Monterey Park : Ethnic Diversity Wins All-American Honor

Monterey Park has won designation as an All-American City for its efforts to integrate a growing ethnic population.

Monterey Park was one of only eight cities nationwide and the only one in California to receive the community improvement award from the National Municipal League.

Although the designation is honorary and carries no cash benefits, Councilwoman Lily Lee Chen, who was mayor when the city applied for the award, said, "It's wonderful but we will have to try harder to live up to our image. The award will give us renewed energy to work harder to build a better community.

"The award will help the future of the city because it shows this is a desirable community to live in and a good place to invest in. It will add to the economic vitality of the city and that will enable us to provide more services."

Last summer 500 cities submitted applications to the league, a nationwide organization of municipalities. The 17 finalists made their presentations to an awards jury last fall in San Antonio, Tex.

When Monterey Park representatives made their presentation, the emphasis was on efforts to meet challenges presented by a surge of Asian immigrants. Of the city's 54,338 residents, 33.2% are Asian and 33.8% Latino.

The city has been transformed from a 1960s bedroom community with an 85% Anglo population to a multiethnic residential-professional community with a population almost equally divided among the Anglo, Asian and Latino groups. The City Council is now composed of one Chinese, two Latinos, one Filipino and one Anglo.

During the past seven years in particular, there has been a dramatic increase in the percentage of Chinese immigrating to Monterey Park, city officials said. Situated on the western edge of the San Gabriel Valley, its proximity to the downtown Los Angeles Chinatown business and commercial area made Monterey Park a desirable place for immigrants to locate.

The city has attempted to integrate all its citizens through a variety of programs.

The Chamber of Commerce established a Chinese-American Committee to entice Chinese merchants into the mainstream of the commercial community. There also has been a commercial revitalization program that includes bilingual signs.

The Police Department, with the aid of volunteers, has implemented an interpreter-translator program in 28 languages and dialects to assist those needing law enforcement services.

The city has incorporated a Chinese translation in its municipal newsletter and major efforts have been made in the area of literacy. English-as-a-second-language classes were established in each of the city's 30 churches, the senior citizen center and parks and recreation programs.

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