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“Little Saigon” Battle: Subtle Aspect of Democracy

The article of the Opinion section on page 10A, Feb-05-08, surprised me very much because of its label “The Opinion of The San Jose Mercury News Editorial Board”.

In general, it is only comprised of assumptions and inaccuracies. It aims at misleading non-Vietnamese-speaking people to support Madison Nguyen. The Editorial Board (EB) should show more objectivity and more professionalism. The EB did not study carefully step-by-step what Madison Nguyen did during the whole naming process before writing the article.

The picket lines on every Tuesday, now popularly known as Black Tuesday, establish a battle for democracy, for San Jose Sunshine law, and for an appropriate way to handle minority communities’ affairs. Vietnamese people understand very well democracy for which they risked their lives. No interpretation of democracy is skewed. They perceive different subtle aspects of democracy. The name “Little Saigon” represents a torch of freedom and a last hope for people in our homeland, a hope that one day they can live a life of freedom. The Vietnam Communist government hates to see the name spreading all over the world and tries hard to eliminate it by using secret influence as a tactic through special interest groups. In San Jose, making back-room deals is a good way to carry out such tactic. In this specific case, through painful living experiences, Vietnamese are very sensitive to back-room deals that break the City’s Sunshine law. They have the patience and the courage to stand up when their community’s affairs are not handled properly causing intimidation and disrespect of their community. In addition, those back-room deals were genuinely orchestrated by special interest groups having close ties to the inhuman Vietnam Communist government. Knowing such deals is one thing but proving them is another.. Being hard to prove promotes those deals and encourages people to make them. The San Jose Mercury News’ Tainted-Trials reports taught us that a case being proven just might not be just, and vi versa. Courage and patience become key factors in standing up for the truth until the truth comes to light. From this viewpoint, Black Tuesday represents a good cause and is worth the fight. The Little-Saigon battle is not harmful for the City of San Jose, it helps the City’s residents, who are very diversified, understand the very subtle aspect of democracy. The battle definitely does not hurt the Vietnamese community since the community is sending a clear message to special interest groups and to the Vietnam Communist government: do not take advantage of the American democracy and do not abuse the Freedom of Speech to influence elected officials by giving them bribes through back-room deals. Madison Nguyen seemed to have good ties to Gonzales, a patron of back-room deals.

I wonder, among the two words “Holocaust” and “Communism”, which one causes more chilling effect to people’s feelings and stirs more deep pain in people’s lives? Each time, a Nazi sign appears, Americans react quickly and law enforcement officers are involved to investigate. When a communist sign appears, only Vietnamese react. Victims of the Holocaust had lived through horrifying experiences; and so had those under communism. Actions of the Nazi group is un-acceptable in our civilized society; so is that of communism. I sincerely hope that more and more Americans will have sympathy toward Vietnamese victims of communism. There have been at least millions and millions of people, including young kids and women, tortured and brutally killed under communist rule around the world. To me, the word communism is as horrifying as the world Holocaust. The comparison would help Americans understand Vietnamese reactions.

You assume that older Vietnamese are consumed by a hatred of communism. How do you know that ? Why did you write something so negative ? We have a full knowledge of communism and how communists are. We know what we are doing and why we are doing it. The word “hatred” you used is not appropriate in this context since we understand communist rulers through actual living experiences. There is no prejudice here. When I was young, my teacher said that Mao’s ultimate goal was to invade and occupy the US. If that happens, you will then understand communism the way we do now. I do not want that to happen.

In two years as a councilwoman, Madison Nguyen did not accomplish much. Her only project concerning the community, the Story-Road Business Project assigned to her, was not handled correctly. She set up a meeting for Vietnam Town (under construction) Management to meet with City officials to discuss and select a name for the Story Road section without informing the community leaders of the meeting. She lined up support for her proposed name before the date of the vote (Nov-20-07). She ignored the name “Little Saigon” to favor her special interest group. She downplayed the good cause of the “Little Saigon” battle and insulted “Little Saigon” backers by saying that they are jobless and have nothing to do but picket. She said: “The city has more important work to do than what to call a strip of mostly Vietnamese-owned shops on Story Road”. Her statement is very offensive to our community. She probably forgot the Don Imus case. Nothing she did so far is in compliance with the State Law and the City’s Sunshine Ordinance.

You assume that “Little Saigon” backers consider poll and survey responses as democratic “votes”. I do not know where you got the idea. We all know that poll and survey responses are not votes.

I consider the City Council votes on Nov-20-07 invalid because of many reasons. One: the name she proposed was dictated by a special interest group and not chosen by the majority of the community. Two: she lined up votes before the voting date Nov-20-07. Three: she lied to the City Council that the name she proposed had support from a majority. Four: She did not present material facts to the City Council to support her name proposal. Five: City Council Members failed to ask her basic questions before taking a vote. The voting process was not handled properly in a democratic way. I called it invalid. Someone else can called it undemocratic. Your paragraph was too short and became misleading. “Little Saigon” backers knew what was going on and that is why they condemned the Nov-20 vote as undemocratic. They have good reasons to back up their condemnation.

Besides assumptions, you tried to educate people about “representative democracy” by asserting the right of elected officials to make a decisions based on their own best judgment. You then gave an example to support your reasoning. Again, your wording is misleading readers about San Jose residents’ opposition to the City’s Affordable Housing Project (CAHP). Truthfully, all San Jose residents were helpful and they did not oppose the CAHP. Smelling the corrupt influence of special interest groups, they opposed the handling of the CAHP and questioned its fairness and worthiness. The handling of the CAHP was not appropriate as well as that of the Little Saigon naming process. Then-San Jose residents knew that decision making based on elected officials’ own best judgment was a wide-open door to back rooms where back-room deals were made. Such deals made San Jose residents frustrated for decades. Mr. Chuck Reed advocated the Sunshine Law prohibiting those back-room deals. He ran for Mayor on that Sunshine platform and easily won the election.
The Vietnamese New Year is the community’s big celebration. Madison should not be invited and she was not invited. This year, Linda Nguyen is not the organizer. Madison Nguyen betrayed the community and was not welcome.

Your conclusion is another assumption that is also not appropriate: The Little Saigon conflict is un-healthy for the City and for the Vietnamese community. We do not know how you define “un-healthy”. Vietnamese in the community know very well what they are doing and why they are doing it. They also know, in general, what San Jose residents want by reviewing the result of the 2006 election: no more abuse of power to make back-room deals, integrity of elected officials in rendering public services, honesty and sincerity in considering the input from the public to make San Jose a better place to live.

A resolution for the “Little Saigon” conflict must come from the City Council. Abuse of power, mispresentation of facts, violations of state and local laws, and misplace of trust in incapable Madison Nguyen have made the naming process a mess. Putting the matter on the ballot is a bad idea. Non-Vietnamese-speaking voters could not understand the significance of a Vietnamese name because of its emotional implication that only Vietnamese people feel. Putting the matter on the ballot wastes tax dollars when the City’s budget is scarce. The City Council knows clearly that “Little Saigon” backers have the majority. Why wasting more time and more tax money?

We saw Tropicana problem under Mayor Gonzales. We now see Little Saigon problem in the early year of Mayor Reed. What will be next. There must be a good leadership to keep the City business running smoothly. Let us pray: God bless San Jose.

Respectfully Yours
A Resident of San Jose
QuangMinh Phạm

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