Council meeting Tuesday on "Little Saigon"

March 3, 2008 7:26:40 PM PST
San Jose's own Vietnam war of words is reaching a fever pitch as the city council faces off again Tuesday over whether to name a business district "Little Saigon." Council members say this is the most divisive issue they have ever faced and they're preparing for a long and angry meeting.

"The issue is certainly taking too long. It's been too divisive, too much difficulties and certainly everybody would like to put it behind us," says San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

Mayor Reed wants a committee to determine how the business districts should be named. He wants to avoid a city council vote Tuesday on adopting the name "Little Saigon," saying the issue has to be studied.

Council member Madison Nguyen says she and the mayor agree.

"We don't even have a policy in place to designate or even name an area like this," says Nguyen.

"To be honest about it, we've had more public input on this issue than any issue I can remember in the city," says Vice Mayor Dave Cortese who thinks enough is enough. "Certainly punting it, studying it, gathering more public input at this point seems a little bit absurd."

Those who want to name Story Road between Senter Road and 101 "Little Saigon" have been holding rallies and jamming city council meetings for months. Twenty-five hundred jammed a rally outside City Hall yesterday.

Council woman Nguyen dismisses the importance of yesterday's rally saying that most of the people gathered here were outsiders and not truly representative of the Vietnamese community of San Jose.

"There's almost 100,000 people, Vietnamese Americans here in San Jose. So if you look at about 2,000 and compare to 100,000, that's a very small fraction of people," says Nguyen.

Barry Hung Do doesn't think the crowd should be dismissed.

"Yes, there's outside people coming in from Southern California, from Oregon, but that's only a handful," says Hung Do.

Outside City Hall, Ly Dong is on the 18th day of his hunger strike. He says the name "Little Saigon" separates Vietnamese refugees from the communists that took over his country. He won't eat until that name is adopted.