Fremont has a widespread reputation for embracing its ethnic pluralism. Public officials are quick to note that more than 120 languages are spoken within the 92 square miles of the city. The city has an established Chinese-American community, a burgeoning Indo-American population, and an Afghan neighborhood that has garnered national recognition.
But you would never know it by looking at Fremont’s political power structure. According to the 2000 Census, Asian Americans in the mostly nonwhite city make up 37 percent of the population. Latinos comprise another 13.5 percent. Yet Fremont’s city council consists of four white men and just one Asian-American man. The Fremont school board? All five board members are white. The Ohlone College Board of Trustees? Six whites and one Asian American. The Washington Hospital District board? Four whites and one Asian American.
Then there’s Tuesday’s mayoral election — between two white men who are both longtime members of the city council.
What’s going on in the Bay Area’s fourth-largest city? Political experts and community activists say it could be many years before Fremont’s elected officials begin to mirror the ethnic diversity of the people they represent. A significant number of the city’s 210,000 residents are recent immigrants, and it’ll take time for them to gain a political foothold, they say.