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An Open Letter to The San Jose City Leadership
QuangMinh Pham (Mar. 6-2009)

Nguyen’s victory is not a surprise to me. It was predictable. Vietnamese residents of District 7 have courageously fought a hard fight in a very organized manner against a powerful Anti-Recall Front comprised of the Mayor, the City Council, the Labor Union, the San Jose Mercury News, Special Interest Groups and other political groups. It was courageous because they knew that Nguyen obviously had everything she needed to win the election.

Ignoring all her wrongdoings including the violation of the Brown Act, the violation of the Sun Shine Ordinance, making back room deals, claiming fake silent majority to mislead people, introducing a bogus petition containing false signatures, insulting people, disrespecting the will of the majority; Mayor Reed, the City Council, the Labor Union, and special-interest groups supported her .

Mayor Chuck Reed stood staunchly by her because he would need her vote in the City Council for his proposals.

City Council Members supported her because they did not want to set a precedence that, with the same work mentality as hers, can force any one of them out of office. In addition, the City Council schemed to help her: allocate $500,000.00 for the recall election and $500,000.00 for the replacement election. A total of one million dollars was set aside at the same time for both elections. Nguyen’s campaign then pressed hard on this money-wasting issue and asked residents of District 7 to vote NO on the recall to save the City money. To be fair and appropriate, the City Council should have allocated $500,000.00 only for the recall election and planned to appoint a replacement instead of another election. The City Council’s scheme provided her with great help during the bad economy and City’s budget shortfall.

The Labor Union supported her since her allegiance to the Labor Union was always loyal.

The most important newspaper of the Bay Area, San Jose Mercury News, ignored true facts and supported her. Non-Vietnamese speaking residents did not understand the profound reason that made Vietnamese so fervent in the recall effort.

Special interest groups supported her. A battered city council member can be easily manipulated in their favor.

Each individual group of the Anti-Recall Front supported her because of a special interest.

This powerful Anti-Recall Front did what they could in order to protect the imposition of a name onto a section of Story Road where most business owners are Vietnamese, a name that the majority of Vietnamese refugees disliked, a name that was approved by the Vietnam Communist Party, and a name that caused deep feelings of pain in them. This powerful Anti-Recall Front did what it could to suppress the will of the majority of members of a small ethnic community: the Vietnamese community in San Jose. So much time this protection took; so much turmoil it incited, so much money it cost; so much energy it consumed; so much hard feelings it instilled; so deep of a division it caused; city leadership was severely damaged; confidence in residents was shattered; etc…. . A name designation, originally intended to recognize successes of Vietnamese business owners and their hard work over the past 30 years, had turned into a battle because of lack of leadership from Mayor Chuck Reed. Was such an imposition of a name worth a time-consuming and expensive fight waged by the City leadership? Absolutely not! It was a terribly bad thing that happened to the city of San Jose. It wrote dark pages of history for the city of San Jose.

Facing this powerful Anti-Recall Front, the Recall Organizers had done a marvelous job. This was the first time they did it and they did it very well. They were young, enthusiastic, brilliant, and passionate for a good cause. They represented ordinary Vietnamese in District 7. Comparing this Recall Organization to the powerful City Council, the wealthy special interest groups, the best man-power articulating mechanism of the Labor Union, the efficient propaganda system of local media, and all other political groups, one could see, in its limited conditions, how well this Recall Organization did thus far. Looking at this powerful Anti-Recall Front vs a novice Recall Organization, the victory margin is only 10%. Vietnamese-speaking and non-Vietnamese- speaking voters were facing critical issues such as saving the City’s money, and the first Vietnamese elected official being ousted, …. . Voters of District 7 did not like Nguyen but other factors played a determining role in their voting. A No-Recall voter simply told me: “A No-Recall vote would save money for the city but I will not vote for her again in 2010”. Voters made their votes in a responsible and thoughtful manner. Nguyen betrayed her original constituents. She won the election but she lost the hearts of her grass-roots community. I believe this Recall Organization will continue to exist, and change its entity to a Northern-California Vietnamese PAC. For Nguyen, the years of her political career are numbered. Betrayal is a terrible thing to commit in public services. Once she betrays this group, she will betray another. It’s hard to trust a betrayer.

Right after the election, San Jose Mercury News named Santa Clara County Supervisor George Shirakawa as a political loser. Why is he a loser and what did he lose? He probably smelt something fishy about the conspicuous political scheme mounted by Nguyen’s Anti-Recall Front against a novice Recall Organization, his honesty, his integrity in public services, his conscience, his sensitive regard for fairness and justice, must have forced him to withdraw his name from the scheme and stayed neutral in the recall. He has shown all Santa Clara County voters his tremendous courage to stand up for the right cause. He did not lose anything. Perhaps, he lost something that does not belong to him. He lost the dishonesty, the dis-integrity, the bias in favor of special interests, the unfairness, all of which are shown properties of the leadership of the San Jose City Council.

To be wise, she should be humble, admit her serious mistakes, apologize to the Vietnamese community, support the name “Little Saigon”, and then try to rebuild the good relation that was lost. It is possible that the rift is so deep for the community to forgive her. It is also possible that the trust has been completely lost and the community will not believe that she is sincere in her restitution. Another political aspect stands in her way of restitution: living painful experiences have helped Vietnamese refugees know, without any doubt, who Madison Nguyen is and why she refused the name “Little Saigon”. Unfortunately, evidence to prove the truth is very hard to obtain. We learned that evidence showing Councilman Gregory’s ethical violations came to light only after he refused to listen to demands from the special interest group which he had dealt with. Dirty politics are covering San Jose City Council’s leadership. What a bitter sense of shame!!

QuangMinh Pham

San Jose, Mar-06-2009.

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