We’re reminded regularly that Veterans deserve our respect because they fought for our freedom and our rights. No one disputes this. And while there’s broad support for a Veteran’s Cemetery in Irvine, there is much disagreement over where it should be located.
I bring up the first point because Freedom of Speech and the right to disagree with someone in a civil manner is a cornerstone of our democracy. So imagine my surprise to learn that a number of Irvine residents have been banned from commenting on the Orange County Veteran’s Memorial Park Facebook page. Censoring differing points of view isn’t freedom folks and its downright hypocritical for a Veteran’s group to do so.
Irvine activist Harvey Liss, Karen Jaffe and… me are just three no longer allowed to offer comment. The nature of our comments is “we support the cemetery, but not this location and not when the developer stands to profit.” The original 125.5 acres ARDA site was recently reassessed from $9 million to $4 million which is stunningly unbelievable that 125 acres is worth less than four homes on my side of the street just three miles away. I’ll offer the city $4.1 million (snark inserted) because once FivePoint is done with this, it’s going to be worth considerably more.
Interestingly enough, there will be a groundbreaking next Friday, October 27 at noon. FivePoint still owns the land and I’m sure there will be a number of folks on hand with shovels to turn over the dirt. But its a sham groundbreaking, CalVet hasn’t approved the swap pending the completion of the Feasibility Study which won’t be completed until June 30, 2018. And that $10 million for the First Phase of Construction? We still don’t know what that’s going to pay for and that money won’t go very far. If the Vets agreed to a dollar for dollar swap, they’d have all the money they needed to fully develop the cemetery and run it for decades. As it stands now, FivePoint will profit handsomely for it. It remains to be seen what favors FivePoint granted to whom for their support of this theft of taxpayer property.
From CalVet, this statement from Keith Boyland, Deputy Secretary for Veterans Services at CalVet, received Thursday afternoon:
“The landswap was voted on and approved by the Irvine City Council. The vote approves the transfer of property from the Bake Parkway site from FivePoint to the City of Irvine. The State Department of General Services is initiating the the feasibility study. The feasibility study is expected to conclude with a grant request submitted to the US Department of Veterans Affairs by June 30 2018.”
I’ll add this detail from Thursday’s Voice of OC story with further undermines Bill Cook’s credibility on being truthful. From the story:
The Legislature authorized $30 million toward the Great Park veterans cemetery site and the city of Irvine pledged $38 million, with a potential $10 million from the Federal government.
However, Cook said the $30 million wasn’t secured.
“Sharon (Quirk-Silva) did put in for $30 million … didn’t happen, it turned out to be $5 million,” Cook said, adding that it was requested funds, not secured funds.
Funny, that’s not what Quirk-Silva’s office had to say; from their press release on the funding secured specific to the ARDA site:
SACRAMENTO – Prior to the start of Memorial Day weekend, Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) made the following statement on the inclusion of a $30 million allocation of funds in the 2017 California State Budget Report for an Orange County Veterans Cemetery.
“This is a fitting announcement for Memorial Day Weekend, when we honor those American heroes that made the ultimate sacrifice. An Orange County Veterans Cemetery reflects the values and priorities of our community and gives local veterans the option of a military burial that is closer to home.”
This allocation came directly after Quirk-Silva hosted California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. in Orange County, where they had a private tour of proposed sites for a new state veteran cemetery in Irvine. Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva and Governor Brown also met with local officials and community groups, in order to facilitate the budget appropriation of funds.
In 2014, Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva authored legislation that set the way for State and Federal approval of plans, leading to the construction and operation of the Orange County Veterans Cemetery project.
And for further information, I invite you to visit my website.
So if you happen to support Ed Pope’s referendum to preserve the original site for the cemetery, as I do, the OCVMP Facebook page won’t let you say a thing about it. As usual, shrill Christina Shea has her underwear in a bunch over this:
Liss offered some comments he posted that were removed. I’m republishing them here:
Bonnie Cleugh Fickes You are correct. When Larry Agran was on the City Council and had a majority of Councilmembers interested in the Public Interest and not self-interest, the Great Park Board had countywide representation with 9 members. When the developer-controlled Councilmembers took over after the 2012 election under Mayor Choi and Christina Shea, their first action was to fire all members of the GP Board, and have only Irvine City Councilmembers make up the Board. in fact, the GP Board meetings that formerly occupied many hours, and accomplished many things, were eliminated, and short, perfunctory meetings were held in the afternoon before the regular Council meetings.
It’s important to understand history. The main reason we don’t have a commercial airport at the former MCAS El Toro is due to Larry Agran, who got the City to spend $30 million to defeat the airport against the lies and misinformation of the opposition that wanted to close Orange County Airport because the planes flew over Newport Beach.
Larry Agran did serve in the military. And the irony here is that Larry Agran was instrumental in getting that 125-acre parcel in the Great Park designated. approved as a Veterans Cemetery. It was only a couple weeks away from being able to begin construction with a $30 million grant from the State, when the Mayor Don Wagner, and Councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox put the cabosh on that in a Special City Council meeting and killed the plan to actually begin construction, because, presumably, FivePoint wanted that 125-acres for their own purposes, next to their existing entitlements for their Great Park Neighborhoods. The actual history of that Great Park Veterans Cemetery is on the website of the Orange County Veteran’s Memorial Park, which will probably be removed, because, astonishingly, it’s the truth. You’d better look at it fast, before it’s removed. Somehow, their truth changed. Why did Bill Cook change from the public-interest side, supporting a Veterans Cemetery in an ideal location in the Great Park, ready to begin construction, to developer FivePoint’s side, in a fiercely undesirable site, not even contiguous, next to a noisy and polluting freeway? Why? And there is no guarantee there will ever be a Veterans Cemetery there. Why would FivePoint have any interest in a Cemetery? Only true public servants, who operate only in the public interest, like Larry Agran have that sort of interest.
And this one:
Pam Sainick, Oddly, if you go to ocveteransmemorialpark.org you will see the true history of the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in the Great Park. And Bill Cook, the leader of a Veterans organization supported the plan for the Great Park Veterans Cemetery.
However, all of that was caboshed after the City Council election in Nov, 2016, with a new City Council majority. In that election, Mayor Wagner’s election campaign was virtually totally funded by FivePoint Communities. Christina Shea had been a long-time supporter of FivePoint Communities projects. Melissa Fox was elected based on her support for the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park.
For no apparent reason, when the Veterans Cemetery in the Great park was just weeks away from starting land clearing and construction, after a two-year process to get CalVet approval and a $30 million budget item from the State, a motion was introduced at a City Council meeting (I can find that date, later) to consider a proposal from developer FivePoint Communities to perform a land swap. That land swap would grant FivePoint ownership of that 125-acre Great Park Veterans Cemetery parcel along with office and commercial development rights. In turn, FivePoint would trade about 125 acres of land they owned (with those same development rights) at the intersection of the I-5 and I-405 freeways, in non-contiguous parcels, for use as a Veterans Cemetery.
Note that residential land in Irvine is valued at $4 million per acre. FivePoint could never build and sell houses at that location adjacent to two freeways. Besides, the property in the Great Park would be far more desirable, being near a new high school (Portola H.S.) and other existing FivePoint residential development.
When the measure to consider the land swap came up for a vote, Melissa Fox initially voted to affirm the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park; then, she suddenly asked to change her vote to consider the land swap. A few weeks later a Special City Council meeting was held to formalize approval of the land swap. And suddenly, Bill Cook switched sides and supported the land swap, and got some of his veteran buddies to testify that they, too, supported the land swap. Even though there were no details of the deal available to the Council the land-swap deal arrangement was approved as the Council’s intention in a 3-2 vote. Then the complex process had to wend its way through City staff, then obtain Transportation Commission approval, then Planning Commission approval, then, finally to the City Council that had to approve a Re-zoning ordinance in two Council votes, the final one which took place on Oct 10th.
All this is fact that can be found in City Council minutes.
Why do you think the rug pulled out from under the Great Park Veterans Cemetery just a few weeks before its construction was scheduled to begin with $30 million of State funds after a two-year process?
Would any reasonable person not think that for a Veterans Cemetery, a tranquil location inside a park, with a single continuous 125-acre parcel is not preferable to a non-contiguous parcel virtually surrounded by two noisy and polluting freeways?
There’s a lot more to this story, and actual facts are all available to counter the nonsense that has been echoing around on the Orange County Veteran’s Memorial Park Facebook page, and repeated ad nauseum without any evidence, if one cares to look at those facts. In fact, that Facebook page states that any opposing viewpoint will be deleted. I commented with a series of facts, not viewpoint, that were all deleted.
So for those running the OCVMP Facebook page, stop being hypocrites when it comes to fighting for the rights of Americans because by denying the ability of some to comment, you’re denying the rights you fought and served for. Let those who favor the Vets cemetery on the original site say so and why.
The referendum exists because the land swap happened with lots of short cuts and plenty on unresolved issues. This project should be done right, not fast. And Irvine taxpayers — even those who want tax dollars spent on a cemetery — shouldn’t be rewarding a developer and a council majority who made a bad deal.