On the Record
by Holly Tsang
Aug 04, 2009 | 3201 views | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Many candidates for public office like to talk about what they are going to do after they get elected. James Wu likes to talk about what he is already doing.

Wu hasn’t been elected to the City Council yet, but one of his ideas is already on the Council’s agenda: digital books.

He is passionate on the issue of education and advocates the use of lightweight digital readers, which can contain multiple textbooks in digital form.

Digital readers reduce the strain on kids’ backs by eliminating the need to carry heavy textbooks to and from school. They also provide a more interactive learning experience, as many come with neat tools like built-in dictionaries and self-tests that can immediately identify if a child is struggling with the material.

Because book publishers save on printing costs, they can pass the savings on. Wu said the city’s book budget is about $145 million, but the use of the readers could save the city $70 million. The saved money and physical space dedicated to books could be better utilized to enhance the education of all students.

“It’s on the City Council’s schedule. I’m very happy about that and think it’s an amazing piece of technology that will help our kids lead the way,” said Wu, who is running in the 20th council district, which his mother Ethel Chen narrowly lost in 2001.

Born and raised in Flushing, he has watched his hometown become one of the city’s most desirable places to live. He has also seen zoning officials try to take advantage of this by attempting to rezone one family homes in Flushing and Auburndale into multiple family homes. While this creates more tax revenue, it also encourages millions of people to crowd into a limited amount of space.

“All it does is it generates and propagates the greed that caused the financial collapse with the residential mortgage markets that occurred before,” said Wu. “Didn’t we learn from our mistakes before?”

As Democratic District Leader for the past seven years, Wu knows what his district needs. His solution is contextual zoning – a look at the context of an area and what’s sustainable within that context. He is working with zoning officials to come up with a better plan for everyone.

If elected, he vows to bring some much-needed transparency and accountability to government. He has persistently knocked on doors everyday, speaking face-to-face with the people he wants to hold him accountable. The business card he gives them even has his cell phone number on it.

“I represent new leadership,” said Wu. “I’ve fought for the people within the district to help make things better, and worked to make our community a safer and better place.”

A fun little fact: Wu saw “Star Wars” 24 times at the now decrepit RKO Keith’s Theater. He, like those who remember the extravagant theater, would love to see the theater restored as a community theater and arts center.

Considering that City Council is already conducting hearings on his digital books proposal, it may be safe to get your hopes up just a little.

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