Vote “Yes” on B for the veterans... and for Irvine’s future.
Building that cemetery on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro fulfills a long-made promise to veterans. There’s a clear consensus among veterans (and those in local and state government who have their best interests at heart) that the Strawberry Fields is the best location for a cemetery in the city.
It’s also the fiscally responsible site. Building the cemetery at the Strawberry Fields will save city and state taxpayers $40 million to $77 million over the previous site. That’s because the old site faces significant demolition, remediation and potential litigation hurdles before its “shovel ready.” An Orange County judge confirmed as much when ruling that phrase—shovel ready—was false and misleading, and ordered it removed from ballot arguments.
So why is there a well-funded opposition (those “No on B” signs all over town don’t come cheap) to the veterans cemetery?
The answer is simple: Power.
Larry Agran wants it back.
The veterans cemetery is simply a wedge issue, one of several the former Irvine mayor and councilmember wields in an attempt to regain favor with voters who turned him out of office in 2014.
Opposing the wishes of the veterans serves Agran’s political purposes as he attempts to return to power and resurrect his reputation.
Not convinced? Here’s what Agran revealed in a story posted online at kcet.org last November 29, 2017: “When we take over Irvine’s City Council in 2018-2020, we can resurrect the original [Great Park] plans and…. we’ll build Ken Smith’s canyon.”
The story, though a pro-Agran puff piece, was revealing. It seems Agran has never gotten over losing his city council majority in the 2012 election, and being cast out of power in 2014 entirely, when he came in a distant fourth in his last city council election.
Or was it? Sure sounds like he’s priming the political pump for another run, featuring either himself as a candidate, or by a proxy, his usual modus operandi.
For those who didn’t live here during the end of Agran’s last reign, let’s review it, using the words of OC Weekly watchdog investigative journalist R. Scott Moxley, written in 2015:
“Larry Agran served as the leader of a political machine that for a dozen years dictatorially controlled Irvine and the Orange County Great Park project.
“The ugly reality includes Agran’s penchant for secrecy, cronyism, narcissism and mismanagement, especially at the Great Park, a noble idea the career politician slyly converted into a biennial election tool to keep his council alliance in power.
“Those of us who for 12 years closely watched Agran and his political machine operate dictatorial control over the project didn’t fall for the empty hype. Their operatives received lucrative, no-bid contracts for a public park that didn’t yet exist. They wasted nearly $50 million on a park design plan that was laughably unattainable–a huge, man-made canyon and waterfalls!–the moment it landed on paper.
“He and allies Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang spent $200 million in taxpayer funds at the Great Park without building one major facet of the project they’d originally proposed.”
When one views the opposition to the veterans cemetery with an eye on Agran’s history, particularly when it relates to his failed vision for the Orange County Great Park, the “No on B” campaign comes into focus.
Most veterans give Agran credit for supporting early efforts to establish a veterans cemetery. But Agran would rather kill the veterans dream of a final resting place on MCAS El Toro than have it moved from “his” original site.
Irvine observer Greg Diamond confirms that view in a blog post: “Unless you care most about what was in the original plan—as one gets the sense that Agran still does above all—your real concern should be ‘what is the most fitting tribute to the memory of MCAS El Toro and those who served there?’”
Diamond joins the consensus that knows the Strawberry Fields is the most fitting site. “Move it, build it, and celebrate the great accomplishment,” he says. “We are finally doing something for which future generations will remember us.”
Vote “yes” on B. It’s what’s best for the veterans, for the city, and for the future.