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No answers until June. After a long and confusing meeting, the Irvine City Council voted to both (1) consider putting up $40 million of it’s own money to build the cemetery on the current proposed site and (2) open negotiations on a land swap that would build the cemetery on a site next to the 5 freeway.
As Greg already discussed, there are two plans on the table. Jeff Lalloway proposes to use Irvine money to move forward on the current “ARDA”site, while Christina Shea‘s favors a land swap with Five Points to build the cemetery next to the 5 freeway.
After over an hour of public comment, and increasingly heated exchanges between Shea and Lalloway, Christina Shea put forth a motion to start land swap negotiations with Five Points. Jeff Lalloway put forward a substitute motion to allocate $38 million immediately and not proceed with the Five Points negotiation. Jeff Lalloway’s substitute motion passed with support from Lynn Schott and Melissa Fox.
Next, Melissa said she misunderstood what she was voting for, put forth a motion to reconsider, which passed. She then put forth an new substitute motion that the city pursue both options and try again in June. This motion passed with support from Mayor Don Wagner and Christina Shea. It was a confusing 10 minutes.
- Melissa has been a steadfast supporter of veterans cemetery since it was twinkle in Larry Agran‘s cynical eye. Her confusion seemed genuine, as did her strong desire to get the cemetery built..
- Don Wagner and Christina Shea were clearly in favor of the proposed Five Points land swap. That should make one nervous. While I am a big Christina supporter, she has not been a strong supporter of the cemetery. Also, I have already called Don Wager a “wholly owned subsidiary of Five Points” on this blog, which tonight seemed to reconfirm
- Jeff, in keeping with his already discussed poor political skills, did not seem to have lined up the necessary support ahead of time. Somebody really needs to give him a copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People.
- Lynn Schott mostly kept quiet, but voted with Lalloway on the three motions that mattered.
- Jeff’s plan — to spend $40 million of Irvine’s own money immediately — is risky because the current price tag is $72 million, and the state is showing little inclination to pony up the difference.
- Christina’s plan is risky because the Five Points “plan” was maddeningly scant on actual details or bona fide commitments.
The Irvine politics on this are just plain weird. The current cemetery plan got rolling as a Larry Agran stratagem to help Melissa Fox unseat Jeff Lalloway (and help fellow Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva.) His cemetery proposal was a deeply cynical move because Larry actively suppressed plans for a cemetery when he was in charge of the Great Park. But building this cemetery is the right thing to do, so even Irvine’s “right wingers” (your humble blogger included) supported Larry’s cemetery plan, to the clear consternation of the developer-backed majority. Jeff Lalloway was the crucial vote in getting the cemetery plan moving. Then, when Jeff was head of the ad-hoc committee for the cemetery, he did very little to move it forward. I wanted to attend the meetings, but after extensive help from a city staffer, determined meetings weren’t being held and the committee in fact had gotten folded in the Christina’s Veterans committee, which mostly focuses on housing issues. Moving to the present, Don Wagner clearly favors the Five Point’s swap, which Jeff Lalloway completely opposes. Which is odd, because these are the two current council members that Five Points has spent money supporting in recent elections.
Five Points and its Irvine front man Patrick Strader hate, hate, hate the cemetery and wish it would just go away, so their motives in offering this swap should be critically examined. Yet, Five Points has good reasons to want this swap to go through, quickly. The current cemetery plan is hurting home sales with their key customers — mainland Chinese — so getting the cemetery moved to the opposite side of the Great Park boosts their bottom line immediately.
Confused? I am. But I’ll keep you posted.