He’s the 2018 mayoral candidate who’s least likely to be on your radar screen — that is, if you’re following the race by way of the signs along your streets or the buzz on your social media feeds. Indeed, when The Milpitas Beat interviewed Yoon Lee (34) about his campaign, he didn’t have answers to some of our questions, and came out looking like the resolute underdog, at best.
But to date, Lee’s knocked on the doors of some 2,500 to 2,700 Milpitas homes, and come a long way in terms of getting acquainted with the political and personal priorities of many Milpitians (while picking up some visible sunburn on his arms).
Along the way, a few days ago, Lee found himself getting slammed by a supporter of Mayor Rich Tran on Facebook. The supporter wrote, “This yahoo came by asking for my vote. I told him as for me and my household…We vote for our current Mayor Rich Tran!! #milpitasfamiliesfirst”
Accompanying the post was a campaign photo of Lee, with his poodle in his arms. Below the post, commenters mocked Lee and his efforts, with one writing, “Hopefully no poodles were harmed during the making lol” and another comparing Yoon Lee to comedian Bobby Lee.
Tran shared the post on his own Facebook page, commenting, “Thank you for your support and let’s continue to work together on our city’s issues.”
“Going door to door,” Tran wrote above the shared post, “is how to win elections in Milpitas.”
Lee remembers being turned away by the original poster, who stated her preference for Tran to him before their encounter ended. He directed The Milpitas Beat to an article published today in The Korea Times about the online incident. Lee, who is South Korean, has seen members of his community spring to his side, calling out the social media mockery as racist, and stating that Tran’s failure to intervene is not behavior befitting of a mayor.
In response to the allegations, Mayor Rich Tran wrote to The Beat, “Asian Americans have been disproportionately represented in mainstream media for decades. It appears several Milpitas residents likened mayoral candidate Yoon Lee to comedian Bobby Lee. It’s nice to know that Asian Americans are making strides towards better representation in media and politics. It appears Yoon Lee looks famous. I commend Yoon Lee and all candidates for their leadership.”
In the meantime, Yoon Lee runs his mayoral election campaign with energy and sincerity. He cites the Milpitas odor as our citizens’ utmost concern, and himself discovered a renewed interest in the issue after his 3-year-old daughter noticed it on her own. He now seeks to leave Milpitas better than he found it, for the sake of future generations. Having discussed the odor problem with an assortment of professors, Lee’s devised a 4-prong plan for solving it, 1 prong of which involves the use of a special form of water which has already succeeded in another country, and the other 3 of which are secure in an envelope, ready to be shared with Milpitas should he have the chance to serve as our mayor. He claims his plans, if implemented, would cost approximately $88 million, but would stand to eradicate the odor problem once and for all.
“We could have solved the odor problem 30 or 40 years ago,” he said, “but nobody cared.”
He’s also mindful about…
Traffic … He thinks it can be lessened if the city offers incentives to motorists who use a ride-sharing program, or agree to travel by BART, or to drive less, or to drive at appointed, lesser-traffic times, perhaps in coordination with companies that orchestrate alternative work shifts to match lower-traffic times of day.
Public Safety … He thinks it can be enhanced by way of more speed bumps and stop signs, as well as the use of surveillance cameras (not unlike those used in Korea) that can track where local crime is occurring most (while being mindful of not violating citizens’ privacy).
Affordable Housing … He thinks it can be alleviated by building a fund (by way of support from large area companies) with which to aid disadvantaged Milpitians in keeping up with their rent and mortgage payments.
Lee doesn’t have Mayor Tran’s large social media following, or opponent Bob Nuñez’s business-community standing, or opponent Jose Esteves’ 6-win record (much less Esteves’ giant street signs), but nonetheless, he’s hitting the streets, making the connections, and doing all he can to build up allies and votes.
A pro basketball agent by profession, Lee also feels confident in his ability to network so as to shine a light on Milpitas’ critical issues, namely the odor, in the hopes of gaining the attention and support of leading U.S. political figures, including our state’s next governor and even our president.
But if he wins the mayoral seat, he’ll stop being an agent for at least 2 years, to focus on the job. He knows it’s a hard one. He thinks he can do it.
On each day between now and November 6, he’ll continue knocking on doors.
(Note: This article was edited after its initial publication to omit the detail of Tran’s supporter having closed her door, as her encounter with Lee happened entirely outside.)