Last week, Irvine City Councilman Larry Agran proposed a “Friendship City” relationship between Irvine and Nha Trang, Vietnam. The item was placed on the Irvine City Council agenda for this past Tuesday’s meeting.
A large number of people appeared at Tuesday’s Irvine City Council meeting to protest the proposal, filling the City Council chamber and the City Hall lobby to capacity and spilling into the plaza outside City Hall. Crowd estimates ranged from 600 people reported by the Los Angeles Times to 2,000 people reported by CBS 2/KCAL 9 and the Associated Press.
Among those speaking at the Council meeting in opposition to the proposal were Orange County Supervisors Todd Spitzer and Janet Nguyen, State Senator Lou Correa, former State Assemblymen Van Tran and Jose Solorio, Orange County Clerk-Recorder Hugh Nguyen, Fountain Valley Mayor Michael Vo, Westminster Mayor Tri Ta, Garden Grove Councilmembers Dina Nguyen and Chris Phan, Huntington Beach Councilman Joe Carchio, former Orange County Board of Education Trustee Long Pham, and Garden Grove Unified School District Vice President Lan Quoc Nguyen. State Assemblymen Don Wagner, Allan Mansoor, and Travis Allen also sent representatives to voice their opposition to the proposal.
Councilman Agran withdrew his proposal for a Friendship City with Nha Trang, Vietnam. However, he did want to press forward with Friendship City relationships with Baoji, China and Karachi, Pakistan, but Agran was unsuccessful in gaining the necessary votes.
The Irvine City Council voted 3-2 to instruct City staff to draft a policy excluding Friendship City relationships with any city from a country that commits human rights violations. Mayor Steven Choi, Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lalloway, and Councilwoman Christina Shea voted for the policy change while Agran and Councilmembers Larry Agran and Beth Krom voted against the policy change. That same 3-2 vote also approved a letter from the City of Irvine to Vietnam’s Counsul General to state Irvine’s position in favor of freedom.
Video of the Council meeting is available here.
Below is a transcript of Supervisor Spitzer’s remarks at the Irvine City Council meeting Tuesday evening:
I’m very saddened to be here on this occasion, quite frankly. You know, we were collectively working together in this community as elected officials to stop an airport at El Toro, and when we did so, we said we would sanctify what our military presence gained not only for Orange County but our entire nation.
And you now have the future of El Toro and a military base in your hands, and what does that military base stand for, here in your city? That military base was the forefront of freedom and democracy and fighting throughout the world to ensure that forces of evil and communism and other types of political ideologies did not infiltrate our American soil, and yet tonight, we have an agenda to support a city which stands for the very principles in which our own military personnel, a complexion of people, a melting pot, from around the country, who embraced our military presence, the very own putting forth of an ordinance for a sister cityhood proposal like this in the face of our military presence at El Toro to me is a complete slap in the face of everything that we stand for.
One of the things I love about being an elected official, like the five of you, here in Orange County is that we are a melting pot of people from all over the world who know they can come to the United States of America and raise their children and have every opportunity as if they were born here because this is a country that stands for something, and what it stands for is that it will not tolerate not only the presence of evil, but it will not even allow those ideologies, or the thought, to be commingled with our preservation of freedom.
This agenda item tonight suggests that we can change the ideology of a political regime, which by its very core, is vile, supports hatred, and supports the oppression of amazing individuals whose stories are resonating here tonight.
I am here not only to speak against this sister cityhood proposal; I’m here to tell the world that Orange County will not tolerate intolerance. God bless America, and God bless the opportunity to speak freely and openly in a public forum like this and not be afraid that you’ll be chastised for your thoughts, your religion, or your person and your cause. Thank God for America.
Below is the text of a letter Supervisor Spitzer sent to the Irvine City Council Tuesday morning:
I urge the Irvine City Council to withdraw the portion of Item 5.1 from today’s City Council agenda that would declare a “Friendship City” relationship between Irvine and Nha Trang, Vietnam. If the item cannot be withdrawn, then I urge every member of the Irvine City Council to oppose the proposed “Friendship City” relationship with Nha Trang.
The government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a frequent perpetrator of human rights abuses of its own people. In the United States, our most cherished civil liberties include the right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to choose our own government officials through free and fair elections. The Vietnamese government regularly imprisons people for criticizing the government. As of July 2013, the Vietnamese government held more than 160 political prisoners, including imprisoning 14 pro-democracy activists in January 2013 alone. Just last month, the Vietnamese government sentenced Truong Duy Nhat to two years in prison for running a blog critical of the government.
Even the city government of Nha Trang commits these abuses. In 2009, Nha Trang officials suspended two journalists for investigating local government corruption. In May 2013, the Nha Trang government resorted to beating, cigarette burning, home detention, and electronic device confiscation, all in an effort to prevent a peaceful human rights picnic in a public park.
The United States is home to more than 1,000,000 Vietnamese immigrants who fled for their lives from the tyranny of communism. More than 2,600,000 American soldiers served in Vietnam, and more than 58,000 gave their lives for the cause of freedom. Declaring a “Friendship City” relationship with Nha Trang is not simply an insult to Vietnamese Americans and Vietnam War veterans, but it is also an insult to all freedom-loving Americans and all freedom-loving people around the world.
Establishing a Friendship City relationship with Nha Trang would be as offensive as one with Tehran, Pyongyang, or Damascus, and I urge the Irvine City Council to oppose this effort.
Please do not hesitate to contact me at (714) 834-3330 or firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate the opportunity to work with you on behalf of our mutual constituents, as leaders democratically chosen in free and fair elections in a country where criticism of the government is not only permitted but encouraged.