Why do the bad guys keep winning? Why don’t ethics matter in this city? Why do they get to play by their own set of rules?
There comes a time when enough good guys band together. This is that time. We have stayed on the high road and will overcome their corruption. That time is April 7, the Westminster Recall Election.
The Westminster Recall and What YOU Need to Know.
Reclaim democracy, restore trust, and reject corruption. These six words have more meaning to the City of Westminster than most of its citizens can express. From proclamations of communism pointed at residents and multiple examples of crony favoritism, to a looming budget deficits and police department lawsuits, Westminster residents are hurting the most. This will come to a finale with the Recall Special Election on April 7.
The election will decide whether to remove from office Mayor Tri Ta and councilmembers Kimberly Ho and Chi Charlie Nguyen, known by their critics as the “Gang of Three.”
Essentially, it is a recall based on a moral imperative to restore ethics, critical thinking, and servant leadership. The 29 proponents, all of whom are local residents, who began this initiative are an equal mix of Republican, Democrat, and No Party Preference. They are Vietnamese, Anglos, Hispanic, and Filipino. While opponents have tried to make this about race or party preference, the supporters of the recall have proved them wrong. Meanwhile, Ta, Ho, and Nguyen have officially labeled them “evil, communists, and terrorists,” using those words and proclamations from the council dais. Their supporters have called the activists “murderers, racists, and members of the KKK.” Meanwhile the 29 proponents and supporting activists stay the high road, refusing to use such derogatory dialogue and focus on the reasons for the recall: cronyism, intimidation, nepotism, hypocrisy and favoritism.
Cronyism: Partiality in the practice of awarding jobs and other advantages to friends and trusted colleagues, especially in politics.
Example: Mayor Tri Ta not recusing himself and voting in favor of redeveloping the Civic Center under a proposal by developer Steve Sheldon, a wealthy donor who gave thousands to Ta’s campaign and who appointed Tri Ta to the Orange County Water Board.
Nepotism: The practice among those with power or influence of favoring relatives or friends, especially by giving them jobs.
Example: Nguyen and Ho appointing each other’s children to important city commissions, and did not disclose the nepotism to anyone else in an effort to cover-up.
Intimidation: To frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants.
Example: Fear mongering by publishing a proclamation that independent journalists and Westminster activists are agents of the Viet Cong communist party.
Hypocrisy: The practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.
Example: Complaints about recall support from “outsider” Kieu Hoang while Tri Ta travels to San Jose and Philadelphia for his own fundraisers, accepting large donations from contributors in other states. Hoang has given generously to other Vietnamese communities, such as a $5 million donation to Houston for Hurricane Harvey relief aid in 2017. Hoang donated generously to help the recall effort to gather signatures, which Ho said is “evil” and “terrorism.”
Favoritism: The practice of giving unfair preferential treatment to one person or group at the expense of another.
Example: Pushing through approval of a Westminster Welcoming Center to one contractor without any requests for proposals to other competitors. Leasing our land for only $1 per year, and then approving its construction on the sacred Vietnam Memorial property.
Former Long Beach Police Officer Tai Do is already on the City Council. His run for the mayor’s seat has some raising their eyebrows, being Mayor Tri Ta’s most vocal critic. Do continues to run on his established platform of anti-corruption and clean-up effort of the council and WPD.
He has previously brought up the idea of council member term limits and contribution limitations, which was vehemently rejected by fellow Council Member Kimberly Ho.
As for the residents, many have shared stories with myself and others that their city has been on the decline. Westminster is no longer beautiful and inclusive. It is now suffering from blight, closed businesses, homeless and an unreliable City Council.
A sales tax hike was approved by voters in 2016 in order to supplement Mayor Tri Ta’s growing budget deficit. $12 million was accumulated in the first year. Rather than cost-cutting efficiency measures and savings for the 2022 sunset clause (when the tax ends), the Gang of Three has spent every penny while increasing expenditures. The city is bleeding out year after year with 10 percent to 14 percent of its $100 million budget covered by a tax that will end in 2022 and all the while the current administration has not prepared to remedy this hemorrhage.
Homelessness has more than doubled in the past three years and not a penny was spent on an emergency shelter. Our surrounding cities have plans in the works for emergency homeless shelters. What about the City of Westminster?
Sadly, no. There have been efforts by Councilmembers Sergio Contreras and Tai Do to keep this item on the agenda, but the Ta, Ho, and Nguyen majority have made no plans. Homelessness is not a crime, as stated by Federal Judge David Carter. We therefore cannot enforce “No Encampments” unless we offer a shelter.
Some homeless are addicts and do not want the shelter because they cannot use drugs there, so they migrate to the city of least resistance. Westminster will soon be boxed in by our neighboring cities that are far ahead of us in the development of their shelters. Where will their homeless addicts go when they reject their local shelter? To the city of least resistance: Westminster.
We need leadership that will act with compassion, with economic effectiveness, and servant leadership.
Rather, the battles at the City Council’s dais have resulted in Ho accusing Do of not keeping the status quo. She threatened to sue him. Surely there must be guidelines or a handbook for how council members should conduct themselves. Right? You’d probably be right to expect it to be a rather long and lengthy document. Right? But, there was no code. Tai Do asked the City Council to create one. A motion was approved unanimously that David Johnson (resident and business owner) and Christian Bettenhausen (Westminster Assistant City Attorney) create a comprehensive Code of Ethics for the next meeting.
They were given two weeks to compile a credible document. What they created was a sensible 12-page document that outlined and addressed many of the ethical conduct issues that had been voiced by various residents.
This document was well-researched, well-outlined and compiled using only established codes from different cities across the nation. Unfortunately, the majority was not on democracy’s side.
They refused the comprehensive version because it mentioned nepotism. The Johnson- Bettenhausen proposed Code of Ethics and Conduct was shot down by the Gang of Three. Per the request of the Gang of Three, the city attorney recreated a shorter document, which they also rejected.
Amy West, who was appointed as a commissioner by the Gang of Three, came up with a one-pager that omitted any clause for Council Conduct. The Gang of Three approved that watered-down version without a Code of Conduct.
In the meantime, opponents to the recall – I believe – are tearing down “VOTE YES RECALL” signs and replacement candidates’ signs. The fire department was called to City Hall to put out a fire. Damaged pro-recall signs were burned not far from Tri Ta’s “VOTE NO” signs, but his signs were miraculously unharmed.
It is time for the city to reclaim democracy, restore trust, and reject corruption. Please make your opinion matter at the April 7 recall special election.
Editor’s note: Opinions in this letter are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Orange County Tribune. The Tribune is neutral in the recall election and we invite responsible comments from all sides.