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11.21.07

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Silicon Valley News Notes

Subplot of The Week

Have you noticed how no one is willing to talk publicly about why San Jose city leaders won't go with Little Saigon as the official title for the Vietnamese Business District on Story Road? Especially since some of them admit they'll probably end up referring to the district as Little Saigon themselves. "It will probably be popularly referred to as Little Saigon," Vice Mayor Dave Cortese told a crowd of more than 100 Vietnamese Americans at City Hall Thursday. So then why wouldn't the council support Little Saigon as the district's official name? It would certainly be the politically popular thing to do. The city's redevelopment agency conducted its own survey, which showed that Little Saigon was the preferred name of the district. But city leaders are now saying those polling results don't paint an accurate picture of what people might want. "That's not statistically valid," Cortese said. Uh ... why not? The city's redevelopment agency sent out surveys to gather input from residents and businesses within 1,000 feet of the proposed business district on Story Road. Officials mailed out 1,336 surveys. That doesn't account for the 100,000 Vietnamese-Americans living in San Jose, many whom have an opinion on this issue, Cortese said. Our fuzzy memories of statistics class lead us to believe that sample size is actually quite acceptable, but perhaps the bigger issue is: why pay to conduct a survey to garner feedback you consider unreliable? The phrase "designed to fail" comes to mind. With so many opinions about what to call the district— New Saigon, Little Saigon—Councilwoman Madison Nguyen went ahead and proposed what she thought was a compromise, Saigon Business District. Who cares about the adjective, Nguyen said, as long as the word "Saigon" is in the name? "I realize I can't make everyone happy," Nguyen said.

Win Like Nguyen?

Controversy or no, Nguyen can consider herself a trend-setter—following her lead as the first Vietnamese-American elected to the San Jose City Council, others are already lining up to run for November 2008. So far, a handful of candidates have declared their intention to run for Vice Mayor Cortese's District 8 seat, and two are Vietnamese American, including former City Hall employee Van Le. The most recent announcement came from Minh Duong, a 29-year-old Vietnam refugee who is also known for leading the aforementioned community survey to determine how many folks favored the name Little Saigon. "This race is going to be pretty competitive," Duong said. But this growing political interest among the Vietnamese Americans doesn't necessarily translate into a seat on the council, said Christian Collet, an associate professor of American politics at Doshisha University in Japan. It's difficult for Vietnamese Americans to win multiple council seats in part because they have yet to form a strong, cohesive political voice, Collet said: "Coalition formation is very difficult, because the passions and interests are rooted in personality and status, not issues or policies."

Need For Speed

With the exhibit wrapping up this week, we've got to ask: why is no one working to give Speed City: From Civil Rights to Black Power a permanent home at SJSU's Sports Hall of Fame? Seems a tad ridiculous that this important and powerful work by History San Jose will be, as of Nov. 30, off to the NCAA's Hall of Champions Museum in Indianapolis, where it will be on display from Jan. 21 through October 2008—with no plans for its permanent future here. In case you haven't seen it—and you should—Speed City is guest curator Urla Hill's labor of love. The former sports writer spent 12 years collecting the photographs, team uniforms, sports equipment, Olympics memorabilia and oral histories of the fastest men on earth when they trained at San Jose State between 1940 and 1969. "Speed City was the time period when Bud Winters coached track and field at San Jose State," says Hill. "You had a college with no money with all of these men who knew how to train athletes." Everyone's heard about Olympic medal winners Tommy Smith and John Carlos, but during Winters' tenure he sent at least 200 athletes to the Olympics or to the NCAA championships. Coach Yosh Uchida brought Judo to the Olympics and his San Jose State Spartans judo teams have won 42 of 46 National Collegiate Championships. Coach Julius Menendez is the only man to have coached two sports at the Olympics, soccer and boxing. Speed City photos show a young Muhammad Ali training for the Olympics at SJSU. "Speed city was the greatest era of SJSU sports and you can't tell me that's ever going to happen again," Hill says. "They don't fund judo and track will never come back unless someone gives them millions of dollars." Hill will visit Speed City at the NCAA whenever athletes and coaches speak there.


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