House Passes Chi Mui Post Office Building

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Mr. SCHIFF. I thank the gentleman from Illinois for yielding, and I want to thank him, Mr. Waxman and the staff on the committee for working with me on this legislation.

I'm proud to stand here today to honor a well-respected and dedicated leader from the San Gabriel Valley. Mr. Chi Mui was a beloved member of the Asian American community in Southern California, and the mayor of the city of San Gabriel, where he dedicated himself to improving the quality of life for his neighbors, community and country. I can't think of a more fitting tribute to such an exceptional man than naming the post office in San Gabriel, the town where he touched so many lives, in his honor.
Chi Mui's story epitomizes the American dream. Born in Toisan, China, Chi Mui was a man of humble origins whose early experiences enabled him to relate and connect to the Asian community in California.
After spending many of his early years in Hong Kong, Chi moved with his parents to New York City's vibrant Chinatown in 1963, at the age of 10. Chi spoke Cantonese with his parents, who were a seamstress and a cook, but quickly immersed himself in the language of his new home. As a new immigrant, he remembered feeling like an outsider on the edge of society, and found refuge, his own oasis in the New York Public Library, where he broadened his mind and developed a lifelong commitment to supporting public libraries.
His time reading and studying in the library served him well as he continued his schooling, graduating cum laude with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Polytechnic University in New York in 1980. After attending New York University, he moved west and began his distinguished career in public service.
In Los Angeles he served as deputy to one of our colleagues, LUCILLE ROYBAL-ALLARD, and later to California State Senator, Richard Polanco. As their deputy, and in his own time, Chi began working to better the lives of immigrants in the region. Chi Mui's immigrant roots and experiences gave him a special insight and the wisdom and ability to connect with generations of people who came to this country for a better life.
Chi was a key player in the development of 600 units of affordable and senior housing in Los Angeles' Chinatown, and taught citizenship classes to help hundreds of legal residents become U.S. citizens. In 1999 he led an alliance of community leaders, neighborhood groups and businesses to save 50 acres of open space known as the ``Cornfield'' in downtown Los Angeles. This land became California's first ever urban State park, and is now known as the Los Angeles State Historic Park.
An avid runner and an athlete, he cared deeply about improving recreational facilities and opportunities for youth in the urban area of Los Angeles, and helped obtain $35 million in State funding in 2001 for recreational facilities and activities in the new Los Angeles State Historic Park.
Chi also helped expand the capacity of the Alpine Recreation Center, which doubled in size due to his efforts. He volunteered his time to coach youth at the Alpine Center where he taught teamwork and sportsmanship.
He also founded and co-founded the Los Angeles Chinatown Athletic Association Volleyball Club and created a night basketball program for at-risk youth. Youth are still benefiting from his legacies. Both programs are still going strong today.
Chi Mui's experience as an immigrant and his close ties to his Chinese heritage led him to be active in the Chinese American community in the L.A. area. In recognition of his leadership, he was elected President of the Los Angeles Chinese American Citizens Alliance twice. The Alliance was founded in San Francisco in 1895, and advocates for equal political, economic and educational opportunities for Chinese Americans.
Chi believed in working together with everyone, and often brought different cultures and races together to work on common problems. While he was close with the Chinese American community, he also worked hand in hand with the Indochinese and Chinese-Vietnamese communities, and he was an important link between the Asian American community in San Gabriel and all other residents where he served on the San Gabriel City Council.
Chi Mui was one of only a handful of first-generation Chinese Americans to successfully run for office when he was elected to the San Gabriel City Council in March of 2003. He made history as the first Asian and Chinese American City Council member and mayor since the City of San Gabriel's incorporation in 1913.
Remembering how important library access was to him, Chi was a devoted member of the Friends of San Gabriel Public Library, and led the effort to open the county public library in San Gabriel on Saturdays to provide more services to residents and students without increasing costs.
However, his personal passion on the City Council was the ``greening'' of the community, and he worked tirelessly to preserve the quality of life that San Gabriel residents value. A long-time advocate of parks and open space, Chi Mui helped the city obtain funds for the master plan and redesign of Vincent Lugo Park, and successfully pushed for additional trees and greenery on neighborhood streets.
For several years, Chi fought a courageous battle with cancer, during which he continued his work for the residents of San Gabriel. On April 27, 2006, at the age of 53, Chi passed away with his wife Betty and a few close friends at his side.
He was greatly loved by the City of San Gabriel, and those who knew him saw his commitment to making the city a wonderful community for life-long residents and new commerce as well.
I greatly enjoyed the chance to work with him during his tenure on the city council and know I speak for a great many when I say how much we all miss him.
People around the country recently finished celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month which ended on Saturday, May 31. Asian Americans have touched many lives around the country, and Chi Mui is no exception. It is fitting that we pass this legislation, H.R. 5477, which will add yet another Asian American name to a very short list of post offices honoring this important community.
Chi Mui will never be forgotten by those who knew him. He had a profound effect on the people of southern California and the City of San Gabriel. Future generations will recognize his good work in our community as we preserve his memory and rename the San Gabriel post office in his honor.
I thank again the gentleman from Illinois.