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Irvine Council Majority Politicizes Veteran’s Memorial

OC Veterans of the Vietnam War join in the recognition of the troups at County ceremony May 10, 2011
OC Veterans of the Vietnam War join in the recognition of the troups at County ceremony May 10, 2011

There was a time when the Irvine City County served the needs of residents.  Today’s council majority seems more interested in serving the interests of developers.  To watch Mayor Steven Choi and Council member Christina Shea completely surrender to the needs of Five Points first is a thing to behold (video doesn’t lie).  Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway gives the appearance of putting up more fight but often gets a minor concession in exchange for his support.  And why not?  Two of them — Choi and Lalloway — are up for re-election and Five Points is likely to offer much in the way of political support via IEs to promote the Five Points “ticket” and attack the competition.

If the developers don’t want a Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park, there won’t be a Veterans cemetery.

Every Republican on the “committee” is up for election this cycle except an unnamed representative from Todd Spitzer’s office.  Lalloway’s quote: “All I’m trying to do is get broad support from our friends in Sacramento. And if that’s a problem, so be it,” is pretty laughable since Republicans are a non-factor in the State Assembly and State Senate.  Democrats won’t roll over for him.

Mayor Choi has already said a cemetery would be bad Feng shui for the customers of all those mini-mansions the developer and builders hope to sell. It’s completely disrespectful of Choi, since many of the Veterans fought to keep South Korea free. But using Feng shui as cover for private developers who want to extract every dollar of profit from what this council majority will give is simply inexcusable. Add to the statements shared by Shea confidants Pat Rodgers and Allan Bartlett that Veterans got their talking points from Loretta Sanchez and DPOC are simply bald-faced lies.

I’m at the Great Park at least three times a month.  I’ve seen Beth Krom there.  I’ve seen Larry Agran there.  I’ve seen Sukhee Kang there.  (I keep missing Melissa Fox there).  I’ve never seen anyone from the council majority there at all.

That public vision for the Great Park has been all but destroyed by this council majority.  The “forensic audit” is approaching $700,000 and amounts to a taxpayer-funded witch hunt which Choi and Lalloway will use for political gain.  I wonder if there will ever be a forensic audit of the forensic audit, because the work on the first go-around was shoddy and late with no updates that were promised ever delivered.  This entire process has been stretched out to drag it into November.

Five Point Communities who now has total control of 688 acres of public land. Instead of a beautiful canyon, we are getting a golf course.  The new “pay to play” sports fields that will do nothing for the children throughout Orange County who don’t have access to high quality public fields but instead will turn the Great Park into a mini-Overland Park in Kansas which caters to club sports teams where you can use the fields unless you’re paying a fee.  Under the Council Majority: Family New Years Eve. Gone. Flights & Sounds Concert series. Gone. Public art programs at the Palm Court. Gone. Great Pumpkin Harvest. Gone. Say goodbye to the awesome Groves Antique Market, which has attracted as many as 12,000 people in one day (a great place to get those antique typewriters I collect), and the wildly popular Farm and Food Lab (supported by the UCI Master Gardeners) has been put on life support with no promise of a future at the park.  You have to believe these things don’t work with Five Points plans. The dramatic cuts to the marketing budget for the Solar Decathlon were seen in the small crowds.

Mayor Choi keeps talking about how the sell-out to private developers means the park will finally be built. What is means is Five Points is calling the shots.  A Veteran’s Cemetery?  That’s going to be fought tooth and nail, but very quietly.  As long as this council majority has control, the private developer will stay in the drivers seat. Let’s bet the developer does everything possible to keep Irvine’s worst mayor in his seat and comes back for even more entitlement after November. And when they do, they will have all the leverage they need.

It’s pathetic to see Mayor Choi take credit for things he had no role in creating while employing conflict with people of other cultures community, Veterans are just of the groups by which Choi has insulted over the years; for Shea, it’s the LGBT community). Lalloway’s speeches worthy of a Cold War rally.

The easiest way to take control back is to vote against Choi.  He may have the backing of Irvine’s Korean-American voters in spite of the disrespect he shows former Mayor Kang, but if Irvine’s Chinese-American community is successful in their voter registration drive, if Irvine’s Muslim community and Pakistani community remember Choi equates them with terrorists, and if Veteran’s vote in force, the South Korean voting block won’t matter.


  1. Drew Leavens Drew Leavens April 24, 2014

    I attended the meeting, as I did March 11 and spoke for the second time in support of the veterans cemetery and memorial in the Great Park. It was clear when Councilmember Shea brought veterans housing into the mix that something was brewing. Having heard her speak on veterans issues on March 11, it was clear that veterans are not a group she cares much about. So why the interest in veteran’s housing? By adding another topic, it would make the project much bigger, require that much more discussion and the concept of the cemetery and memorial would itself die a slow death.

    Our veterans go in front of this council, and share one heartbreaking story after another. What they are asking for is small but its meaning is huge. This is the public’s land after all and every person I have talked to supports the veterans and this project. But the majority on this council have other agendas, backroom agendas with developers. They smiled and acted interested and gave the veterans a few nods of sympathy. But their actions this meeting brought out their true colors.

    I heard the Feng shui speech from the mayor in March, as to how wealthy folks won’t buy houses next to a veterans cemetery. This after over 30 speakers laid their emotional hearts on the line hoping for some validation of the fact that they laid their lives on the line for this country.

    The political hijacking of the project by mayor pro-tem Lallaway was disgraceful. Forcing Councilmember Agran off the committee in favor of himself and a pro-developer mayor was politics at its worst. The project would not have gotten to where it is were it not for Larry Agran. To have the major and mayor pro-tem on the committee, two people who do not want to see the project go through, is an insult to the veterans of Orange County. They deserve better and the people of this community need to be fully informed of what happened here. No wonder people are so cynical of politics – it couldn’t have been worse than what we witnessed Tuesday night.

  2. Katherine Daigle Katherine Daigle April 25, 2014

    This council meeting was absolutely disgusting to watch.

    I am a conservative and I want our Veterans to have a place to lay their weary souls. The majority council made a mockery of our great heroes, in support of politics. Mr. Lalloway suggesting that the Veterans need political support from people that will never show an interest other than a photo opportunity and some media attention. As I watched this show, Ms. Krom offered that the city should support a united council as a 5 person council, it was inexplicably denied by the majority on the dais.

    What is going on, do the council members no longer HEAR OUR VOICES, they only appear to be hearing their own. This should not be about their political gain, it is not about them.

    What are they fighting over?
    What Shea thinking,
    What is the point of housing for veterans, another real estate venture, a possible tax incentive for ?????
    Housing for the homeless is inclusive, and I am certain those that are pushing for those homes will not put those homes in the Great Park on the golf course!

    It is imperative that we do everything possible to provide for the establishment of a veterans memorial and cemetery as part of the Great Park. The Great Park, was the former El Toro Marine base, it is intrinsically linked to the veterans of Southern California. Creating a veteran’s cemetery on its grounds would allow veterans to have their final resting place on the very ground where many of them worked tirelessly to serve our country. Additionally, the creation of a veteran’s cemetery would serve as a reminder to our future generations who enjoy the use of the Great Park of the sacrifices made by their ancestors. The Great Park has been billed as the “first great metropolitan park of the 21st century.” It is only fitting that the first great park of the future includes a tribute to the men and women who made that future possible.

  3. Chris Prevatt Chris Prevatt April 25, 2014

    It appears that there is a disease sweeping through the ranks of GOP legislators.

    Ohio GOP Legislator Accused of Insulting Veterans In Hearing

    A Republican lawmaker in Ohio insulted veterans in a hearing he led this month on renewable-energy standards, according to a veteran in attendance.

    Iraq War veteran Dan Sawmiller, who is also the Sierra Club’s senior campaign representative for Ohio and Kentucky, wrote a letter to the state Senate president on April 14 criticizing Sen. Bill Seitz (R), the Public Utilities Committee chairman, for calling the hearing a “Bataan Death March.”

    Here’s the link to the story:

  4. Pictured above – two veterans.
    From Left: RALPH COLIN, US-Army Vietnam combat veteran, UMAVA Vice-Commander, and one of five brothers who served in our US Military; and Richard Garza, also a US-Army Vietnam combat veteran. Richard has a phenomenal “treasure trove” of pictures while he served and fought in Vietnam.
    You can see an interview of Ralph Colin and other currently active UMAVA members including Antonio Mendez, WWII-Silver Star recipient at the link below.

    Separately, up until this past Tuesday’s 4/22 Irvine City Council meeting, the support for a state veterans cemetery here in Orange County, and the progress being made was with strong BI-PARTISAN support.

    As veterans we were speaking about Honor, Duty, Leadership, Legacy, Sacrifice and how best to honor the memory and the sacrifice of Our Fallen Heroes and of our veterans and their families to move this forward; however, this past Tuesday, these values appeared to take a subordinate role to Profits and Partisan politics, and it is unfortunate.

    And subsequently, a tactic being used to advance this Profits and Partisanship vs Burial needs of Veterans is to accuse veterans of being rude and of using disrespectful behavior and of being “trained” by one party to “demand” the cemetery.

    UMAVA (the United Mexican-American Veterans Association) supports the veterans cemetery and did so with a Resolution with 100% support of our membership back in October 2012 (more than 18 months ago).

    Our support started from the initial meetings at Los Amigos of Orange County about 2 years ago, but as the Commander of UMAVA, championing this, I have never met at US Rep Loretta Sánchez’s office, nor have I ever met with the Democratic Party of Orange County to move this forward as is being alleged of veterans who support the State Veterans Cemetery.

    visit us on Facebook at:

    Francisco J. Barragán
    Commander, UMAVA
    Served US Marines (1987-1994)
    Served CA Army National Guard (1994-1997)

  5. Ltpar Ltpar April 25, 2014

    Kathrine, very touching commentary and was wondering if your BFF Larry Agran wrote it for you? With the election coming up, mabye you can run on Larry and Beth’s slate again, this time without being a “stealth” candidate? You could make the cemetery a campaign issue perhaps locating it on the school site that Larry doesn’t like.

    Hate to pop your bubble but your Great Metropolitan Park vision was nothing but an Agranista propaganda title. The truth is that the land sat around for ten years while Agran ladled out 200 million dollars to his friends and supporters. If not for that, the cemetary might have already been built and in use by the veterans. The good news is, as with their campaign pledge to get construction started at the Park, I am confident the current Council majority will also address the cemetary issue and resolve it in a timely manner. The veterans of southern California deserve no less.

  6. Ltpar Ltpar April 25, 2014

    Dan, as they say, it takes one to know one, so welcome to the “Jerk Club.” On the Daigle fiasco from 2012, we only have to consider the source of the references and they are not reliable. You are a very good “Spinmaster” and we will leave it at that.

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | April 25, 2014

      Pat — there are links to the actual emails between Shea and Daigle. How are they not reliable? I sent Shea a copy of the check she cashed after she denied every having gotten one. I’m sure I can get Daigle to send me a copy of the 1099 she sent Shea too (absent the social security #). Never let actual proof get in the way of your lies and Shea’s lies Pat….

  7. Ltpar Ltpar April 25, 2014

    Drew, first thanks for your service as a veteran and for continuing to work on behalf of issues impacting them. With due respect, I want to comment on several points you raised.

    First, if you knew Christina Shea and apparently you do not, you would know that she has the greatest respect for our veterans. Her intentions on the housing for veterans was well meaning and is a topic which I am sure you agree needs to be addressed in Orange County, Shea’s only miscue was underestimating how convoluted and contemptuous the cemetery issue would become. It is clear that the two issues need to stand alone and be addressed separately. That said, attacking Shea, Lalloway or Choi is not an intelligent way to express yourself on either issue. I don’t speak for anyone but myself but in your shoes, I would schedule a couple of private meetings with them and establish a positive give and take dialogue. If your approach is constructive, I am confident you will find them very receptive.

    While the Council has many priorities at the Great Park, the developer (Five Points) does not dictate to them. There have been negotiations between City staff and Five Points on taking over the Park development, but to the best of my knowledge no “backroom deals” were made. That is not the way the City Manager of Irvine works and he is very good at his job. Still, Five Points is a major stakeholder in what happens both in the Park and their own development projects and must be a part of any changes to the plans. If my memory serves me correctly there was a cemetery included in the original Great Park Plan, although not specifically for veterans. The agreement was with Forest Lawn and Larry Agran, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang were instrumental in removing it from the Park Master Plan. This ended up with Forest Lawn suing the City of Irvine. While there had been discussions and interest from some of us for a National Veterans Cemetery at the site in the early years, such a concept was not factored into the Great Park Master Plan developed under Agran. That said, it is common knowledge that Agran has been communicating with some veterans and insinuating a commitment of 125 acres of Great Park Land (4 million dollars per acre), to the cemetery. What he has not told you is he wants to give you land which was a former solid waste disposal site and would have to be cleaned to the tune of 40 million dollars. Additionally, has anyone bothered to ask the question, even with the land, who develops, pays for and maintains the cemetery? Might that be Irvine taxpayers, since the Park is ours? Bottom line is, there are a multitude of questions which need to be answered before this project moves forward. Hopefully, the Committee will do just that and with your constructive input.

    I am not an authority on Feng Shui and while it may be important to some home buyers, I doubt that Five Points is formulating their entire marketing and construction program around the concept? Actually, the Irvine School District has been the most vocal in opposition to a cemetery anywhere near the new high school at the Park. Since a number of Asian students are due to attend the high school, the Feng Shui aspects of a cemetery may well be an issue as it is a key part of their culture. With Irvine being a Multi-cultural City, there are many such issues which must be considered by the City Council.

    The only political hijacking going on is not by the Council majority. If you knew Larry Agran, you would understand he is a nothing but a controlling, power hungry politician who never does anything unless there is something in it for him. What is in the cemetery issue for Agran and Krom? Simply, it is trying to slow down development at the Great Park, divert Council’s attention to divisive issues like the cemetery and the Friendship City Programs. Their focus is on financial support, endorsements and any votes they can garner in the process. Agran is a liberal pure and simple and I can suggest that the military and veterans are not at the top of his most favored list. The Agranistas know with all the negative baggage they are carrying, they are in big trouble with the voters in November.

    In conclusion, Larry Agran is manipulating the veterans for his own purposes. Frankly in my opinion, veterans who have given so much for their country deserve a hell of a lot better than that.

  8. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | April 25, 2014

    Larry is a veteran Pat. That’s one of the reasons Veterans are upset he’s not part of the team to bring in the memorial. Shea showed nothing by contempt for Veterans (video doesn’t lie)

  9. Ltpar Ltpar April 26, 2014

    Dan, you are correct, Larry Agran is technically a veteran. He joined the Army Reserve, probably to escape the draft. He did all of six months basic at Fort Ord and then spent the rest of his time in the Reserves.

    If memory serves me correctly, during that time Larry was living the good life at UC Berkley as a very liberal student, while protesting the War in Viet Nam. Meanwhile the rest of the veterans were getting their asses shot off in Viet Nam and spit on by the protesters when they returned home. Larry never came close to experiencing the trials and tribulations of grunt life in the military. So technically he is a Veteran in name only (Kind of like those RINOS) and let’s not kid ourselves, Larry Agran has always disliked the military machine and all it stands for. Pardon me, if his credibility is lacking in my book.

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | April 26, 2014

      Pat, I seem to remember Republicans hailing George W. Bush’s military experience in the Texas Air National Guard as heroic while Senator John Kerry, who won Purple Hearts in Vietnam, was somehow a traitor. Regardless, it sure sounds to me like you’re belittling Agran’s military record and by doing so, you belittle every other Vet in the army reserves. How many reservists died in Iraq and Afghanistan Pat?

  10. @LtPar:
    My understanding is that you are a military veteran, and I assume that you served honorably. If so, thank you for your service and the sacrifice of your family while you served.

    Separately, it is unfortunate that you choose to question the level of commitment and sacrifice required of all veterans, including those who have served and continue to serve in the Reserves.

    As you well know, all who served in our Active Duty or Reserve components are veterans. Not just “technically” veterans.

    The Reserve components have a unique role:

    1) As you may well know, or can appreciate all National Guard/Reservists have a DUAL mission – Readiness for and actual service to our Nation and to the state in which Reservists are attached to.

    2) Many mission critical roles may only be augmented by Reservists. Under the “TOTAL FORCE” concept, about 70-90% of the mission critical roles can only be satisfied by Reservists when our Nation finds itself at war. Because of the two simultaneous wars that the USA has been engaged in, Afghanistan (OEF – October 2001): and Iraq (OIF – March 2003) this put a tremendous strain in our Nation’s military needs even while relying heavily on Reserve components to conduct both wars for over 10 years each.

    3) When activated/mobilized, “Reservists” may serve and have served for years in the actual front-lines or hazardous areas, but when they come back to our communities they may lose the continuity that “Active Duty” troops have. Active Duty troops return TO BASES. Military Reservists return TO OUR COMMUNITIES and our communities may be unprepared and have been unprepared to accommodate or reintegrate them back to society. Reservists may have lost their jobs (even with some legal protections because of the bad economy), and worse the love and support of their loved ones because of the many years of absence serving or fighting for our country as “Reservists”.

    4) Additionally, especially for someone who knows or should know better, to further denigrate the service of a veteran(s) because this veteran did not face or experience “the trials and tribulations of grunt life in the military”, is offensive to all who have worn our country’s uniform in readiness or defense of it, especially as not even all who serve in our military as Active Duty troops and retire from it, may ever see “grunt life”, because not everyone is a “grunt” or Infantry in their MOS (military occupational specialty.)

    Mr. Patrick A. Rodgers, aka “LtPar”, I ask that you please stop questioning the level of devotion and sacrifice of those who served or continue to serve to our Nation as “Reservists”.

    If you disagree with anyone on philosophical or political views or actions, then engage them on those terms, but please stop the devaluing of all of our veterans who served and sacrificed with honor.

    If you served and were honorably discharged we invite you to join us or visit us at:

    Semper Fi!

    Francisco J. Barragán
    Commander, UMAVA
    (the United Mexican-American Veterans Association)

  11. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | April 26, 2014

    Thank you Francisco. And thank you for your service

  12. katherine daigle katherine daigle April 27, 2014

    The courage and commitment of those who defend America, and have sacrificed is the price of freedom. And it’s a price millions of Americans are willing to make on behalf of us.

    The greatest American value and virtue is freedom. The men and women who have given their lives to safeguard this principle deserve our eternal gratitude.

    Our Veterans deserve a place to rest from the very place that they gave their lives to us.

  13. katherinedaigle katherinedaigle April 27, 2014


    I am running as a conservative for Mayor in Irvine and I would be honored and privileged to stand by our Veterans side.

    As I said in March during my speech at the City Council meeting, my father was a veteran, my daughters father was a veteran and my daughters fiancé is a veteran. I am grateful for them and we owe them a debt of gratitude, I am proud to be an American.

  14. Ltpar Ltpar April 27, 2014

    Dan, not belittling anyone, not even your BFF Larry. I am merely stating a personal opinion as to his credibility in my book. I will stand on my comments and the actions of Agran back in his War protest days at Berkley. If he was not on the lines protesting and was instead volunteering at the USO, Salvation Army Canteen and the Veterans Hospital on behalf of returning vets, please let me know and I will retract my opinion.

  15. Ltpar Ltpar April 27, 2014

    Francisco, I have the greatest respect and admiration for your service and that of the other veterans involved in this issue. Let me be clear, I do not question the intent or level of participation of the military reserves and understand their critical role in our National Security.

    It is unfortunate that we have to cross swords at this time and place, but my focus is on one man, Larry Agran. He has taken the Cemetery Issue, coupled it with a Friendship City Proposal and is manipulating both for political purposes and his upcoming election campaign. If you know Larry Agran, you understand this is his “modus operandi” and how he has maintained power for so many years in Irvine. I have known the man for over thirty years and seen him use groups such as yours, over and over again. I also remind you that while you were overseas at war, Larry Agran was a liberal student at UC Berkley protesting that same war. Now, clearly that was his right as a citizen. At the same time, as a Police Officer across the lines from Viet Nam Anti-War protesters (Not Larry Agran), I have no respect for them, even today.

    I understand some members of your group have been communicating with Council Member Agran. Perhaps in your next communication you could ask him why there was no Veterans Cemetery in the original Great Park Design? That is a concept many of us discussed early on in the years when the battle was going on over who was going to get the land at El Toro. Instead there was a smaller general Cemetary proposal in the Master Plan which would have been run by Forest Lawn. Under the direction of Larry Agran and Beth Krom, that proposal was deleted from the Park Plan. Forest Lawn in turn sued the City of Irvine and eventully settled. If Agran cared so much about Veterans, why was there no proposal for a Veterans Cemetary before now? The answer is simple, it is an election year, Larry Agran is in trouble with the voters and he needs to deflect his pitiful record of achievement away from public view.

    I am told the 120 acres that Agran is suggesting be given to the Cemetary is over a former solid waste disposal site and would have to be cleaned and mitigated before being used. I believe the price tag for that is around 40 million dollars. Any idea where that money would come from, or the costs of developing and maintaining a Cemetery? Doubt that Agran has discussed those critical details with you? While I don’t know for sure, I suspect this is part of the reason why Larry Agran is not on the Committee.

    I am in full accord with your group on the need for the Veterans Cemetary in the area of the Great Park. That said, my recommendation would be to dial down the emotions, get the politics out of the matter and develop a positive and constructive dialogue with the Committee. There are many questions to be answered and issues to be resolved and as a major Stakeholder, your input is needed and will be taken seriously.

    Francisco, again thank you again for your service and leadership in the Veteran’s Cemetary Project. Semper Fidelis.

  16. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski April 27, 2014

    So opinion stated as fact first and you want me to do your research? You’re a disgrace Pat

  17. Sherree Sherree April 28, 2014

    Establishing national parks was one of the best moves this country ever made. Sad to see the interests of the Irvine Company and others trump those of residents but can’t say I’m surprised.

  18. Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski Post author | April 28, 2014

    Sherree, its Five Points, not the Irvine Company

  19. Ltpar Ltpar April 28, 2014

    Dan, frankly I don’t want anything from you. I understand and accept what you are, a liberal hard core backer of Larry Agran. That is your right. What is disgraceful is your distorting and spinning anything and everything impacting the miserable track record of the Agranistas. So you think I am a disgrace and I think you are a disgrace and never the twain shall meet. Guess we will have to leave it at that?

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