Build the Great Park Veterans Cemetery Committee Candidate Forum

This forum was not recorded nor was it open to the public, as far as I can tell. But in the interest of full transparency and honesty, I reproduce written, typed versions of my answers to all five questions that I was asked at this forum. The forum was attended by about 20 members of the Build the Great Park Veterans Cemetery Committee, 5 of whom submitted questions that were asked of the three candidates in attendance: myself, Carrie O’Malley, and Katherine Daigle. One week before my meeting, Lauren Johnson-Norris, Tammy Kim and Farrah Khan all attended the same forum with the same group.

1. What has been your position over the last several years concerning the Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery? If your position has changed, please tell us why.

Ever since I even started considering running, back in 2016, I have always been in favor of building the veterans cemetery. The veterans cemetery is one of the issues that really galvanized me when I started to pay attention to local politics, and I’ve always been in favor of not only building it, but building it at the ARDA site. I find it frankly absurd that the cemetery was originally slated to open November 2019 and yet still in September of 2020 we have not even started demolition and construction work on the cemetery and park.

2. Larry Agran’s “Build it NOW” plan proposes to start the project with demolition and site cleanup followed by building a linear park surrounding the site with trees and trails. It also includes preserving the original runway, control tower and a couple of historic hangers as a museum. Would you be willing to commit City funds to at least start this project, knowing that the City would be partially or fully reimbursed by the State when the land is turned over to them?

I am a big fan of the Build it NOW plan, personally. I’m a big fan of American history, doubly so for American aviation history, and so one of my favourite things about the plan is its intention to create an air museum on the site by preserving the air traffic control tower as well as some of the historic hangers. I’m also a huge fan of getting the veterans cemetery built as soon as possible, and for that reason I would absolutely be willing to commit to start building the veterans cemetery. Especially so since we as a City will be reimbursed by the state once they take over management of the site, as outlined in the original bill that established the cemetery.

As I said in the forum, I would commit day one to building the cemetery. If election day was a council meeting day and I was elected, I would immediately start construction on the cemetery. Sadly, election day is not a meeting day, so I would have to wait a few weeks.

3. Would you be in favor of using the $292 million being paid by the State from the redevelopment fund settlement for use toward Great Park enhancements, including those that would benefit the Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery? Please share with us your ideas on how these funds should be used, and what projects should they be used next for.

The $292 million is being set forth by the state for improvements to the Great Park. I have no qualms or objections to using it for such a purpose. I would be adamant in fact that we did use it to improve not only the park but also the cemetery, which will be built on the same site as the park, if I am elected (once again, I reaffirm my dedication to the ARDA site).

In terms of improvements, this one seems small, but I already immediately see room for improvement in the number of trees at the current site. Trees are not only good for the environment (and lord knows we need to do all we can to help the environment at the moment), but they are also a natural source of shade. Another benefit to the “Build it NOW” plan is that after demolition of the ARDA site the first thing that will be built there is a walkway with trees and natural shading. Believe me, with these hot summers seeming to continue for ages to come, trees can only be a benefit to the currently rather barren great park.

While I did not mention this at the forum, I additionally would be heavily in favor of repainting the Irvine timeline that spans the Great Park. I was out there a few weeks ago, and a lot of the orange paint has faded to be nearly illegible. Our local history is important to preserve, and the walking timeline is an easy way for people to get involved and educated, and as such should be preserved.

4. If you now support the Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery, will you prominently show that support on your website, campaign materials & talking points? Why haven’t you done this already?

My support for the veterans memorial and cemetery has always been a centerpiece of my campaign. I included it in my very original campaign announcement, and I prominently display support for it ton my policy positions page. In fact, the existence of this very page should be evidence enough of my support! So far I appear to be the only candidate who has made my answers to these questions publicly accessible. That should say everything.

5. Has money ever been spent to support your candidacy from developers, either directly or indirectly, and if so, do you think this might influence your support of the Veterans Cemetery at the ARDA site? Please explain if your position has changed.

No money has been given to my campaign by developers. I also disavow any donations from big developers, and I do believe that big donations have the (possibly intended) side effect of affecting your vote, and for that reason I will not accept donations from big developers. I am the only candidate who publicly links all my filings on my campaign website, although all candidates filings are public. So, so far, I’m the only candidate who can prove that right now I have taken no money from developers. Don’t just take my word for it, see for yourself.