neighbor, Samuel Herr, and Herr’s friend, Juri “Julie” Kibuishi, in May 2010.

May 11: At its commencement ceremony, USC honors Nisei students who were unable to receive their diplomas due to the internment. Community members have lobbied unsuccessfully to have diplomas granted posthumously to Nisei who have passed away.

May 11: Raymond Oscar Butler, already on Death Row for killing Marymount College students Takuma Ito and Go Matsuura in 1994, is sentenced to death again for killing a fellow inmate in 1995.

May 14: Gregory Shiga of Hacienda Heights is arrested for setting a fire in April 2011 that caused more than $6.5 million in damage to St. John Vianney Catholic Church.

May 18: Gov. Jerry Brown appoints Bruce Iwasaki of Lim Ruger & Kim LLP to the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

May 19: Chapman University confers an honorary doctorate on Rev. Dr. Paul Nagano, a member of the Class of 1942.

May 29: Civil rights icon Gordon Hirabayashi posthumously receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama. Hirabayashi’s widow, Susan Carnahan, accepts on his behalf.

JUNE

Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in Little Tokyo.

June 1: The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office announces that Yoshitomo Kaneda, who runs an acting/modeling school, is charged with sexually abusing a 16-year-old aspiring model.

June 2: The Manzanar Committee opposes a proposed perimeter fence at the Tulelake Municipal Airport, operated by Modoc County, which would negatively impact the Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark.

June 6: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors votes to repeal a 1942 resolution supporting the internment of Japanese Americans. George Takei and other community leaders address the board prior to the vote.

June 9: A Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for Nisei veterans of World War II is held at the Go For Broke Monument in Little Tokyo. Regional ceremonies also held this year in Placer County, Marysville, the Big Island, Sacramento, Chicago, San Francisco, Sonoma County, Texas, Monterey, Fresno, Utah, Seattle, Portland and San Jose.

June 11: The National Trust for Historic Preservation names Terminal Island, former site of a Japanese American community at the Port of Los Angeles, as one of the year’s most endangered historic places.

June 15: Harumi “Bacon” Sakatani is honored as Mt. San Antonio College’s Alumnus of the Year at commencement ceremonies in Walnut. Known as “Mr. Heart Mountain,” he has dedicated his life to educating others about the internment.

June 20: The Los Angeles City Council approves new council district lines that will be in place for the next 10 years. Asian Pacific American groups have lobbied to keep APA neighborhoods whole. Little Tokyo is moved from District 9 to District 14, while Koreatown is split between Districts 10 and 13.

June 23: The 30th anniversary of the killing of Vincent Chin in Detroit is observed by Asian American organizations nationwide.

June 23: The 40th anniversary of the passage of the Title IX Amendment of the Higher Education Act is celebrated. It was renamed the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act after the death of Rep. Patsy Takemoto Mink of Hawaii in 2002.

June 27: The preview opening of Riverside Community College District’s new Center for Social Justice and Civil Liberties commemorates the 100th anniversary of noted artist Miné Okubo’s birth. The RCC alum’s works are displayed at the center.

June 28: A Ventura County judge sentences lawyer Russell Takasugi to nearly seven years in prison for embezzling money from elderly clients and is ordered to pay restitution. He is the son of the late Oxnard Mayor Nao Takasugi.

June 29: The Federal Transit Administration certifies that the Regional Connector project has met all federal environmental guidelines, allowing preconstruction activities to begin. Construction is expected to start in late 2013.

JULY

July 5: During the JACL National Convention in Seattle, New Jersey-based AT&T executive David Lin is elected president, becoming the first Chinese American to head the national organization.

July 18: The opening of a Muslim American photo exhibit at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center in Wyoming sparks controversy among area residents, some of whom feel the exhibit does not belong at the center.

July 27: A Los Angeles Superior Court judge grants an injunction temporarily stopping UCLA from selling the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden in Bel Air. Carter’s heirs and conservation groups have been fighting to save the garden because of its historical significance.

July 27: Nikolette Kristina Gallo is sentenced to a year in jail and five years of probation for fatally running over UCSD graduate student Sho Funai on March 11. His family and friends had urged a harsher sentence, noting that Gallo was intoxicated and left the scene of the accident.

AUGUST

Aug. 4: A groundbreaking ceremony is held for the Topaz Museum and Education Center in Delta, Utah, located near the site of a wartime internment camp.

Aug. 5: Following the fatal shooting of six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin by a white supremacist, JACL and other APA organizations respond by establishing a fund for the victims and calling for a congressional investigation of hate crimes and hate groups.

Aug. 11: Emily Folick is crowned Nisei Week Queen during the 2012 Nisei Week festivities.

Aug. 20: Seth Rosenfeld of the Center for Investigative Reporting states in a San Francisco Chronicle article that FBI records show that the late Richard Aoki, a prominent member of the Black Panther Party, was an FBI informant. The allegation draws angry responses from Aoki’s supporters, including Diane Fujino, author of “Samurai Among Panthers.”

Aug. 22: JACCC CEO Gregory Willis resigns “for personal reasons” following reports that he has been charged and convicted of corporate crimes in France.

Aug. 28: Former LTSC Executive Director Bill Watanabe becomes acting CEO of JACCC. Deborah Ching is named interim COO.

SEPTEMBER

Shuttle Endeavour landing in Los Angeles.

Sept. 7: The Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence faults Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca for failing to prevent excessive use of force by deputies against inmates in county jails and accuses Undersheriff Paul Tanaka of encouraging such behavior. Baca defends Tanaka, saying the allegations are just “anecdotes.”

Sept. 13: The Smithsonian Institution announces a seven-city tour of the Congressional Gold Medal for the Nisei units of World War II in 2013, including Los Angeles.

Sept. 19: “Allegiance,” a Broadway-bound musical about the Japanese American internment, opens at The Old Globe in San Diego. It plays to full houses and gets positive reviews, but some JACL members and Nisei vets call it inaccurate.

Sept. 21: Crowds gather in Little Tokyo and throughout downtown Los Angeles as the space shuttle Endeavour flies overhead prior to landing at LAX and being towed to the California Science Center.

OCTOBER

Oct. 2: Scott Joseph Barker is convicted of first-degree murder for the stabbing death of Katsutoshi “Tony” Takazato in Beverly Hills in July 2010. Barker will get a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

One of the Little Tokyo Medallions.

Oct. 4: The Little Tokyo Medallions, which are cultural and historical identifiers on the district’s main streets, are dedicated.

Oct. 4: Hannah Carter Japanese Garden is included on the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s list of threatened and at-risk landscapes across the country.

Oct. 5: George Osumi of Newport Beach is arraigned for stealing $2.7 million worth of wine from his clients’ storage lockers.

Oct. 8: Shinya Yamanaka and John Gurdon were named joint recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their research on specialization of cells. The prize will be presented in Stockholm on Dec. 10.

Oct. 12: Los Angeles City Councilmember Richard Alarcon introduces a motion to protect the site of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station in Tujunga, where Japanese immigrants and others were held in 1941 and 1942.

Oct. 14: Sharon Inouye, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is inducted into the Institute of Medicine at its annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

Oct. 22: In Stockton, Colin McGrattan kills his ex-wife, Jackie Arata, her sister, Kathleen Arata, and their aunt, Chizuko Kaneishi, before taking his own life.

NOVEMBER

Nov. 3: Allan James Acosta of Cal Tech, former JANM CEO Akemi Kikumura Yano and Kaz Suyeishi of the Committee of Atomic Bomb Survivors are named recipients of Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun.

Nov. 6: Successful candidates in today’s election include Al Muratsuchi of Torrance, Edwin Chau of Montebello, Phil Ting of San Francisco, and Rob Bonta of Alameda for Assembly; Mark Takano of Riverside, Ami Bera of Sacramento, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and Grace Meng of New York for Congress; and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii for Senate. Unsuccessful congressional candidates include Jay Chen of Hacienda Heights, Sukhee Kang of Irvine, and Nate Shinagawa of New York. Incumbents re-elected include: Assembly — Mariko Yamada of Davis, Richard Pan of Sacramento, Das Williams of Santa Barbara, Paul Fong of Cupertino; Congress — Mike Honda of San Jose, Doris Matsui of Sacramento, Judy Chu of El Monte, Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii. In San Diego County, Casey Tanaka is re-elected as mayor of Coronado.

Nov. 9: Michael Patrick Keating pleads guilty to charges stemming from a drunken-driving crash on the Orange Freeway that killed passenger Mai Hayakawa in September 2010. Sentence is expected to be four years.

Nov. 15: Frances K. Hashimoto Plaza is dedicated in Little Tokyo, less than two weeks after the Mikawaya CEO’s passing.

Nov. 19: Los Angeles County District Attorney-elect Jackie Lacey names Assistant DA Sharon Matsumoto as chief deputy DA, effective Dec. 3.

Nov. 29: The Little Tokyo community holds a thank-you reception for City Councilmember Jan Perry, who has represented Little Tokyo for more than a decade. She is leaving the council and running for mayor in 2013.

DECEMBER

Nobel Prize recipients John Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka.

Dec. 12: Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) gives his farewell speech. He is leaving Congress after 22 years in the Senate and 14 years in the House.

Dec. 17: The last of eight courts-martial of soldiers charged in connection with the death of Army Pvt. Danny Chen concludes at Fort Bragg. Chen committed suicide in Afghanistan after weeks of bullying by his superiors. Civil rights advocates say the punishment was too light and call for policy reforms.

Dec. 17: Jury deadlocks in murder trial of  Jackkqueline Pogue, who pushed Betty Sugiyama, 84, from a Metro Gold Line platform in November 2010.

Dec. 20: Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who died on Dec. 17 at the age of 88, lies in state at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, becoming one of the few Americans to receive this honor. At a service on Dec. 21 at the National Cathedral, President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton are among the speakers. On Dec. 22, Inouye lies in state at the Hawaii State Capitol, and services are held on Dec. 23 at National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl.

Dec. 26: Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie appoints Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz to Daniel Inouye’s Senate seat. Schatz is sworn in the following day. Inouye had requested that Rep. Colleen Hanabusa be named as his successor.

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  1. I am still so saddened by Senator Inouye. He was a hero at so many levels and at so many dimensions to so many people. During WWII. At the Watergate hearings. At everything he did. He was a great man and sets a high standard for all of us. We will miss him.

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