Save the Great Park Veterans Cemetery and
Say NO to FivePoint’s Development Scheme
I’ve been thinking about an old saying that was popular among civic activists and reformers in the 1970s: “If the people will lead, the leaders will follow.” That pro-democracy adage is being put to the test here in Irvine with the remarkable Veterans Cemetery Referendum Petition now in circulation throughout the City.
The citizen-led Referendum campaign is in reaction to a City Council majority — Mayor Donald Wagner and Councilmembers Christina Shea and Melissa Fox — that seems determined to do everything it can to please developer FivePoint Communities, while ignoring the wishes and aspirations of veterans, their families, and the entire Irvine community. How else can you explain a Council vote (3-to-2) to abandon more than three years of planning and all the State and Federal approvals for the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park; the rejection of $30 million in State funds to immediately begin construction of the Great Park Veterans Cemetery; and then the proposed transfer of the land to FivePoint, along with a zone change ordinance that would permit FivePoint to put massive office and commercial developments on the property that was intended to be a beautiful Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery within our Great Park.
This is where the right of referendum comes in. More than 100 years ago, reformers in California wrote the right of referendum into our State Constitution. Along with the right of initiative, the referendum is a form of direct democracy — allowing citizens to organize to break the stranglehold of special interests. Specifically, the right of initiative enables citizens to write their own laws and, if they can gather enough signatures, put their proposed laws on the ballot so the voters can decide. The referendum enables citizens to overturn bad laws or ordinances … again, if they can gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
So, here in Irvine, dozens of volunteers are now working day and night to gather 12,000 Irvine voter signatures by November 8th — to qualify the Veterans Cemetery Referendum for the ballot. This would give Irvine voters the opportunity to overturn the very bad zone change ordinance that was enacted by the Council to give away 125 acres of our Great Park to FivePoint for intensive office and commercial development.