It never was going to be a Great Park for all the people of Orange County; it’s always been just another park in Irvine.
When Measure W was placed on the ballot in 2002, the proponents painted two pictures. First that another county airport on the grounds of the former El Toro Marine Base would be a white elephant of a failure. And second, that in short order a Great Park to serve all of Orange County’s residents could rise from the rubble of a Marine base in a few years. We’ll never know if the airport plan would have been a failure, but we do know that after more than ten years the picture painted in 2002 by Measure W proponents isn’t remotely close to realization.
The Republican council majority that took control of Irvine last month has taken the final step in making the Orange County Great Park the Great IRVINE Park. Last night they voted 3-2 to remove the four non-council members from the Great Park Board of Directors. This move places the Great Park egg in the majority’s basket of control in spite of concerns raised by speakers during Tuesday’s council meeting. It is true that much of the Great Park Board’s role was made advisory years ago by the previous majority, but now there is zero doubt that the Great Park Board has been collapsed into the full control and whims of whatever council majority is in power. From a planning perspective, that doesn’t paint a good picture of stability given that majorities can change every two years.
As this new majority flexes it muscles we’ll have to wait and see whether they can do a better job. Their firs move to terminate immediately the contracts with Forde & Mollrich for public relations and with Townsend Public Affairs for government relations isn’t a good sign of things to come. Other than providing great political theater, the sudden termination of contracts for political reasons never works out very well. The Great Park staff indicated before the vote that the sudden termination of these contracts would have significant impact on existing projects and that they lacked the internal resources to effectively implement those projects without external assistance.
The bottom line though is that elections have consequences. Just as a vote of the majority of voters in 2002 changed the trajectory of the El Toro Marine Base, so have the majority of Irvine voters chosen new leadership for their city. Time will tell if this new majority is up to the tasks presented by their new-found power.
Want to know more about last night’s meeting, Click Here for Adam Elmahrek’s report at Voice of OC.