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Groundbreaking Hits a Snag

Committee behind Vietnam War memorial disagrees with City Council's site selection for symbolic ceremony.

March 30, 2000|ALEX MURASHKO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Plans for a symbolic groundbreaking for a Vietnam War memorial were dropped after memorial committee members decided the City Council's selection of a site across from the Civic Center was unacceptable.

Memorial committee members were upset with the council's 3-2 decision Tuesday night to move the groundbreaking to a city-owned vacant lot where the planned media event would not have the Civic Center as a backdrop.

On March 14, the council voted 4 to 1 to stage the event at the Civic Center. But because a permanent site for the memorial has not been selected, some council members expressed concerns about giving the impression that the Civic Center had been chosen. Mayor Pro Tem Margie L. Rice said she has received complaints from residents with the same concerns.

Shortly after Tuesday's vote, disappointed committee members met outside City Hall chambers and decided to cancel the event, which was to help promote funding for the remaining $230,000 needed for the $500,000 memorial.

Artist Tuan Nguyen has begun work on the 10-foot statue portraying an American soldier and a South Vietnamese soldier. The $230,000 the committee still needs would pay for an information kiosk, 5-foot support structure and surrounding area.

Memorial committee member Joey Nguyen said $10,000 to $20,000 would have been needed to make the lot east of the Civic Center an attractive site for the symbolic groundbreaking. Members said the site change is an unnecessary expense for the privately funded project, which is led by Mayor Frank Fry Jr.

Joey Nguyen said he is upset that the Civic Center, with its clock tower, beautiful gardens and plaza area could not be used to "send a message to the world from the 'All-America City.' "

"We don't feel comfortable with the changes [made by the council]," he said. "Both poor and rich have donated [to the memorial fund] and we don't want to waste their money."

Joey Nguyen said the committee now plans to wait on the completion of a consultant's environmental impact report on the memorial, then ask for a public hearing.

"We [the committee] don't try to do anything against the city," he said.

Alex Murashko can be reached at (714) 966-5974

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