New plan for 'Little Saigon' controversy

February 23, 2008 12:12:05 AM PST
A decision on what to call San Jose's Vietnamese business district will not go before voters after all.

For months: there's been vehement disagreement about whether to call the area "Little Saigon" or "The Saigon Business District."

The mayor had proposed putting the issue on the November ballot. But now he's changed his mind -- calling for a move that would affect community naming from now on.

Ly Tong has been on a hunger strike by city hall for the past seven days. He says either name the Vietnamese business district Little Saigon or he'll die of hunger.

Mayor Chuck Reed announced on Friday, he will ask the city council to rescind a November ballot measure to name the district at their next meeting. He'll also ask a committee to develop future district naming policy. Tong says it's all just a ploy.

"He wants to use delay tactic. One year two year three and ignore it and not name at all that's what he wants to do," said Tong.

Tong says the mayor wants the issue to go away. Barry Hung do heads the Little Saigon Committee. The name Little Saigon, he says connotes the pride of Vietnamese refugees. Many U.S. cities have named Vietnamese neighborhoods Little Saigon.

"Let's just have that name and get it over with so the city doesn't have to spend anymore time to create any new council any new staff to do that," said Little Saigon supporter Barry Hung Do.

In November, a conflict developed between the Vietnamese community and its council member Madison Nguyen. The name she suggested, Saigon business district was approved by the council, despite mass community objection.

Council member Nguyen has now thrown up her hands.

"Hey let's take a time out. Let's have staff develop an effective policy that helps to address issues like this," said San Jose Council Member Madison Nguyen.

Mayor Chuck Reed now wants the community to come up with a name on its own, if it can.

"I think it will be difficult and it may be impossible to build a consensus. If so, we won't name it anything," said San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

The supporters of the name Little Saigon say if the mayor wants consensus, they'll show him all the support Little Saigon has at the next council meeting on March 4th.