The fallout from last week’s Irvine City Council meeting and Friendship city has begun to burn stronger. The City of Irvine was sent a letter from Irvine resident W. Jia, a professor at Chapman University, criticizing the council majority for politicizing a friendship city opportunity with a city in China. Irvine Pakistani residents complained about Mayor Steven Choi’s characterization of Karachi as a city that supports “terrorists.”
First the letter:
“By purposefully allowing about 1000 non-residents of Irvine to occupy Irvine City Hall and dominate the podium to achieve their political agenda, you, together with your two other colleagues at the Irvine City Council, have advanced your narrowly defined ultra-conservative political agenda and have severely undermined the spirit, vision, integrity, and inclusiveness of City of Irvine as a well-integrated global village and tarnished City of Irvine’s global reputation. It is common sense that international friendship city projects are part of public diplomacy and good-will at the grass-roots level which merely require the local government’s formal endorsement to pave the way for the international exchanges between people of the two cities on a voluntary basis. Yet the outdated Cold War mentality you and your two other colleagues hold have arrested the open dynamism City of Irvine has been enjoying. You three are working against the national and global trend of global engagements. This is not only a sign of bad taste with you three, but also a sign of extreme disqualification as Mayor, Mayor Pro tem, and Council Member of a well-known global city such as Irvine. You have embarrassed our city and shown yourselves to be incapable of genuine leadership.
2. By Using non-residents of Irvine to influence and disrupt the revised agenda of the Irvine City Council meeting towards your favor, you and your two other colleagues have purposefully excluded the presence and attendance of legitimate Irvine residents in the Council Chambers and undermined the possibility of sustained civic and reasoned contemplation over the meeting agenda item 5.1 on the part of various legitimate Irvine residents, marginalized, and silenced their voices. By such permissive action, you three have severely undermined the basic rights and interests of citizens of Irvine who pay taxes to put you all on the payroll and who may have elected you all onto your posts. We believe that such a grave disregard for Irvine residents’ basic rights and interest is a blatant abuse of power. It is not only unethical, it is also inconsistent with the standard of public leadership our citizens deserve.
3. By allowing non-residents of Irvine to take all of the Irvine City Hall seats and space, most importantly the podium during the prime time, most Irvine residents of both the Pakistani heritage and Chinese heritage as well as other interested parties who support Karachi and Baoji as possible friendship cities for Irvine lost their opportunities to attend and speak. As a result of the achievement of your narrow and outdated political agenda and petty politics-voting against all the cities proposed as friendship cities for Irvine, you have not only severely insulted the rights, dignity, and pride of these important cultural constituencies of Irvine, you three have also blatantly discriminated against our cultural/ethnic heritages by equating our ethnic/cultural heritages with communism.
4. By your permission of non-residents of Irvine to occupy Irvine City Hall at around 3:00 p.m. April 8, 2014, you and your two colleagues allowed the disruption of the Opening Ceremony of the Photo Exhibit on Chinese Immigrants’ Contributions to the US which was taking place at Irvine City Hall. This is your heavy slap in the face of the Chinese immigrant community in Irvine and indeed the whole of the Chinese immigrant community around the US.
Besides the above, by allowing organized groups of another Asian ethnic group who are non-residents of Irvine to protest against the proposal to establish a Chinese city as a possible friendship city for Irvine, you have not only set a dangerous precedent in city governance in the history of Irvine and indeed in the American urban history and that of the world urban history, you have also sowed seeds for new conflicts between people of Chinese heritage and people of Vietnamese heritage. Several Chinese residents of Irvine who publicly spoke in support of the council meeting agenda item 5.1 reported that they had been threatened with fists by some non-Irvine resident Vietnamese members in the Council Chambers after their speaking. Not only their rights to speak were not protected, but also their personal safety was not protected in the Council Chambers. As public officials, to play such ethnic groups against each other to win political battles is not only a sign of recklessness and naked dirty politics, but also is doing the public and the civil society a grave disservice given the fact that public officials are expected to mediate and resolve interethnic conflicts.”
Jia is demanding an apology and a meeting between city leaders and the Chinese and Pakistani immigrant community. He also wants the city council to reconsider Karachi and Baoji as Friendship Cities.
Irvine is Orange County’s most ethnically diverse city. Ethnic Chinese are more than twice the city’s Vietnamese population and are larger than Irvine’s Korean-American community. But Mayor Choi once again demonstrated his lack of world history and international affairs (he wore a Photoshopped image of then Speaker Nancy Pelosi “photoshopped” as Stalin and a Nazi SS officer courtesy of a Tea Party group in December 2009, all while wearing his city council badge…classy. And Choi and Shea led an effort to paint candidate Todd Gallinger, a Muslim, as a terrorist supporter due to his legal work with CAIR), but stating Karachi supports terrorists.
From the Voice of OC story:
“In response to the controversy, the Republican council majority — Mayor Steven Choi and council members Jeff Lalloway and Christina Shea — voted to kill all three of Agran’s friendship cities proposals, including those with Karachi, Pakistan, and Baoji, China, because they didn’t go through the proper bureaucratic channels.
That action then offended a small group of Pakistanis, who walked out of the council chambers after Choi indicated that Karachi supported terrorists. One of them, who said his name was Mohammed Khan, insisted that Choi is wrong, because the Taliban is composed primarily of those “damn Arabs” who are “making a mess around the whole world.”
“How can [Choi] give remarks like that? He singled us out,” said Khan, an immigrant from Karachi. “Is he crazy?”
I’d argue Choi’s not crazy, but he has a history of dividing the community instead of bringing it together.
Another player here is Irvine Chamber president Talia Hart who appears to want to have her cake and eat it too. Agran contends he sought he advice on adding a city in Vietnam and Hart had indicated to him that in respect to trade things were “better” which is true since the US is Vietnam’s number one trading partner and Vietnam has been identified by the financial trades as the fastest growing market for US products.
Back to the VOC story:
“Agran also claimed to have sought the advice of Irvine Chamber of Commerce President Talia Hart, who told him that emotions over the issue were no longer as frayed.
Choi said during the meeting that he received a text from Hart claiming that Agran never approached her about Nha Trang. Agran said he didn’t mention a specific city but that he, Hart and Choi met with the Vietnamese consul general on Oct. 3.
So Hart tells Agran, “go ahead” but tells Choi “not that city.” Both true and accurate statements, but actions that demonstrate a lack of leadership and responsibility. And this is the person charged with promoting Irvine as a business leader? I compliment Ms. Hart on playing an excellent game of CYA and always knowing which side her bread is buttered.