By Katrina Van Duzee/Garden Grove Journal
In 2010 it seemed not a month went by without a bizarre crime committed involving Westminster, but for our neighboring city the past year wasn’t all bad news.
Toward the end of 2009 the Garden Grove Journal started increasing coverage of Westminster and in 2010 the elections, new police chief and fight over “Black April” were significant events demanding front-page coverage.
In January, the Westminster Police Department began the new decade with a newly-appointed chief of police. Chief Mitch Waller, a 27-year veteran of the department, who took over for retired Chief Andrew Hall.
Amid this change of command the city witnessed some strange crimes and an increase in homicide and rape incidents. Although crime as a whole decreased in Westminster, two homicides were reported and 16 rape incidents versus no homicides and 13 rape cases in 2009, according to the Westminster Police Department Web site.
Among those crimes was the death of Julie Palasco, 48, who was shot in February by a 32-year-old man from El Cajon in order to steal a car and a money-wiring “scam” that allegedly victimized 20 or more Westminster Vietnamese residents in June.
April 30 marked the 35th anniversary of the fall of South Vietnam and also the end of a feud between members of the Vietnamese American Community of Southern California and Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen. For the past decade the day commonly referred to as Black April has been remembered in Westminster with a ceremony in Sid Goldstein Freedom Park organized by VACSC.
This year the event caused controversy when Nguyen reserved the park for her own memorial on the same day the VACSC was planning their event. The disagreement ended in compromise with both parties agreeing to share the space and hold separate ceremonies on the same day in the park.
Also in the news was an attempt by some to bring legal medical marijuana dispensaries to Westminster. In April, the city council voted unanimously to uphold the denials of business licenses for two associations that had been running dispensaries.
The decision maintained a city ordinance denying business licenses to companies who violate the federal law.
“We don’t need this, we don’t want this and we’re not going to have this in our city,” Mayor Margie Rice said bluntly just before the council voted.
In an unrelated matter, the city council established a new development review process and a new fee structure for local businesses wanting to make physical changes to their facilities. The new fee structure was designed to help small businesses make improvements to their companies for a lower cost.
Towards the end of the year the elections and Ballot Measure AA, deciding whether fireworks would become legal in Westminster dominated the news.
Incumbent’s Mayor Margie Rice and council member Tri Ta easily won their seats back, but councilmember Andy Quach ran a tight race against challengers Khoa Do and Penny Loomer who were only a few hundred votes behind.
Westminster’s prohibition on “safe and sane” fireworks was voted against in the Nov. 2 election and the city became the sixth Orange County city allowing fireworks sales.