Court rules key arguments by cemetery foes are false
The sloganeering was false and misleading for numerous reasons, veterans and observers consistently said, the work of a cynical cadre of ex-politicians and paid petition gatherers.
Now, an Orange County judge has ruled that the “No on B” campaign has made false and misleading claims in its arguments against the veterans cemetery. The ruling vindicates the veterans who believe the campaign is designed to spread confusion about the status of the Southern California Veterans Cemetery, and is designed to kill the cemetery they so deserve.
An Orange County court cut through that confusion when it ruled that key arguments made by the “No on B” team are false and misleading.
Here are several of the false and misleading claims made by the anti-veteran cemetery campaign in its ballot arguments, according to the Orange County Superior Court:
False and misleading argument #1:
The No on B group has continually claimed that the former cemetery site is in the Great Park and on the former MCAS El Toro base and the approved Strawberry Fields site is not. That’s not true, as the judge’s ruling confirmed.
“The court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, the ballot arguments (RJN, Exhibit D) that refer to the ARDA Transfer Site as being in the Great Park are false or misleading.”
The court’s ruling is based on the City Attorney’s impartial analysis that “Both properties are on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and are located near, but outside, the boundaries of the Orange County Great Park.”
False and misleading argument #2:
The contaminated former cemetery site (the ARDA site) is “construction ready.”
“The court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the term ‘construction-ready’ is misleading.
“Veterans cemetery at the city-owned ARDA site is not ‘state-approved,’ is not ‘construction ready,’ and cannot be built and maintained ‘at no cost to the city.’”
False and misleading argument #3:
The city is “giving away” the 125-acre former cemetery site.
“The court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the use of the term “giving away” is misleading. The City of Irvine is receiving property in exchange for the property it is transferring.”
False and misleading argument #4:
The city of Irvine is exchanging property with FivePoint.
“The court finds, by clear and convincing evidence, that the ballot arguments suggesting that FivePoint is the entity receiving the property is misleading. The court finds that Petitioners have established that Heritage Fields El Toro, LLC is the entity that is exchanging properties with the City of Irvine.”
The court ruled that the “No on B” anti-cemetery arguments are false and misleading by “clear and convincing evidence.” That’s a higher standard of proof than the “preponderance of the evidence/more likely than not” standard usually required in civil court.
The standard is high because First Amendment rights are at stake, so legal precedent requires that courts rule against ballot arguments only when, as with the No on B statements, there is significant proof of falsity.
In ruling the above arguments “false and misleading,” the court only considered the arguments included in ballot materials for the voters. The judge could not rule on other claims the No on B group makes that are considered equally false and misleading by veterans groups and others.
It begins with the campaign name itself: “Save the Veterans Cemetery.”
The Strawberry Fields site is the only available and approved Orange County location for the cemetery. It is supported by veterans and their organizations, as well as city, county and state officials and both Republican and Democratic parties (see below).
In fact, the No on B team was rebuffed.
Measure B is not a choice between sites. The petition-driven campaign is designed to overturn the consensus selection of the Strawberry Fields site on the former MCAS El Toro land.
Veterans call the former base, including the Strawberry Fields site, “hallowed ground.” In the unfortunate event that the No on B campaign’s false and misleading arguments convince and confuse enough voters to win on June 5, it could end the decades-long quest by veterans to have a cemetery on land that was once the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.