Based on recent Westminster City Council meetings, the one Wednesday, Sept. 11, almost guarantees discord on the dais.
Included on an agenda packed with high-profile issues, a resolution by Mayor Tri Ta condemns “political disruption and misinformation” intended “to foment disorder in the city.”
Referencing communism throughout, the proposal lists characteristics of “Westminster residents who are identified as active aiders and abettors of the Hanoi regime.”
Other agenda items include consideration of term limits, status of homelessness efforts, renovation of the 92-acre Westminster mall, redevelopment of the Civic Center into a mixed-use space and strengthening the city’s ban on short-term rentals. 00:08 / 00:15TOP ARTICLES3/5READ MORERams’ Cory Littleton, Bryce Hager went from outsidechances to starting inside linebackers
Despite that busy calendar, council members also will consider an ordinance to halve their meeting dates from twice to once per month – in order to ensure “agendas are substantial and not just limited to routine items.”
But it’s the resolution – a formality holding no legal teeth – that most stands out.
Apparently, it was sparked by newcomer Tai Do’s criticism of Ta and council members Kimberly Ho and Charlie Nguyen. Elected in November, Do opened a rift by repeatedly accusing the trio – who tend to vote in unison – of unethical conduct.
“Westminster has, since the 2018 election, witnessed a marked increase in incidents of political disruptions and turmoil, frequently targeted at the City Council, whose current super majority is of Vietnamese descent,” the resolution states.
Further adding fuel to the fire, local activists – such as immigrant-rights group VietRISE – now regularly crowd the City Council chamber to voice their various causes.
Then in July, Westminster United was formed to wage a recall effort against “the gang of three,” as detractors have tagged Ta, Ho and Nguyen.
Labeling unnamed protesters “turncoats” who are committing “the ultimate political crime,” the resolution links city hall turbulence to the “Hanoi regime’s nefarious political scheme of community disruption.”
“The City Council encourages all residents of Westminster to raise their voices against individuals who fit the profile of an aider and abettor,” the resolution reads.
David Johnson, a city commissioner who is helping spearhead the recall movement, quipped, “I guess I’m a commie for wanting to improve the city.”
Westminster United must collect the signatures of 20% of the city’s registered voters – 8,736 – by Dec. 6 for its recall measure to be placed on the primary election ballot next March.
Ta, Ho and Nguyen mounted a joint defense that has included robocalls from Orange County Supervisor Andrew Do. In Vietnamese, Do urged residents not to sign the petitions.
“There is a lot of manipulation in Orange County of people from Vietnam who do not understand English,” Tai Do said.
Tai Do lambasted the officials for “using city resources to stop a recall campaign by implying that people who are unhappy with their performance are communists.”
However, Ta insisted, “This resolution is not an anti-recall document.”.
“Why would supporters of Westminster United be concerned when its members do not fit the conduct profile of what this resolution is condemning?” Ta added.
Rather, he said, the proposal “is a call for all Westminster residents to be aware of increased subversive efforts by the Vietnamese communists and their cohorts in attempting to further exacerbate problems in the Vietnamese-American community.”
Almost half of Westminster’s population is Vietnamese-American, many of them war refugees, Ta pointed out. “This is a community that risked everything to search for freedom.”
C.N. Le, director of the Asian studies program at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, called the resolution’s wording “reminiscent of language heard during the Cold War and McCarthyism.”
“The simple majority is using that language as a vehicle to silence the so-called troublemakers,” said Le, who grew up in La Habra and later lived in Westminster.
“For many in the Little Saigon community, memories of persecution under communism are still very fresh wounds,” Le said. “So accusing someone of communism remains a common tactic for generating controversy.”
That visceral hatred and fear of communism creates a “delicate balancing act,” Le said.
“Vietnamese-Americans came to the United States to enjoy the rights and freedom of expression they would not have experienced had they stayed,” he said. “Using anticommunist ideology as a political tool denies them that right.”
But Ta said the resolution has a simple, straightforward goal: “To bring peace and stability to Westminster.”