Leave it to San Jose's Vietnamese community to turn the Little Saigon naming issue into another civics class for City Hall. Supporters have already put city leaders through a political hazing, protesting weekly at City Hall, packing council chambers and even spurring investigations of councilmembers and their back-room dealings. Now they've forced the issue of how much truth the City Council can demand from public input. Although the council has said the Vietnamese-Americans could hang a Little Saigon sign over the Story Road retail area (which is what they wanted all along), that doesn't completely satisfy the Saigonists.
Activists had asked the council to come down on Henry Le, who presented a petition with signatures from 92 businesses who allegedly said they didn't want the council involved in the naming of the Vietnamese retail area. At the time, the council used that petition as a launching pad for its March 4 decision to step out of the naming controversy. Since then, councilmembers concluded that petition was bogus. But what can they really do about it? Well, Little Saigon advocates wanted the council to penalize Le and rescind its March 4 vote. However, San Jose City Attorney Rick Doyle has cautioned that the council isn't really in the business of limiting an individual's freedom of speech (that includes petitions) at council hearings. In other words, Doyle thinks anyone has a constitutional right to lie freely at a public forum. (Memo to politicians: Whew!) "It's not a crime that we are aware of," Doyle said. "What can you do to limit people? They are not under oath."
said it is up to the council to discern what is true and what is not
true. Still, the council committee asked that Doyle research the dos
and don'ts of limiting speech—spoken or written—during public forums.
Maybe it's an unusual request, but the council has learned to cover
its bases. The Viets say the issue was once about the name Little
Saigon. But not anymore. It's now about holding City Hall accountable,
every step of the way, said Barry Hung Do, spokesman
for the San Jose Voters for Democracy, an informal group of Little
Saigon advocates. "This has gotten more Vietnamese-American citizens
more involved with local operations," Do said. "They didn't
care about local politics, but since Little Saigon, more and more
are scrutinizing their elected officials within the city."
© 2008 San Jose Voters for Democracy. All rights reserved. FPPC# 1302736. Phong Trào Cử Tri San Jose Đòi Dân Chủ - website designed by Cuong Le.