I don’t know whether Beth Krom intended this to be an open letter or just something sent out to select supporters, but I don’t think that this is the sort of thing one writes if one anticipates continued confidentiality. Here it is — my comments follow.
Many of you asked me to keep you apprised of issues that arise as a result of the shift in the City Council. I didn’t think I would have to write so soon.
Let me first say I hope you all had a nice entree into 2013. My hope is that the year will bring only the best to you and your family.
As for the City of Irvine and progress at the Great Park, I have grave concerns.
As I prepared to head off to the “Great Night” Family New Year’s Celebration at the Great Park yesterday (though cold, thousands of people came out to enjoy the festivities), I received three memos submitted by the new City Council majority. I have attached them, along with another memo from Mayor Choi regarding his desire to add invocations at City Council meetings, a practice we have not included for more than a decade in deference to the incredible diversity of faith traditions here in Irvine and the tendency for invocations to feel “exclusive” rather than “inclusive.”
It is the intention of Mayor Choi and Councilmembers Lalloway and Shea to propose doing away with the Great Park Board (no public board participation, all decisions controlled by the City Council…meaning all decisions controlled by them), eliminating certain contracts and undertaking a “forensic audit” of all park expenditures. Their real intention is to seize control of the park and generate headlines in the local press by challenging decisions made by the Great Park Corporation Board.
I hope you will attend the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 8th at 5 pm (not sure what else is on the agenda, but expect these items to be the primary focus).
Contrary to the rhetoric, all activities related to the operation and construction of the Great Park are governed by the same requirements the city operates under. Councilman Lalloway has invoked the “City of Bell” in his rhetoric. Seriously? Comparing in any way, shape or form the City of Irvine or Great Park to the City of Bell? The truth is we routinely receive awards for our management as a City, and the Great Park Corporation is an instrument of the City. We don’t get to write our own set of rules.
Obviously, as the current Chair of the Great Park Board I am deeply troubled by these recommendations. Mayor Choi has included an intention to call a special Great Park meeting to choose a new Chair and Vice Chair.
Essentially, I am to be defrocked as Chair and the GP Corporation is to be dismantled. Twelve years of progress in Irvine is about to take a back seat to political theatrics by headline seeking egomaniacs who care little for the interests of the community and are all about creating chaos.
Clearly the new Council Majority figures the January 8th meeting is so early in the year that people will not make the effort to come out. I hope they are wrong, because their success in dismantling the independent Great Park board to give themselves unilateral control over all decisions related to the Great Park will only empower them to begin dismantling all the other positive initiatives developed over the past twelve years.
Please let me know if you plan to attend the City Council meeting on January 8th.
If you know of others who care about the future of the Great Park and want the City Council to continue on the positive path that has earned us recognition after recognition, invite them to join you.
The only antidote to a runaway City Council is a vocal community to remind them that they were elected to serve the best interests of the citizens of Irvine, not to play political games and damage the reputations of people who have consistently put progress ahead of political pandering and who have steadfastly supported important community priorities like the Great Park.
Larry Agran and I cannot stop the new majority. Only your presence and public comments can influence their actions. They are counting on the apathy and ambivalence of the electorate. I hope they are wrong.
I’ve been listening to people talking about corruption, corruption, corruption in the Great Park for years, but no one seems to have any idea what they are talking about. I’m not a fan of the huge PR contracts and I understand why the new Council wants to break them — although I don’t fully understand what services are provided (for example, do they keep all of this money or are they the equivalent of general contractors?) and I get the sense that many people who think that they know what’s going on don’t know either.
So, fine — do the forensic audit. Find the corruption if you can find it. If PR contracts, as Jeff Lalloway has maintained, is wasted money that get in the way of building, then stop the waste. Well, first prove the waste. Well, first investigate the waste, then prove it, then stop it — if it’s there.
But if Beth Krom is right, or is even half right, about what the Council plans to do with the Great Park — dissolving the Great Park Corporation and doing pretty much God knows what — then this is not only not what citizens of Irvine thought that they were voting for but also an opportunity for corruption greater than we’ve seen in most of the rest of Orange County combined.
I see two possibilities here: (1) the new Council majority is crazy and reckless and rash and (2) some plans for the Great Park have long been afoot about which they neglected to tell the rest of us — including the voters.
Councilmember Krom’s message is, certainly alarming. People need to get there not only to speak their mind about these apparent developments, but also to ask: what the hell is going on? And also to ask: who’s watching these new watchers? The land of the Great Park isn’t going anywhere; tearing up some contracts I understand, but what’s the rush to tear down a dozen years’ worth of plans?