September 29, 2020
Bishop resident, Karen Kong, has always been fascinated by how things operate and how to make them better. Her focus is now on her community as a candidate for the Bishop City Council.
“As a city, we need to recognize the place we’re in,” she said in a recent phone interview. “The demographics are changing. We’re not a retirement community. There are new people, young, college-educated, families, a strong Hispanic population. ” Kong’s focus on the City Council would be to define and address those changes to fit with the changes within the community.
“We’re not a pass-through,” she noted in reference to the volume of tourist traffic between Southern California and the Sierra mountain communities, the folks who stop for gas and a loaf of bread. “We need to figure out who we are and who we want to be.”
For Kong, that’s not just an existential question. It’s step one in addressing the needs of the community.
“We need to fill empty storefronts with businesses that locals want to go to,” she said. “We need to address the needs of the population as it changes and develops.” Kong mentioned the focus on tourism, describing the challenge as a battle between what’s good for residents and what draws tourists.
The addition of outdoor dining is something Kong wants to see continue. Initially, the move outdoors was a survival measure in the face of COVID-19 restrictions. But, the outdoor seating has added a new dimension to the downtown corridor.
While those may not be mutually exclusive, she wants to see the pendulum swing more toward people who live and work in Bishop year-round.
Other items on Kong’s list of things to do include dealing with homelessness and health services. While both issues come under the prevue of Inyo County, Kong wants to see more coordination, more collaboration between Bishop, the population, if not the geographic, center of Inyo, and the County. “With grants, we can do a lot on our own,” she said.
Kong’s career has focused on the same populations she wants to concentrate on if elected—families and young people. She currently works for the Inyo County Office of Education as program coordinator for prevention and intervention. The job entails working with middle and high school students on issues of substance abuse, sex education and health. Her resume also includes prevention educator at Wild Iris, Inyo’s Department of Health and Human Services with the Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Prevention program.