UPDATED: May 28, 2021
Elk Grove Hmong Americans (EGHA), an activist group, last week launched their recall petition against Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen.
With the city’s approval of the petition form and word count on May 14, the group is working to collect about 11,000 signatures – slightly more than 10% of Elk Grove’s 104,697 registered voters in the 2020 election. They must meet the goal by Oct. 21, in order to have the issue placed on the November 2022 city ballot.
The recall campaign aims at removing Singh-Allen from the mayoral seat. She was elected mayor last year when she defeated incumbent Steve Ly, who became America’s first Hmong mayor four years earlier.
EGHA’s organizers claim that Singh-Allen made derogatory comments that targeted the Hmong community. They also held a protest rally last summer against Singh-Allen, who denies the group’s allegations.
Singh-Allen, a former Elk Grove Unified School District trustee, joined the Elk Grove mayoral race last summer, after becoming one of several local women to allege they were harassed by Ly’s associates or supporters.
A month earlier, she used her personal Facebook page to refer to the Hmong patriarchal clan system as a “controlling and intimidating system used to attack and silence these women.” It was that statement, which led to protests against Singh-Allen that also included an online petition for her to resign from the school board.
Elk Grove Hmong Americans were organized by Elk Grove residents Mia Foster and Sai Vang, and Orangevale resident Marie Vue. Foster recently resigned from the group.
Foster this week shared why she decided to resign.
“I was in support of the recall when I felt that all attempts for a reconciliation with the mayor had been exhausted,” she wrote in her email response to the Citizen. “But recent events have opened new pathways for communication and reconciliation with the mayor of Elk Grove.
“After a considerable amount of reflection and discussions, I have decided to move forward in a different direction – one of healing and of peace, not only for the Hmong community, but for the greater community of Elk Grove, as well.”
Foster additionally shared why she became involved in the recall effort.
“Over nine months ago, I – as a Hmong American woman and mother in the community – was stirred into action by what I saw was an attack on my culture,” she wrote. “From the beginning, my only goal in all of this was to protect and preserve the legacies of our elders and the future of our youth. That has never changed.”
Singh-Allen also spoke about her communication with Foster.
“I have had numerous meetings and meaningful discussions with Mia Yang Foster and others,” she said. “Mia and I are working together towards hope and healing.”
Without Foster, Vang and Vue continue to collaborate in their recall effort, which includes their group’s press conference to announce the initiation of that effort last March.
Their notice of intention to circulate a recall petition notes that Singh-Allen “continues to deny instigating anti-Asian hatred, and she refuses to answer to her constituents in the city of Elk Grove for the hate she has perpetuated against the Hmong community.”
Vue this week told the Citizen that her group is dedicated to holding Singh-Allen “accountable for the statements that she has made.”
“We all know with the pandemic. (there has been an) uprise in hate crimes against Asians,” she said. “Her words stating that the Hmong clan system is used to intimidate and silence these women isn’t helping the situation.”
Vue added that members of her group spent the past nine months attempting to obtain an apology from Singh-Allen through protests and comments they made at City Council meetings.
She also mentioned that the group met with Singh-Allen to discuss this issue.
“(During that meeting), we did express our concerns about her statements that were made,” Vue said. “She did respond in a very positive way, and I know that we were hopeful for a resolution. But since the publication of the recall being approved, I know that all talks have stopped. So, I don’t know if she’s still interested in working on a positive resolution, and adjusting this and coming out and apologizing to the community about the words that she’s made, the harm towards our community.”
Despite the launching of her group’s recall campaign, Vue said that this effort would be dropped any day if Singh-Allen issued an apology to the Hmong community and enrolled in cultural sensitivity classes.
Vue noted that her group began gathering signatures for the petition during the afternoon of May 14.
“We’ve had (the petition) for a little over a week and we’ve got about 30 signatures,” she said. “We’re still in the works of trying to see what works best for us, and establish a bigger team.”
Mayor responds to petition
In response to the launching of EGHA’s petition and their recall effort, Singh-Allen this week shared a statement, in which she referred to the allegations against her as “false claims of racism.”
She also quoted a Sacramento Bee report that describes those allegations as “completely unfounded.”
Singh-Allen, an Indian American immigrant who was the nation’s first directly elected Sikh woman mayor, identified herself as a mayor who fights against hate directed at Asian Americans.
“In a time where our community needs to unite and fight against anti-Asian hate, I passed a resolution in Elk Grove to support the AAPI (Asians and Pacific Islanders) community, and created a Buddy Program for AAPI elders who need support,” she wrote.
The mayor also recognized the support she has received from Asians and Pacific Islander leaders, including U.S. Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove; U.S. Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento; California State Controller Betty Yee, and California State Treasurer Fiona Ma.
Singh-Allen additionally mentioned her support of students with diverse backgrounds.
“As a former trustee for (the) Elk Grove Unified School District, I was a champion for our highest need students, including immigrants and refugees, students of color, and students with disabilities,” she said.
Furthermore, Singh-Allen celebrated her background as an immigrant.
“Like most immigrants, we came to America for a better life,” she wrote. “My parents worked hard to provide my brother and I a good education and a comfortable home. We are living the American Dream because of their sacrifice.”