By MIA NAKAJI MONNIER and NAO NAKANISHI
Rafu Staff Writers
As Keiro moves forward with the sale of its facilities, members of the community are asking for answers. Most vocal among them is the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro, scheduled to meet tonight in Little Tokyo.
At its gathering, the committee hopes to “grapple with the many unanswered questions regarding the sale,” reads a recent press release. “Questions such as why the decision to sell, what exactly are the financial difficulties Keiro claims to have, why they are not transparent about the steps they are taking to sell, and why they are not responding to questions asked by the community.”
Keiro CEO Shawn Miyake, on the other hand, believes that his organization has communicated its intentions clearly throughout the sale process. “I don’t think that any organization in this community has done the exhaustive work we’ve done to try to communicate,” he said in an interview with The Rafu Shimpo.
Earlier this month, the state attorney general granted conditional approval for Keiro to sell its four facilities to real-estate company Pacifica for $41 million. Last week, Pacifica, as well as Aspen and Northstar, who will operate the facilities for Pacifica, formally agreed to the attorney general’s conditions. Included in the conditions are requirements that the facilities will continue to serve the Japanese American population and that staff and volunteers will be able to keep their positions.
“I would say that we have made ourselves very available,” said Miyake. So we feel like we’ve done more than enough. We feel very good about that.”
According to Miyake, Keiro began communicating about the possibility of a sale three years ago. Chief Administrative Officer Dianne Kujubu Belli, who runs Keiro’s educational programs, explained the organization’s intentions during various workshops and conferences around Southern California.
Miyake also cites the attorney general’s open-comment periods, during which members of the public were able to submit their concerns directly to the Attorney General’s Office. Those concerns were taken into consideration during the drafting of the conditions of sale.
However, Keiro’s main method of communication, which Miyake mentioned several times during the interview, is its website. “You know, someone asked me once, ‘Where is the Japanese community?’” said the CEO. “And I said, ‘It’s virtual.’ And he said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said, ‘Well, it’s everywhere. It’s nowhere. It’s all over the place.’
“So what we’ve decided to do is be very timely about posting information. So I always tell people, ‘Please go back to the website.’ The website is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week, globally. I don’t think you’re going to get much better than that.”
In a community that Kujubu Belli confirmed is “super-aging,” with an even higher proportion of elderly people than that of Japan, a website may not be the widest-reaching method of communication.
The CEO did stress that those directly affected by the sale, including residents, families, staff, volunteers, and donors have been kept informed. “You have questions, right?” he said. “They (the residents) have a lot of questions. And I don’t like to take time to answer other people’s questions when I have to answer their questions.”
In such a small, tightly knit community, however, it’s difficult to draw lines between people to determine degrees of effect. Those protesting Keiro’s sale feel they have a stake in the organization, whether as medical professionals, friends of residents, or simply as Japanese Americans.
Tonight from 6 to 8 pm, the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro will share its point of view at Centenary United Methodist Church, Central Avenue at Third Street in Little Tokyo. Speakers will include activist Mo Nishida and psychologist Keiko Ikeda, who has worked with patients from Keiro for more than two decades. Whether Keiro and the protestors will reach an understanding remains to be seen.
This is an ongoing story. More articles about Keiro’s sale to come.