The Orange County Board of Supervisors generously voted 4-1 in favor of a monument near Little Saigon to feature American and Vietnamese history, but the small Viet nonprofit that received the six-figure grant wasn’t exactly clear on what to do with the huge amount of money.
The way OC budget works, each Supervisor gets $2 million to spend on parks in his or her own district. Although these expenditures still need to be approved by the Board, traditionally each Supervisor has discretion on where the money goes.
It’s from that pot of money for Supervisor Janet Nguyen‘s district that the $350,000 for the American and Vietnamese historical monument will be funded. See the Register here, or Nguoi Viet here. The lucky recipient is the Vietnamese Community Culture and Performance Arts Society, better known by its Vietnamese name, the Câu Lạc Bộ Hùng Sử Việt.
The draft contract which the Board approved calls for the CLB Hùng Sử Việt to design, construct, and install the monument. Basically, do everything.
However, when the Bolsavik on behalf of Nguoi Viet Daily News called the head of CLB Hùng Sử Việt for comments, Mr. Song Thuan had no idea the proposal had been accepted. He wasn’t quite sure what’s in the proposal, and politely declined to comment until he’s researched it further.
Meanwhile, another Vietnamese-language daily, the Viet Herald, got hold of the group’s External V.P. Nguyen Dinh Thuc, who said that the group is only “contributing in spirit to the project.” He stated that the group’s role is to “advise as to the design, what hero or historical figures should be included, and where it should be placed.”
But advising is not what the contract calls for.
And advising shouldn’t cost $350,000.
The contract (read it here), calls for the group to “design, construct and install the Historical Memorial at the Park.” It must also “submit final plans and cost estimates for prior approval by the Director after the design phase is complete.”
In a follow-up story on the Register here, Supervisor Nguyen’s chief of staff said that the office selected CLB Hùng Sử Việt “because they have no political affiliations or agendas.”
Perhaps. But the group is best known for writing songs about Vietnam’s history and singing them. Although the Bolsavik respects their dedication and passion with Vietnamese history, the group has no experience with education, memorial design or construction, and has had no discernable activities involving U.S. history or the history of the Vietnamese-American community.
It also has zero experience handling money in this amount. CLB Hùng Sử Việt’s fundraisers consist of selling music books and music CD’s. There is no indication the group has ever broken six figures in anything.
Maybe, just maybe, experience and an ability to take care of $350,000 in taxpayers’ money should have been part of the criteria for selection.