OC Supervisor Janet Nguyen and her allies were on the losing end Wednesday night at the Westminster City Council meeting, when the council decided to divide the use of the Vietnam War Memorial, forcing the two factions to time-share.
What makes the Former Political Prisoners, the Yellow Flag Youths (Vietnamese: Thanh Niên Cờ Vàng), and Supervisor Nguyen the losing side, is that the other party was given the 5 o’clock slot – which is the time the Supervisor originally planned, and invited people, for her event.
You can check the invitation online here. That web site, the Trach Nhiem (“Duty”) online magazine, is the official newsletter of the Former Political Prisoners of Vietnam (in Vietnamese “Khu Hội Cựu Tù Nhân Chính Trị Việt Nam“), Southern California chapter. Along with the Yellow Flag Youths, they are part of the almost 30 groups that back Janet Nguyen in this dispute.
Janet Nguyen had had a valid permit to use the space for the whole day of April 30, called “Black April,” when Vietnamese everywhere remembers the day Saigon fell to the communist forces.
To get around the City Council — on which sits three Viets that the Supervisor doesn’t like, or doesn’t trust, or both — she went for an “intent to meet” permit.
It doesn’t require Council approval, and it’s almost as good as an event permit, except that you can’t have more than 300 people.
Which can be a problem because most Black April events in Orange County pull in at least a thousand.
When another group, commonly believed to be unfriendly to Janet Nguyen, tried to get the park, they found out she’d had it reserved for months. The group’s head, Lactan Nuygen, called Nguyen’s office, then things spiraled downward from there. Read more here.
The City then asked the two groups to meet with the City Manager and try to reach a compromise. By this time, the Nuygen camp has gathered its own set of allies.
At the meeting in the City Manager’s office, the two sides arrived at an agreement and came out smiling, hand in hand. Reportedly, Janet Nguyen’s side agreed to invite everyone to join her for the ceremony and Nuygen’s group gets to chair the organizing committee.
And then things went bad as soon as the groups left the building. At the very next meeting, the two factions couldn’t agree on who would speak first.
Janet Nguyen’s side claimed the agreement made in the City Manager’s office included having her speak first, in exchange for Nuygen’s group getting to be the chair. The other side said there’s no such agreement, and they would agree to the first speaker being anyone but Janet.
So back to the City they went, and on April 14 the council said the two sides ought to agree to something or the council will do it for them.
Nothing happened, and it’s at the April 21 that the City Council decided to split the baby. It passed 3-1-1, with the three Viets voting for (Tri Ta, Tyler Diep, Andy Quach), Councilman Frank Fry against, and Mayor Margie Rice abstaining.
The resolution says Janet Nguyen gets to be at the War Memorial between 9am and 4pm, and the other side gets 5pm to 9pm.
Which sucks for the Supervisor, because she’s been inviting people for 5pm.
Saying that Janet Nguyen had done nothing wrong – that she’d applied for her permit fair and square, and that this makes a bad precedent where a city gives something and then takes it back – Mayor Rice refused to back the timeshare solution.
Said she, “I will not be controlled by a group of people who think they run this city. I will not bend under pressure.”
Then she added, “This is America, not Vietnam.” Which is a little puzzling but, hey, most people have other fish to fry.