Dear Councilmember Anthony Phan–
I’ve been thinking about you a great deal lately.
I’ve been thinking about that time back in February when you publicly lambasted Milpitas’ ex-Planning and Neighborhood Services Director Bradley Misner during a City Council meeting, threatening to conduct an employee performance evaluation of the man even though Councilmembers have no authority to do so.
I’ve been thinking about a follow-up to the incident with Misner, when concerned Milpitas citizen Joseph Weinstein criticized your behavior during another Council meeting’s Public Comment section, and you disrespected Weinstein by telling him not to let the door hit him on the ass on his way out.
I’ve also been thinking about that peculiar and convoluted incident when you resigned from your role as Council liaison to the Milpitas Chamber of Commerce following a heated press conference wherein you found yourself caught between two parties accusing each other of being Vietnamese communists (and found yourself subjected to the same accusation).
On that note, in addition, I’ve been thinking about the mailer that your PAC, the South Bay SV Community Coalition, circulated around Milpitas during this past election season, wherein you accused Mayor Rich Tran of being a Vietnamese communist, as well.
Moreover, Mr. Phan, I’ve been thinking about the ongoing Fair Political Practices Commission (FPCC) investigation into the origins of a $43,000 campaign loan that may have either come from your parents (not so good) or yourself (pretty good). And I’ve been thinking about the FPCC complaint filed by Tran’s campaign manager, citing your PAC’s negligence when it came to filing the appropriate disclosure forms with the Milpitas City Clerk.
(Side-note: Members of the public still often talk about whether or not you’re really from Milpitas, and thus whether or not you committed election fraud by running for City Council in 2016, but as it turns out, you’ve actually been cleared on that matter.)
Meanwhile, getting back to the campaign mailer, I’ve been thinking about your PAC’s response to the controversy, wherein you and/or the PAC team said in part, “Literature critical of officials in authoritarian governments, such as Vietnam, is explicitly banned. Retaliation and harassment is almost guaranteed by those criticized. Even coverage of such controversy by journalists, similar to what you are reading right now, is not permitted. South Bay SV Community Coalition PAC condemns government retribution of adversaries, we stand in solidarity with dissidents and journalists currently detained by the Vietnamese government, and we call for their immediate release.”
I’ve been thinking about that particular quote because despite your stated solidarity with journalists, the principles of free speech, and the concept of healthy dissent, you are the only current Milpitas City Councilmember who’s never responded to a request for comment from The Milpitas Beat.
Most of all, though, once again returning to the matter of that dastardly mailer, I’ve been thinking about the mandate recently issued to you by Mayor Tran: You are to resign from your Council post by December 31, 2018, or face the initiation of the recall process come January 1, 2019.
To date, you have not yet tendered your resignation. The last time I saw you at a Council meeting, just before Thanksgiving, you were sitting up there as though it was business as usual, despite the fact that you had to recuse yourself from the evening’s main vote, citing alleged conflicts of interest. Like I said, business as usual!
Mr. Phan: You are a man of controversy. You attract scandals like the Milpitas air attracts that godawful smell. This trait of yours could be spun to be exciting, but at the moment it’s spun way beyond your control. You’ve apparently deactivated your Facebook account. You’re hiding from the mayor’s mandate. And you have one Council meeting remaining before the pair of resign/recall deadlines.
I suggest, therefore, with utmost sincerity and humility, that you use that Council meeting as an opportunity…to apologize.
Anthony: You have no other way out. You’re not going to resign, it appears. You began your political career with high hopes. You’re a handsome man, charismatic and charming, a good communicator, intelligent, prone to sporting beautiful pink shirts.
But like another man who wears pink, The Joker, you’re presently all by yourself. None of your fellow Councilmembers stand with you; all have been silent about the crazy mailer.
Tran will get the recall if you don’t resign. He needs 5,000 signatures, give or take. He took around 9,000 votes in the last election. Getting a signature’s way easier than getting a vote, as you’re not asking anyone to leave their house and/or fill out a lengthy form. So the only real question that remains is whether or not Tran will go door-to-door for those recall signatures in the Batmobile.
But I’m not here to mock you, Anthony, or to deepen your state of crisis. To be sure, I’ve pursued an analogy wherein Tran is Batman and you’re The Joker, which ostensibly makes you out to be the villain, but like I said earlier, and like I know firsthand, there can be power in being a man of controversy. Indeed, a fine line exists between seeing controversy as chaos and seeing it as a healthy state of renewal.
Anthony: Your only conceivable path to renewal is an apology.
You have to do it publicly. You have to use that final 2018 Council meeting, coming up on December 18. In front of you, as always, will be a microphone. You have to use that microphone to apologize to Milpitas, to apologize to the voters, and to apologize — I know, I know; it sucks — to Mayor Rich Tran.
Mind you, I have no clue if this will even work. I’m not a mind-reader; I can’t say how accepting of a mood you’ll find the city in, much less the mayor. As a Jew, I can say with maximum certainty that if somebody took it upon himself to distribute a mailer to all my neighbors bearing a photo of me, eyes averted, head hanging low, juxtaposed against a swastika, I would make it my leading priority to do something about that son of a gun, just north of eating and sleeping.
Anthony: Shy of a resignation or a recall, apologizing is your only move. Don’t make me mail you a copy of “The 48 Laws of Power”. Politics is a chess game, and right now, kiddo, you’re in the corner of the board. I know that the notion of apologizing is all the more despicable and irritating since it’s coming from a clueless weirdo like me, but I’ll tell you what: If you do as I suggest, I’ll cover the story in The Beat, and our thousands of unique monthly readers will all know that, at long last, you’ve carried out a public gesture that led toward peace instead of Joker-level chaos.
But don’t apologize, I beg you, merely as a tactic. We live in a city of educated people; they’ll see through all that noise in a heartbeat. No, Anthony: Your apology has to come from within. You must reflect. My objective is not to deny you your humanity, nor to tarnish you as a person, nor to presume to know everything that you’ve ever done, much less what lives inside your heart.
My objective is to lead you toward The Good. All men and women bear a totalitarian impulse. All men and women can abuse their power, be it inside or outside the corridors of power. Power is intoxicating; it feeds the ego; it blinds otherwise good men and women from their capacity for compassion and wisdom.
Councilmember Phan: You have abused your power. You have made enemies, spread propaganda, underestimated your constituents’ intelligence, and lashed a poisonous tongue.
The voters, I remind you, did not elect you to wield your power thusly.
The good news for you is, apologizing is dangerous. As such, it should appeal to your natural anarchic impulses. What I mean is: The apologizer must relinquish control. The apologizer does not command the outcome. The apologizer simply acknowledges what he or she has done, summarizes it, and expresses his or her (sincere) regret. The outcome is up to the other party/ies to decide.
The holidays are dawning. Following my advisement will set you free. Don’t carry this pressure onward with you. I know it seems right now as though everyone else is wrong, but consider for a moment that we may be right.
In recent months, I’ve learned that at a local newspaper, the writers always face a delicate balancing act between being good watchdogs and being good neighbors. I swear, I have come to you now as a neighbor. Apologize. I can’t do it for you. I can’t tell you how. Certainly, I’ve overstepped enough already.
I wish you the happiest of holidays, Mr. Phan, along with the very best of luck.
From this point onward, you are on your own.
Editor, The Milpitas Beat