The multi-year debate over the site for the proposed veterans cemetery is now looking like a long, awkward dance to nowhere. It shouldn’t be this hard!
A lot happened at the long and sobering Irvine city council meeting on July 10, 2018. The majority of council members quickly shot down the motion by Councilman Lalloway to return the project to its original path, instead orchestrating a last-minute substitute motion to stop the immediate construction of the veterans cemetery in the approved ARDA site, and totally diluting the outcome of the June special election. The new motion miraculously appeared on the dais and was distributed to each council member, but there was no opportunity for public review. Despite being a detailed six-point document, councilors Fox and Shea felt comfortable enough after reading it for all of 5 minutes to approve it. Why did they even sit through the extensive public comment during the meeting, when they had predetermined their “plan B”? This motion flat out ignored the voice of the voters and the democratic process, where according to every major news source – including the Calvets site www.calvet.ca.gov the headline read “Irvine voters in June will decide location of Orange County’s first veterans cemetery”.
Democracy seemingly again was outplayed by the council and special interests. No surprise there.
After the meeting Mayor Wagner issued the following statement; “… the City Council has directed the immediate start of a citywide effort to evaluate the ARDA site or find an alternate site in or near the Great Park for creation of the cemetery…. unfortunately, prior Councils abandoned the principles of that Master Plan, burdening us with increased traffic and overdevelopment. But this Council has refused to continue those mistakes of the past. That is why a majority of the Council and I asked that the Transportation, Planning, and Finance Commissions, as well as the Planning Department and new City Manager, begin working to promptly identify and properly plan for the creation of the cemetery. This will be a comprehensive City effort to do the project right.”
Hold on – The project process was “done right” since it was first approved by the city council in March 2014 and again on April 2016. The minutes will show that previous councils charted a detailed and thoughtful path for the building of the cemetery including the State enabling legislation and appropriation of funds signed into law by Governor Brown on December 27, 2014.
Wagner, Fox, and Shea can’t have it both ways. Previous Irvine city councils dedicated the ARDA land for the establishment of the Veterans Cemetery. Wagner, Shea, and Fox state over and over that they are victims of decisions made by previous councils regarding development projects and infrastructure shortfalls. Yet in this instance, they quite confidently and quickly overturned the previous council decisions, along with all the time and money that had been expended, when it suited their agenda.
Jeanne Baran is an Irvine resident and a member of the Irvine Watchdog citizens group.
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