By Jim Tortolano
The policy change that helped spark an expensive and emotional recall campaign in Westminster last year was reversed at Wednesday’s meeting of the city council.
On a 3-2 vote, the council approved a motion by Councilmember Tai Do to rescind the controversial policy that allowed the mayor to have items placed on the council agenda by himself, but requiring that other councilmembers win a majority of the panel to do so.
“It was undemocratic and we all suffered from it,” said Do. Anger over that policy– departure from the earlier practice of allowing any councilmember to have an issue “agendized”– was a major force behind the April 7, 2020 election deciding whether to recall from office the then-council majority of Mayor Tri Ta and Councilmembers Chi Charlie Nguyen and Kimberly Ho.
The recall was rejected by voters by a margin of about three to two. But on Wednesday night, the shift in the balance of power on the council was evident. Ho, who had voted for the 2019 change, this time voted to rescind it along with Do and Councilmember Carlos Manzo.
Ta argued that despite the policy, “we always respected the request of any councilmember for placement of an item on the agenda.” As an alternative to rescinding the policy, he suggested that a requirement of two councilmembers instead of a majority be used as the criteria.
Nguyen offered a substitute motion along those lines, but it was voted down by the new council majority of Do, Manzo and Ho.
Additionally, the policy will now specify that any requests for an agenda item be submitted to the city clerk’s office two Thursdays before the meeting, and that once such an item is on the agenda, if not acted on by the council, would have to wait six more months before being raised again.
Emotions ran high after the more restrictive policy was approved by the council on June 12, 2019. Do posted on Facebook that “Westminster is officially now Ho Chi Minh City,” a reference to the name the Communist government of Vietnam gave Saigon, which had been the capitol of the Republic of Vietnam.
Some critics accused Do of damaging Westminster’s reputation or even supporting the current regime in the homeland of nearly half of the city’s residents. A week after Do’s post, a special council meeting was called at which the council majority voted to issue a press release stating that no name change was planned, and that Do was making “divisive and damaging comments and social media posts.”
Do replied by calling the council majority’s actions “dictatorial” and said, “You cannot censor me.”