New twist in 'Little Saigon' debate

February 13, 2008 6:51:50 PM PST
There's a new wrinkle in the controversy over what to call San Jose's Vietnamese Business District.

The city attorney weighed in today, advising the council to rescind its vote, where the name "Saigon Business District" was chosen over "Little Saigon".

The city council voted in November to call a one mile stretch of story road "Saigon Buisness District." That decision erupted into an explosive debate and the city attorney is now recommending what amounts to a do over.

"We recommend that the council reschedule this is rescind the prior action and then decide where it wants to go," says Rick Doyle, San Jose City Attorney.

A well known labor leader brokered one solution, calling for a city wide election. It's' backed by at least some people from two sides of the naming debate.

"The first is that the election be held in June that all names be on the ballot, Vietnam Town, Little Saigon, Saigon Business District, Vietnam Business District, and New Saigon," says Phadra Ellis Lampkins, South Bay Labor Council.

A June election though would cost $577,000 dollars. Putting the issue on the November ballot would cost at least $214,000 dollars. It's a price many people aren't willing to pay.

"I think it's not fair for you to create a mess and now ask city wide voters to clean it up with taxpayer money," says one San Jose resident.

Protestors say they want the name 'Little Saigon' as a way to honor the Vietnamese people and denounce communism. One speaker played a tape of Councilmember Madison Ngyuen promising Vietnamese businesses the biggest say in naming the district.

"We played by the rules, we do not change the rules after it's been played," says Ming Steven Dovan,Little Saigon Supporter.

Police had to escort Vincent My out of the meeting for refusing to stop talking after his time limit. Those tactics have angered some.

"This council and citizens should not be held hostage to any one group of vocal protestors," says Vincent My, speaker.

In the end the mayor says he will support a city wide election to solve what's become a city wide debate.

"This is direct democracy, when you ask the people to vote on an issue it's the purest form of democracy asking the people letting them decide. I hope that the council goes along with my recommendation," says Mayor Chuck Reed.

No major decisions were made at Wednesday's meeting. However, everything is on the table in March 4th meeting. At that time, they will decide if there will be another election for the name and when it will be held.