We wrote about the “cancelled” Town Hall at the Cypress Village Community Center where Irvine Mayor Steven Choi and Council member Lynn Schott would hear concerns from neighbors of a FivePoint development who oppose Great Park Veterans Cemetery and Memorial. The literature and messages on the meeting seemed to indicate the Mayor and the Council member were all in favor of moving the Cemetery and Memorial out of the Park and Council member Christina Shea wrote to the group assuring them she was seeking a “win-win” for neighbors and Veterans.
After Choi and Schott pulled out, the website for the Orange County Residents Association (OCRA) announced the meeting was cancelled. But that didn’t stop about a dozen veterans and this blog from showing up early anyway.
When we walked into the center and found our way to the large meeting room, we were greeted by Darin Loughrey, who said he managed the facility and had a city business card belonging to another employee with his name written in. I identified myself as being from TheLiberalOC and asked, “Is this the Town Hall meeting on the Cemetery?” Loughrey politely told me “That meeting has been cancelled. This meeting is for a private group.” There was no list identifying members of said private group and a number of Asian community members, many holding the Town Hall literature in their hands, continued to stream into the rented room. We counted 36 at 6:30 PM, the time the meeting was scheduled to start.
As it turns out, the Town Hall wasn’t cancelled.
OCRA’s website posted this note on June 13 thanking people for attending the Town Hall meeting. We’ve bolding some sentences to prove our point.
A big thumbs up to our teams of volunteers who helped us get the word out about the Town Hall. You are the backbone of this movement. You’re the reason we’ve gotten incredible support with the residents. Thank you for all the hours you put in. Thank you for passing out the thousands of Town Hall flyers to let the resident of Irvine have a voice on the future of their community. It’s exciting to see everyone going above and beyond for a cause you believe in. Despite mayor Steven Choi and councilman Lynn Schott’s unexplained last minute pull out and meeting cancellation, we still had many passionate residents come out. Lastly, thank you for exceeding all expectation in our signature collection drive. The more people know the truth about the cemetery, the bigger our movement becomes. Together, we will hold the those responsible accountable for the will of the residents. The momentum is on our side. We are all here to fight for our quality of life and future of our community.
Since there was no visible list and the Town Hall is supposed to be some sort of public meeting, was Loughrey deliberately misleading about a Town Hall on the Cemetery since that was still clearly the focus on the meeting. And did a city employee racially profile anyone who wasn’t Asian for access to the meeting? What is a white couple, a black couple or a Latino couple who bought in the neighborhood didn’t like the idea of a cemetery and came to the meeting; would they have been allowed in? Loughrey denied me access to the meeting without asking which side of the issue I was on. I have to believe it’s because I wasn’t Asian.
We contacted the folks from the City that run the facility Monday morning. When we didn’t hear from them, we called in the early afternoon and were referred to the city’s Public Information Office. We left two emails and a voice mail and haven’t heard back. The city hasn’t responded.
So imagine this for a moment. That public clubhouse is available for private community groups to rent; I’ve attended sports banquets there before. Imagine the KKK wants to rent a room? Neo-Nazis. The Westboro Baptist Church. If African-Americans wants to show up to protest, Jewish-Americans, the City’s LGBTQ community to protest the Westboro crowd, would the city run interference for these renters? Would the city deny these
The confusing thing here is exactly who is leading the opposition to the Great Park Veterans Cemetery and Memorial? Is it the Orange County Residents Alliance or is it the Irvine Residents Alliance for Great Park who sent a letter signed by 10 people to multiple officials of the California Department of Veterans Affairs. The petition and letter was submitted to the city of Irvine on April 14, 2015 by Gang Chen. The letter claims the group has collected over 1,000 signatures; by our count, less than 500 signatures were turned in. You can see the petitions here.
The OCRA website rails against inaccurate information while putting out a great deal of incorrect facts themselves. The biggest inaccuracy of them all is that public notification was lacking. In the disclosure forms all home buyers receive, there are clear references to a Veterans cemetery and memorial and there was significant news coverage of the proposal well before the governor signed the bill. Now if you’re buying a home from a kiosk in Beijing, sight unseen and with documents in English, its more than likely this detail eluded some buyers.
The more troubling aspect is a complete refusal of OCRA or IRAGP representatives to sit down and engage the Veterans in a discussion over the memorial. No one, including the city council majority, wants to be perceived as anti-Veteran. Some of the homeowners showed up at Tuesday’s meeting to address the council but they avoided the previous meeting which was attended by Veterans.
It’s hard to have a dialogue about this issue when one side won’t talk to the other and the council sends mixed messages about a “win-win” scenario over a matter that’s already won. But the longer this charade of protest continues without clear leadership from the city council, this issue will keep dividing the community which frankly is what this city council majority does best.