To many, Yen Chou is a newcomer to the political scene. But ask the longtime education advocate and she will tell you she has been working her way to prominence in northern Queens for the last decade.
Chou is one of nine candidates in the running to succeed City Councilman John Liu (D−Flushing) and though it is relatively early in the race, she already has one clear edge over her challengers.
Chou has amassed a war chest of more than $211,000 thus far, according to the city Campaign Finance Board, easily outpacing S.J. Jung, whose $107,000 ranks second among the registered candidates.
Asked how she has been able to build early financial support so quickly, Chou said she brings a unique skill set to the table.
“I think I have a combination of experience,” she said in an interview at her Prince Street offices. “The other candidates, some of them are businessmen, some of them are community leaders. But they all have some of this and some of that. I really have the total package.”
Chou immigrated to the United States from China in 1986 to become a teacher, but claims to have started her political career in 1999, when she was elected to the school board in District 26 with the help of her campaign treasurer, Hank Yeh.
“That was really our practice run for this,” Chou said, smiling. “That’s the time that I really started to get involved with politics and the community.”
From there Chou, now 46, went on to work as a legislative aide for Councilman David Weprin (D−Hollis) and in 2002 formed the Chinese−American Parent Student Council, a nonprofit that mobilizes youths and parents to effect community−wide change through education.
Chou is also the director of the Aim Tutoring Academy, which provides study help to more than 1,000 students in the city area.
“A lot of people have said to me, ‘You are just an educator, you don’t know what’s going on,’” Chou said. “I say to them, ‘That’s not right. I am an educator, yes. But I’m also a businesswoman and a community activist.’”
Chou said her education priorities, if elected, would include bolstering parent involvement in the schools, seeking out new locations for additional school buildings and working to bolster education funding during the budget process.
“I think they have to look more carefully at what can be cut. There are so many wasteful programs that could be eliminated right now. We could be avoiding a lot of the major education cuts that are being proposed.”
Chou also said she hopes to aid development of Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay’s eastern shore to provide a bridge for the planned Willets Point redevelopment. She also said she wants to work with transportation agencies to better streamline travel through Flushing’s busy thoroughfares and apply emerging technologies to longstanding issues, like parking.
“The people of this district are counting on a person that can bring these resources to them,” she said. “And I’m the person for the job.”
Chou is running for the seat in District 20, which encompasses Flushing, Queensboro Hill, Mitchell Gardens, Kissena Park, Harding Heights and Auburndale and a portion of Whitestone.
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.
©2009 Community News Group
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