Irvine Community News & Views (ICNV) recently sat down with Chair of the Build the Great Park Veterans Cemetery committee, Ed Pope.
Our readers should remember that, after the committee secured 19,790 signatures from Irvine residents, the Irvine City Council begrudgingly voted 4-1 to adopt the committee’s initiative to rezone the 125-acre “ARDA” site at the Great Park for our long-promised Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery. (The one dissenting vote came from Mayor Christina Shea.)
ICNV asked Ed to give our readers an update on the progress of the project. He began on a positive note, saying, “The support from the community continues to be tremendous! Scores of Irvine residents — teachers, students, nurses, local business owners, veterans, family members of veterans, and so many more — continue to reach out, asking how they can help.”
Ed continued, “The current Council voted to adopt our citizens’ initiative on May 12th. On July 1st, Governor Newsom signed the 2020/2021 Fiscal Year Budget that retained the $24.5 million earmarked last year for construction. Yet, here we are months later, and the Council refuses to take even one step forward. Clearly, their plan is to never build the Veterans Cemetery.”
We asked Ed if the November 3rd election results have changed anything. Ed replied, “Absolutely! We have a new Mayor and two new Councilmembers who have voiced support for the Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery on the ARDA site at the Great Park. One of those new Councilmembers is my good friend, Larry Agran. Our citizens’ committee is made up of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, so we don’t agree on every issue. But we all agreed on this one. When it comes to who will actually get the job done, we trust Larry Agran. It was Larry, during his final year on the Council in 2014, who drafted and secured unanimous approval for the motion to build a Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery at the Great Park. Larry has been with us every step of the way and has never wavered in his support for the Veterans Cemetery. In fact, Larry wrote our citizens’ initiative. Our committee trusts Larry to take a leadership position on this issue to make sure that our long-promised Veterans Memorial Park & Cemetery at the Great Park becomes a reality!”
We ended our conversation by asking Ed if construction of a Veterans Cemetery is an important issue in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ed replied, “Of course our committee understands that the Coronavirus is the main issue on people’s minds right now. But other building projects are moving forward, and State funding for construction is already in place, so the pandemic shouldn’t be a reason to delay this project. The sad reality is that the virus impacts seniors at a much higher rate. And, many of those who have lost their lives are veterans. I can’t tell you how many messages we receive from family members of veterans across the County who tell us that they are holding on to the ashes of their loved one, waiting for the Veterans Cemetery to be built. We owe it to each of them to move forward with construction…right now!”