The Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro Unites Japanese and Japanese American Communities at Save Keiro Town Hall Meeting
LITTLE TOKYO, LOS ANGELES: November 23, 2015 – The Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro published press releases in community news publications, hosted regional meetings, and distributed flyers in both English and Japanese via email and at community centers, churches, temples, and retail establishments to invite the community to its Town Hall meeting, emceed by Dr. Charles Igawa. Despite the cool weather and late weeknight hour, over 500 mostly elderly community members made their way to the Aratani Theater. The turnout underscored the community’s commitment to stop the sale.
The evening’s welcome message started with a thank you to the community for the people’s support to SAVE KEIRO as evidenced by over 15,000 petition signatures to date. Honored guests Mr. Frank Omatsu, the only surviving founder of Keiro; Mr. Katsuo Yamasaki, Mr. and Mrs. Hayahiko Takase, and Ms. Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, the indomitable individuals featured in the evening’s videotaped interviews stood as they were recognized and welcomed by the audience. Distinguished guests U.S. Congresswoman Judy Chu, U.S. Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Assemblymember David Hadley and former Councilwoman Jan Perry graced the event with their attendance. Congresswoman Judy Chu garnered the timely endorsements of 15 members of Congress in a signed letter to Attorney General Kamala Harris to “postpone the sale of Keiro to Pacifica Companies until a public hearing is held, and to take into account the results of that hearing before approving the sale of Keiro”. Congresswoman Maxine Waters shared with the audience her, in-person, direct telephone call to Attorney General Harris setting in motion the Attorney General’s staff flying in from Sacramento and San Francisco to meet with representatives from the Ad Hoc Committee in the Attorney General’s Los Angeles office the following day. The Honorable Waters also said that the buyer Pacifica contacted her to express their disappointment that she did not communicate with them first before signing the letter. Her reply was “not only will I not talk to you, I will fight you!” Assemblyman David Hadley, Vice Chair of the Aging and Long-Term Care Committee, was the first elected official to write a letter to the Attorney General raising concerns for Keiro’s elderly residents and possible violations of donor intent. His letter, dated October 16, 2015 requested a postponement of the sale and to offer a public hearing.
The videotaped interviews are first-hand accounts of current residents, a prospective resident and a founding member of Keiro who oppose the sale. Starting with Frank Omatsu, the only surviving founder of Keiro, he explained that the Japanese and the Jewish communities are the only minority groups who have developed retirement and nursing homes for their elderly and that the thought of the sale makes him sick.
Mr. Yamasaki who moved into Keiro with his wife in only October of last year said that “we were told when we moved in that we would be taken care of the rest of our life. If we became disabled … could not take care of ourselves … sent to ICF … (if) our conditions worsen … sent to nursing home.” A short time later, it was a big surprise to him to hear that Keiro attempted to sell the facilities to a company called Ensign. He believes that the Keiro Board made a “serious mistake” by defending the decision of Shawn Miyake and not supporting the Japanese American community.
In 2012, Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, well-known political activist who uncovered the racial prejudice behind the forced relocation of citizens of Japanese descent after Pearl Harbor, submitted an application to be placed on the waiting list for the Keiro Retirement Home. About 6 months ago, when she heard about the pending sale, she wanted to retract her application because she was not told of the plans to sell the facilities when she submitted the application. Keiro refused to refund her deposit. Shortly after taping this interview her deposit was refunded.
Keiro Retirement Home board member, Mr. Hayahiko Takase and his wife explained that their daughter lives out of state and that their desire to live where they can communicate and express their needs in Japanese led them to their decision to move to Keiro. Although Keiro Retirement Home Board of Directors’ meeting minutes show that the vote to sell the Keiro facilities was unanimous, Mr. Takase, a member of one of three Keiro boards is now speaking out against this sale. As described in a 2010 article in Cultural News, for over 50 years, “the architect and artist has combined his educational experiences at Tokyo University in Japan and Harvard University in the United States to create buildings and spaces in our community that reflect the dual identity of Japanese America.” An exhibition of his work was funded through the 2010 Community Outreach Program Grant of UCLA Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Study, with additional support from the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. The exhibition honored the legacy of Hayahiko Takase and “the contributions he has made in defining Little Tokyo as a unique and changing place that has stood the test of time, blending art, tradition and the spirit of more than just two cultures.” He designed the Kajima Building, Higashi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, the Kyoto Grand Hotel, the Miyako Hotel, and the Little Tokyo Service Center’s major development, the Budokan of Los Angeles, a multi-purpose sports facility that is expected to open in 2016. No other board member has stepped up like Mr. Takase in support of the community’s effort to SAVE KEIRO. The other board members are Keiro Senior HealthCare Board of Directors: Ernest Doizaki, Jeff Folick, Gerald Fukui, Thomas Iino, John Ikegami, Gary Kawaguchi, Lynn Miyamoto, Makoto Nakayama, Stuart Tsujimoto, Ruth Watanabe; Nursing Home Board of Directors: Ken Kasamatsu, Teiji Kawana, Claire Koga, Dwight Nakata, Makoto Nakayama, Lisa Sugimoto, Derick Tagawa, Jason Yamada and Retirement Home Board of Directors: Paul Jay Fukushima, Theodore T. Hanasono, Karl, Kim, Yoshihiko Koyasu, Timothy Manaka, Jr., Stephen Suzuki, Kirk Tanioka, Stuart Tsujimoto, and Betty Yumori
Executive Committee member Jon Kaji informed the audience that, if the sale goes through and at the close of escrow, employees of the four facilities being sold will all be fired. The Keiro management did nothing to ensure continuity of care by requiring the buyer to keep current employees who have been the residents and patients caregivers, in some cases, for many, many years. The Keiro management also did nothing to ensure employment, seniority, benefits under the new buyer. Dr. Kenji Irie gave the example of his mother-in-law, a Medicare and Medi-Cal eligible patient (commonly referred to as a “Medi-Medi” patient) who, in a for-profit facility, would likely be replaced, in favor of a higher paying patient. Dr. Takeshi Matsumoto reported that steps are already underway to apply for historic landmark status for the Max Maltzman building that currently houses the Keiro Retirement Home administration offices and the surrounding Japanese Gardens protecting them by a myriad of local, state and Federal laws from being destroyed and lost forever.
For the closing remarks, Dr. Igawa thanked all of our committed supporters for their passionate messages and reiterated the three most pressing objectives of the Ad Hoc Committee: (1) now that Keiro and Pacifica have heard the voice of the community, that they voluntarily cancel the sale, (2) now that the California Attorney General’s office has heard the voice of the community, the AG’s office host a public hearing to formalize the will of the people and take into account this will, and (3) the removal of Keiro CEO Shawn Miyake.
The questions submitted for the Q & A session were either already answered during the evening’s presentation or could only be answered by representatives from Keiro who declined an invitation to answer questions at the Town Hall. Questions submitted at the Town Hall will be responded to and posted on www.savekeiro.org.
Executive Committee member Mo Nishida made his way up the steep steps of the stage to impress upon all of us the need to recognize the effort to SAVE KEIRO as our struggle to protect what we have developed into a model non-profit organization that takes care of our elderly in a climate of corporate greed where large, for-profit, multi-national companies like Pacifica are buying up small, non-profit specialized assets, like Keiro. Mr. Nishida, your grassroots, political activist message that protects the people was heard by the usually non-confrontational, quiet, and respectful audience. He raised his fist and proclaimed his commitment with the cry “All Power to the People!” In the front row, Congresswoman Maxine Waters simultaneously raised her fist and nodded in agreement. Wakarimasu … we understand. We continue the fight to SAVE KEIRO.
For more information about the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro, visit www.savekeiro.org
(Last updated 12/28/2015)
All photos copyright of Raymond Sonoda.