On Tuesday, Costa Mesa Mayor Allan Mansoor had us reliving that scene of rooftop pandemonium at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon back on April 30, 1975. On that dark day, the last of the American choppers ferried evacuees away to the safety of ships standing by in the South China Sea, as the victorious communist forces rolled into South Vietnam's capital. The Fall of Saigon marked the final blow in America's role in the Vietnam War.
Mansoor, a state Assembly candidate, was 10 years old when Saigon fell; but more than 35 years later, he felt compelled to introduce a city resolution to honor South Vietnamese veterans who fought for the U.S.-backed Republic of Vietnam.
The laurel is worthy and deserved, even three and a half decades hence, but we can't let this one go by without questioning the resolution's election-year timing.
The mayor had received a request from one of those vets, Nguyen Phuong Hung, to call for a city resolution officially proclaiming June 19 as the Overseas Vietnamese Veterans of the Republic of South Vietnam Day of Remembrance. We question Mansoor's motive in going through with this — he is running for office in a district that includes parts of Orange County's Little Saigon — and persuading the City Council to vote for the resolution unanimously.
In fairness, the mayor has said he was busy in June and did not schedule the item. No matter. We would have preferred that he waited until after the November election, well in advance of the next day of remembrance, so as to avoid the appearance that he is putting the election ahead of city governance.
Instead, because of the timing, and no matter the intentions, this appears to be a clear-cut case of political pandering to the all-important Vietnamese American voters in the 68th Assembly District. Such politicking has no place at a City Council meeting. And, on the Assembly campaign trail, Mansoor has already used the council to fan anti-illegal immigration sentiment through his recent "Rule of Law" initiative.
This is the second time since June 2009 that Mansoor has used the City Council to seek the Vietnamese vote. Fourteen months ago, soon after Mansoor announced his bid to run for the Assembly seat being vacated by Van Tran (R-Westminster), who is being termed out, the mayor successfully introduced a resolution calling for Costa Mesa to recognize the flag of the dissolved South Vietnam as the official Vietnamese flag, although the U.S. State Department officially recognizes the Southeast Asian communist state's flag that depicts a yellow star on a red field.
Let's be honest. The Republican mayor is going up against a Democrat, Phu Nguyen, who is Vietnamese American. Mansoor's act of expediency is starkly obvious because Costa Mesa's Vietnamese population — which stands at an estimated 3% — is minute in contrast to the 34% and 23% who live in Westminster and Garden Grove, respectively. The Vietnamese community traditionally votes Republican, but having a respected member of their community in the race means many of them are likely to vote Democratic this time around.
But those types of election-year concerns should not enter into actions by the Costa Mesa City Council. Nguyen, who showed up in Costa Mesa this week, told the Pilot that he appreciated the effort to honor those who fought alongside the U.S., but he also questioned the timing.
He was right to do so.