So, apparently it was the IRVINE Great Park all along. Who knew.


The “editorial staff” of the Liberal OC produced a surprisingly mature and balanced editorial yesterday entitled “Let’s See What A Republican Majority Can Do With the Great Park.”  It was especially remarkable coming right on the heels of their typical piece of  Agranista agitprop entitled, with characteristic LOC awkwardness, “Democrats Seek Rallying Cry in Irvine.”

That’s right, let’s do see what the Republican Majority can do with the Great Park.  And let’s watch them closely (as we probably should have been watching before there was a Republican majority.)  That’s all we can do for now.

Because the one big lesson most of the County learned this week – who knew? – was that this was never an “Orange County Great Park” in the first place, despite its name and despite the fact that we county voters approved it back in the 90s:

  1. Nearly all the land belongs to the city of Irvine – a fact for which Supervisor Todd Spitzer takes credit and blame;
  2. Every employee and dollar spent, as Councilman Lalloway won’t fail to remind you, is an Irvine employee and dollar;
  3. And, thanks to Mr. Agran’s *cough* unswerving faith in himself, every decision made regarding the Park, for many years now, has NOT been made by the (now-disbanded) nine-member Board, but by the Irvine City Council (which Larry may well have thought he would control in perpetuity.)

Who knew?

Dr. No at the Helm

The pain.  The pain of sitting through the interminable droning of a meeting led by Irvine’s new Mayor Dr. Steven Choi.  Especially the first forty minutes or so of his proclamation of Korean-American Day.  Any swelling of ethnic pride was undetectable behind the Mayor’s monotone voice and blank countenance, as 30+ local Korean-American elected officials and public servants stood there dutifully, stoically, getting honored.  If it was worth it for anything, it was for watching the irrepressible and dapper Assistant DA Susan Kang Schroeder fidgeting and rolling her eyes through the endless proceedings.

Next, “100 Black Men in Orange County” livened things up briefly with their MLK Day proclamation, and then it was time for the newly rejiggered council to finally begin hashing out all their grievances – beginning with the Mayor’s committee assignments.

The two brainy liberals, Krom and Agran, seated on the dais at “Do I have to separate you two” extremes, had just discovered to their chagrin that they’d been taken off the committees they loved and had been busily involved with, and stuck into committees that NOBODY wants, like the hated Vector Control Board up in godforsaken Garden Grove.  Clearly, with electoral tables turned, the Republican majority was visiting upon them just the sort of indignities the Republicans used to suffer.

(At one point Mayor Choi pointed out “I had to do Vector Control for three years under Mayor Kang” to which Krom quipped, “And during those three years I had absolutely no issues with Vectors, which reflects very well on your work there!”  A rare light moment.)

The liberals were also put out at having to learn their committee assignments by reading the agenda, not having been extended the courtesy of a meeting with the Mayor to even ascertain their time availability.  Choi and Lalloway were quick to respond that that’s the way they’d been treated under the previous majority.  Larry Agran bristled and insisted that when HE was mayor he ALWAYS met one-on-one with each member regarding committees.  Gradually it became clear that it was only under the last mayor – Sukhee Kang, an Agran-allied Democrat – that such niceties were dropped and Republicans were flung willy-nilly into the vector.  Finally Larry went so far as to say, “Well, if Mayor Kang did that, SHAME ON HIM!”  That’s right – it was Korean-on-Korean rudeness, something we round-eyes cannot presume to fathom or judge.  And fancy that – apparently Agran’s mayorship was in some respects a Shangrila of comity, at least in comparison to what’s come since.

But more problematic than Mayor Choi’s committee assignments were his planned Committee Decimations:  As some sort of fire-ready-aim plan to “streamline” Irvine’s government he had proposed to 1) abolish the “Greenlight Environmental Committee” and 2) boot all the public volunteers off of a popular Education Committee.  Krom, Agran, various distressed committee members and members of the public AND staff tried for ninety minutes to talk sense into the grim Mayor – these committees did invaluable work, and they did it at no expense to the city.  And he just kept repeating, at first like a robot and later like a deer in headlights, the words “efficiency” and “streamline.”

Eventually Beth Krom, in one of her rants, observed that “If ‘streamline’ were a drinking game word, we’d all be on the floor by now.”  Diamond, who must be a less close observer of council meetings and blog comment threads than I, recently penned the sentence, “There’s no love lost between Agran (and to a lesser extent Krom) and the Council conservatives.”  To a lesser extent?  NOBODY pisses off the political foes of the Agranistas more than Beth Krom.  She is strident, theatrical, and loves to insult her opponents (as Christina Shea pointedly complained.)  She can also be really fucking funny.

And Jeffrey Lalloway, with his Gandolfini grin, certainly at least APPEARS to be Mayor Choi’s brain.  Maybe the Mayor thinks brilliantly in Korean, but he seemed clueless and paralyzed during this committees controversy, seeming to take in no new information, and repeating the same meaningless lines, while occasionally Lalloway whispered in his ear.  I’d been told, by a Democrat, that these two are enemies, since Lalloway is “Don Wagner’s boy” and Wagner beat Choi for Assembly back in 2010.  But then I was told, by someone who would know better, that that’s all in the past, that Lalloway busted his ass to get Choi in the Mayorship, and that they’re now tight as ticks.  Which comports with what I observe.

At long last it was Christina Shea, she of the Olive Oyl eyes, who, weary of the impasse, offered a compromise forward.  This might be something we see in the future.

So it was that, after all the squabbling, Mayor Choi ended up with only a small fraction of the dubious “efficiencies” he craved – the Education Committee was left as is, and the Environmental Committee’s meetings were merely reduced from bimonthly to quarterly.  Pretty nearly a faceplant for Dr. Choi in the first two hours of his Mayorship.  But on the other hand he did show that he can listen, even if it takes a while.

By now it was two hours into the meeting, Beth’s flying monkeys my Democrat friends were growing restive, and it was finally time to address the burning issue of the Great Park.

Coup? What Coup?

After the Mayor’s lengthy recitation of his reasons for dissolving the (merely advisory) Great Park Board, Larry Agran was allowed five minutes, which became fifteen minutes, to defend the progress made thus far.  He did so using a truckload of boxes, documents and maps, as well as with a slideshow showing beautiful scenes of the bits of the Great Park that have been accomplished.  This impressed those who wanted to be impressed, and impressed others not so much.

I was more impressed with the business plan which he keeps in his pocket everywhere he goes.  The first item on that plan is “We will not spend money that we don’t have.”  Of how many large public projects can that be said?  We all know that the Park’s original plans were hit by a trifecta of economic body blows – the housing crash, the recession, and the abolition of redevelopment agencies.  And this was always intended to be a long-term project, a couple decades long.  So maybe folks should be more patient with the progress made.  Or maybe not.  I cannot say.

The millions of dollars in no-bid consultant contracts is another story, and I look forward to the results of the forensic audit – what DID Forde and Mollrich do for all that money?  One bizarre spectacle this week has been to see all my Democrat, Agran-apologist friends theorizing, “They may have been secretly doing this great thing, they may have been secretly doing that great thing.”  Don’t they keenly feel the absurdity of their position?  Why should any of us – and why should the Republican majority – have to GUESS what the firm was doing?  How does a PUBLICIST working for a PUBLIC PROJECT not PUBLICIZE that to the heavens?

The Fury of Spitzer

In attendance, and sitting restlessly in the front row, was the area’s new (and former) County Supervisor Todd Spitzer.  Sworn in only the day before, the hyperkinetic born-again had hit the ground running on Monday with a press conference making it clear that he aspires literally to be SuperVisor.   And ONE of the County’s many intractable problems which he resolved to take firmly in hand was the Great Park, partly because he felt a responsibility for putting it in Irvine’s hands rather than the County’s.  And from his perch that day he had issued an ultimatum to the Council – either make serious progress on the Park THIS YEAR, or Todd Spitzer will put before OC voters the question of whether the County should take it back from Irvine.  (Actually it’s not clear if that’s legally possible.)

Agran, during his presentation, reacted with defiance to that threat (even though the threat was mainly aimed at the Republican majority.)  Waving the flag of Irvine pride, he reminded his audience of all the County’s grievous offenses against Irvine – the attempt to build an airport at El Toro, the attempt to extend a jail right up to Irvine’s borders, and more, I forget.

And Spitzer took THAT personally.  The first public speaker, he strode to the microphone and THUNDERED at the whole Council for their childish bickering, and at Agran in particular for his attacks on the County (which Spitzer took as attacks on Spitzer.)  I’M THE ONE, he declaimed, who SAVED Irvine from the airport, I’M THE ONE, he cried out, who turned the Marine base over to Irvine.  He thundered at Larry for the lack of progress on the Park!  He thundered at Larry for the no-bid contracts!  Then he said, “I’m upset because you attacked me.  Now I’m going to ratchet it down.”  And next, demonstrating the emotional agility gleaned from both Christianity and Yoga, he dropped his voice an octave and calmly assured the whole Council that that all his resources as Supervisor would be at their disposal as they strove to “move forward” with Irvine’s Great Park, and wished all five of them well.

At this point I had to leave, so I missed all the keening of Beth’s flying monkeys my Democrat friends.  But as I understand, the votes on the Park went as foreordained – there will be a forensic audit (that was unanimous); the current consultants’ contracts are terminated;  and the Great Park Board is now the Irvine City Council, no more and no less.

So What Can Go Wrong Now?

Well… How do Republicans usually fuck up?

It seems unlikely after all the hooplah that they’ll again offer no-bid contracts, to their own cronies.  But how are they going to continue to “make progress,” and better, quicker progress, with the Park?  One tidbit that The Voice of OC‘s Norberto got on video, but hasn’t made it into print yet, is Lalloway’s answer:  “public-private partnerships … an awful lot of land out there and an awful lot of people who want to build recreational facilities.”

[note on inspecting 2023: this video has disappeared, sorry]

That could mean many things, but I don’t really like the sound of it, do you?  “An awful lot of land.”  “Awful.”  Land that they could do stuff with.  Profitable stuff.  “Public-private partnerships.”  What could THAT mean?

Irvine residents – since this IS YOUR Park – you’d better keep a close eye on these characters this year.  If they go too far, Lalloway will have to be defeated in ’14.

But, how much damage can they do – how much irreversible damage can they do, if damage is what they do – in two years?  If the irreversible damage is fast-tracked, then maybe you lot need to gear up to Recall Mayor Choi.  THIS year.  I do not get the feeling he will be a very popular Mayor.

Nelson, over and out.

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, or 714-235-VERN.