Land-Grab fallout: Orange Republicans Mutiny against their Corrupt Party. (And Jerbal pops his head up!)


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Orange Land-Grab enablers:
Bought-off councilman Denis Bilodeau,
and Matt Cunningham, tireless tool of the very wealthy if they pay him enough.

As Mayor Quimby outlined last night, things are really heating up in the city of Orange, over the land-grab being attempted in the town by developer John Martin and his Ridgeline Partners.

In short, Orange, which already has less parkland per resident than New York City, is in danger of losing its opportunity to enhance park land by squandering land zoned as recreational open space – ending up with 0ne-third less – 100 rather than 150 acres – if Ridgeline has their way.  (See the graphic below.)

And like the most loyal handmaidens, four out of five Orange Councilmen – that’s the four Republicans on council – ignoring the overwhelming desires of the town’s citizens, gave Ridgeline the green light for this, changing the zoning of two big areas so that Ridgeline could build their residential and commercial projects there in the very spots where Orange folks have frolicked for decades.

And here’s where it gets decidedly hinky:  It’s illegal for a developer to donate any amount of money to appointed officials like planning commissioners who may be voting on a matter affecting their interests over the next 12 months.  Martin’s Ridgeline got around this by dumping $40 grand into the OC GOP this year, which was IMMEDIATELY funneled from there to help elect Republican Orange City Council candidates Denis Bilodeau and Fred Whitaker, who then went on to dutifully vote as Martin ordered.  Tina Richards of the Foothill Sentry provided chapter and verse of this scandal back in December.

Now, check out how Orange’s open spaces would be WORSE THAN DECIMATED if this plan goes through:

The good news is that the town’s population  has completely activated itself  to resist this encroachment. For the populace to override this corrupt Council decision would have required a little over 7000 signatures to demand a referendum – the folks easily and quickly acquired 12,000 signatures.  With that, there are two options – the Council can either SAVE the city a lot of money by rescinding their decision (hah, fat chance with these vendidos) or there will have to be a special election to decide this issue.  The issue of whether Orange residents want to give up 1/3 of their park space, for … well, for John Martin’s profit, and the Republican councilmembers’ careers.

But here’s what really brings joy to my heart and inspired the title of this post:  The local Republicans of Orange are rising up against the Council and their Party over their disgust with these shenanigans, and even threatening mutiny (leaving the Party after lifelong loyalty.)  We’ve been seeing this lovely spectacle a lot in the recent couple of years – rank-and-file registered Republicans joining with Democrats and independents in their revulsion against the extremism and/or corruption of Republican politicians and insiders.

Examples?

  • The successful struggle against the OC Fairgrounds Swindle since 2009.
  • The glorious uprising against the so-called “Reform Board” in the Capistrano Unified School District last year.
  • The many, many Huntington Beach Republicans who voted last November for good-government environmentalists Joe Shaw and Connie Boardman in revolt against the similarly developer-enslaved council there, and their constant chipping away of the Bolsa Chica Wetlands.
  • We’re seeing it now all over Wisconsin, and to a smaller degree in Costa Mesa, in reaction to those Republican governments’ evisceration of the public workforce, many of whom had always been Republican.

Anyways, here’s what I’m talking about.  The following letter to the Orange County GOP, penned by brand-new activist and lifelong Republican donor Bob Kirkeby, was signed by forty of his similarly heretofore GOP loyalist neighbors in the space of a day and is still making its way around the neighborhood.  These signers have been loyal Republicans for an average of FORTY YEARS, and had long been generous and wealthy donors to the Grand Old Party.  The letter somehow also made its way into my inbox yesterday (I got no transom), it speaks for itself beautifully, and I just had to share it with you.

********************

Contact:  Bob Kirkeby
bobkirkeby@aol.com
(714) 403-6655

July 8, 2011

To:  The Republican Party [of Orange County]

This letter is from a group of citizens in East Orange. We are all Republicans or at least have been until now. We have given generously to the Republican Party and specific candidates because we believed in the overall message.

We like the idea of small government and individual responsibility and have always felt we were a good fit for the Republican Party. We also love the outdoors.

I am sure you have heard about the Ridgeline development.  A developer purchased our local golf course, tennis facility and Olympic sized swimming pool.  It has been zoned Recreational Open Space and has been used by people in the region for the last 40 years. The project is overwhelmingly opposed by local residents who have enjoyed this open space for generations.

The developer wants to put residential housing on this land.  The City Council voted 4 – 1 to support this plan without ever addressing or responding to legitimate community concerns. The 4 votes were the Republicans.  The only no vote was the sole Democrat.

We have discovered that the Republican Party of Orange County and the Republican Central Committee PAC have acted as a conduit for laundering $40,000 in contributions from developer John Martin and Ridgeline Partners to council candidates Fred Whitaker and Denis Bilodeau, who would have been barred from any contributions because of multiple development approvals pending.

Whitaker and Bilodeau are also Central Committee Members, and now on the City Council of Orange.

While this may all be “LEGAL”, it stretches the spirit of the law, and there is certainly a perception of impropriety which has tainted the entire public process.  I will go out on a limb here to say the folks of East Orange will put a lot of effort into supporting candidates who support us and to making sure that these two Republicans are not re-elected. A large political PAC is currently being formed by Republicans, to make sure that Bilodeau and Whitaker are defeated if they run again.  In addition, a referendum drive has been started to overturn their recent action.

We have already found $40,000 that was funneled to the Republican Party and on to the city council. We can only imagine that more money is promised once the deal is done.

This is a painful decision for all of us but if we cannot count on the Republican Party to protect the environment and quality of life in our area we must come to grips with the fact that we have aligned with the wrong political party. If this vote is not reversed, many influential community members – myself included – will withdraw from the Republican party.

This letter was passed around for 1 day and gathered these signers. We will continue to pass the letter around.

Many thanks for your time

Signed…..etc.

2.10.120 – Solicitation of Contributions from Persons who have City Business Dealings.

No appointed City Official or City employee shall solicit, direct or receive a contribution from any person, or his or her agent, who has a proceeding involving legislative or administrative action pending before such appointed City Official or City employee or has had such a matter pending during the preceding twelve (12) months. This section does not apply to an appointed City Official or City employee who is a City Candidate acting in furtherance of his or her own controlled committee.

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Oh yeah, right.  Loyal Orange Juice readers, you’re wanting to hear about Matt “Jerbal” Cunningham, our blog’s long-time Republi-hack bete-noir, and denizen-wordsmith of the hacky Red County Blog.  To all appearances, this blog and our sister blog the Fullerton Fringers drove him out of the blog world recently, mostly by highlighting his hypocrisy in spending his blog-days fulminating against big government while making hundreds of thousands of dollars scouting Facebook and handing out toothbrushes for Rob Reiner’s big-government Children’s and Families’ Commission. [see comment below]

It’s not entirely surprising that he would poke his head into this particular contretemps – he is after all an Orange resident, a member of the Orange Planning Commission that approved  the Ridgeline project, and, quite humorously,  a OC  Parks Commissioner.  And, not long ago, before slumping off from the blogosphere, he did pout, “Blogging doesn’t pay the bills, anyway.”   But is that really a good excuse to lean down and cut the balls off his own charge as Commissioner, Orange parklands, for thirty pieces of silver?

That’s what it looks like anyway.  None of us have seen his paycheck stubs.  But at several recent Council meetings he was observed SCURRYING about – with his wife Laura, the Bane of Gays – making sure their little Astroturf contingent was all in line and organized to give the impression that lots of Orange residents REALLY WANTED their recreational open spaces rezoned to enrich a developer!  (By Astroturf – I’m sure you know, but just in case – we mean a totally manufactured phony grass-roots group waving signs made by the monied interests.)

Will this fellow ever not choose to kowtow to the interests of the wealthy and well-connected over the needs of the rest of us?  And will we ever not feel like kicking him hard in the butt?  Time will tell, but it’s not looking good…


About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.