A Comment on Vet’s Cemetery Vote in Irvine Deserves a Shout Out

OC Veterans of the Vietnam War join in the recognition of the troups at County ceremony May 10, 2011

Please do read this story in the Voice of OC on last week’s Irvine City Council meeting where the FivePoint-friendly council majority opted for a special election instead of doing the right thing and reversing itself on the Landswap for the Veteran’s Cemetery and Memorial. (And for the record, I thought Jeff Lalloway’s comment about holding public comments open so his wife could show up and say something nice about him was hysterical and no way an attack on Michael Fox, the husband of Council member Melissa Fox.  The VOC description makes that snapshot of the meeting more dark than it actually was).

This comment was crafted by Roger Butow, a Veteran show did not support the landswap.  And he completely undermines the FivePoint position on the swap with brutal honesty.

My NGO, Clean Water Now, was asked by two Laguna Beach City Council members to track the rehab and conversion of the former MCAS El Toro nearly 15 years ago. My personal expertise as a land use and regulatory compliance professional was felt to have some potential regarding the remediation under CERCLA (Superfund), that the rules be carefully followed, restoration parameters under federal funding vigorously applied.

It was widely known that I had in fact served the last 6 months of my duty as a Marine back in the late 60s @ MCAS El Toro, so I was quite familiar with not only the layout but the poor, lax disposal practices on the base. I’m not making excuses, but if we’d known then what we know now, we wouldn’t have been so careless.

Laguna was concerned that after assisting Irvine in halting the conversion to a commercial airline facility, the site be safe, that no hazardous or toxic material (airborne, waterborne, etc.) would migrate, affect my home city. And that the Great Park come to fruition, as a regional facility and not some local, selfish pork barrel project to be exploited.

Irvine has been promulgating a lie these past few years: They have known all along of the base-wide, systemic contamination of not only the soil but aquifer beneath. I was the ONLY NGO/independent, non-governmental agency rep to attend the Hazardous Waste Removal Sub-Committee meetings chaired by Lake Forest City Councilwoman Marcia Rudolph. We met in a small conference room before moving to the general assembly meetings @ Irvine City Hall. There only a few NGOs attended.

When first convened, the budget for remediation/conversion was nearly $600 million, a few years later it had doubled.

So when this city alleges that it was a surprise regarding how expensive the site for cemetery would be to remediate? They’re lying to not only their residents, but to those of us who voted to let them have the lead on the conversion…….And they’re definitely abusing we veterans who were repeatedly promised verbally that our resting place would be an honorable one, not shunted out into the extreme limits but centrally located to honor our commitment. Marines are volunteers, we raised our hands to defend the interests of our nation, although many of us eventually realized that Vietnam wasn’t our war, nonetheless we risked our lives, many gave up life and limb or came back irreparably screwed up in the head (PTSD).

Irvine? You owe us, really really big time. And you’re cutting corners, all in the name of money. You were in over your heads, a suburban council full of inexperienced hicks, and you wrested control of the whole conversion, land sale and swaps ALL to your fiscal gain, dishonoring yourselves and those of us who served.

You had no idea how to create the Great Park you hyped, your vision was blurred by $$$ signs. Now you claim that you never promised, you never reneged, and I’m shocked to be writing that for the first time in the whole fiasco I agree with Larry Agran. I’ve criticized him in my online columns, called him Larry (No Plan B) Agran because there wasn’t a contingency, a backup plan that every military trainee knows to be critical.

One can’t assume anything other than this: Those of us who fiscally and physically put our efforts into halting the airport plan were snookered by these hayseed rubes—except behind that veil were slick land developers, brought down from the Bay Area by Irvine’s chosen CEO, Mike Ellzey. Notice that he bailed a few years back before the you-know-what really hit the fan?

Where there should have been criminal investigations and probably indictments, all centered on the scam pulled on OC, now it’s down to carving up the last parcels, getting the maximum amount of $$$—and true grifters, Irvine tries to convince we veterans and the world that they’re going us a favor when it was all about the $$$.

No, they’re breaking their vow to OC voters, to do the conversion responsibly and with diligence……….and have broken their sacred promises to the military families made over a decade ago, something we never did as veterans.

And these council people have no sense of shame or conscience. The fields of green they see are stacked cash—For it’s obvious that $$$ was really all it was ever about. Shove the graveyard out where their residents need not be bothered or reminded of the sacrifices of service.

Bitter doesn’t come close to how many of us feel, veteran and civilian alike.

Look for Irvine to bamboozle its present voters, then claim county-wide “See, we we followed the will of the people!” when in fact moving our resting place and failing to build what you promised OC voters in the name of avarice are ignoble, traitorous acts. Irvine too is a swamp that needs draining, but never will.

And as for Bill Cook, who wanted to know where all the supporters of the original site were years ago, look no further than Larry Agran who was there at the beginning.  Once Larry was out of office, Bill self-appointed himself the spokesperson for all Veterans.  Those who spoke out at the council meeting showed Bill that he does not.

I’ve seen enough of Bill Cook in private (during the petition gathering process) and heard enough of his public comments to say he’s a liar.  He does one thing, and hides behind a flag and his status as a professional veteran.  The public shouldn’t believe a word he has to say.