By Jim Tortolano/Orange County Tribune
On the night when the Westminster City Council saw a new mayor and two new council members sworn in, other important business was conducted as well, and new divisions exhibited.
In addition to installing Chi Charlie Nguyen as the new mayor and Amy Phan West (District 1) and NamQuan Nguyen (District 4) to seats on the council, a key step in the city’s economic future was taken on Wednesday.
The council approved for second reading and adoption the Westminster Mall specific plan, which could transform the vacancy-plagued enclosed shopping center at Bolsa Avenue and Goldenwest Street (as well as adjoining the San Diego Freeway).
That action clears the way for a major re-do of the center from its Seventies-style department store-anchored condition to a mixed use development with residential, retail and other commercial uses.
The poor performance of the mall in recent years has been a drag on the city treasury as sales tax revenue from that center has plummeted.
On the topic of selecting a new vice mayor, the council split 3-2 in favor of NamQuan Nguyen over Councilmember Kimberly Ho (District 3).
Councilmember Carlos Manzo (District 2), the outgoing vice mayor, nominated Ho for that office, citing her seniority and experience on the council. But West, speaking of the need for “new blood,” nominated NamQuan Nguyen for the position.
This issue of creating an ad hoc committee for the 2023 Tet Parade – which will be run by the city this time – prompted a chorus of argument among members.
West accused Manzo of “underestimating” the abilities of staff to organize the event, and Ho called West “a newby.”
NamQuan Nguyen then criticized Ho for having served on a city council in disorder in recent years. Ho slammed West for being “off-base” on several topics.
A motion to place the mayor and West on an ad hoc committee was approved on a 3-2 vote, with the same split as on the selection of a vice mayor.
Earlier, the installation of the new council was an elaborate affair, with the call to order of the “new council” followed by presentation of colors by the Westminster Police Honor Guard, singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” and seven invocations.
Because the council meeting was packed with attendees and participants, the room was cleared of most in the audience until the ceremonies were concluded on the grounds of fire safety.
Recognition was given to outgoing Councilmember Tai Do, followed by the ceremonial administering of the oath of office to the new mayor and council members.
The Dec. 28 meeting of the council has been cancelled, and the next regular meeting of the council is set for Wednesday, Jan. 11.