A Needless Battle?

There is the fundamental question that often comes to the fore in the political life of a representative: Do you vote what you think is right or do you vote the will of your constituents? Madison Nguyen is caught in this situation. According to news reports this week, 2,000 people attended a meeting and rally on the naming of the Little Saigon/Saigon Business District. 

Tempers and feelings are running very high on this issue and I can only imagine, having been in the center of such storms a few times, how the pain must be registering with Madison Nguyen. It has to be excruciating.

I wonder if there is a middle ground. The councilwoman was so correct when she said that the issues of gang violence, affordable housing, economic opportunities and good schools all trump this naming issue. She spoke in logical, City-Hall terms. That is not the question here; in this one the heart and the memory are involved.

We have entered a very different realm. It is a place where the emotions and injuries of many years past are the issues to be debated. This is harsh but true. I touched on this last week when I wrote about some of these feelings that were evident at the Tom Hayden visit of 1987.

There will be a tendency to hold firm. There will be strong advice not to give in to those who try and intimidate you. To this I say that one person’s intimidation can be another’s proper and intense protest. It is often in the eye of the observer, but the challenge for the city now is to be measured, principled and, above all, wise. I hope there is some common ground.

There has to be a place where the trauma and waste of a recall will be avoided. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think that one would be successful, yet one can measure success with difficulty. But failure for District 7, Nguyen and San Jose can be clearly delineated. It comes with the name “recall.”


  1. Is it possible that Madison Nguyen is just not very good at understanding politics?  I personally don’t care about the area name, so I watch this unfold without bias but I can see she underestimated her opposition which is not a good attribute for a politician.

  2. After some reflection, I am willing to say that Council Member Madison Nguyen may have voted her conscience and should be given the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe Tom is right, and it is hard to be a elected official these days.  Consider Pat Mahan.  After the head of a political action committee, known as Santa Clara Plays Fair, blasted Mahan for attending a conference in Bali on global warming, Michele Ryan actually went before the Santa Clara City Council last night and claimed that no one of the council realized that the stadium would be flooded due to the tides of the San Francisco Bay due to global warming.  So maybe Madison Nguyen should be given the benefit of the doubt as she is confronted with people as irrational as Michele Ryan was in Santa Clara last night when she said the stadium near the bay would be flooded and thousands would suffer.  Hey, Michele, just like the wackos attacked Madison, you forget the facts.  Guess where Monster Park is located?

  3. Through all of this, I have been waiting for a calm and reasonable member of the Vietnamese community to advise why the name must be “Little Saigon” and why “Saigon Business District” is so unacceptable.  Maybe I could relate to the passion around this issue if someone could explain why “Saigon Business District” is so unpalatable to so many.  Isn’t “Saigon” the piece of the name that matters? 

    Currently my feeling is that the Vietnamese community is being completely unreasonable, their behavior at the Council meeting was way out of line and disrespectful, and they need to understand that NO particular demographic group should ever assume they have their Council representative in their hip pocket.

    Until I hear a logical reason why “Saigon Business District” should not be the name for this stretch of Story Road, I will consider any recall effort as nothing more than sour grapes.  Not much of a foundation for a recall but apparently we are dealing with fanatics here.  Should a recall effort go the distance, I can only hope that the non-Vietnamese voters in D7 turn out in droves to defeat it and send a message to the Vietnamese community in D7 that they are not living in a vacuum.  The Vietnamese community is effectively shooting itself in the foot with this, and could lose their representation on the council as their fellow D7 residents likely aren’t too keen on having one segment of their district feeling like they own their Council representative and are entitled to special treatment, and will not be inclined to vote for a Vietnamese candidate again. 

    So, can anyone provide some logic around why the Vietnamese community cannot stomach “Saigon Business District” and can anyone advise why the Council didn’t simply say OK fine to “Little Saigon” and get on with other business?  It seems to make a much bigger difference to the Vietnamese community than it does to the rest of the citizens of SJ so why did the Council collectively decide to develop a spine on this (non) issue?  These are the thoughts that were being expressed in my household as we watched the circus on channel 26 last month.

  4. I never saw anyone on the side of “Saigon/Vietnamese Business District” in the first place. Were there actually people backing this name? What was their reasoning? All I ever read about are the angry ones who wanted Little Saigon.

  5. An unnecessary diversion from focusing on the problems of San Jose.  Instead of fixing the structural deficit, paving roads, beefing up public safety, we have to waste energy on something that happened thirty years ago and twelve thousand miles away.

  6. I was invited to attend the Sunday meeting of 2,000 Vietnamese Americans, and I learned a lot…especially about the continuing interest of the current Vietnamese government in this process. It put out a news release hours after the San Jose City Council made a preliminary step in June 2007.

    It’s wrong to scoff at the interest of District 7 in this matter until all the facts are on the table. Neither the Merc nor the Metro (both of which were present) have written about the underlying issues, preferring to insult and denigrate those who care about it.

    Now that City Hall has painted itself into a non-negotiable corner on the naming, what else can the residents of District 7 do, except appeal to the City Charter which lays out recall as the cure for non-responsive elected officials.

    This is democracy at work, and it should be given a fair chance. The best thing would have been to let District 7 vote on the name; the next best thing would be to let District 7 vote on the namer.

  7. This never should have come before the council in thie first place.  It is an issue that should have been debated and resolved by the businesses involved.  The only reason I can discern that it was presented to the council was that if the name were official, the city would pay for the signs instead of the business owners paying for the signs.  Someone wanted a “freebie”.

    Even white middle class me knows and understands that there are at least two factions in our vietnamese communities, just as there are pro-Castro and anti-Castro Cubans in Miami, who still hate and disttrust each other.  As a Vietnamese-American, Ms. Nguyen of all people should have understood this, and vetted this entire subject before she brought it to the council.

    Once the genie was out of the bottle, this senseless and unnecessary exercise was doomed to failure.  But it sure diverts attention from more vital issues that the mayor and council seem unable to resolve either.

  8. Tom,
    You asked a very interesting question, “Do you vote what you think is right or do you vote the will of your constituents? ”

    I hope you will respond to this question, What do you think Madison did? Do you think her refusal to listen to this out cry comes from stubbornness, her pride, or do you think she really did try and compromise by choosing a name she thought was fair to everyone?
    In her TV interviews on the recall, she looks pretty stubborn, and makes comments that sound a bit arrogant at times, so I’m not sure.
    I was at that Council Meeting. There were thousands of people there, not just one thousand! The Hispanic groups wanted the name the Council voted on. I also listened to the group wanting the name “Little Saigon.” They want that name because it represents freedom from communism. The pain of communism running them out of their own country here to the US is very real to these people, and “Little Saigon” is more of a symbol of victory, peace and freedom, then just a name to them. I personally think the Council should reconsider the name Little Saigon because the truth is Tom; the survey results from the RDA, showed a “majority” voted for that name. I don’t favor special interests getting what they want either, but I can sure as hell tell you that the democratic process on this issue was NOT followed! And it is NOT the first time this Council has ignored the majority on an issue.
    In answer to your question Tom, no elected official should ever decide what is best for the people, if they are being told by the majority of the people, what they want. What happens to you guys when you get in there? Is there something in the water at City Hall that turns you guys deaf, dumb, and arrogant? We elect you, we campaign for you, we donate to you, and we vote for you, we expect you to represent us. We don’t expect you to follow your own agenda, or someone else’s! 
    One major point you did not cover in either of your columns on this Tom is that people are angry that the City, at the cost of taxpayers, did a survey, and the Mayor and Council ignored the results of that survey, and chose to go with a name “they” thought was best. They didn’t stop there though; several Council Members had the nerve to insult members of the Vietnamese Community by lecturing them on their behavior toward Madison. People have every right to be angry and say so, if they feel betrayed. I found these lectures by these Council Members on appropriate behavior pretty hypocritical, given that they ignored the will of the people as a whole, and ignored the result of a taxpayer’s survey! I mean, what the hell was the point of doing a survey if you are going to ignore the outcome?

  9. #11 don’t panic.  The oddball political issues of that strange corner of the world known as Santa Clara aren’t raised here by JR very often.  You should have been here in the beginning when his incoherent posts were coming through fast & furious all day long.  Count your blessings.

  10. We are at a crossroad where exercising our right to be heard must necessarily involved the process of recall. 

    Unlike the Mercury News depiction lately of the Vietnamese community in San Jose, we are not a few anti”democratic”troublemakers that are in the minority of this “Little-Saigon” naming process.  What we represent is an immigrant group that is grateful to be here.  After 32 years of rebuilding our lives in San-Jose for most of us, we are enormously proud to participate in the democratic process of government that was lacking in our homeland.  The Vietnamese-American principles have always been one of self-reliance and community-participation.  We give back to our community by always raise the funds ourselves to take care of our community’s non-profits and any shortcomings in our homeland like natural-disasters, families-in-needs,etc.. We rarely ask the City-of-San Jose for financial support for our community.  What we do ask is to recognize the reasons why we are here – as refugees of a Communist-regime.  Many of us suffered enormously as the result of the war and have emotional scars to show for it. Therefore, we have only “symbols” that embody our stances and define us for our core values here in our new homeland.  Yes, some of us are defiance and clinging on to the past.  Yes, most of us of have made the transition and are Americanized.  But ALL of us are proud of our heritage and young or old, stand united for these symbols that are the essence of the moniker VIETNAMESE-Americans.

    That is why it is so painful for one of our own, Councilmember-Madison Nguyen, to misrepresent us through the mainstream media and to twist facts to satisfy her ego and to get back at a few of her supporters-turned-critics.  During my 32 years here in San Jose, the issues of our Freedom-Flag of the former-Republic-of-Vietnam and the “Little Saigon” name have been at the forefronts of all discussion of all Vietnamese households. We reminisce every April-30th the lost of our homeland.  At all community events, we salute our flag alongside with the American-flag as a “symbol” of our struggles together during the war.  We follow all the progresses made in our government for our old and new homelands, the U.S.A. such as the Vietnamese-Freedom-Flag-Resolutions in large cities, counties and state. We spoke glowingly like proud-parents about our first generation participation in government of first Vietnamese-State-Assembly Van Tran, first-Vietnamese-Board-of-Supervisor Janet Nguyen and our first-Vietnamese-Councilmember Madison Nguyen. We admire the economic progress of our Vietnamese entrepreneurs’ hardwork ethics that allowed us to turn “glum” areas of town like Santa-Clara St, Tully-Road, Senter-Road, and of late, Story-Road into an economic enclaves that embodies the fighting spirits of our former “Pearl-of-the-Orient”,Saigon. The many “Little Saigons” that have mushroomed across the country and other countries oversea are LOUD reminder to the government that took that name away from us in 1975- that we’re not only survived a brutal war, but we thrive under the most difficult of circumstances like displaced-families, identity crisis, new language, new homes, long prison for many of our unfortunate former soldiers, death and rape at sea to escape, and starting over with only the clothes on our backs.

    I speak on behalf of a community divided, yet UNITED right now.  Mr. Mayor, all this politic-ing and lobbying by Madison Nguyen over this symbolic name was an unnecessary retaliation at a few of her critics at the expense of her Vietnamese-American-community.  She would have you believe against undisputable facts that our community doesn’t care one way or another about the name.  She would reiterate to the press over and over again that the people that support this “Little Saigon” name is in the minority, have too much time on their hand, and she needs to represent those that works 2-3 jobs that doesn’t care for this naming issues. http://youtube.com/watch?v=3qI-GrvtS0U .  Rather than taking leadership by reaching out to a community that is in pain over a sense of betrayal by the representative local government we believed in and worked hard to put in office such as her, Mayor Reed, Vice-Mayor Cortese, Sam Liccardo, Nancy Pyle, they all have chosen turned their backs on us.  She and the rest of her colleagues did not come up with sensible solutions to mitigate all this anger and sorrow by our community as of this date.  All we get is more politic-ing as if this is a Mayoral Race and one side is the good and the other is the dark-evil forces. 

    You have eloquently expressed your opinion over the years that in order for City of San Jose to grow and be a better place to live, transparency needs to be at the forefront of our City government.  Anything less would destroy the very foundation of City-Hall. Yes, there are other pressing needs than renaming this merchant strip on Story Road.  However, paramount to all of this is that our government needs to speak the truth, avoid all backdoor lobbying to arrive at undemocratic decisions that serve no-one well but themselves, and not punish those that disagree with their decision with further alienation and disrespect.  Sounds familiar?  What we are noticing from our esteemed councilwoman is that she’s actually learned too well from the last administration on how things really run at City Hall. It wasn’t the Norcal-garbage-deal nor the Grand-Prix we disagreed with, but rather the backdoor dealings to arrive at the decisions and all the cleanup afterward that we find to be abhorrent.  Madison Nguyen, voted in office to replace the disgraced Terry Gregory for all his backdoor dealings, is facing her “Little Saigon scandal” and need to face all the salient facts that will be on display in the coming months.  Like Gregory, she can no longer serve her constituents well and need to step down or be recalled.

    Hung Bui

  11. I have to agree with #1, because though there are shades of meaning for the various stakeholders, at a city council level the whole decision is rather arbitrary, unless you think they should be in the business of making social and historical commentary. Setting the shades of meaning aside, they should do the best thing for the city, which is use this as an opportunity to close that deficit.

    The city council should revoke its original decision and put the issue up to bid in an auction.

    Announce the auction with enough notice (i.e. not the same day like the Grand Prix!) and allow all comers to pool their resources for one name or another. This would be substantially more cost effective than individuals and organizations spending money campaigning for or against a recall.

    Use the proceeds to pay for the signs and all the costs underlying the special “business district.” Any excess could go toward beautifying D7, or maybe just filling D7 potholes and starting on D7’s entries on the paving backlog.

    Maybe someone at eBay could help with the technological underpinnings. It’s not that hard, really.

  12. Dear San Jose:

    One of the reasons that a recall will never get off the ground is the fact that some, perhaps many, of the people complaining about the Little Saigon issue are not San Jose residents, and cannot sign a recall petition or vote for one.  I watched just a little of the city hall meeting weeks ago where some people indicated that they were from another city, but then voiced their opinion on the issue.

    Nobody seems to have the guts to say what’s really going on here.  What began as a sincere effort to acknowledge the successes of a particular ethnic/cultural group has accelerated into an ego clash and a turf war.  No one group/ethnicity/people has the right to claim any one street/block/or section of the city as their own.  All of the city belongs to all of the people.

    Pete Campbell

  13. #10

    “In answer to your question Tom, no elected official should ever decide what is best for the people, if they are being told by the majority of the people, what they want.”

    You need to go back to school and retake your civics class, since you are absolutely clueless. 

    Theoretically, elected officials are there to do the right thing, irrespective of what the raving mobs, or the “majority” want.  Whether they do or not is another story.

    Are you saying that slavery should be made legal if that is what the majority wants?

    One of the reasons why this country is so screwed up at this time is from Republican politicians trying to please their lunatic fringe base instead of doing what is right for the country and the world.

  14. This is no longer about Madison Nguyen.

    It is about tribalism versus effective Government.

    We cannot let the forces of tribalism undermine our society. The attitude is currently emblemized by a silly vote on naming rights, but it is more pervasive than this. It starts with the ‘One price for my Race, One price for White Face’ business attitude, and eventually turns into corruption, nepotism, offensively partisan politics, and the fracturing of society. This is happening too often, in too many places, in this country.

    Einstein ascended us all when he proclaimed himself a ‘Citizen of the World’. Holistic thinking like this is what we need.

    The pain people feel is very real. But putting your pain on a billboard and parading it around town is not the way to effect change. Demonstrating that you care about what the plurality of other people think . . . like Madison Nguyen has demonstrated . . . ah, that is the way to effect change. There are way too many ‘We Demand Justice!’ movements in this world that make no attempt to define their place in the lives of everyone else.

    Which reminds me: over in Santa Clara, bla bla bla . . .

  15. Though I personally differ with Madison Nguyen and believe that “Little Saigon” is a more appropriate naming of this business district, I don’t believe that a recall election would serve the interests of our city – especially the Vietnamese or Asian-American communities.

    I will forever defend the right of our residents to recall an elected official. Yet, I believe that we should exercise this right with great responsibility and caution. Though I empathize with the frustration shared by some voters regarding the outcome of this policy debate, I feel that a recall petition should be limited to those elected officials guilty of misconduct in office, incompetence or failure to perform a prescribed duty.

    If you are disappointed in Madison Nguyen’s decision, by all means, let her know about it. Write letters, make phone calls and protest outside of City Hall. But, don’t undermine our democracy by threatening to recall an elected official who is guilty only of fulfilling her legislative role.

    This council seat is up for election in 2010 and I hope to see a diverse field of candidates on the ballot. Now that would be democracy in action!

  16. Pete at #16 says, “One of the reasons that a recall will never get off the ground is the fact that some, perhaps many, of the people complaining about the Little Saigon issue are not San Jose residents, and cannot sign a recall petition or vote for one.’

    What Pete doesn’t realize is that the registered voters in D-7 from November 2006 are about 23K. Getting a recall off the ground requires collecting 12% of the registered voters’ signatures. 3,000 signatures should do nicely.

    In Berryessa this summer, it took only five of us three days to collect over 1,000 signatures for the democratic election to fill a vacancy on the Berryessa school board.

    While that effort was widely panned on this blog as too democratic, it seems to me that it will be a piece of cake for 3,000 signatures to be collected in D-7, and get the recall off the ground forthwith.

    Notwithstanding Clark Williams #19, following the guidelines in the City Charter is not anti-democratic. It may be a rejection of City Hall Supremacy (kind of like rejecting States Rights) and uncomfortable for some officials, but it doesn’t “undermine our democracy”—it is a fulfillment of democratic principles.

  17. #14- Hung Bui, your comments are beautifully expressed. Thank you for taking the time to come here and post them. While I do understand your pain, and I do understand your disappointment in Council Member Nguyen, recalling an elected official for this reason is not really fair, or just. Recalls were designed to protect us from politicians who steal, violate laws, and other serious offenses. Recalls are not supposed to be used to retaliate against an elected official who failed to follow through on a promise to us, or didn’t support an issue we want passed, or defeated. If that were the case, no one would be in any political office right now! Please, carefully reconsider this recall effort. If you need vindication, then the next time Madison runs for office, run against her, or support an opposing candidate.
    With all due respect to you, I want to say that you live in America now, and while I agree you must continue to value and practice your own culture, and beliefs, it is important for you to assimilate and respect our cultures and laws too. Yes, you are a proud people who have done much for this country, but your old political battles don’t belong here. You have shown the corrupt government, who ran you out of your country that you are far stronger than they are by mere virtue of surviving, rebuilding, and starting better and more lucrative businesses here. You have already achieved victory, and naming a small business district carries far less significance of success, and freedom, than your ability to survive and do well here has.  In America we call this taking the high road and using the old adage, “Living well is the best revenge.”

    #17- Re-read my post and stop trying to compare apples and pineapples on this issue. Slavery and naming a business district by ignoring a RDA survey, are not even in the same ball park.

    #18- You wrote, “This is no longer about Madison Nguyen.” You are 100 % correct about that. To me it is about ignoring a taxpayer survey that held out a certain finding, and then was ignored.

    #19- Very well said. I agree with you.

  18. Not a Novice –  what I “Did” express is the problem that has plagued representative Government since the time of Edmund Burke – namely, vote your conscience, or the will of the people.  I have had to make that choice. It is a choice that each and every honest elected official has to make one day – It is a tremendous moral crises for many, and while it should be easy, it rarely is.    TMcE

  19. The answer is an easy one.
      There’s a ton of money behind this recall threat.
      That, you can take to the bank.


  20. #21 says, “Recalls were designed to protect us from politicians who steal, violate laws, and other serious offenses.”

    I wonder if you could tell us just two things.

    First, where in the Charter or Constitution can we find this limitation on the right of recall?

    Second, what serious offense did Governor Grey Davis commit to put him in that category?

  21. I’m with Ryan.  It’s beyond ridiculous to allege some sort of communist agenda involved with such a fluff issue like slapping an official name on a particular business district.  This just shows how crazed and unreasonable (like their behavior at City Hall didn’t already demonstrate it) the “Little Saigon” supporters are.

    Here’s my suggestion:

    Any “Little Saigon” supporter who has a business along this section of Story Road, re-name your business, such as “Little Saigon Nails” or “Little Saigon Bakery” or “Little Saigon Restaurant” or “Little Saigon Market” etc.  Plaster that name on all the commercial signage in this area and people will start calling the place “Little Saigon” regardless of what the city’s banners on the light standards read.

    There are MANY more important issues for the Council to be addressing and absolutely NO more time should be spent on this one. 

    The Vietnamese community is only going to be hurt politically by any recall attempt that may result from the “Little Saigon” supporters yelling the loudest. 

    It’s time to move on people, and don’t get mad, get even, using my suggestion above.

  22. Kathleen,

    “…she really did try and compromise by choosing a name she thought was fair to everyone”

    I totally respect your opinion and other posters’ opinions, as a civil agreement to disagree.  I also expect some fallouts and misunderstandings on why the Vietnamese American has to push for the extreme of a recall when other course of action might suffice. The short answer is we have tried in vain for 6 months to meet and reaffirm her earlier promise for Little Saigon naming in District 7.  Councilwoman Madison Nguyen just “blew us off” as irrelevant and insult the community as “loudmouths” that is in the minority.  The fallacy that she is selling to her council colleagues and the mainstream is this mysterious “majority” Vietnamese group that unanimously backed the New Saigon and Saigon Business District.  It became a running joke among the members of the community where this group came from or where they ‘re kidnapped lately and we should circulate Missing Group flyers around district 7.

    But we are exercising the most fundamental ‘democratic’ method allowed by the San Jose City Charter, no different than other minority groups in particular that take offense in our elected officials in how they conduct themselves in office.  If civil compromises between the community and our elected representative were not followed, aren’t we, using US history as a guide, using civil disobedience such as rallies, protests, and request for resignation and/or “recall” to make ourselves heard?  Our elected officials have spoken against our community’s overwhelming request to honor the naming right to be consistent with the rest of the United States Vietnamese immigrant communities.  Why can’t we now use the democratic process to speak for our behalf?

    The recall effort is an answer to our harshest critic, Madison Nguyen, whereshe felt we do not matter in her district and she just need to answer to powers that be.  We are the little people that get in the way of her goal and should shut up and be happy with the crumbs that she graciously endowed us with.  The threat of a recall is a method to say that THE MAJORITY of the Vietnamese American in her district DO NOT agrees with her representation of our diverse needs.  Obviously more facts will be disseminated in the coming weeks to prove why we felt this strong against her on her close ties with the developer of Vietnam Town, why she went against the entire community’s wishes and why all the veil of secrecy surrounding the name issue. The people that understand, thank you.  The people that do not, time will tell all.  In the meantime, the struggle continues..

    RECALL OF COUNCIL MEMBER. To initiate proceedings for the exercise of the power of recall of a Council member elected by a District, the petition shall be signed by duly qualified electors of the District equal in number to at least twelve percent (12%) of the number of persons residing in the District eligible to vote according to the last report of registration filed by the County Registrar of Voters with the Secretary of State, which is in effect at the time the notice of intent to circulate the petition is published.

    Currently there are 24,908 registered voters in District 7, 12% of that number is 2,989 – so that’s the minimum number of signatures of qualified voters it would take to get the recall on the ballot.

    3,000 signatures and we will be heard….

  23. It’s really sad for the Vietnamese people who live in and around San Jose.  Really the majority do not really care if it’s named “Little Saigon” or “Saigon Business District” or even “Vietnamese Business District”.

    I read in some Vietnamese Forums and they discussed a lot about this topic.  And I did read one post that have some good logic in that.  And I just want to lay out here.  For a Vietnamese who is living in San Jose, if that person told some other Vietnamese “I will go to Little Saigon tomorrow”.  All Vietnamese will know that person mean he will go to South California (Santa Ana), where the first and the original Little Saigon is located.  So for most Vietnamese people, Little Saigon always mean the original one. 
    That’s why the young Vietnamese prefer the name Saigon Business District more because that will avoid the confusion, which Little Saigon.  But the old people prefer the name Little Saigon.  But the Vietnamese’s culture do not accept young people to argue or even discuss politic against old people, so young people just keep quiet or discuss in their group only.
    My preference: I like the Vietnamese Business District name.

  24. Before 20 November, 2007, Madison avoided all invitations to see the groups of Vietnamese people who wanted the name of Little Saigon for that area of business in San Jose, to discuss the reason why they wanted that name, and to talk about a compromise. She later said that she represented many people (she meant a majority over all the people who attended that council meeting) who wanted another name than “Little Saigon”. However, there were merely two people showing up supporting her viewpoint on that memorable night of 20 November 2007. If there were many people who wanted the name of “Saigon Business District”, then there must be more people showing up. Why didn’t they come? Madison said that they worked full time or 2, 3 jobs, but that’s not an acceptable pretext. We can see that those people, if they do exist, either did not care about the naming, or they were “pro-communists” and afraid to show up in front of all the Vietnamese people who attended the event. From that point, we can see that Madison served “invisible clients” and was ready to sacrifice her political career and all the support of Vietnamese voters, for some “hard to speak out” but very strong or profitable reasons. Therefore, her behavior was not “transparent”, and she was not trustworthy. In conclusion, she does not merit to be or remain a city council member, and we have all the good reasons to recall her and replace her by someone else.
    Thuan Thi Do

  25. Interesting comments from near and far, young and old, “anti-communist” and perhaps “pro-communist”.

    These show how little we white folks know about this issue.  But Madison should have known, unless she just wanted to have comment on her new clothes.

    3000 signatures for recall.  She didn’t get that many votes to win, did she?

    Now after reading the recent posts from Vietnamese bloggers, it seems to me the only “compromise” that had a chance was for Ms. Nguyen to withdraw her request entirely, get it off the agenda, and let the various factions fight it out in private, with no city involvement.

    This should signal the death knell of any further city- sponsored official names for ethnic business districts.

    Mr. Mayor and Councilmembers—find a way to get us the items in todays post by Mr. Van Zandt’s replacement for the week. And forget about this headline-grabbing but useless nonsense.

  26. Kathleen –  I do not know Madison well enough to make judgments on her thinking. Also, I was not at the hearing.  It is possible that along with the sincere feeling of the opposition, there is much cant and opportunism.  I know it is quite possible to underestimate an issue, even one of such obvious importance. If this battle is joined, it will be a terrible time for the city, and a totally avoidable one.  I truly hope that it can be avoided.  TMcE

  27. Thuan—

    You lost me—and the majority of all thinking Americans—at ‘pro-Communist’.

    Get a grip.

    The majority of you came here after our McCarthyism era, where perfectly normal and well-meaning Americans were given the label ‘pro-Communist’ as a synonym for ‘You don’t agree with my politics’.

    You lost every last shred of credibility when you use that term in a public American forum.

    Pro-Communist elected official. Seriously?

  28. Personally, I don’t find this stretch of Story Road even remotely attractive and it is sadly lacking the charm of Chinatown in SF.  It looks like any of the hundreds of miles of strip mall tackiness found on thoroughfares throughout southern California.  Anyone visiting from out of town who expects to encounter some sort of Asian cultural district will be profoundly disappointed to find nothing but a bunch of cheaply built ramshackle commercial buildings with unmaintained parking lots.  Who wants to showcase THAT?????

  29. The election between Madison and Linda ( no relationship ) Nguyen as explained to some of district voters in election was political / financial fight between 2 different real estate / business groups for control of District 7 since Council member has large say in planning and other City Council approvals worth millions to winners and the naming issue continues that fight

    History repeats itself – same battle for control happened in US Irish, Italian, Chinese and other ethic communities in past

    Can Lu Khu, Thuan Do, Vu Nguyen or others explain to everyone who are the groups, what is at stake, younger vs older Vietnamese and what what is going on in Vietnamese press and radio stations ( Linda’s father owns radio station )?

  30. I agreed with Mark T (#34). Some people in Vietnamese community did talk about it.  If those people that are supporting and love the name of Little Saigon so much, and they claimed that they have more than 90% support not only in San Jose but around the world, then why they don’t invest money to buy land, built the shopping center or whatever they like and then they can name that place Little Saigon without the need to ask for permission from anyone because they own it.  If they have real support like they claimed, they should not have any problem to call for investment to do those things. 
    Most of the area in that stretch in Story Road is owned and built by Chinese’s investment.  Even down in the real Little Saigon in Santa Ana, most shopping centers are owned by Chinese’s business.

  31. Contempt of Democracy!
    So far Madison Nguyen has not been able to produce a list of those supporting for other name, such as “Saigon Business District” or whatsoever. On other hand, those who dearly support for “Little Saigon” have produced a lenghty list of supporters. Speaking of “Saigon Business District” could draw more attentions to visitors or businesses, I personally have discovered that “Little Saigon” does draw a whole lot of visitors from different walks of life including visitors from other nations and other states; likewise, “Little Italian” has significantly attracted visitors who bring money to the district. Madison Nguyen has not done a thorough research about this matter in which cities competes each others for unique features in term of attracting visitors. Should other cities learn from Madison Nguyen in naming a district like “Italian Business District” or “China Business District”? Joking!
    Respond to #25. Well! What “China Town” you want to go? joking! Or what “Little Italian” your buddies want to go? (smile)
    San Diego of California

  32. Ryan,
    Madison has come back to Vietnam to work for 2 years, and her husband now is from a very rich family under the communist regime of Vietnam, and her “in law” family rent a whole Boeing plane to come here to attend her wedding. She does not merit to be considered as a “refugee” anymore, while her family brought her here as a refugee when she was 4 years old. Vietnamese refugees in San Jose have regretted dearly having voted for her to represent them.
    Thuan Do

  33. I`m no expert on this issue, nor do I want to take sides in a debate.

      I have a lot of respect for the hispanic community in San Jose, they have a active Hispanic Chamber of Commerce where such issues are debated and decided. They seem to be better organized. Maybe the people from Vietnam could learn from the Hispanic community. I agree with another poster that they “as a group” are only hurting themselves by blasting Madison Nguyen out in the open as they have.

      I believe Madison has been very professional in the way she has handled herself. She was born in Vietnam, but she grew up and was educated here. I respect her, she has been very tolerant of her adversaries, I believe our Mayor and City Council should be supportive of her professionalism.

  34. The sentiment of the Vietnamese-American community is why Madison Nguyen was not transparent and what were her hidden agendas. 
    It would be good for her to have an open dialog with the people and have everything out to the open.
    It is not so much about the name but it is about her comments calling the people who opposed are do not thing people that don’t have jobs and her troublesome back door dealings. 
    That is the contention between her and her people of District 7. 
    Whatever the case may be of the recall effort,  it would be interesting to see what is the result of a favoribility poll taken on Madison Nguyen.

  35. This is clearly a far reaching issue as opposed to a local one.  We are seeing contributions from San Diego and Orange County on this particular blog.  Shades of the Council meeting last month.

    There are underlying issues within the Vietnamese community that are driving the pro & con factions around the “Little Saigon” name that those of us who were not part of the Boat People phenomenon can’t relate to.

    If the majority of the Vietnamese electorate in D7 considers Madison to be arrogant and elitist, then they can replace her when she is up for re-election (or perhaps the rest of the voters in D7 will decide that a Vietnamese Council representative proved to be too devisive and elect a non-Asian), but recalling her over this issue is not justified.

  36. #24- Dale, please read my entire post. The Vietnamese community has a legal right to go after a recall of the Council Member if they want to. I’m not debating that. My point was that the spirit of the law is to protect us from politicians who are seriously in violations of the Charter or laws of the State, and City. The results of the RDA’s survey on the name, “Little Saigon” reflected a majority and these results should have been honored.

    #25- If Madison ignored your requests to meet, or made promises she did not keep, this shows a lack of respect, and integrity. I support your right to fight for what you believe in. I personally, would like to see the name, “Little Saigon” too, but I do feel Madison was trying to compromise with the name she chose.
    I am deeply saddened by all of this. I go to a Vietnamese owned Hair Salon in Los Gatos and I remember the excitement and joy of these wonderful women, when talking about having the first Vietnamese Council person in San Jose. They were so proud of Madison, and now, there is only sadness. It really breaks my heart for all of you.
    I would like to hold out hope that the Mayor, Council, and Madison will rethink their position, and see the light. I hope Madison will be all right too, because in my heart, I do think she is in a no win position here. If she caves into your demands, some will see her as weak, if she stands firm in her refusal to name the district, Little Saigon, her career is probably over, if not now, later on. I wish you good luck Hung, and hope things work out for all of you.

    #31- Mark, you wrote,” The Vietnamese community is only going to be hurt politically by any recall attempt that may result from the “Little Saigon” supporters yelling the loudest.” I fear you are right in this case. As JMO said so eloquently, “This should signal the death knell of any further city- sponsored official names for ethnic business districts.”
    I agree that the businesses can name their place anything they want, but I think that this has become a matter of principle for the Vietnamese people, not an issue of compromise. As a mediator, I can tell you one thing for certain, once someone has turned an issue into a matter of right or wrong, or into principle, all hope is lost for a compromise or a middle ground.
    The only good thing I can see coming out of this is that maybe the Mayor and Council Members will be more open to listening to the needs of their constituents, rather than special interest groups who give them huge donations, make promises of big business returns, and that voters will be more careful of who they support in future.

  37. I don’t have a dog in this fight, but here’s what I do know and it’s been bugging me for some time.

    I’ve love Vietnamese food, all types of Asian food for that matter and for more than a decade have been going and getting “Banh Mi” or what we affectionately call “dollar sandwiches” long before Lee’s Sandwiches became associated with the name.  I’d buy ten and bring them to the office and pass them out.  The staff would love them.

    But here’s what I noticed over the years.  Most places never RANG up the purchase.  The cash drawer would open, and they would just give you the change.

    I’ve been frequenting the GRAND CENTURY MALL, for lunch, which is in the heart of the area now in controversy.  Usually I’m the only white guy there.  I’d highly recommend it for the great selection of food there.

    Today, I went there and did a test, just for San Jose Inside.  I went to a Bakery on the opposite side of the mall (outside), bought a Banh Mi, paid with a $20, she didn’t ring it up.  She pressed a button, the registered opened, she put the money in, and pulled my change out.  The display showed $0.00. 

    Went into the mall, ordered a lunch plate of noodles at the food court.  Paid with a $10, she didn’t ring it, zero’s on the register, money in, money out. 

    Went and got a pearl drink, didn’t ring, cash drawer opened.  I watched another business, they didn’t ring the purchase of a couple that ordered. 

    One place I saw did ring theirs up, and one other I saw an amount displayed from the last customer.  Most displays showed 0.00.  The bakery inside the mall rang up all purchases.

    I was surprised to see this happening openly at the mall.  The smaller out of the way family joints I’ve been to I can see.

    I wondered, should this bother me?  Shouldn’t I be happy with my $7 lunch and cheap sandwiches?

    Is San Jose getting their fair share of taxes with this happening?

    Who would be in charge of investigating the hiding of sales?

  38. Answer # 35.
    1- No Linda Nguyen father does not own a radio station.
    2- Really to understand the Vietnamese community, not only in San Jose but around the war it’s pretty simple. 
    Either you are a nationalist (quoc gia) or you are communist, communist’s agent or pro communist.  Now what you are depend if you agree with them or against them.  If you agree with them you are a good guy so you are nationalist.  If you disagree with them you are bad guy and you are communist.  That’s why it’s very common in Vietnamese community for group A to accuse group B as communist, pro communist, working for communist government … Then group B will accuse the same to group A.  So for outsider, both group A and group B are communist.
    3- Young Vietnamese have tendency to not involve in politics for reason #2.  If they go to school in US, then they have more open mind than their parents, but usually they can not and do not discuss politic with their parents because that can create big family problem.  The most common answers that the young generation hear are:
    – “You are too young to know what’s happen before, what we went through, the prices we paid …”
    – “You don’t know and understand communist like us”.
    -“You talk like American.  You know nothing about Vietnam…”
    So young people just discuss between themselves.

    You can see some of this through post #37.  All those things that Do Thuan mentioned are rumors floating around San Jose and some Vietnamese Forums.  No proof.  But that’s enough and help to support some views that must mean Madison is working for communist.
    That’s why in Vietnamese community, if you dislike someone, just brand that person as communist, pro communist, communist’s agent….
    The funny thing about #37 accused Madison Nguyen come back to Vietnam for 2 years.  Madison Nguyen disclosed when she ran for election.  Madison claimed that she went back to Vietnam under exchange student program or study abroad program, I am not sure.  But Madison Nguyen did disclose that long time ago.  In that time, no problem, no issue.  But now when they don’t agree with her, that become one of the thing to show Madison Nguyen is working for communist
    So like I said before you are communist or not depend if I like you or not.

  39. #26
      I have two young Vietnamese friends that happened to be in Campbell this morning with other friends from Vietnam. They expressed exactly the same feelings you did.They too explained how the Vietnamese culture works. Maybe in time the older elders will mellow out and respect the younger members of your culture. You are a good people, smart and hard working, time will heal. Be patitent.

  40. Oh, great!!  So now we have pro vs. anti commie folks, young vs. old folks in the vietnamese community barking at each other.

    Put a sock in it, folks, you’re in America now.

    But I guess that won’t happen—almost 50 years later the pro and anti Castro Cubans are still barking @ each other in Miami.

    The bullshit side of diversity.

    You’re not in VietNam any longer.  if you hate the commies so much, go back and fight them.

    Otherwise, be thankful for the great opportunity you have here, grow your businesses, get along with each other, and move on.

    Let’s face it, as a community you came here far later than others, with nothing but your clothes in many cases, you did not speak “our” language, you learned it (unlike others who after 40 years living here still need translators to comment on the news when they win the lottery), you started businesses, bought homes, got off welfare (unlike others who did speak the language (sort of) but have been on welfare for generations), and you prospered.  You ARE the American Dream.

    Live the dream and forget the old country politics.

  41. Tom,
    I hope you will respond to this question, What do you think Madison did? Do you think her refusal to listen to this out cry comes from stubbornness, her pride, or do you think she really did try and compromise by choosing a name she thought was fair to everyone?
    In her TV interviews on the recall, she looks pretty stubborn, and makes comments that sound a bit arrogant at times, so I’m not sure.

    Tom, I thought I’d repost this question to see if you will answer it. I’m curious to see what your thoughts on this are.

  42. 52 – Thanks for your comments. Interesting. But (IMHO) you need to look beyond the Vietnamese community. Many of us who have had community issues before the Council over the years have often left City Hall disappointed. This should be a community issue and not just a Vietnamese issue.
    If we were to try and launch a recall every time we didn’t get our way at City Hall, many of us would be working on recall elections fulltime. You certainly have the right to attempt the recall but I believe it is an abuse of the recall option, just as the recall of Gray Davis was an abuse of the system. I didn’t like Gray Davis and didn’t vote for him—but he was elected. He didn’t break any laws, no moral charges, etc. People who didn’t like him worked to overturn the an election that was won fairly.
    The damage you will inflict on the community with a recall needs to be weighed against the benefits. I believe the benefits are few and the damage will be great—but, you are free to move forward with a recall and backwards with any progress you hope to achieve.
    Good luck.

  43. JMO, great post in #48.  Your “American dream” comments are spot-on.

    Vu, your post #45 was helpful in trying to understand the whole “communist” thing.  But what I don’t understand is how any Vietnamese immigrant could call another one a communist.  Weren’t all of the people on those boats back in the 70’s escaping a communist regime?  Why would a communist want to be on those same boats and come to a free country like the USA?  Wouldn’t they prefer to stay in the homeland where their political views were shared by their government?  It seems to me that any Vietnamese immigrant accusing another of being a communist would ring hollow throughout that community.

  44. Lost in this discussion is the fact that this whole controversy started when Madison Nguyen proposed naming a Vietnamese business district to honor Vietnamese-owned businesses that helped to transform Story Road. Isn’t it ironic how a fringe group in the Vietnamese community now wants to destroy that honor with a series of phony rumors and innuendos? 

    From the very beginning the “Call her a Commie” crowd has opposed Nguyen’s efforts to honor Vietnamese merchants. The original name “Vietnamese Business District” was criticized because the word “Vietnamese” would somehow indicate support for the communist government in Vietnam.” Then “Saigon Business District” was opposed because…well…it’s not “Little Saigon.” Now any councilmember who does not support “Little Saigon” is rumored to be closet Communists. 

    This sort of gutter politics says a lot about the “Little Saigon” supporters. Maybe that’s why nobody is taking the “Little Saigon” factions seriously. Through their own actions they lack credibility.

    This controversy was never about the name of the business district. It is a power struggle within the local Vietnamese community with a little help from Southern California Vietnamese. Ironically, if the “Call her a Commie” lynch mob succeeds in recalling Nguyen the chances are very good her replacement would be non-Vietnamese. How does that benefit the Vietnamese community?

  45. #52
    I don’t think ILoveBanhMi accused anything but told the truth.  How many time did we buy something and no receipt was given.  ILoveBanhMi just stated the facts.

    About the name Little Saigon, it was discussed a lot on most of the Vietnamese forums.  Most of them accused Madison Nguyen as the leader to manipulate the votes her way.  But some opinions thought other wise and they did make a lot of sense, but look like Little Saigon’s supporters just toss it aside because even that’s true, they can’t do anything.  So they picked Madison Nguyen as their easy target.
    This theory was posted on some popular Vietnamese’s forum sometime after the press conference to announce the name Saigon Business District and before the council vote. It make a lot of sense that’s why it was circulated, forwarded and discussed in young and professional Vietnamese circle.  The theory go like this.
    Little Saigon was first use in Santa Ana from around 1978, 1979 where the 1st big group of Vietnamese started to live and open business in Bolsa Ave.  Through the years, that community grow bigger and bigger, up to the point that the name Little Saigon become well known inside the Vietnamese communities around the world.  So if you are Vietnamese living in different states where not too many Vietnamese live, Little Saigon is the place to visit.  It’s a place where you can see not only a stretch but the whole area that have Vietnamese names.  It’s a place where you can eat real Vietnamese foods and the price is cheap.  It’s a place where you can speak Vietnamese all day long … You get the picture.  It’s also help where Disneyland is few miles away.  Few years ago, seeing the potential, Garden Grove and Westminster city decided to do something to attract tourist.  So they decided to erect some direction signs to Little Saigon in few highways that lead to Little Saigon, built welcome signs, gates…  For a while, down there between 2 city, they did have some arguments where the real Little Saigon start and end.  Few months ago, one city just agreed to spend about $1 million to built a big welcome gate, kind like the gate in San Francisco’s China Town.  They also spent some money to see what they can do to improve Little Saigon to attract not only Vietnamese tourist, but all other tourists.  I remembered that the recommendations was submitted to the city.  If that’s the case, the theory goes, Little Saigon is a trade name and Garden Grove and Westminster city will have to protect that trade name, because it does not make sense to invest millions of dollars to improve the image of Little Saigon and then up here in San Jose we have other Little Saigon, in San Francisco already had one and who know how many Little Saigon will pop up in California in the future.
    So when the new that San Jose council can vote for the name of Little Saigon, through unofficial talk, back channel … Garden Grove and Westminster warned San Jose can not use the same name Little Saigon, because that’s copycat a well-known name.  And if San Jose vote for it, that can result to legal action.  Now Mayor Chuck Reed is in difficult position because if they vote for Little Saigon and if Garden Grove and Westminster sue, San Jose will loose because based on the history, all Vietnamese will have to agree that Little Saigon is originated from Garden Grove and Westminster.  So in the official point of view, Mayour Chuck Reed was forced to pick another name Saigon Business District.
    That theory explained that’s why during the news conference in front of the city hall before the vote, Mayor Chuck Reed keep telling the City Council can vote for the name Saigon Business District, but the Vietnamese can call whatever the name they want.
    So from that point of view, that theory don’t think Madison Nguyen is the main force to pick the name Saigon Business District but Mayor Chuck Reed is.  That’s why in the news conference to announce the name, we saw the Mayor, Vice Mayor and 3 Council members.
    That theory explained that Madison Nguyen is too new in the local politic world to pull this out. She not even finish her 2nd term so she does not have enough weight to convince the Mayor, Vice Mayor and other Council Members to vote against popular name.  Just like Bui Hung wrote, both Mayor and Vice Mayor worked with Vietnamese community a lot.  Both of them have multiple contacts from different groups, fractions inside Vietnamese community so they know the feeling.  So to say a new comer like Madison Nguyen can trick, manipulate some experienced politicians like the Mayor, Vice Mayor and other Council Members is no sense.  But the whole thing is guide by the Mayor and Madison Nguyen understood the real problem agreed to be “Bad” in the front.
    Is this theory make sense ?  Yes for a lot of people who work in the business world understand the trade name value, protect investment …  For some Vietnamese people they don’t believe that “Little Saigon” can be a trade name that Garden Grove and Wetminster can protect.  But some people think as soon as one city recognized that name and invest money to promote that name, it will be difficult to name other area the same name special in the same state.
    Maybe Tom McEnery can give his opinion based on his experience as Mayor before.

  46. How did this issue rise to a level of controversy so far reaching that it attracted hundreds of people to a City Council meeting and prompted thousands of others to public participation? And what role did San Jose City government have in fostering this problem?

    It sounds like the City staff, and surprisingly Madison Nguyen, underestimated the controversy associated with the naming. Perhaps this hatched as a well meaning initiative. Based on what I heard on KQED this morning, the City and Councilmember Nguyen consider the naming of a “business district” entirely different than naming a geographic area or “enclave”.

    While that may be true, there is apparently a lot more underlying meaning to the naming; whether it’s a business district or enclave; especially to the Vietnamese community. It is reasonable for elected officials’ constituents to hold them accountable, although a recall at this point would be an unfortunate and incrementally divisive path.  Madison Ngyuen should stop trying to explain and defend. At this point it would seem logical for her to say “defer” – table the whole project and show some flexibility and evidence of listening to her constituents. That is unless, she truly has the underlying agenda of political allegiance her critics are claiming, in which case she would have an unwavering position based on principle and political affiliation.  It will be interesting to see how this issue will evolve. Is this is an issue where a politician is taking a principled stand based on beliefs and issues, or is this a well meaning novice Councilmember and unsavvy City staff caught up in an issue that has ballooned out of control into a “needless battle”?

  47. Vietnamese community see what voters have for years

    Elected officials work for special interests, contributors, lobbyists and insiders and city staff enables abuses and insider tax giveaways

    Welcome to America Wish you success recall if you win change City Hall Good fortune recall

  48. Let’s talk about the term CM Nguyen used “compromise.” A compromise should start with a dialog, not with an imposition by someone in power. If she had opened an dialog, she would know why the Vietnamese community (due to cultural reason) doesn’t accept her imposed name. For weeks, before the Nov. 15 press conference, the community and the city staffs were kept in the dark as to what is this “new option” name is going to be, only the 4 other individuals who signed the memo with her (Chuck Reed, Dave Cortese, Sam Liccardo, Judy Chirco) know of this “secret”. Is this anyway how an “open” government should work (like Chuck Reed, the Mayoral candidate, advocated, not Chuck Reed, the Mayor, who is one of the strong backer on this secret pact.) Sidetrack to the Mayor, in a meeting with the Vietnamese community and the committee for Little Saigon (after the Nov. 15th press conference), he challenged them to bring all their people to fill up the city hall, it is not going to make much of the difference. When asked to just keep an open mind when entering the city chamber that night, he laughed!!!  The council decision on Nov. 20 was predetermined way before!!!

    Speaking about representation, is it better to not have any representation at all than to have mis-representation from your elected official?  This is in regarding to her claimed of “community division” over the name, Nguyen kept claiming that 15 Vietnamese associations and two Hispanic associations wanted the name “New Saigon”, these 15 chairmen who signed this petition should never be counted as associations when they never consulted with their members of the endorsement (as many of their members as well as some chairmen had spoken out in protest to this misled, exploited information), and out of that 6 already retracted their endorsement and showed their support for the name Little Saigon.  These retracting statements were all submitted to CM Nguyen as well as all other CMs and the Mayor.  The two Hispanic associations, when speaking at the city hearing, what exactly are they endorsing, “CM Nguyen’s decision and how wonderful the CM is”, not a name of their preference?  So, the basis of her misled argument of “community division” (as ridiculous as it’s when it comes to “majority rules” democracy principle) does not even hold!  The Vietnamese community was polarized over her first election (the fight between Linda and Madison) should we put the very last candidate on the primary to be in her seat, in the name of “community division”? Maybe that would have been a better choice!

  49. Council Watcher is wrong – This should be a community issue and not just a Vietnamese issue. 

    Recall politicians who votes against majority voters so they learn who they work for

    Council ignores voters and works for contributors, lobbyists, insiders with city staff helping to hide it and give our taxes to insiders

    Good Luck with recall

  50. #52, well said.

    I have my own share of distaste for Diaspora politic.  But for all the criticism against it, the question is “Are people free speak for themselves?  If not, does it fall on those people who can to speak up for those who are mistreated?”

    From end-of-WWII, Taiwan was under either occupation or martial law rule by Chinese KMT regime.  Taiwanese people weren’t free to express their will politically.  The Taiwanese diaspora spoke up because those who stayed couldn’t. 

    It’s generally agreed that the effort of Taiwanese diaspora speed up the end of martial law in Taiwan. Once people in Taiwan are able to speak for themselves, the influence of Taiwanese diaspora gradually faded away, mostly. 

    Of course, if my experience is any guide, Vietnamese-American community may not be happy with what a free and democratic Vietnam will decided for themselves.  That’s the impression I got from talking with Taiwanese who manage factories in Vietnam.  But that’s for the future.

  51. #52 Hung Bui,

      I understand what you say, and we should all respect our elders, they have a lot of life experience, but things change and we as elders are not always right.

      The more I read the arguments the more I`m hearing this is a cultural differance between Asia and America.

      Madison is being American too. She is an American citizen, she is younger than your father and she is a woman but she has her right to her opinion too. In America she has the same right as your father. The same is true for young male adults.

      My wife and I discuss several issues at home, we don`t always come to the same conclusion. Some times she`s wrong, sometimes she is right and I`m wrong, but this is not a reason for me to divorce her, I respect her opinion. I have two grown sons, I listen to their opinions and sometimes they have given more thought to a subject and are correct to disagree with me. I respect that right of theirs.

      I hope you understand what I`m saying. These two opposing vietnamese parties need to discuss this matter together and respect each other`s opinion, come to a compromise.

      Madison needs to respect your father, but he needs to respect her opinion too.

  52. Madison Nguyen said there are other issues more important for District 7. Why doesn’t she listen to the majority of the Vietnamese Americans who make up 40% of her District and reconsider the naming, so everyone can move on. To start with, it was her who came up with the idea of naming this business district to “recognize the contribution of the Vietnamese American community to the City of San Jose. Is it reasonable to waste Cty’s Tax Money in the hundreds of thousands dollars to pay for the signs and banners bearing the name that the Vietnamese Americans are not happy with. The Vietnamese American Community rather has no name for the District than a name that the Community doesn’t like at all.

  53. Answer to #56. I think before you go around and make up all these theories about legal action the city of Garden Grove and Westminster would take against San Jose, you should know one fact that Andy Quach, council member of Westminster, flew up and spoke in front of the council urging them to adopt the name “Little Saigon” for the area for economic development. You can watch this from the website of san jose city government, along with Janet Nguyen, supervisor of Santa Clara county. One other points, why we haven’t seen the “legal action” these cities takes against San Francisco yet, since they officially designated their “Little Saigon” few years back already?

  54. How ridiculous for a segment of the Vietnamese community to even consider a recall. This is the United States, at least for now. If there are people living in the United States who wish to be in Saigon, they can buy a plane ticket. At one time there was this concept of assimilation among those who came to the United States. Those who are pushing for Little Saigon have a vision of polarization for their community. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.

  55. How embarrasing for madison to be called upon by her own community to resign or face recall! 

    madison—just resign and save yourself the embarrassment and your community the hardship. 

    Do the right thing and spare all of us from hearing about this issue anymore.

  56. Answer to #4 (Mark T) Is there anything wrong with the name Saigon Business District? I can see a couple of things wrong with it. Culturally speaking, it is unsatisfactory (or even bad) for the Vietnamese Americans. The reason simply is this. Let’s say that I have a daughter, and if I name her the same as my mother’s name, in Vietnamese culture, it’s a sign of disrespect (implicitly you are lowering your mother to the rank below your own), but in American culture, it would be considered to be a sign of honoring or endearing.  This is why so many older Vietnamese Americans are opposing this name. To an American, it’s honoring, but not to the Vietnamese. 

    On the other hand, a modifier (in front of Saigon) would not fall to this category.  Economically, Little Saigon is a brand-name.  Historically, a “little” group of Vietnamese people or business getting together is exactly how the Vietnamese refugees started out in this country, been very poor and had nothing to build on, but they transformed all that to prosperity. That is part of our (Vietnamese American) history and thus part of our Vietnamese American refugee identity, why turn your back on history if it could be a source of inspiration.

    The Vietnamese American community in San Jose does not own CM Nguyen (as she made it look like to the mainstream public) but as a Vietnamese American, who claimed to understand and represent the Vietnamese American constituents, yes we expect better from her. Regarding this cultural difference, there are two possibilities: (1) She knows (I must tell you that CM Nguyen once taught a Vietnamese American culture class at Evergreen Valley College, if she doesn’t know this, we should start questioning the capability of our college instructors!), but she thinks this name (SBD) to the Americans would look like honoring and compromising, so she can easily sell it off, who care about a bunch of old Vietnamese, they will not be able to articulate/communicate this to the mainstream public; (2) She doesn’t know/understand this cultural fact. But if she is really sincere in wanting to reach a compromise in honoring the Vietnamese, she should have opened a dialog with the community.  A compromise should start with a dialog, not with an imposition by someone in power. As I stated earlier, the so-called compromise of the “new option” name were kept a secret until the Nov. 15 press conference.  Council members making decision (among themselves) instead of communicating/dialoging with the community (on a community issue) is what we saw at this step, a long with taking community input (through the survey) and just throw it all way.

  57. Everyone.  This issue is over. 

    There is no way that the City Council will ever name anything Little Saigon.  In fact, thanks to this issue, they will never name anything again, since they have learnt the hard way that this is not a City Council issue.

    The Vietnamese community has disgraced themselves with their selfish and childish behavior.  Even worse, they have set their political progress back by years due to their behavior.

  58. Kathleen/JMO/MarkT/ILoveBanhMi/Vu

    Just as divergent as all of your points of view from sympathetic(Kathleen) to bemused(JMO) to condescending(MarkT) to accusatory(ILoveBanhMi), so are the opinions of the VietnameseAmerican community in San Jose(Vu).  We also have strong opinions of what happened to this Little Saigon controversy. Everyone has the right to express their points of view as they see fit. All I can add is that as first generation immigrants, we are no different on how we develop our ethnic community as some of you have prior when you’ve first arrived. We first proceed with caution, work and study hard, assimilate, then at certain time in our lives felt secured that we’re finally American.

    However, it usually take a particularly horrendous event that galvanize the community and woke us up fast to the fact that we are nowhere near there yet and we need to do a lot more to be treated equal and be heard…to truly be American. It could be a discriminatory remark, a racially motivated arrest …Or perhaps … that POLITICIAN(s) that come into our community, befriended us, wear our traditional outfits, wear our flag ties and salute our flag, wax Vietnamese politics, try to speak our language, eat our food, ask us for our votes, our donation, show respect to our elders, promised us business contacts and prosperity, share our community pains, tell us that we matter, ask us if they can do anything…ANYTHING.. for us even though we just ask them simply to be our friends always…..THEN WHEN WE NEED THAT ONE THING…. THAT ONE #@$&* THING……. for all the love and pride that Vietnamese hairdresser and other like her shared for Madison Nguyen, all that outpouring supports that our elders who spoke no English but know how to pat the backs of Mayoral Candidate Chuck Reed and Dave Cortese along with a “Fonzi” thumbs up, all the time the community embraced Sam Liccardo, Nancy Pyle, Nora Campos, Forrest Williams and taken them into our homes and our hearts…THAT ONE THING…we get a mockery Banana Republic Court no different from the courts in our homeland where quid pro quo, things are decided already ahead of time, guilty before trial…then we get some of these so called FRIENDSof theVIETNAMESE CouncilMembers to lecture us on our rudeness and how proud they are that Madison Nguyen showed courage and bravery and what a great leader she is for the community…last, for an encore, we have the eloquent Judy Chirco ends the evening with… Drum rolls please…“I have heard more disrespect tonight than I ever thought I would hear from the Vietnamese community”.

    As most of us younger generation (the neutral members of the community) followed this saga,  we’re amused and appalled that CouncilMember Nguyen has blatantly disregard her elders, her community activists, her anti-communist constituents and her supporters.  Yet we nodded our heads and say “that’s our politician gal, all grown up politically playing to the mainstream crowd”.  Then the insults poured in the very next day.  “This is the work of a bunch of out of work, irrelevant, minority extremists.  The real supporters for Saigon Business District are the people that work 2-3 jobs that’s not here last night and I need to represent them”…WHAT?? That was my father, my uncle, my granduncle you have just insulted.  WHY?  You won the %&*$# name, why insult them for?? What did they do to deserve this? That’s the moment us younger generation woke up and wonder why did she abuse her own community for just a simple name.  What’s going on here?


    Did we ask for this? Did my father and his elder friends deserved to be vilified by all of this because they stood up for a principle?  My elders worked hard for 32 years, put us through school, tell us America is the greatest country and taught us to always be respectful. They were in the crowd that night because they thought, as Americans their voices mattered.  Boy, were they in for a rude awakening in American politics by no other but one of their own, Madison Nguyen.  To the rest of you, I do not expect you to understand. To the young generation, Madison Nguyen is us, is me.  She is my generation.  What she did was unnecessarily shaming her elders, or as we called it, “hon lao” (disrespectful).  Did she need to play politics with them, with her community? Thus, she had shamed me because I supported her and I have to answer to my elders on why she took a simple thing…THAT ONE THING…that she knows mattered to my elders and embarrassed them publicly. 


  59. #54.
    It’s very sad but true.  To understand the Vietnamese communtity better, I think it’s better to explain the difference ways that the Vietnamese arrived to USA.
    – The first group left Vietnam before the Vietnam war end April 30, 1975.  They left VN through the US’s evacuation program or by any way they can to the US ships that anchored outside the VN’s sea.  Those people the Vietnamese called them “di tan” or I can translate as the evacuee.  Those people never live under the communist after the war.
    – The second group left Vietnam after April 30, 1975 by boat and later by land.  The highest point is around 1978 to 1981.  A lot of horror story about their journeys were well-known so the name “boat people” was given to this group.  Depend on when they left VN, they lived few years under the communist rule and those were the worst.  I belong to this group.
    – Later on, a lot of third countries US included wanted to stop Vietnamese to escape Vietnam this way, so they announced that they will stop accept refugees.  In the mean time, US had a program to accept all former South Vietnamese army officers who spent at least 3 years in the communist re-education camp to settle in USA with their direct family.  The Vietnamese call the people who arrived to USA through this program as HO.  This is the 3rd wave. This group is the one that paid the most heavy price.  They fought the communist during the war.  After the war they spend years and years in the communist re-education camp.  They lost every thing.  So it’s no suprise if they are the most anti-communist.
    – The fourth wave still in progress are people who come to USA through the family reunion.  People who arrived from 1st to 3rd wave when they become US citizen start sponsor their relatives.
    Now the Vietnamese communities believed that the communist send cover agent on all the groups I listed above to collect information to see if we try to organize anything to overthrow their government …  The Vietnamese communities also believe that the communist’s agents will do anything to undermine, divide and control the Vietnamese communities.  I believe that too, because it will be stupid for the communist not to do that.

    So it’s easier to accuse some one as communist agent, pro communist or working for communist to silent the opposite view.  It’s so easy to do that it’s wide spread in all the Vietnamese communities.  If you can read Vietnamese, and you visit some Vietnamese forums, you will be shocked to read those posts that look like all Vietnamese’s group are communist, pro communist or working for communist.  In San Jose, one case just finished in court where one Vietnamese’s weekly newspaper accused one owner of the radio station as communist, working for communist government.. few years ago.  The weekly newspaper lost because they have no proof.

    Post # 55 is right.  The majority of Vietnamese was shocked that a small group rejected the first name that was proposed Vietnamese Business District with a very strange reason that “Vietnamese” is not anti communist enough and they wanted the name Little Saigon because it shows that this is more anti-communist.  Most of Vietnamese think Little Saigon as a place to shop, eat and visit relatives.  So what’s anti communist about it ? So that’s why some people saw right away that this is non sense, and they see right through that was an effort to embarass Madison Nguyen.  So to be safe, they stayed as far away as they can.

  60. #61- Richard, very well said. I come from back east and I was brought up to honor and acquiesce to elders as well. I still do to a point, and I’m 51 years old. I can understand the outrage of the elderly Vietnamese community. They feel unheard and disrespected by Madison.
    The problem as you so beautifully pointed out is that she is young, she is Americanized, and most importantly, she MUST represent the entire District 7 constituency, if she is to truly up hold her oath. Having said that, I think there are so many different issues bleeding into one another, that it is getting complicated, and overwhelming for everyone involved.
    What I love about this conversation here on SJI is that these folks from the Vietnamese community are educating us in the ways of their culture. Too often I see immigrant communities stay off to themselves, and not truly assimilate with our American culture. They call themselves, African Americans, Vietnamese Americans etc., but they don’t interact, or become a part of our culture and traditions in a way that allows us to really know them. Council Watcher is right; this should be a community issue, NOT a Vietnamese issue.
    I base my thoughts on that by looking at a few facts, here are just a small bit of them, one the survey by the RDA that reflected a majority of support for the name “Little Saigon.” That survey was ignored. Two, too many times our Council has it’s mind made up long before input by caring community members hear about, or are notified of an issue. Three, how can a special group of Vietnamese, Hispanic or whatever race, put a candidate into office and expect that CM to vote only their way, rather than taking the entire districts needs into consideration? Four, why did a Council Member refuse meetings with individuals when asked? Even a CM who hates someone must at the very least have an aide meet with you. Five, if we are electing people into office and don’t hold them accountable for promises they make to us, what kind of electoral, democratic process do we really have? And six look at the racism this issue is bringing out! Look at how angry or fearful some Americans are about having our culture taken over by businesses and cultures from overseas or other countries. Look at how disrespected Americans feel. It is very interesting to me, because there is just so much going on that it really is difficult to grasp it all.   
    You see, I feel this issue is much broader than just Madison did or didn’t do something she was expected to do, and I really think it bares closer examination and many great minds, points of view, and open, honest, RESPECTFUL conversation. One last point I’d like to make is this, the reason I have compassion for Madison, even though I really don’t agree with the way she has behaved or handled this is because, she is unfairly caring a burden of decades of history, hurts/pain, and unrealistic expectations of a very proud hard working culture.
    I remember reading both Jackie Kennedy, and Mrs. King saying that it was a very difficult, and tiring burden to be the wives, and widows of such great men. They had to live their lives out under a great deal of stress, judgment, and criticisms based solely on their husband’s causes, careers, and contributions to this country. I cannot imagine what a tough time being a young, educated, Vietnamese woman like Madison is, and trying to please so many unhappy people. She started out trying to honor her people, and now her life, her career, and her will to serve this City is being trashed. My heart truly goes out to her, her Council staff, and her family because I know they are being treated badly too. It is just so sad to see.     

    #68- Thank you for sharing your opinion on this issue, but I strongly disagree with your statement, “The Vietnamese community has disgraced themselves with their selfish and childish behavior.  Even worse, they have set their political progress back by years due to their behavior.” The Vietnamese community is entitled under the First Amendment to speak their truth, even when or if you disagree with them. Bashing these folks for their commitment to an ideal is at best, ignorant, very much lacking in compassion, and self-righteous.  Game over~

  61. WOW! This blog and posts are great stuff! I took the time to read every posting this morning. Thanks Tom.
      #52 clearly laid out the territory.
      Perhaps I can shed a bit of simplicity to this sharing of dialoge.
      Today , my son Paul and I will be going to San Francisco. It’s a reward of sorts.
      An Irish coffee at the Chiefton, Breakfast at the Ramp on the water, shop and mingle in the Mission District. A fresh crab at Fisherman’s Wharf and a glass of wine at water’s edge.
      Grag a cab to China Town, for some shopping and rubbing shoulders with folks that live and support that unique way of life. The energy is filling. Follow the Barbary Coast Trail to Red’s Place ending up at Union Square for the last of our shopping. If we have any energy left, walk to the Sir Francis Drake and catch some sounds at Harry Denton’s.
      Mexican, Chinese, Italians, & Irish. All in one perfect Saturday.
      Strip mall’s and box stores are ok for stuff. But to live your sprit one have be there where the people are that make their own energy that attracts guys like us. Sharing is the true purpose!
      We started our weekend holiday last night at McCormic”s with $1.95 cheese burgers and salmon cakes, with friends. All in a sea of Families and Christmas lights. San Jose, YEA!
      What’s in a name? Nothing! Call it what you want.  It’s the folks that attract. Try it you’ll like it!
          The Village Black Smith & Son

  62. #72 Gil-
    Right on! We, as a city, would do well to focus on the possibilities of a multi-cultural community rather than get hung up on the petty politics of the naming “controversy.”
    No matter what you call the Saigon Business District San Jose now has a neighborhood with some wonderful restaurants and markets, interesting cultural opportunities and an emerging population of educated, hard-working people who are taking their rightful place in our community. Compare that stretch of Story Road today with the Story road of 20 years ago when it was a slum. The transformation has been good for San Jose.
    THAT’s what Madison sought to honor with the naming of a business district. How ironic that people within her own community would seek to destroy it.

  63. # 67
    You had a very strange explanation about the Vietnamese Culture:
    “Is there anything wrong with the name Saigon Business District? I can see a couple of things wrong with it. Culturally speaking, it is unsatisfactory (or even bad) for the Vietnamese Americans. The reason simply is this. Let’s say that I have a daughter, and if I name her the same as my mother’s name, in Vietnamese culture, it’s a sign of disrespect (implicitly you are lowering your mother to the rank below your own), but in American culture, it would be considered to be a sign of honoring or endearing.  This is why so many older Vietnamese Americans are opposing this name. To an American, it’s honoring, but not to the Vietnamese. “
    Your explanation is same as when the name Vietnamese Business District was opposed because it can be mistaken as communist.  It’s misleading and not true.

    You are half right when you wrote that you can not name your daughter same as your mother.  But for the name of the place, Vietnamese culture has nothing against it if you want to use it.  Right at San Jose, we have Saigon restaurant, we have Vung Tau restaurant, we have My Tho, Hue, Kien Giang, Ca Mau, Nha Trang, Da Lat restaurant ….  All those names are the names of big and famous cities at Vietnam Should I go on and I can list more.  Not only retaurants used those names but a lot of other type of business also used those names too.  But I don’t see any older Vietnamese are opposing those business or boycott those business.  I don’t even see any one asking those business to add a modifer in front of it like you explained to become Little Saigon restaurant, Little Nha Trang restaurant …  But I did, and still see older Vietnamese come and eat at those restaurants. 

    So is it a new rule that someone just make up that you can name your restaurant, your hair salon, your market, your liquor store Saigon but you can not name Saigon Business District because “Culturally speaking, it is unsatisfactory (or even bad) for the Vietnamese Americans.”  ?

  64. Many of the posts here totally miss the point of the Little Saigon controversy. It has little to do with Vietnam and everything with American principles and values, for the most part. What is at stake here isn’t the simple naming of a small piece of land, but holding our government accountable for its corrupt actions.

    When 90% of the people beg their elected officials to properly represent their views only to see the complete opposite happens, the people have not only a right, but a patriotic duty to remind the politicians that the interests of the people come before those of the political elites. Otherwise, we would have a corrupt dictatorship, and not a constitutional American Republic. Countless Americans have given their lives for the Republic fighting against dictatorships in England and Nazi Germany. And we are still doing so today as brave American soldiers fight to defend our way of life.

    Politicians like Madison Nguyen who don’t respect the interests of the people mock at these heroic Americans and our values. Why should we promote American principles in Iraq if some politicians don’t respect them here? Would a handful of folks still ask Madison to “stick to her guns?” For the sake of America, I hope not.

  65. # 67
    Based on your post, I guess that you support the name Little Saigon.  You also have a same name as one of the leader of the Little Saigon support organization.  But I am not sure if you and that person are one person or different.  But you wrote something that I am shocked and very curious.  You wrote “Economically, Little Saigon is a brand-name.” 
    That’s what some people think a long time ago and that’s why they understand the difficult positions that the Mayor, Vice Mayor and some Council Members must be if they voted for Little Saigon when they clearly know the name was well-known on all Vietnamese communities around the world.  The name Little Saigon also has some economic value …
    Even you also acknowledge that.  So how can you expect the Mayor, Vice Mayor and all the Council Members to vote for a copy cat a well-known brand name ?
    Your post help explain why they can not vote for the name Little Saigon.  That’s why it shocked me.  But even knowing that, you still want to force San Jose to approve the name Little Saigon ?

  66. Gil – As usual you have a great observation.  This series of blogs and commentary is very educational to all who want to know about our city, past, present and future.  TMcE

  67. #74
    You wrote, “When 90% of the people beg their elected officials to properly represent their views only to see the complete opposite happens, the people have not only a right, but a patriotic duty to remind the politicians that the interests of the people “

    That is a bunch of baloney. We elect officials who are hopefully qualified to make what are the best decisions for everyone, not just one specific segment of one group. If we are just going to elect officials who blindly vote based on just numbers, lets do away with elected officials and make all decisions based on popular referendum. Just because Nguyen didn’t vote your way does not make her corrupt.

  68. Vu Nguyen # 56 wrote:“If that’s the case, the theory goes, Little Saigon is a trade name and Garden Grove and Westminster city will have to protect that trade name…”

    OMIGOD!!!!—next we’ll have a war like that between Huntington Beach and Santa Cruz over the name “Surf City”.

    And further:” And if San Jose vote for it, that can result to legal action. ” A sure sign that a group has assimilated into American culture is the use of litgation to “solve” problems.

  69. #77 Steve

    You are right.  It appears that, at least for the more vocal individuals on this subject, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of how the political process works in this country.  In fact, if politics worked as they desire then we would have, in essence, a dictatorship.

    However, this misunderstanding is not limited to the Vietnamese.  In the past, there have been numerous posts on this blog, regarding other issues, where the poster thinks that the City Council is supposed to do the biding of whichever crowd has the majority in the gallery.

    I certainly hope that these individuals are not successful in their attempt to overthrow an individual who was fairly elected, and is guilty of no malfeasance.

  70. Hello people,

    (Tom) McEnery was named for the San Jose Convention Center because his contribution to the city of San Jose.

    Dissidents from Viet Nam fled Saigon in 1975 and settle down in San Jose have contributed alot to City of San Jose.

    “Little Saigon” is their request.

    This city should listen to “the Voice of this Vietnamese Community”. Madison came from Fresno. She got elected because she was endorsed by the “old Viets”. They always want to promote the young Vietnamese to get involve with politics. Madison has no root in San Jose. But she was the right choice at that time.

    After Madison got elected, she has been “contacted and manipulated” by the gangs of the “Paloma Cafe” which is located in Grand Century mall on Story Road

    To the Vietnamese Community, there are rumors that this Paloma Cafe Gangs has connection with the Vietnamese Communists. They “ru+?a tie^`n” in San Jose. The oversea Vietnamse have sent 4 billion dollars to Vietnam last year. The Communists give fake currency to people in Vietnam and keep dolars in the USA.  The Communists have been using this money to invest in real estates. They also use this money to “buy” the elected officers and the Vietnamese who are willing to be on their side.

    (If you want to know more about Vietnamese Communist’s business, check out the closuse of Hoa Phat Trading Inc.  in San Jose. Hoa Phat was doing business of sending a lot of money from California to Vietname in 1980s, 1990s. They has disappeared now)

    In addition, Madison got married with an international student from Vietnam 6 months ago.

    We know to whom Madison has contacted!

    It’s not only “Little Saigon” name! It’s more than just a name!  Madison has betrayed the Vietnamse community politically.

    We, the Vietnamese, know our business. We do our business. You do your business. This city own the Vietnamese community alot of things. Look at the Vietnamese population in San Jose and look, we don’t even have a Vietnamese judge in the municipal court !

    Give me a break~~~ Don’t preaching us do this, do that, don’t abuse recall, be respecful to Madison, be polite to Chuck Reed. Hell, Vietnamese people in San Jose are mad, mad, mad. When people get mad, they can do whatever they want to do.

    It is the elected officers who should come to us, bargain with us if they want to get elected in the next election. We know that. Period.

    Madison should resign. Why don’t you guys ask Madison to do it.  Instead of preaching here, you should do this, you should do that

    Here is the cartoon of the day:

  71. #82: I am well aware that the Surf City issue ended in court.  My point was simply that this disagreement re naming the business district “officially” seems very much the same type of dispute to me.

  72. I don’t think they misunderstand the American political process at all.  A bunch of people filled the room and expected politicians would vote their way.

    Often, that is exactly what happens, especially for non-monetary issues. 

    It’s one of the reasons rich neighborhoods often have a lot more parks than poor ones, even within the same city.

  73. # 78
    It already happened and it ended in 2006.  Huntington won, Santa Cruz lost.

    Based on USA today 5/15/2006 ““Surf City USA” is officially in Southern California, according to a federal agency that granted this town exclusive trademark rights despite challenges from northern rival Santa Cruz. “

    After a lot of legal challenges through courts, Santa Cruz now use the name Surf City.

  74. 79 Frustrated Finfan

      Gun fire? Gun Fire?
      My dear man or woman, you own far too much hatred.
      I went to chronicle the Immigration March. Photograph after photograph reveled in my lens a child on Dad’s shoulders waving a United States flag. Human pyramid building 5 men tall, all with United States Flags at the Arena Green. Some one made a fortune selling Chinese made United States flags that day.
      300,000 people certainly convinced me that we would be alright as a funtional city.
      The out pouring of solidarity was very healing. Hope was the theme of the day.
        When it was over every one went back to their respective lives without guilt or anger.
        Finfan, you might try forgiveness, starting with self first. Some day you might become old and feeble and have to ask for help from an individule that cares very much about his or her efforts to confort you. For now, eat your vegetables.
        A thought we might consider, is that perhaps the great wall between two trading partners is being built to keep people from leaving rather than keeping them out.
      Just a thought for a perfect Sunday in our little Village of San Jose de Guadalupe.

                        The Village Black Smith

  75. Obviously, if Mayor McEnery weighs in on the subject with his broad past experience with the Vietnamese community, the issue perhaps would be more defined.  Tom was very instrumental in helping my family’s business survives in 1985 when some Public Works construction threatened to bankrupt us. What did he do that was different then versus this administration now?  We called City Hall, Tom came down, HE LISTENED ON WHY THIS ISSUE AFFECTED US PERSONALLY. HE ACT ACCORDINGLY, NOT JUST FOR OUR WHITE NEXT-DOOR NEIGHBORS. MY FAMILY WAS NOT EVEN REGISTERED TO VOTE, SO THERE IS NO BI-PARTISAN POLITICS OR LOBBYING INVOLVED. Amazing, huh?

    There are passions in this blog including myself that flows back from one extreme to the other. As a 32 years San Jose residence, I am totally neutral on this Little Saigon issue.  When I informed everyone in my extended household that our Mayor McEnery was putting his thoughts on this issue, my family chimed “Explain to Tom, at least he was fair to us, not like the current Mayor and those other 7 council members”. I have never written online until now and felt the responsibility to “enlighten” a whole new set of McEnerys to our Vietnamese heritage. We’re bringing strangers into our family room to meet everyone for the first time.  There’s our uncle and aunt showing off their English, our talkative Grandma speaking Vietnamese, our grandpa on display on the strange altar along with Buddha, our gansta wanna-be brothers, our Mom that kept trying to feed them food with fish sauce and then.…OUR DAD with his war-pride, ever the hardened fighter that wishes he could be back in Vietnam to fight for Freedom and Democracy of our homeland (and he means it).  He’s an electronic assembler now and we are proud of him sometime yet a bit ashamed of him for all his crazy ranting to everyone about how the Vietcong killed his family member, his platoon, his beloved country and all the atrocity that his kids did not witness firsthand. Still, we don’t know what these strangers would make of this dysfunctional family of ours with all our strange sound, sight, smell and stories. We hope for the best and prepared for the worst.

    As ashamed as I was back then, I came to know him when he decide to defend this Little Saigon cause. It is because what he’s doing is defining who we are and our place in this great City of San Jose.  The shame of a son is the pride of a Vietnamese American as I see EVERYONE of my immediate family, my friends, my American McEnerys that have taken the time to know me over the years united and retold in clarify the controversial November 20th votes with the same passion of April 30th, the fall of Saigon. 

    I’m not as passionate for the name as my father and other posters was.  What I’m passionate is the issues that define the Little Saigon name and the unequivocal “digging in the sand” stance Madison Nguyen and members of Council take BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER the votes. JUST AS THE VIETNAM WAR WAS LOST ON THE POLITICAL FIELDS, YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THE DISDAIN AND HURT OF OUR COMMUNITY OVER HOW THIS NON-CONTROVERSAL NAMING ARE BEING USED AS POLITICAL FOOTBALL.  IT REKINDLED HOW SOMETHING THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE HONORABLE ARE FUMBLED BY THESE ELECTED OFFICIALS. Without writing a novel, here are the compromises that I do know of:

      1. Asked the City Council to cease the renaming and drop the issue altogether.
      2. Proposal for a “Little Saigon Business District” was an unequivocal NO.
      3. KEEP the Saigon Business District motion and let it pass unanimously. Add a friendly amendment to allow the RDA to go back to the community to pick the artwork, logo and NAME of the Banner by March 2008. 
      4. Let the community privately fundraise for the banner Little Saigon and grant easements to erect them.
      5. Open dialogues for an alternate Little Saigon, possibly in smaller geographic or perhaps in other district.
      6.  Put on a ballot to vote Citywide or district wide.

    Put it in perspective, some of us forecast this controversy and have tried in vain to find compromises so it wouldn’t get to this point of political posturing, hurt feelings and our Vietnamese Community gets dragged into this controversy, where everyone and their mothers have an opinion (most negative) over a simple issue. Until you step into our shoes and recognized OUR disappointment on November 20th at most of the elected officials that we assumed would do the right thing and follow democratic principles of government of the people, by the people, for the people, PLEASE GIVE US A MCENERY CHANCE AND BE OPEN MINDED. Civil Disobedience is not the way of my elders, but it’s a way that leads to “enlightened” dialogues when every other attempt failed. It’s the only way, USING THE SAME DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLE, to wake her out of her doltrum and tell her and the rest of the Council that we, the Vietnamese American ARE RIGHT HERE and they really need MORE SITDOWN COMMUNICATION, not more politic-ing.

      Madison let us know loud and clear who is in charge of District 7 on how decisions are made. She doesn’t tolerate dissent or community inputs in her short 2 ½ years on the council. She resents the community’s distaste for the original name of Vietnam Town Business District that benefit the Vietnam Town development and not the Little Saigon that she has MADE AS A CAMPAIGN PROMISE in 2005. Madison has lobbied successfully for a name that she knew would put the community at odd and into a whirlwind of controversy. IT WAS INTENTIONAL AND DELIBERATE. Her supporters called her “gutsy” that night. We felt otherwise.  She’s appointed to lead and to represent. Yet, in her defining moment, she abandoned her democratic principles and put her Vietnamese Community on display in the most negative of lights. I haven’t heard one iota of soothing, healing words or LEADERSHIP to right the ship and calm the disappointed crowd… JUST MORE DIGGING IN THE SAND.

  76. Something Right Remains Right
    What’s in a name? Some names or, generally, some words happen to mean a lot to a group of people and touch there deepest feelings, cause pain, anger and despair, or promote hope. In this case, it involves the name “Little Saigon”.

    Initially, I preferred the name “Saigon Business District”. Setting aside my preference and learning how to act within the democratic process, I started listening to the majority. I left Saigon on April-1975 on an American boat. I did not see any torture, any inhumane treatment which people of my homeland went through in their homes, in prisons, in re-education camps, days, months, years after that dark month of April-1975. I did not witness any barbaric behavior on the part of those winners, Their behavior was so barbaric and indescribably cruel that ordinary people risk their lives to escape the communist government no matter what … these survivors became political refugees scattered all over the world. Their living nightmares will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Somehow, pre-determined I guess, the name “Little Saigon” has became the symbolic “Capital of Vietnamese Political Refugees”. Special significance is attached to a certain name or word. Americans love the name “Fourth Of July”. Jewish-Americans hate the name Hitler. Vietnamese-Americans hate the traitor Ho-Chi-Minh. Black people hate the word “negro” … Those social facts are realities that are to be accepted because they so profoundly impact people’s feelings.

    Joshua Molina of San Jose Mercury News objectively wrote: “Sunday’s crowd was one of the largest in San Jose in recent years to address a municipal issue” and “… Little Saigon supporters were clearly in the majority among those with roots in Vietnam”. Before the Council vote, 91% of 46oo respondents in a San Jose Mercury News poll supported the name “Little Saigon”. An unusual group of more than 1000 “Little Saigon” supporters packed the City Council Conference room the night the Council vote took place (Nov-20). Last Sunday (Dec-9), more than 2000 “Little Saigon” supporters gathered to denounce the name approved by the City Council. Since the purpose of the naming, as Mayor Chuck Reed clearly stated, is to recognize the success of the Vietnamese community in the City of San Jose, the voice of the majority of Vietnamese living in San Jose should be the determining voice. The name “Little Saigon” affects the feeling of Vietnamese, a feeling which many young Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese people do not have.

    I believe Councilwoman Nguyen was not politically naive in failing to anticipate the controversy. She understood well that an overwhelming majority supported the name “Little Saigon” for the Story-Road business section. Perhaps, some dark political pressure orevented her from proposing the name to the City Coucil. The reason given by Coucilwoman Nguyen to promote her proposed name confuses the City Council and does not stand strong. The name “Little Saigon” has proven to be successful and has attracted a vast non-Vietnamese clientele. Having rejected the name “Little Saigon”, Councilwoman Nguyen showed that she did not honor the democratic process embraced by the City Council, she disrespected the feeling of Vietnamese Political Refugees around the world, and she turned her back to the community that voted her into office. Anti-democratic process leads to corruption and back-door dealings. Disrespecting the majority’s feelings is the same as making racially insensitive remarks and gestures. What Coucilwoman Nguyen did is what Kathy Cole did in 1994. A recall, if it is to be done, is not an over-reaction. It is the right thing to do to protect our democratic process, our Sunshine Law and our anti-corruption policy due to dirty politics. However, both sides should dialogue in an open-minded manner in order to avoid to an another ordeal for District 7.

    Also, as a small-business owner, I would say, small businesses change hands frequently, that is, business owners come to go; but the entire community stays and supports the businesses. It is appropriate to listen to the entire community rather than to any tangible group of business owners.

    A recall, successful or not, depends on many factors. However, something right remains right.

    I believe that the Sunday’s crowd was just a proper way for the Vietnamese community to ask the City Council to revisit the issue.

    Respectfully Yours
    A resident of San Jose

    QuangMinh Pham

    QuangMinh Pham P.O. Box 611267 San Jose, CA 95161.

  77. Mr. Hernandez,

    Thanks for helping make my point. I wrote a post intended to demonstrate that logic is not immune to the forces of human emotions and you promptly responded by demonstrating great emotion diluted by not a trace of logic.

    The analogy I offered, in an effort to demonstrate how differing perspectives can trump logic, was about the reaction that I and others had to seeing the Mexican flags. It was not meant to reflect your reaction, as you obviously have a vastly different perspective, one that apparently goes to red alert the moment anyone mentions Mexicans illegally in this country. But, I understand, you couldn’t help yourself, just as the older generation of Vietnamese-Americans can’t help themselves when it comes to the use of the name, Saigon. That was the issue we were discussing, remember?

    As for your camera work, here are some photos taken by others, along with some text detailing a very different “outpouring of solidarity” than yours:


  78. You reap what you sown.

    Madison is behaving like a 5 years old that did something bad, yet blames her brother for it.  The cornerstone that she’s brought into this controversy is really not the name issue, but rather political favors for several rich political supporters that are heavily vested in the success of Vietnam Town, among others.  The renaming has economic significance in identifying and tying in the area to the Vietnam Town development using taxpayer’s dollar instead of her developer’s friend money. If Vietnam Town succeeds, it would put millions into her “constituents” pockets and allows her the financial freedom to run for higher office or retire well-connected after her terms. Everyone in the community knows that most of her close-knits of advisors that she brought to her swearing in ceremony are to name a few, Dr. Ngai Xuan Nguyen, Sonny Nguyen from Nha Magazine, Lap Tang from Grand Century and Vietnam Town, Trung Lam from GD Commercial and Anh Tran from Hoi Quang Nam – all with real estate interests that stand to benefit from her council votes in years to come. They formed an all elitist pack with that all-knowing wink and nod to Madison Nguyen. Yet these are the supporters of the Saigon Business District.  They get all-exclusive access to the Council woman at a moment’s notice while the rest of her poorer constituents need to be screened by staff members that rarely respond. City Hall 18th floor knows this also.

    The reality of District 7 is Madison humors the Vietnamese community for the votes and the perceived unity but is quickly turnoff by all the petty community requests that she feels is beneath her.  She is quick to act with land use and real estate related decisions as well as business decisions that secured future political donors to her supposedly growing political clout. Case in point – her big showing of wealthy Vietnamese donors at a summer Bill Clinton event.  Have anyone notice the great divide here? Last Sunday, the Mayor and Madison along with several council members attends and honors at the City Hall Rotunda a new group of Northern California Vietnamese Community laced with rich or well connected Vietnamese that do business in Vietnam and happens to support her privately on all issues (roughly 50 + people).  At the other side is the GI Forum event of the Committee for Little Saigon full of good intentioned Vietnamese, but no visible well to do folks (2,000 + people). 

    Madison tried to sneak in the Vietnam Business District naming quietly without informing the community. Only the owner of Vietnam Town showed up at City Council on June 5th (the date of the runoff election where all eyes are on Hon Lien and Kansen Chu instead).  She got caught with her hands in the cookie jar and was being spiteful with her “watchers” by naming something that she knows they would hate.  This is done as retaliation of her foiled plan to honor a few well to do real estate owners, not the community that she serves in. The truth behind all this controversy is the community that walked precincts and hang lawn signs are disenfranchised with a council member that plays to a different audience, the white mainstream, the political hotshots and the well to do instead of her district voters.  They are calling her out on this issue as a final test on whether or not she is playing the community like a yo-yo and she’s failed the test miserably. 

    Madison is not naïve and knows how to use her damsel in distress act and the media to her advantage as she has done in the past.  When she wants something in the news, it is all over the Vietnamese media, NBC11, CBS5, Channel 2 Fox Network, ABC11, Metro, San Jose Business Journal, the Merc.  When she wants something quiet, no one knows until the issues is well decided her way. She is famous for using surrogates to demand, threaten or cajole viewpoints that align with her so she looks as the great uniter of the Vietnamese community.  Watch in the coming days on how she will continue to insult members of the community and ask her surrogates to command an aura of invincibility and majority with soundbites, TV, blogs, etc… It’s no wonder Vic Aljourny is already on board to play slash and burn politics.

    It’s friend like her that the community doesn’t need enemy. She is pouring gasoline into the fire of this recall that really didn’t have much legs to begin with when she push too hard with her arrogance, her imflamatory rheterics and her surrogates like Dr. Ngai Nguyen egging her on to further embarrass these activist members. The community is tired of another 3 years of destructive division by what could have been a great one.  Heck, put anyone new in district 7 and we’ll be fine with it.

  79. Vu Nguyen,

    Your contribution in post #71 exposes an important characteristic of cultural clashes, that being the limitations of raw logic in dissecting a disagreement. 

    Citing an excellent post by MyPhuong Le (#67), you demonstrate an inconsistency in the argument of those so vehemently opposed to the name, Saigon Business District. As you correctly note, logic suggests that if it is okay to use the names of other Vietnamese cities for businesses here, then it should be okay to use the name Saigon for a business district. The problem is that in this dispute—as it is in every other cultural clash, logic comes with strings attached, strings that may not be comprehensible to everyone, but strings that are nonetheless deserving of recognition. 

    Given that you acknowledge MyPhuong Le’s point about the relationship between namesake and respect in the Vietnamese culture, then it would have to be assumed that her contention about the political importance of how “Saigon” is used here is either an accurate reflection of the feelings of one side, or something she just made up.

    Assuming that hers is an accurate reflection, then we are faced with, and must account for, the inconsistency you previously observed. The first question we must ask ourselves is if we, those outside the group who, due to differences of race, culture, class, and life experience, might see some things differently than do those in the group? The answer is an obvious yes. The second question is, could this difference of perspective cause one side to see an inconsistency where none exists? Well, let’s examine that by looking at a different clash of cultures.

    Having been born and raised in San Jose I am no stranger to the Mexican flag. Beginning in childhood I encountered it in the homes of friends, at the neighborhood market, in favorite restaurants, and never once did it offend me as an American. I understood it as a symbol of their heritage, not their patriotic allegiance. Then came the recent “immigrant rights” marches through our cities, with thousands of foreign citizens taking over our streets and demanding the rights and privileges enjoyed by American citizens, all the while holding up that very familiar Mexican flag.

    Easily one of the most offensive things I have ever witnessed. My perspective: these were not prospective Americans proud of their heritage, these were foreigners challenging us with their numerical power and demonstrating their allegiance to another nation. My anger was beyond words.

    I was not alone in my reaction. It was one shared by Americans in the millions—people of every color and creed. (I firmly believe that had this demonstration been attempted a hundred years earlier the local citizenry would’ve welcomed the marchers with gunfire.) Yet I am, nonetheless, capable of understanding that my reaction to the flag in that one circumstance could be deemed contradictory, given my lifelong tolerance to it in others. But I would argue that any logical analysis of human behavior demands an accounting of human nature. First and foremost, we are cultural beings.

    I think the lesson is this: no matter if the issue is Little Saigon or foreign flags or whatever, when cultures clash logic is useful only up to one side’s line in the sand, a line that might not be obvious or even knowable in advance, but one whose location becomes increasingly predictable as voices get louder and divisions grow. It is the job of the politician to predict that line and deal with those who will hold it.

    You may have noticed that the Mexican flag was all but nonexistent in the later marches. The political blunder was that obvious, the damage that significant. The remarkably tolerant American public had been pushed too far.

    In the matter of Little Saigon, it is certainly understandable that the older generations of Vietnamese immigrants—the generations that lost the most, suffered the most, and were most challenged by the demands of their new country, might, for reasons of tradition, emotion, or any combination of things, draw their line in the sand with the name of their beloved Saigon. If this was indeed the case—if MyPhuong Le was correct, then a grievous political error was made, and it was made by the only council member with enough access to that community to see the clash coming.

    At this point the truth remains to be unraveled. The emotion demonstrated by the highly-visible Little Saigon group is certainly consistent with a group grieving deep wounds, quite the opposite of the behavior of those favoring the other name. This event is, as was suggested Luong Do (post #74), potentially exposing as much about the inner workings of the council as it is the internecine conflicts of the Vietnamese community.

    Great stuff!

  80. “The out pouring of solidarity was very healing. Hope was the theme of the day.”

    I imagine hope indeed filled the hearts of all the A.N.S.W.E.R marxists that organized the rallies, like pro-illegal-immigration front man Juan Jose Gutierrez.


    It’s quite a nice read.

    It seems there’s a bit more to illegal immigration than we’ve been told – although I’m expecting a multipage Mercury News expose on the subject any day now.

  81. Please read the following article from John Vu to understand of the “Little Saigon” matter. It is not the issue of the name, it is the cover up behind and the broken democratic process at the San Jose City Hall.

    Part I

    Lost in Translation – The Little Saigon Conflict
    • John Vu*

    Little more than 20 years ago, as a young intern working in Washington DC for US House of Representatives, I had an opportunity to meet up with the larger than life. Congressman Tip O’Neill, one of the longest serving House Majority Leaders in history. I asked for his autograph along with his famous adage: “All politics is local”. He was amused by the request and chuckled: “And remember one more thing, all politics is personal.”


    The rest of this article can be viewed here.


  82. To #48: We are fighting the Vietnamese communists in Vietnam, right here from the USA. We are fighting them in our own way, with our own peaceful methods, and I don’t have to tell you how, because that’s not your concern. We want to help the people back in Vietnam and make our old country a democratic country, for the unlucky people of our own race who remain in Vietnam, and we left them some decades ago when we came here. However, before we can do that, we have to prove to the communists in Vietnam that the USA’s government is more democratic and better than the Vietnamese government, otherwise they will laugh at us and tell us: “what do you have to teach us? Can you realise democracy for yourself?”. The fact that Madison and Chuck Reed did not practice democracy is a shame, not only for our Vietnamese community, because we made a mistake when we helped her to get elected, but it’s a shame for the USA as well. How can the U.S. tell other people in the world to respect human rights and teach them democracy, if the government officers in the U.S. crush our democracy dream that we had when we came here?
    This issue is not the issue of Vietnamese immigrants anymore, but an issue of all Americans in this country. That’s because the democracy’s principle itself is challenged here. Through this story, I see that democracy is not something static that one can take for granted, but it’s a dynamic process that involves everyone who live together in a place, in a country.

  83. Attorney Minh Steven Dovan’s letter to SJ Mayor and Councilmembers
    Nov 22, 2007
    Dear San Jose Mayor Reed and Council members:

    Yesterday (Tuesday evening November 20, 2007) the City Council of San Jose, California, (the city outside of Vietnam with the largest Vietnamese population) voted 8-3 for the name Saigon Business District (SBD). This was in total disregard for the will of the people in the community who had chosen by a ratio of more than 7 to 1 in the CITY’S OWN SURVEY preferring the name Little Saigon over SBD. Although you the mayor, and council member Madison Nguyen claimed (on the record) that SBD was a “compromise” however the fact is that this was NOT a compromise. Little Saigon came in FIRST and SBD came in LAST (gathering only 5%) on the survey list of 6 choices as was clearly and correctly pointed out by council member Pete Constant at the meeting. Even the respectable San Jose Mercury News Survey with more than 4600 responses showed Little Saigon was preferred by 91% of the respondents!! I am very disappointed that you as mayor, did not and could not show the courage or fortitude of a true leader. Apparently the survey by your own city agency and the passionate and deafening pleas of the 1000+ concerned community members who appeared at the hearing (in the council chamber and overflowed into the rotunda and halls) to support the name Little Saigon had no effect or influence on you or Ms. Nguyen or other council members who voted for SBD. The pride and ego that you and Madison Nguyen exhibited are truly incomprehensible. The other council members who voted with you and MADISON NGUYEN are Vice Mayor DAVID CORTESE, council members SAM LICCARDO, NORA CAMPOS, JUDY CHIRCO, FORREST WILLIAMS and NANCY PYLE. However, I must commend the three INDEPENDENT and OPEN MINDED council members Messrs. PIERLUIGI OLIVERIO, PETE CONSTANT, and KANSEN CHU who voted in DISSENT, and who voted AGAINST Madison Nguyen’s motion. They followed their conscience, their hearts and their minds to reflect the true will of the people. The name Little Saigon embodies a strong commercial appeal, historical significance, community spirit, and cultural attractiveness. There is a fervent and overwhelming belief in the community that there were deals made behind the scene to get Ms. Nguyen’s motion passed, i.e., Quid-Pro-Quo arrangements. If that was the case, then democracy has clearly been assaulted and violated. The previous night (Monday), I had interviewed you Mr. Mayor on our Vietnamese TV talk show, and I had been very neutral, cordial, and easy in my questioning of you in order to be fair to you and to afford you ample time to talk. However, Tuesday night when I attempted to speak (as a private citizen) at the council meeting, you quickly cut me off after a very short time when you realized that I was going to recommend the name Little Saigon to the council. I had no chance to express my view, and I deeply resent your unprofessional, unfair, and totally un-democratic act. I had hoped you would have had the decency and
    professionalism to allow me to speak for the same duration as other individual speakers at the open public forum; the ultimate place and symbol of true democracy. But that was not to be. San Jose deserves representatives with honesty and integrity, and we need and want public servants who do not exhibit such hubris and arrogance of power (remember the Hon Lien vs. Kansen Chu District 4 race ?).


    Minh Q. Steven Dovan, Esq.
    AKA Luat Su Do Van Quang Minh (Vietnamese name).

    P.S. This is the FIRST time in 5 decades of living in the U.S. that I have had to write to a Mayor or any city council member. However Madison Nguyen’s and your overall blatantly deceptive and un-democratic conduct on this issue compelled me to write this e-mail.

    P.P.S. All media services: please freely print and disseminate this e-mail as you see fit.

    Vietnamese media: please also see the accompanying Vietnamese translation. Feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss or have any questions.

    Thank you.


    Minh Q. Steven Dovan

    Attorney at Law

    4 N. Second Street, Suite 280

    San Jose, CA 95113-1323

    Ph. (408) 287-2555

    Fax (408) 287-2564

  84. #81. You hit the right button. This is why Vietnamese people feel very frustrated and suspicious, “Could this be more than just a non-monetary issue?”

  85. GUN FIRE? GUN FIRE?  That “WAS” your point! Come out and play with the rest of us, 
      Mr. Frastrated. Leave your masked hood at home.
                    The Village Black Smith

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *