More Than Ever We Need Real Leadership
at City Hall
We see a flashy new car drive by and we want it sitting in our driveway. We visit a beautiful vacation spot and we want to move there permanently. We see a masterpiece of art and we want to own it. These are normal feelings, an impulse that the average Irvine resident has to balance every day.
If we buy those things and don’t save for our retirement, then we will be left in our later years struggling because we failed to prepare.
This is what the Irvine City Council is dealing with on the veterans cemetery. It is exactly what the council will face on July 10, when longtime Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway is expected to introduce a motion to move the proposed Southern California Veterans Memorial Park back to the ARDA site, just north of the Great Park and directly across the street from residences and schools.
Lalloway, who styles himself a fiscal conservative and who knows the reality of the city’s financial situation at the Great Park is making the ultimate move on his peers.
The Great Park, long mired in financial controversies, is finally being delivered to the people of Irvine because of a deal that Lalloway was key to approving. In fact, Lalloway was elected to the council on a mandate to end the runaway Great Park spending with no real plan that voters ultimately ousted former Mayor Larry Agran for.
It is utterly shocking and disappointing that now, almost 8 years later, Lalloway working with Agran, his former nemesis who recently led the divisive “No on Measure B” campaign, has become the advocate of the very thing he stood against.
If the Council on July 10 approves Lalloway’s motion to spend $40 million dollars to clean up the ARDA site, it won’t be for a cemetery. Equally troubling—and irresponsible—the action will deplete the Great Park budget for at least a decade. State officials estimate the price tag to build just the first phase of the long anticipated and sorely needed cemetery at the ARDA site is approximately $77 million. The city’s $40 million would only pay for the removal of dozens of decaying military buildings and infrastructure on the former MCAS base and not a single burial plot. State and federal officials would have to make up the difference to actually build the cemetery, and so far only the state has pledged $5 million.
Contrast this fiscal folly with the state-preferred Strawberry Field site where the cost to prep the land and construct the first phase of the cemetery is about $29 million, or nearly $50 million less than Lalloway’s ARDA option.
It sounds noble when Lalloway, Agran and their followers hold up the service of our veterans. But when you understand that the veterans still can’t get what they were promised without taking away the gardens, the museums, the music, the culture and the future of the Great Park, it puts Lalloway’s political power move in perspective.
Irvine residents should force Lalloway and the council to be responsible and then vilify them for doing so.
We don’t know what the council will do, but it shouldn’t have come to this. The veterans should be celebrating the win and a new cemetery on the Strawberry Field site if Measure B had won passage on June 5. And, the city council should be moving on to finish the build out of the Great Park.
Come July 10 we will know which council members choose fiscal restraint over the feel-good politics of the day and the ones who are the real leaders making the tough choices to keep Irvine a special place to live.