Vets Cemetery: Agran Tells DPOC to Stay Out of Irvine’s Business

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Larry Agran was making the rounds of DPOC delegates this weekend, calling to lobbying them to take no position on the ballot measure coming to Irvine this June on approving the land swap that will allow the Veterans Cemetery to be built on the “Strawberry Field” site — and, possibly, at all.  (Strawberry Field has survived court battles; court battles over the ARDA site have not yet even begun, but they would have a lot better chance than the ones that Agran has been sponsoring.  Let’s just put it this way: the current administration — which could likely stop such a project if it wanted to — is bribable.

Agran is so bent on having revenge against Five Point, which wants the ARDA site but also played a critical role in dislodging him from office, that he would apparently rather see no cemetery built than rather one that gave Five Point — in exchange for valuable land it is trading along the “El Toro Y” junction of the 5 and 405 — access to the secluded, polluted, but remediable “ARDA site” at the polluted end of the runway where planting strawberries might have contributed  to manslaughter if they were eaten.

I know that Agran’s main motive is revenge not only because opposing the Strawberry Fields site is a reckless and pointless gamble to push the planned cemetery onto a polluted site where it would be subject to prolonged litigation, but because I was the one who pitched the original plan to him at a Labor Fed Holiday Party on the day that Sharon Quirk-Silva was appointed Chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee during her first term — and that’s how I sold him on the idea.  I brought Sharon across the room to talk to Agran and Beth Krom about this proposal, which I knew of through my friend Brian Chuchua’s involvement with what later became the OCVMP (“Orange County Veterans Memorial Park) Foundation, which had been pursuing an OC-based cemetery without gaining traction –and I recall his delighted reaction when he realized that it would put Five Point in a box.

And it did!  Five Point had to put up a far better parcel of land to dislodge the planned cemetery from a site where it would put it into legal trouble with the people to whom it had sold nearby houses.  The freeway and train-depot adjacent site will provide far more visibility, accessibility, and congenial relations than the site on polluted ground next to a housing tract.  Five Point never would have given up the Strawberry Fields site — at the other end of the runway from the ARDA site, where planes (and jet fuel and more) were on the ground, and which served only as a clear and safe place for planes to land if they had to ditch on takeoff or short of the runway while landing — unless they had to.  And — thanks to the hard work of Larry, Sharon, Josh Newman, and others, they had to!

There’s only one thing that moving the planned cemetery from the polluted ARDA site to the pristine and perfectly placed Strawberry Fields site doesn’t accomplish: it doesn’t screw over Five Point and those who bought homes from it nearly as badly.  And THAT IS ALL THAT LARRY AGRAN WANTS — REVENGE!   That is what all the fighting about! 

It is miserable, cruel, and dishonorable that Agran is risking denying OC a cemetery at all just to get even with Five Point, when the primary people hurt are the veterans and their families who don’t want to drive to Riverside to see them as often!

Agran and his agents have been making the argument that this is an internal Irvine matter.  IT’S NOT!  If there were truly no likelihood of the cemetery being eliminated if the property swap were rejected, then they might have a point — though even then I doubt it would be compelling — but the path of keeping the cemetery on ARDA, which was the best path until Five Point offered the swap, was still fraught with obstacles.  The swap for Strawberry Fields offers an easy glide path to completion — without the risk of a crash landing.

And Agran wants DPOC to stay out of it so that he can have his revenge?  NOT BLOODY LIKELY!

DPOC — and other organizations outside of Irvine — have a legitimate interest in the fate of this proposal: the interest of OC’s veterans and their loves ones.  We have no interest in Agran’s petty drive for revenge against Five Point, however much we might sympathize.

I’ll be blunt about this: when OC, as a county nixed the idea of an airport in Irvine — still a sore point in Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, and southwest Santa Ana — it was because the county expected something great out of the property.  Something like a Great Park.  And Agran — through a combination of hubris, cronyism, and bad luck — bungled it.  When he was in control, he had his cronies like Miguel Pulido on the Board of the Great Park not only to allow him to do whatever he wanted with their approval, but also ostensibly because what happened in this area was a countywide concern.

Well, now, the Veterans Cemetery — while not on the site of the Great Park no matter which site was used — is going to be the closest thing to Greatness adjacent to that site.  Veterans in the county — and the rest of us — have a stake in its coming to fruition, and Veterans groups and supportive politicians from both parties and neither have an absolute right to represent those interests.  That right will, I expect, be vindicated tonight.

As one politician said in a recent email blast from the veterans group:

​Tonight the Democratic Party of Orange County (DPOC) will vote on whether to support Irvine’s Measure B, a ballot initiative that will result in the establishment of an Orange County Veterans Cemetery at the Strawberry Fields site off Bake Parkway. This is a moment for Orange County Democrats to stand behind veterans and provide Orange County veterans the final resting place they both want and deserve. To be clear, there is no alternative site. If the ballot initiative fails, veterans will not see a cemetery in OC. Those opposed to Measure B who say otherwise are lying.

I fully support Irvine Measure B, as I have supported the establishment of a veterans cemetery at the Strawberry Fields site since it was proposed last year. I have stood beside veterans at our local shopping centers to educate the public against the misinformation campaign backed by cynical, opportunistic politicians of yesteryear who are attempting to hang onto the last threads of their power and influence in this city at the expense of veterans. I have stood up to paid bounty signature gatherers who spit in my face and called me names because it is no sacrifice compared to the ultimate sacrifice innumerable veterans have given to keep us safe and free at home.

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I stand with the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American GI Forum of the United States Education Foundation Orange County, California (AGIFOC), League of United Latin American Citizens, Governor Jerry Brown, U.S. Representative Lou Correa, Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva, State Senator Josh Newman, and Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox in support of Measure B and urge you to join me in voting “YES” on June 5, 2018.

The DPOC previously passed a resolution in favor of the Strawberry Fields site that condemned the misleading bounty signature gatherers who lied to residents about the fundamental facts of this issue. The bottom line is that if you support veterans having a cemetery in Orange County, you must vote “YES” on measure B. I look forward to the action of the DPOC tonight and urge the central committee to support this ballot measure. ​

Because Agran’s “newspaper” has improbably claimed some vindication from the courts, this post from the veterans is also of likely interest:

Lies about ARDA being in the Great Park have by now been abandoned by the Agran forces, due to court action.  That Agran and his puppet Ed Pope are both veterans who oppose the Strawberry Fields site is irrelevant because Agran — who is doing the thinking for both of them — does not have the interest of veterans in mind.  All he wants is revenge.  DPOC has the opposite set of priorities — honoring veterans is primary, revenge isn’t even an issue — and should vote accordingly.

About Greg Diamond

Somewhat verbose worker's rights and government accountability attorney, residing in northwest Brea. General Counsel of CATER, the Coalition of Anaheim Taxpayers for Economic Responsibility, a non-partisan group of people sick of local corruption. Deposed as Northern Vice Chair of DPOC in April 2014 when his anti-corruption and pro-consumer work in Anaheim infuriated the Building Trades and Teamsters in spring 2014, who then worked with the lawless and power-mad DPOC Chair to eliminate his internal oversight. Occasionally runs for office to challenge some nasty incumbent who would otherwise run unopposed. (Someday he might pick a fight with the intent to win rather than just dent someone. You'll know it when you see it.) He got 45% of the vote against Bob Huff for State Senate in 2012 and in 2014 became the first attorney to challenge OCDA Tony Rackauckas since 2002. None of his pre-putsch writings ever spoke for the Democratic Party at the local, county, state, national, or galactic level, nor do they now. A family member co-owns a business offering campaign treasurer services to Democratic candidates and the odd independent. He is very proud of her. He doesn't directly profit from her work and it doesn't affect his coverage. (He does not always favor her clients, though she might hesitate to take one that he truly hated.) He does advise some local campaigns informally and (so far) without compensation. (If that last bit changes, he will declare the interest.)