‘Dreamers’ Unite Behind Kawagoe

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Helen Kawagoe and her daughter, Sheryl Miyamoto, outside City Hall. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

Rafu Staff Report

CARSON — The Helen’s Dream Coalition held a rally outside Carson City Hall on Sept. 4, again demanding that the City Council Chambers be named after former City Clerk Helen Kawagoe immediately.

This is the second time the group has picketed, but this time Kawagoe herself was among those holding up placards.

After serving as the elected city clerk for more than 37 years, Kawagoe suffered a debilitating stroke a year ago and had to step down. She now lives at South Bay Keiro in Gardena and just turned 85 on Aug. 30.

Looking very different from her official portrait and sitting in a wheelchair with her daughter, Sheryl Miyamoto, by her side, Kawagoe was surrounded by friends who were protesting the City Council’s 3-2 decision earlier this year to rename the chambers after Kawagoe’s passing. The council majority maintains that it is against city policy to honor a living person in this manner.

Wearing yellow T-shirts reading “Helen’s Dream Now,” coalition members attended that evening’s council meeting and spoke during the public comment period. Most were harshly critical of Mayor Pro Tem Julie Ruiz-Raber, Councilmember Lula Davis-Holmes and Councilmember Mike Gipson, who are at odds with Mayor Jim Dear and Councilmember Elito Santarina over the renaming issue.

Dear, who welcomed Kawagoe to the chambers, called the council majority “cold-hearted” for not granting her wish and accused them of misrepresenting his position at various public events. He stated for the record that he sides with the coalition.

There were also acrimonious exchanges among the council members and city staff over how many coalition members would be allowed to speak.

The room fell silent when Kawagoe attempted to address the council. She was unable to articulate the words as her speech has been severely impaired by the stroke, so her daughter read the message: “Please help make my dream come true now. Thank you for your support. Thank you all for coming.”

Her supporters applauded and shouted, “We love you, Helen” and “This is Helen’s house.”

Although no further action by the council is scheduled, the coalition plans to keep the issue alive and hopes to change the mind of at least one of the three councilmembers who voted to honor Kawagoe posthumously.

Members of Helen's Dream Coalition marched around the intersection of Avalon and Carson. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

The City Council and city staff listened as Helen Kawagoe attempted to speak. Pictured from left are Councilmembers Mike Gipson and Elito Santarina, Mayor Jim Dear, Mayor Pro Tem Julie Ruiz-Raber and Councilmember Lula Davis-Holmes. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

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3 Comments

  1. I’m one of Helen Kawagoe’s “Dreamers” & want to thank Rafu Shimpo for their coverage of this issue. I hope that everyone of your readers in the Carson area takes up Helen’s cause. If the 3 self-serving and petty council members can do this to someone like Helen, who provided Carson with 4 decades of distinguished service, just think of how they will treat the average, hard-working resident.

  2. It was Helen Kawagoe, herself, who requested that the Council Chambers be named in her honor following a severe stroke that necessitated her retirement after nearly 40 years of public service. The residents of Carson have joined to be her “voice” but we are being ignored and disrespected by those we put in office to represent us. Helen’s request is not a political issue and the naming of the Chambers should come from the heart . Rather, it appears that the vindictiveness of some council members amongst themselves and towards the mayor will prevent Helen from seeing her dream come true. Let’s us not forget when it is election time for mayor and/or council members.

  3. God Bless you Helen, our “Mother of CARSON CITY HALL” WE THE CARSON COMMUNITY, WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU IN OUR PRAYERS, MOST DEDICATED PUBLIC SERVANT!!!! KEEP THE FAITH!! PEACE! RICK & MODESTA PULIDO & FAMILY PV

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