As Madison Nguyen recall effort is in full swing, the Viet politics in San Jose is heating up just in time for the summer. The recall team, after the first 4 weeks relying on recall stations at strategic locations to obtain signatures, now adopts the standard get out the vote tactic of precinct canvassing with precinct captains and door to door visit. Meanwhile, Madison Nguyen is relying on a myriad of elected officials sending out anti-recall messages at public events and letters to show soliditary behind her.
Mayor Chuck Reed has been her most ardent supporter. At the recent Vietnamese Armed Forces Day, Madison Nguyen showed up with him to let everybody knows that she has the support of the mayor and the entire city council against the recall. Mayor Chuck Reed was an Air Force pilot stationed in Thailand during the Vietnam War. His daughter is also an Air Force pilot and a Gulf War heroine.
In early March of this year, at the city council hearing, after listening for 5 hours of hundreds of Vietnamese-Americans expressing their wish for the name Little Saigon while some implying that he and Madison Nguyen are pro-communist, the mayor could not resist but to lash back at the community: " I resent the people who called me pro-communist or even a communist for that matter. I served my country against the communist during the Vietnam War. I saw many of my friends never returned from their missions. I have never spoken to the communist government, dealt with or ever want to deal with them or have anything to do with them, period." Of course, the mayor would later vote against the name Little Saigon. It took another month of intense drama before the city council decided to temporarily give in to the masses.
It was rather a strange decision for a man who once was the most popular politician in the community. He established his relationships with the community in earnest at the beginning of his political career in San Jose. As city councilmember , he spent a lot his time courting the community to a point that his personal assistant would note that Chuck Reed never seemed to miss a Vietnamese-American event no matter how trivial. Even when he decided to support an unqualified Vietnamese-American candidate (Hon Lien, the woman in the brown dress) who has a multimillion dollar seafood processing factory and seafood export business in Vietnam to replace his vacant council seat, the community still gave him the benefit of the doubt. Hon Lien in the primary beat out another Vietnamese-American candidate, Bryan Do, but lost to a Tawainese-American candidate in the run-off. However, with the Little Saigon fiasco and his unequivocal support of Madison Nguyen, many people in the community are questioning his intention.
Unlike Chuck Reed, the former mayor of San Francisco, Willie Brown was never well received by the community. He does not bother to hide his close relationship with the communist government and its consulate in SF. In the picture, he was giving a toast at a New Year's celebration organized by the consulate with the former Consulate General Tran Tuan Anh (The guy with the mustache) looking on. Because of the formal sister city relation between San Francisco and Ho Chi Minh City, the mayor opposed the Freedom Flag resolution which recognizes the old flag of the now nonexisted Republic of South Vietnam as the official flag of the Vietnamese-American community living in SF. He would not be caught dead associating himself with this anti-communist symbolism.
And yet it was he who approved the naming a 12 blocks area on Larkin Street, a stone throw away from the city hall as Little Saigon. And of course, the community just broke ground on June 19, 2008 for the gates to welcome tourists to Little Saigon of San Francisco. Best of all, most of the construction cost is paid for by the city.
In politics, a lot of time, it is not what you see is what you get. The true measure of political loyalty and commitment that the community has yet to learn is about "which is my piece of the pie?" and not empty gestures to pull the Freedom Flag over their eyes.