|(Feb. 16, 2021) -- Retired LB Councilwoman (1975-86) and LB's first female Mayor (1980-82, chosen by her Council colleagues) Eunice Sato has passed away. She was 99.
Ms Sato had a powerful intellect that she applied with intellectual honesty. On historical matters, she declined to dispense half truths when full truths were called for. In civic affairs, she refused to suffer foolishness gladly.
Nearly ten years ago, LBREPORT.com captured audio as Ms. Sato addressed a Memorial Day crowd at the Seal Beach Naval Weapon Station's Submarine Memorial. Ms. Sato spoke (without script or notes) on multiple historical and personal matters. Her words say more about her than we ever could.
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After leaving elective office, Ms. Sato remained active in civic affairs. In 1996, she spoke at a U.S. Navy hearing on City Hall's "re-use plan" for the LB Naval Station. City Hall officialdom planned to hand the federal facility to the Port for demolition and use as a container yard. Ms. Sato, who'd represented part of WLB on the City Council, knew that the Naval Station included historic buildings, recreational facilities, a gymnasium and swimming pool and high rise housing, all built with U.S. taxpayer dollars. PressTelegram reporter Bill Hillburg wrote a story describing the facilities, which reached KCET's Huell Howser who brought a TV crew to the site and showed what LB officialdom proposed to tear down. Over 1,500 people turned out for the Terrace Theater hearing.
Mayor Sato filled out a speaker card and sat quietly (alongside grassroots taxpayers including Ann Cantrell) as then-LB officials spoke first. Eventually, her name was called and the former Mayor came to the microphone. Speaking (again without script or notes) -- and in full view of then-Mayor Beverly O'Neill and then-city management -- Mayor Sato verbally demolished City Hall's demolition plan. Her remarks received a standing ovation. The remarks of some LB officials received boos.
When we hear some today complain about a lack of housing for LB's homeless, we recall the millions of dollars in taxpayer facilities done to dust for cargo containers.
In fall 2008, Mayor Sato took part in a taxpayer rally at Wardlow Park opposing a parcel property tax (Measure I) supported by then-Mayor Bob Foster. In 2006, Mayor Sato (a Republican) had endorsed candidate Foster (a Democrat) over Councilman Frank Colonna (a Republican). In her remarks opposing the tax measure, Mayor Sato showed no animus toward Mayor Foster; she just didn't like the tax measure on its merits...and she said so.
During her tenure as Mayor, LB lawyer Mel Nutter was a CA Coastal Commissioner, Mayor Sato took part in a ceremony in front of City Hall in which Commissioner Nutter returned the "Keys to the City" after the Coastal Commission certified the City's protective Local Coastal Program (1980.). Several years ago, Mr. Nutter came across photos of that day and shared them with us. We share them with our readers below.
On Sept. 6, 2016, a large crowd assembled at the former Hill Middle School (1100 Iroquois Avenue) to dedicate the campus as the "Sato Academy of Mathematics and Science" (grades 9 through 12.)
Principal Mona Merlo conducted the event, which featured remarks by LBUSD Superintendent Christopher Steinhauser, Long Beach School Board President Jon Meyer and Mr. Douglas Sato, Mayor Sato's son, who spoke on behalf of the Sato family for his mother. LBREPORT.com covered the event with extended VIDEO (on-demand below.)
The event program included the following text: :
[Event program text] Sato Academy of Mathematics and Science is the first school in the district to be named for an Asian American. Sato, now 95 years old, was born in Livingston, near Modesto. The daughter of Japanese immigrants, her family farmed vegetables in California's Central Valley.
Some have noted Ms. Sato's diminutive physical stature. We consider her a towering figure.
LBREPORT.com will be donating a copy of Ms. Sato's Memorial Day audio remarks to the Sato Academy of Mathematics and Science for their archives.
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