Local Government Tackling Global Issues

The Silicon Valley Japan Platform’s May monthly Benkyokai webinar discussed “Local Government Tackling Global Issues” featuring three Japanese American Bay Area leaders: Ellen Kamei, Mayor, City of Mountain View; Margaret Abe-Koga, City Council Member and Former Mayor, City of Mountain View; and Greg Tanaka, City Council Member, City of Palo Alto.

We heard about the paths that lead to their involvement in local government and the role their cities have played in addressing national issues.  From managing the global pandemic within their perspective cities to addressing the rise in Anti-asian hate crimes to private/public partnerships, we learned how our Bay Area leaders are making an impact!

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS

Ellen Kamei serves as the Mayor of the City of Mountain View, California in the heart of Silicon Valley. A third generation Mountain View resident, Ellen is the daughter of a Chinese and Puerto Rican American mother and a Japanese American father born at Heart Mountain Internment Camp.

Ellen is passionate about youth and civic engagement, mental health services, and social equity. She chairs the City of Mountain View Ad-Hoc Committee on Race, Diversity, and Inclusion as well as the City’s Youth Services Subcommittee.

She is a member of various boards and commissions including: Vice President of the League of California Cities Women’s Caucus, the Peninsula Division Executive Committee for the League of California Cities, and is a board member on the Community Health Awareness Council (CHAC). Her professional experience includes over a decade of experience at every level of government, local, state, and federal, as well as political campaigns. Ellen also has experience in the classroom as a former English Teacher for Kindergarten, Elementary, and Middle Schoolers.

Ellen completed her M.P.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, B.A. from UC Santa Barbara, and is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Senior Executives in State and Local Government.

Margaret Abe-Koga is currently serving her fourth term on the Mountain View City Council, having served two terms from 2007-2015, and reelected in 2016 and 2020. She served as Vice-Mayor in 2008 and 2019, and as Mayor for the first time in 2009, making her the first Asian American female to serve in those capacities in Mountain View’s history. She served a second term as Mayor in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On the City Council, Margaret has championed the issues of public safety, transportation, affordable housing, environmental sustainability, youth and families and health and wellness.

Margaret represents Mountain View on regional bodies including the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District; the Silicon Valley Clean Energy Board which she chairs, the Valley Transportation Authority(VTA); and on the Santa Clara County Cities Association as 2nd Vice President. Her past service included serving as President and Vice President of the Cities Association of Santa Clara County; the Silicon Valley Regional Interoperability Agency, the Santa Clara County Emergency Operational Area Council, and on the Santa Clara County Local Agency Formation Commission.

She also served on the VTA Board of Directors and Chaired the Board in 2011. Margaret led the agency to financial solvency through the economic downturn and worked to maintain and continue progress on capital projects like the BART extension, light rail improvements and the Bus Rapid Transit system. She also served on the VTA’s Policy Advisory Committee and the Levi’s Stadium Transit Program Task Force.

In 2012, Margaret was appointed by California Governor Jerry Brown to serve on the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board overseeing water quality issues in the Bay Area.

Prior to her service on the City Council, Margaret served as Trustee for Area 1 on Santa Clara County Board of Education and served as Board Vice-President in 2004. She also served as Human Relations Commissioner and Environmental Planning Commissioner for the City of Mountain View.
In addition to elected and appointed service, Margaret has been active in the community. She has served on the boards of CHAC – Community Health Awareness Council, Charities Housing – a non-profit affordable housing developer, the League of Conservation Voters, Carbon Free Mountain View, the Housing Trust of Silicon Valley, Avenidas Senior Services, the Mountain View Sister Cities Association, the Silicon Valley Japanese American Chamber of Commerce, the Japanese American Citizens League San Mateo Chapter, Vice-Chair of the Old Mountain View Neighborhood Association and President of the San Jose Taiko Board.
Margaret was born at Stanford Hospital and raised in San Mateo by immigrant parents from Japan. She attended public schools K-12, and went on to Harvard University.

Greg Tanaka serves on the Palo Alto City Council and was re-elected last November. He is also a candidate for US Congress California District 18. Previously, he served as Chair of the City Council Finance Committee and Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission. Greg is Founder and CEO of a venture-backed startup that was funded by top-tier investors like Google Ventures and he is a recognized expert in the area of Artificial intelligence. He is a Caltech and UC Berkeley alumni and a father of a daughter in middle school and a son in high school. Greg is a 4th generation Japanese American. He has lived in the Bay Area since ’93.