In Irvine, Veteran’s Cemetery Referendum Fight Divides Democrats

The battle over placing the location of a Veteran’s Cemetery that virtually everyone wants to a public vote is creating a divide among Democrats in Irvine.  Democrats hold a slim voter registration majority in the city today and the divide is being driven Council member Melissa Fox’s efforts to stop a petition referendum from ever making to the ballot and those who have strongly supported those who lead the city from 2000 to 2012, many whom feel betrayed by Fox’s siding with a developer for a land swap.

Fox issued this email yesterday; I’m offering commentary or factchecks after certain statements.  That will be in italics.




Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Do not be deceived by a petition that pretends to “Save the Veterans Cemetery.”

The truth is that our veterans cemetery does not need saving – except from these out-of-town mercenaries who want you to sign their fraudulent petition!

(out of town signature gatherers are offering more than just this petition to be signed; it is not illegal to use paid signature gatherers and there are a host of unpaid volunteers — like me — who have petitions to sign)

Here is the site of the new Southern California Veterans Cemetery, located on strawberry fields adjacent to the Great Park Wildlife Corridor:


These out-of-town mercenaries pretend that they support our veterans when the truth is that if their petition succeeds, the veterans cemetery will be (at best) delayed and likely destroyed.

(if the original ARDA site was maintained, clean up would have started in August; the landswapped site wont’ be approved by CalVet until June 30, 2018 at the soonest and construction won’t begin until October 2018 — additionally, while developer FivePoint offered $10 million to fun “phase one’ of the cemetery’s development, without stating what “phase one” means — that promise is not in the contract the developer has with the city. There’s no written guarantee and FivePoint can walk away from that commitment at any time. Also, all of the legislative hocus-pocus done for the landswap can be undone just as easily.  The notion the cemetery will be denied if this referendum gets on the ballot and the voters approve is a lie.)

They pretend to have grassroots support, but the truth is that they are paid out-of-town mercenaries, while the current “Strawberry Fields” location of the veterans cemetery is supported by every veterans’ organization and a formidable bipartisan array of local officials from across the political spectrum.

(There was significant public opposition by a number of Veterans against the landswap and these Vets spoke out at city council meetings and are also participating in the referendum petition drive)

They will lie and tell you that they want the veterans cemetery to be in the Great Park, when the truth is that the original (and highly contaminated) site was never in the Great Park.

(Neither is the Strawberry Fields site)

They will not tell you that the current “Strawberry Fields” location was once part of the former El Toro Marine Base, which was the last American soil that many Marines stood on before they left for World War Two, Korea, and Vietnam, never to return.

(So was the ARDA site and in fact, there are several buildings in use at the base that must remain standing making it far more a part of the base than a strawberry field)

They will not tell you that creating the veterans cemetery in their preferred location would cost the taxpayers $80 million in decontamination and demolition before the cemetery could even start to be built.

(That’s true, however according to the Owen Report, the clean up was the responsibility of the military, Great Park Neighborhoods and State Rep Sharon Quirk-Silva had secured $30 million in state funding specifically for clean up of the ARDA site; there was a shortfall of about $1 million which likely could have come from the federal government,  Decontamination and demolition would still have been done prior to October 2018).

The truth is that the and exchange that the petition seeks to stop will ensure that the Veterans Cemetery is build faster and with approximately $80 million in savings for state and local taxpayers.

(Irvine taxpayers were never on the hook for any of this; there are still a number of hurdles before the real construction of the cemetery can be built.  And as a taxpayer, I have no problem with my tax dollars going towards the development of a Veteran’s Cemetery; I do have a problem when taxpayer owned property is effectively gifted to a billionaire developer to what will likely be hundreds of millions of dollars once most of all of his entitlements are completed).

They use stolen valor when they claim to be supported by veterans organizations.  The truth is that the American Legion has ordered them to stop using their organization’s symbol, but they’ve refused:

(there is a photograph of a Veteran wearing a cap in literature used by Pope’s signature gathered which features a patch of the American Legion logo.  Reproduction of this photo is known as fair use.  The American Legion cannot demand a Cease and Desist on a photograph of a Veteran anymore than the Dallas Cowboys can demand I remove a photo of me wearing their logo on a hat.  Fox is a lawyer; she should know better than to stake this claim).


Now they’ve brought in hundreds of out-of-town paid signature gatherers from Los Angles, San Bernardino and Oakland and put them up in hotels.

(That might be the professional organization that hired these signature gatherers to get signatures on multiple petitions, which is not illegal or unethical)

And they are violent.

(The are often reacting to blockers; the police were called about Bill Cook effectively assaulting a woman by ripped literature out of her hands.  But no one conducted a citizen’s arrest.  Not exactly Ivory Soap pure on the Vet’s side either).

This weekend, other anti-petition volunteers and I were threatened and menaced multiple times by these out-of-town paid signature gatherers.

(And so were the petition gatherers)

One of these paid mercenaries threatened me and then grabbed my sign, hit me with it and tore it up.  He ran away when I called the police, but was caught when pointed out by several witnesses.  He later told the police was a “political consultant” who lived in Colorado.

(The Register reported the assailant grabbed a sign and as he walked passed Fox the sign hit her leg; there’s no evidence he used the sign as a weapon and the arrest was a citizen’s arrest.  The assailant was taken into custody and released without being jailed.  I suspect that physical confrontation by blockers will be met with a similar response this weekend)

Another volunteer reports that she was “spat at, called some of most horrible names you could call a woman, physically intimidated and shouted at by paid signature gatherers who came from out-of-town to get $3 per signature to lie about ‘saving the cemetery’. They are angry that we are so effective and let the public know they are lying. Please don’t sign their petitions!”

(Again, the anti-referendum folks aren’t completely truthful)

Here is a rogues gallery of these paid out-of-town signature gatherers:

(Photos of Black, Latino youths and older white women performing a job which is not illegal or unethical.  The portrayal of these multi-ethnic individuals as “rogues” and “mercenaries” bothers me a great deal.  They have every right to gather signatures.)

UPDATE:  I received this notice last night from Craig Norris, the husband of Lauren Johnson-Norris whop is a Democratic candidate for Irvine City Council and endorsed by Council member Melissa Fox.

Hi Dan,

Just wanted to reach out and let you know that you are using my photos on the blog post

You are not authorized to use those photos in any blog post and they are protected under federal Copyright laws. 

The photos need to be removed from the site by 12:00 PM on November 3rd, 2017 or I will pursue further legal action.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation. Feel free to call if you have any questions.

Craig Norris

My attorney tells me I have a fair use right to use the photos as they were posted on Facebook and are available on Melissa Fox’s blog and in the email she forwarded to supporters; so if you want to see them, go there.  In the interests of having both Mr. Norris and I not paying thousands of dollars in legal fees in a case I have a very strong defense, I felt it was just easier to remove the images and point out how uncomfortable the photos of black and brown people from Oakland and San Bernadino must make them, let along the fear mongering these images might cause some people in Irvine.  I will note the hypocrisy of allowing one site to use these images to spread fear and the weakness of a copyright claim. 


After I was assaulted, I went back home, shaken. A Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran who was also volunteering said to me “at least they were not shooting at you.”

I got a cup of coffee, took a shower, and went back out.

I will not be silenced.  I will continue to fight for those who fight and have fought for America.

(I would expect no less and I’m sorry Fox was assaulted, but it is highly unusual for a sitting city council member to be this engaged in stopping a referendum many feel strongly about from coming to a vote of the public.)

It is an honor to do so.

I hope you will join me.

(sorry, you lost me when you voted to gift valuable public park land to a developer who will add 10,000 car trips a day to my part of Irvine and failed to secure the $10 million they promised for Phase One of cemetery construction in the contract with the city)

If you can help us defeat these mercenaries who have invaded Irvine and their malicious petition, please contact me at

If you’ve signed one of these petitions because you mistakenly believed it would “save the veterans cemetery,” you can easily revoke your signature by filling out a simple form.  Please contact me at and I will get this form to you.

As the daughter of an Orange County Korean War combat veteran, and the cousin of a Marine who was killed in action, I strongly support this land exchange that will greatly facilitate making an Orange County veterans cemetery a reality. I am tremendously proud to have participated in making sure that Orange County’s veterans – who have sacrificed so much for us – will at last have a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.

(As the nephew of a sailor who fought in Korea and  who grew up in an air force town with multiple cousins, in-laws and friends who have served in the military, I fully support a Veteran’s cemetery on the original site that the developer was desperate to defeat in any way, shape or form before coming up with a swap that is a big win mostly for their bottom line and not the veterans)

Please contact me to help.

Let’s do this together.

(Let’s put it to a vote of the people; that’s how freedom and democracy works  — those things Vets fought for.  Let’s honor that)


You know, if the various Facebook groups who support the landswap would allow honest debate and instead ban people from commenting, I wouldn’t have had to write this. 


  5 comments for “In Irvine, Veteran’s Cemetery Referendum Fight Divides Democrats

  1. Alan
    November 2, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    I believe the Melissa gang of thugs are in violation of this City ordinance.

  2. Black people
    November 3, 2017 at 1:44 pm

    Lauren, her husband and Fox are racist. Say it already

  3. Fox is a sell out
    November 3, 2017 at 2:20 pm

    Melissa Fox needs to be recalled.

    She is dividing the democratic party in Irvine by being bought off by a local developer.

    I have heard that Five Point and their lobbyist Patrick Strader have promised to help Fox and her hand-picked puppet Lauren Johnson get elected.

    Greed knows no end when an elected official can get some campaign contributions.

  4. senior
    November 3, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    See below. The saving the tax payers $30mm was complete farce. It was all a developer smoke screen. We as residents were never on the hook. The state pressured Irvine because they didn’t want to pay for the vets. It was always 5 Point and the State. Emails into Eric Woolery have gone unanswered.

    SOURCE: June 2016

    Department of General Services
    Southern California Veterans Cemetery Concept Plan

    Page 16

    The review of relevant agreements indicates that Heritage Fields is currently responsible for demolition of runways on the proposed Veterans Cemetery site. That obligation is found in the 2010 Amended and Restated Master Implementation Agreement between the City and Heritage Fields. However, there is no timing specified for the demolition of that hardscape. Further, absent Heritage Fields’ consent, the obligation to demolish those runways will terminate upon the City’s transfer of the ARDA site to another entity or the State. The cost estimate includes the costs for the demolition of the site hardscape.

    Page 15

    Adjacent to the flight control tower building is an existing Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) easement that occupies 1.7 acres. The City of Irvine staff has previously stated that the FAA building is currently operational and occupied and will not be demolished. Utilities and access to the building and site need to be maintained at all times. Heritage Fields is the organization that is responsible for installing the permanent utilities to the FAA property. In recent discussions with the City of Irvine staff, the City of Irvine and Heritage Fields has not yet determined the locations of the permanent utilities at the time of this report.

    Page 18

    5.8 Hazards and Hazardous Materials

    In discussions with the City of Irvine staff, when the site is transferred to the State, the State will be responsible for the environmental remediation if contaminated soil is discovered during excavation.

  5. Dan Chmielewski
    November 4, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    Much was made last weekend of the paid signature gatherers being violent. Bill Cook showed up in Target to block signature gathers and bragged about chasing people off (in violation of Irvine’s Free Speech Ordinance). He called anyone who didn’t serve in the military a Candy Ass and accused Harvey Liss of claiming to be a veteran when Harvey has never done so. Cook used profanity in front of children entering a Target and appeared intoxicated. And it’s all on video ( except for the profanity, because that’s what prompted me to record him).

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