[Metroactive News&Issues]

[ Silicon Valley | Metroactive Home | Archives ]

[whitespace] The Fly

Merc Mix-up Screws Madison

They have the same last name. They're running for the same political office. They're both Vietnamese. But, c'mon now, is that any excuse to confuse MADISON NGUYEN and LINDA NGUYEN? On Sunday, though, the Merc did just that. Under the headline "Violation Suspected," the paper's weekly political column "Internal Affairs" repeated a story run four days earlier in this very column that Linda Nguyen, a 28-year-old real estate attorney, spent money on print advertisement before filing a candidate intention statement, which is prohibited by state law. The trouble wasn't the Merc's 200-word brief, but the photo that ran next to it. Under a caption that read "Nguyen: City council candidate's ads raise questions" was a photo of Madison Nguyen, the 30-year-old president of the Franklin McKinley School Board. On one hand, every media outlet in the land has made its share of mistakes. On the other hand, you know, that is just not cool. Certainly the Madison Nguyen campaign isn't giving the Merc the benefit of a doubt. Her supporters reportedly flooded the paper's voicemail, demanding not just a retraction but an apology and a lesson in ethnic sensitivity. "It shows the difficulty the mainstream media has dealing with minorities," says S.J. attorney TAM NGUYEN (who isn't related to Madison or Linda). Madison Nguyen tried to be diplomatic. "It was a journalistic mistake," she said. "I just wish they would have double-checked the picture before going to print." It was, however, difficult for her to hide disappointment. A day after the photo mix-up, the Merc printed a correction with Linda Nguyen's photo. "It looked exactly like me," Madison groaned. Responses inside the paper varied. Executive editor SUSAN GOLDBERG said Madison Nguyen was initially quoted in the IA item. Her comments were edited out but her photo ran anyway. One Merc employee said "some people are justifiably very pissed off" but declined to elaborate. Another source called the gaff "pretty damn embarrassing" for a paper that publishes the Viet Merc. Madison's campaign, meanwhile, wondered aloud how the mistake might affect her relationship with the paper, including the endorsement process. The Merc's mistake wasn't the only news to come out of the Madison Nguyen camp last week. Rumors were also circulating that she failed to vote on two important school measures, a June 2003 and a November 2004 parcel tax vote, even though she's a strong advocate for education. Madison says she missed only the June vote because her grandmother died. Expect more scrutiny among the candidates as the race tightens up. Hopefully, most of the printed variety will be accurate.

Go Down, Elvis

Rev. SCOTT WAGERS is at it again. The 39-year-old Christian minister, who has tangled with City Hall over homeless issues for more than a decade, wants Mayor RON GONZALES to pledge to provide housing for 1,000 homeless people before the new City Hall opens in June. Wagers doesn't have to look far for motivation. The new 18-story City Hall towers over his Fifth Street ministry, where as many as 30 children sleep on the floor with their families each night. Wagers, an Arkansas native some call REVEREND ELVIS for his faithful renditions of the King, compares the "monstrosity" in his backyard to the pyramids in Egypt. "It's an icon of everything that is wrong with this city," he says. His point is that if the city can spend $343 million for a new government building, it should be able to provide basic necessities for its citizens. "Look at this juxtaposition," says Wagers, his eyes cast on the new City Hall. "This building is so ornate and just beneath it are children sleeping on mats and blankets. Look at the contrast." It wasn't long ago that City Hall wanted to prevent First Christian from housing indigents, threatening to fine the church $2,500 per day, but then-Mayor SUSAN HAMMER backed down in the face of glaring media attention. In 2000, Wagers gave Gonzales a 10-point memo outlining a plan to end homelessness in San Jose. "The mayor didn't do any of them," Wagers says. He wants the mayor to agree to at least one of those points, $5 million in rental subsidies, to end the current standoff. "This isn't personal," he says. "We love them as brothers and sisters. We just disagree on how to handle the problem."

Free for All

It began when labor queen AMY DEAN boasted in a survey that the South Bay Labor Council could donate volunteers to a political campaign whenever the AFL-CIO organization wanted. The catch was that the "volunteers" were actually paid by the labor group. S.J. pols eventually were alerted, prompting District 4 Councilman CHUCK REED, who has aspirations for the mayor's office in '06, to ask the Elections Commission for a clarification. Should candidates in city elections be allowed to accept thousands of dollars in free labor without disclosing the "volunteerism" on campaign finance reports? Last week, the commission, following state law and the city's own ordinances, decided candidates could accept free work if: (1) employees take vacation, or (2) they spend less than 10 percent of their compensated time working for a campaign, or (3) their employer gives permission provided that the employer has a uniform policy allowing employees to engage in political activity on company time. Reed says his next step is to argue at council for legislation capping labor contributions at the same levels as financial contributions, $250 for individuals, $500 for businesses. Failing that, he'll join the crowd and begin asking for free campaign workers in lieu of money. Says Reed: "My campaign letter will say, 'Please send me $500 or one of your employees to work for me. On second thought, forget the money, give me the free body.'"

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

[ Silicon Valley | Metroactive Home | Archives ]

From the April 20-26, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.