Spitzer Turns His Back on Veterans Cemetery at Great Park

(L-R) Matt and Laura Cunningham and Supervisor Todd Spitzer

(L-R) Matt and Laura Cunningham and Supervisor Todd Spitzer

Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer, a vocal supporter of AB 1453 which was to establish a Veterans Cemetery and Memorial at the Great Park, has apparently not stopped seeking a new location for a new cemetery even after AB 1453 was signed by Governor Jerry Brown last fall.

Irvine Council member Christina Shea’s May 6 letter to “Irvine Friends” suggested those “hundreds of residents that spent up to a million dollars and more for their homes” contact Spitzer’s office for “details of his proposal.”  We did.  We didn’t get much.

We spoke with Spitzer’s communications director Melanie Eustace Thursday morning as asked for a “yes or no” answer on whether Spitzer was still looking for a site.  Simple enough?  She refused to answer, saying she wasn’t authorized to speak for the Supervisor (an odd thing for a spokesperson to say).  We also asked for a copy of Spitzer’s proposal.

This afternoon, Eustice issued this statement on behalf of Todd Spitzer (we bolded some text for emphasis):

“I have always supported veterans and the City of Irvine in advancing their proposal for a Veteran’s  (sic) cemetery at the Great Park.   

I have identified 288 acres in my District that may serve as a cemetery for both civilians and veterans.  Any County cemetery proposal that I consider for the public or veterans, will be an independent project and not in competition in any way with the effort at Great Park. 

Whatever happens here, I’m going to work to honor our veterans and celebrate their heroism. We need to preserve and promote the important sacrifices that men and women have made to keep our country free.”Supervisor Todd Spitzer

I’ll add no proposal was sent, just the statement.

Spitzer is speaking out of both sides of his mouth.  He says he supports the Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park, but he kept looking for a new location?  Which is it? By continuing to seek a new location outside of the Great Park, where the Veterans who lobbied for this Memorial have repeated said its where they want to be buried, Spitzer has turned his back on these Veterans he says he supports.

Spitzer’s statement doesn’t say where the 288 acres in his district is, but if its county land near Modjeska Canyon, its not going to work.  As we wrote about last July:

Supervisor Todd Spitzer’s recent announcement that the County has “received interest” in a 100 acre parcel in his district known as Saddleback Vineyard left out a lot of information as he spent so many words extolling the patriotism of the men and women who served in our Armed Forces and how they deserve his work “to honor our veterans and celebrate their heroism. We need to preserve and promote the important sacrifices that men and women have made to keep our country free.” (notice the repetitive statement from the one above — editor)

In his announcement, Spitzer said “the County has already received interest in a parcel located in Modjeska Canyon. The 100.36-acre Saddleback Vineyards property is located between Modjeska Grade Road and the Cleveland National Forest in the Foothill-Trabuco Specific Plan Area.” What Spitzer neglected to say is this is land the county already owns. They bought it in September 2011 when Bill Campbell held the seat.  I took a trip there yesterday.  I have serious doubts that Spitzer has even visited the site he was promoting.

It’s 100+ acres that the county purchased for about $2 million three years ago.  Some improvements were planned for the hiking trails, but its unclear if that work was ever done.  The road there isn’t the easiest; You take Santiago Canyon Road East to Modjeska Grade Road (the sheriff’s department ought to patrol better; lots of speeders and reckless drivers).  Signs aren’t well marked at all.  The area is rocky, very hilly, full of large rocks, brush and jutted hills; it’s only suitable for hiking and open space.  There are some spots where you could bury some vets, but I didn’t see any visible signs of a water source (family likes to plant flowers at gravesites).  Forget a large burial site; graves would need dynamited first and then a backhoe could dig them.  I pondered what might be easier; to fill in an area with dirt so you could actually dig a grave to bury a soldier or dynamite the area and bring in bulldozers.  There is 100 acres there; I’ll guess 15 might work for a cemetery.

As it turns out, a neighbor of mine is a geologist who knows the parcel remarkably well. Of the 100 acres, he believes 25-to-40 acres could work for a cemetery but would require significant land moving via bulldozers.  There is no water source that he’s aware of and he felt the roads to the site are inadequate for any sort of memorial procession to the gravesite due to the narrow and winding roads.  The parcel is 100 acres but the work required to get even half of the space available is likely far more expensive to develop than what it would take to clean up any soil at the Great Park.

But Spitzer is far from promoting the final resting place for Veteran’s at the site of the former El Toro base where so many left to fight for freedom and so many returned from the fight.  He ignores the fact this is the site the Veterans want for their permanent resting place.

If Spitzer has identified 288 acres — nearly three times the size of the Saddleback Vineyards property — he has an obligation to tell the public where the site is and why he continued to look for a new location even after Brown came to town.

Remember, Spitzer’s up for election in  2016 and helping Emil Haddad remove a barrier to selling million dollar homes would almost certain garner significant campaign contributions and independent expenditures promoting Spitzer and going after any opponent.  And perhaps garner sizable contributions from those residents who are fighting to bounce the Veterans Cemetery from the Great Park.


  12 comments for “Spitzer Turns His Back on Veterans Cemetery at Great Park

  1. junior
    June 5, 2015 at 6:32 am

    This proposed cemetery was a perverse attempt to prop up the failed campaign of Sharon Quirk Silva. Neither the state or federal government committed one cent to this “effort” and no intention of ever doing so.

  2. Cynthia Ward
    June 6, 2015 at 12:33 am

    Sorry Junior, wrong as usual. The State has given the vets $500k to pay a grant writer to file their app for Federal funding. Denial of funding from this particular Fed account is nearly unheard of, with only one grant rejected in the memory of those running the office, as the application was so vague they could not discern what the applicant was asking for. The money is available and there is no reason to believe the Veterans will not secure it. Remember, this is money spent on Veterans Benefits, it matters little to the Feds where it is spent, sooner or later they will prepare a place for each of those who have served (if they opt for their burial benefits, not all do, which leaves more funding than is used, try that in any other program!)

    As far as the clean-up, the site is relatively clear of pollutants, something City staff told at least one or two of the Irvine Council at a meeting with witnesses, and I believe is written in a document somewhere, should one ask around. AND…while some repeat the false claim that there is no money for clean up, the Veterans are in possession of a letter from 5 Points, offering to pull the runways and terraform, as they did not want their million dollar buyers looking out on blight next door. Of course 5 Points then turned around and determined the final resting place of thousands of American men and women who served a nation that 5 Points customers are largely not citizens of is ALSO blight…which is not quite sending the right message to their American neighbors in their new ‘hood, is it?

    Most of all, the Vets don’t WANT an alternate site. Ask them why, and try to not get goosebumps. American Legion Chaplain Bill Cook expresses himself beautifully when he explains that for many American soldiers, the runways of El Toro represent the last American soil they ever set foot on, with many returning home in body bags. That piece of land means more to those Veterans than any “investment” by a developer or home buyers trying to get their money out of China. Ironically the reason they want to buy 5 Points homes in Irvine is that the Chinese understand American property rights, and unlike back home the government cannot “reasonably” take their land/home/investment. I guess nobody has explained that the right to hold their land for their own use without government infringement was protected for them by the same men and women they now show such horrific disrespect to in denying THEM use of the land they were promised!

    Irvine leaders made promises to those Veterans, allowing the Quirk-Silva/Wagner bill to be put forward and approved, allowing those soldiers to go out on the runways with the Governor and celebrate what they believed was a huge victory in the process of moving toward the cemetery they have needed for so long, and if those Irvine leaders knew in their hearts that they had no intention of keeping their word to those who have served honorably on our behalf, they do not deserve the office their constituents elected them to, and should leave their seats in shame. Anyone aiding them in hosing the Veterans out of the land they were promised should be tarred and feathered along with them.

    I hope this is all a giant misunderstanding and that nobody in the County Supe offices nor anyone at Irvine City Hall really intends to move the Veterans off the Great Park parcels. It would be the biggest mistake of their political lives.

    Try again, Junior. Next time do your homework. You don’t know what you are talking about. BTW I have bumper stickers supporting the cemetery if anyone wants to contact me offline, there is no charge for them, they are simply a visual reminder to others of how many people support the project. I can mail them, send me a name and address, which I promise to forget the second I send the envelope out. Even yours, Dan.

  3. Dan Chmielewski
    June 6, 2015 at 8:15 am

    I have had the Veterans Cemetery bumper sticker on my car since December Cynthia. Thanks for the offer

    • Cynthia Ward
      June 6, 2015 at 6:20 pm

      Thank you for the support Dan. I am not a Veteran but I have a great deal of respect for them and I have come to know and respect the amazing men and women involved in this effort, they are honorable and decent and brave, and i want to stand with them in any way I can. The offers stands for anyone else reading, if you want a bumper sticker to support the Great Park Veterans Cemetery contact me offline (I am easily found, Cynthia Ward Anaheim) and send me a name and address, which will not be used for anything other than to send a free visual symbol of support.

      • Dan Chmielewski
        June 6, 2015 at 9:03 pm

        I grew up in an Air Force town. I have vast respect for the men and women who fight for us unlike Supervisor Spitzer who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk.

      • Irma DeSmet
        June 7, 2015 at 1:11 pm

        Cynthia, I would love to have at least 3 bumper stickers for my family, I fully support the veterans cemetery.

        Irma DeSmet
        8381 Doncaster Dr.
        Huntington Beach, Ca.
        Thank you in advance.

  4. Davidf Vasquez
    June 6, 2015 at 9:27 am

    “5 Points customers are largely not citizens of is ALSO blight” is based on what information?

    Many (myself included) consider Feng Shui “Hocus Pocus”, like communion or Noahs Ark. Not really based on any factual science, more of a belief…………and there lies the problem how do you tell people what to believe.

  5. RHackett
    June 7, 2015 at 9:35 am

    Where is John Jaeger? I’m sure he will figure out a way to try and blame liberals.

  6. Pinky
    June 7, 2015 at 11:21 am

    Spitzer is a fraud. Media whore.

    • June 8, 2015 at 2:24 pm

      his director of communications did the old trick of answering a question not asked and couldn’t/wouldn’t answer a simple yes or no question…..

  7. JimmyDeeOC
    June 8, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    I can count the number of times I agree with Chmielewski on my penis.

    That (somewhat crudely) said …….I am 100% behind him and the points he makes on this issue.

    As Dan mentioned, I would think that there would be plenty designers could do (fiddling with the actual boundaries, landscaping, berming, and probably 100 other techniques that I am ignorant of) to mitigate the issues some residents might have. But at some point you have to stand for the Right Thing To Do, and that Right Thing is a Veterans Cemetery and Memorial.

    The back-pedaling and homina-homina-homina from some of these pols is pretty disturbing. Especially considering I praised some of the very same for being such stalwart opponents of the Great Satan and Thief of El Toro, Mr Agran, and his young ward, Ms. Krom.

    • June 8, 2015 at 2:23 pm

      Maybe you need to find something new to play with. And fix those holes in your pockets

Comments are closed.