The county's long-awaited pro-airport offensive has finally begun. The opening shot is a cable-TV ad blasting South County's counterproposal for the abandoned El Toro Marine Corps Air Station: a central park.
Produced by the shrill Newport Beach-based Airport Working Group using Newport Beach taxpayer dollars, the 30-second ad opens with idyllic images of a butterfly, meadows, some rich babe riding a horse and a cute bunny chewing on a flower that morphs into a hundred-dollar bill. Because, as we all know, bunnies cost so much more than commercial airliners.
A voice-over declares: "What they [South County residents] haven't said is how much it will cost to build it and maintain [the Great Park]. . . . After four years and about 40 million taxpayer dollars, the supporters of the park haven't come up with a plan to pay for it."
Sure they have. Released along with copies of the Great Park initiative on April 30, the plan is 19 pages long and based on the county's own Base Transition Plan, which anticipates more than $2960 million in net revenue over a 15-year period by renting out much of the base's current facilities. Because those figures come from the county, it's possible they're like all the county's other numbers—inflated—but there's no denying that there is indeed "a plan to pay for" the park.
And, of course, it wouldn't be a pro-airport ad without highlighting a Los Angeles Times story. On Oct. 17, 2000, the Times published a Jean O. Pasco story on the Irvine City Council censuring Council Member (now Mayor) Larry Agran for releasing—gasp!—to the general public a city-funded study of how to pay for the Great Park. The ad focuses on former Councilman Dave Christensen's comment that the study is "misleading junk." What the ad doesn't mention is that Christensen was fighting allegations that he had accepted favors from developers with business before the City Council and had used Agran's release of the study to distract voters. It didn't work: Christensen was soundly defeated in elections the following month. The state Fair Political Practices Commission is still investigating the charges against him.
Bumper Sticker Politics
The ad's closing line—"The Great Park will mean a great tax"—isn't bad. But we offer the pro-airport community this one for free: "Airports, Not Hareports!"