Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen Won't Sign Letter Blasting Riverside-Vietnam Sister City Program

Bao Nguyen (left center) listens as Chris Pham (right) proposes an alternative
Bao Nguyen (left center) listens as Chris Pham (right) proposes an alternative
Photo by Charles Lam

Garden Grove will be sending the city of Riverside a letter urging them to dissolve their planned sister city relationship with Can Tho, Vietnam, but Mayor Bao Nguyen's signature won't be on it.

No, in a near four-hour long meeting last night, the Garden Grove City Council voted to send a letter, but to let each member of the city council decide themselves if they want to affix their name to it. That decision came in place of a vote that would have sent a letter signed by the city as a unit.

So why won't Nguyen sign the letter? During discussion, Nguyen cited his belief in the idea that one city should not mettle in the affairs of another, and that in doing so, the city of Garden Grove would be breaking the mutual respect of democracy between it and Riverside.

"I would not like Riverside telling Garden Grove what to do," Nguyen said. "Those are elected officials just like us. And they represent people. That's the bottom line. We have to be the ones to lead by example."

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His decision was immediately unpopular among the dozens of people who attended to speak specifically on that issue. During Nguyen's explanation, the crowd murmured amongst themselves. As he finished and moved onto the vote, roughly two dozen people walked out, angrily yelling phrases such as "Down with Bao Nguyen" and "I voted for you" as they left.

Nguyen found one ally on the council in Councilmember Steve Jones who, while he emphasized with the suffering of Vietnamese refuges, also had issue with telling another city what to do. Jones abstained during the first vote.

Before the first vote could be finished, however, Councilmember Chris Pham offered a compromise: the city could send a letter, but each councilmember would decide on their own if they would sign it.

"I personally don't feel comfortable having someone sign a sheet of paper that they don't feel comfortable signing," Pham said.

That motion passed unanimously.

After the meeting ended, Nguyen met with a group of speakers (many of whom had earlier spoke on a corrupt Vietnamese government stealing their property and violating human rights) outside city hall as everyone was leaving. There, they spoke for several minutes, telling Nguyen that he would be facing a recall, asking him if he bowed to the communist flag, calling him young and unexperienced, among other things. Nguyen spoke briefly to some of the speakers before they left, in an attempt to explain his reasoning.

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Email: Twitter: @charlesnam. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!

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