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Anthony Pignataro is a terrific journalist. In fact, he's clearly Orange County's hardest-working and best reporter covering the epic struggle over the future of El Toro. But his article ("No Guarantees," Aug. 10) demonstrates that even the best reporters can miss the mark when it comes to planning and then actually creating a Great Park.
Pignataro wants a bulletproof initiative that will lock out the airport—and any other undesirable development at El Toro. The Orange County Great Park Initiative will do that. Pignataro also wants what two-thirds of Orange County voters want: he wants to lock in the Great Park, a vast metropolitan park that can truly become America's greatest park. The Great Park Initiative will do that, too. But in an excess of caution, Pignataro finds fault with the initiative because it doesn't have, in his words, "an iron-clad guarantee that the word 'park' means just that: no commercial development can ever take place within its boundaries."
No commercial development? Of any kind? Ever? Pignataro can't possibly mean that. The abandoned military base at El Toro is 4,700 acres—seven square miles. That's enough land to hold New York's Central Park and San Francisco's Golden Gate Park and San Diego's Balboa Park, and still have more than 1,000 acres left over. No commercial development of any kind at Orange County's Great Park? No privately funded Smithsonian West with commercial gift shops? No veterans' memorial and cemetery that could include private plots for sale? No commercial boat rentals at the planned 100-acre central lake? No facilities for weddings and other gatherings at the Great Park's botanical gardens? No modestly priced but "commercial" campgrounds with family cabins, small grocery and supply stores, and even a few non-multiplex old-fashioned movie theaters? No possibility of a for-profit clubhouse and restaurant as part of a public golf course? No cafés or eateries as part of a sprawling complex of art, history and science museums? No privately operated performing-arts facilities as part of a public-private partnership to bring reasonably priced live entertainment to millions? No vendors or for-profit lakeside cafés where people can enjoy a cup of coffee while reading the latest OC Weekly ads? No commercial recreation facilities—no ice rink? No tennis courts or other athletic facilities suitable for tournaments and related commercial activities? No stables for horses and horseback riding? No farmers' market next to 500 acres or even 1,000 acres of land-banked "commercial" agriculture as part of the Great Park?
Rest assured, thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and trail systems and traditional parklands and picnic areas will become a reality if the Great Park Initiative is adopted. But these wonderful open-space uses are made all the more enjoyable if some carefully planned and carefully controlled human-scale commercial development is permitted.
I understand Pignataro's concern about special interests teaming up with craven politicians to dismember or privatize large chunks of the Great Park. Is that a possibility? Yes, of course it's possible. But it's not likely to happen. I'm very confident that after working for years—successfully—to stop an unwanted airport and then to create the greatest park in America, hundreds of thousands of Orange Countians will never surrender their stake in planning the Great Park.
Decades in public life have taught me that once empowered, the people jealously defend their power. The Orange County Great Park is more than an idea embodied in a citizens' initiative. It's a grassroots people's movement now. Have faith in the people. Great Park, yes!Larry Agran
THE PARK IS A LARK
Thanks to Anthony Pignataro for pointing out the flaws in the so-called Great Park Initiative. I have refused to sign the petition because of these exact loopholes that allow for massive development. The only thing "green" about this measure is the money that would enrich developers and the city of Irvine. As it stands now, there is the dilemma of picking the lesser of two evils: a commercial airport at El Toro or developers raping what's left of the open space in OC. Unfortunately, there are some people out there who don't care what happens to the whole county just so long as the airport is killed. This is akin to using a sledgehammer on a wall just to swat a fly.
For those concerned about killing an airport and preserving the "quality of life" in OC, they should just put Measure S on the ballot again. It would be sue-proof and would overturn Measure A, which zoned the base for use as a commercial airport. And if Irvine wants the voters to trust them with custody of the 4,700-acre base for a "park" and "open space," they really need to improve their current record of land stewardship. Preserving Laguna Canyon would be a great start!Rex Ricks
NO, NO: THE PARK IS PERFECT
Anthony Pignataro's story on El Toro's potentially ambiguous Central Park initiative illustrates nicely that the airport backers can't have it both ways. First they say that vast new taxes will be needed to finance the park. Then they say that the initiative allows economic development of at least some of it. I see a let-out clause allowing some of this valuable land to be developed by the highest bidder as a strength, not a weakness of the initiative. If grant funding and other land-rent sources for the park prove to be inadequate, such a clause would act as a safety valve, allowing the remaining land to be developed over time as a park on a fully self-sustaining basis. And the taxes would stay in my pocket, where they belong. It's a good initiative, and it should be put to the vote.Simon Turner
JUST AN OPINION
I read with interest your article about Dr. G. Steven Kooshian, who is accused of administering worthless injections to his patients and billing them (and presumably their insurance companies and Medicare/Medicaid) for the drugs and his services (R. Scott Moxley's "Say, 'Ah,'" Aug. 10). It is unfortunate that at this stage, much of the attention has been focused on Virgil Opinion's credibility and motivation for going public and Kooshian's claim that Opinion is blackmailing him. Although the allegations made in the article have yet to be proved publicly, if one steps back for a moment and contemplates the legal risk Opinion is taking by speaking out, it is hard to imagine what monetary gain he could possibly hope to achieve that would outweigh such a risk. On its face, this truly does appear to be a case of someone speaking the truth in order to clear his conscience.Edward Pope
It was expected that Dr. G. Steven Kooshian's supporters would come forward with positive comments regarding their friend and physician (Letters, Aug. 10). As a former patient of the doctor's [who has now brought a suit against Kooshian], what disturbed me most about their comments were the one-sided testimonials regarding everything Kooshian has done for the gay and HIV/AIDS community. These testimonials failed to earmark the following items:
1) Virgil Opinion was merely an employee under the direction of Kooshian. As in most cases, if an employee is asked/ordered to perform a certain function or service by his superior, then he/she is obliged to do so or face insubordination and/or termination. As a front-line employee, one has only two choices when it comes to the performance of irregular business practices: quit or stay. It is unthinkable to ponder what Opinion must have endured being placed in that position.
2) OC Weekly's R. Scott Moxley reported the facts as they unraveled. As a responsible journalist, he attempted to gather facts and comments from all angles. Including Kooshian's. But the doctor's legal counsel, Eric E. Davis, advised him not to comment. However, this did not prevent Kooshian from making a damaging comment regarding his office practices in the Sept. 9 Orange County Register: "Kooshian denied ever injecting saline solutions, saying he gave his patients beneficial solutions of multivitamins only when he couldn't procure the drugs."
3) No one is questioning that Kooshian has financially supported the gay and HIV/AIDS community. The fact that he makes personal nonprofit contributions is not an issue. His "extensive" charity work should not cloud his "work ethics"; these are two separate issues.
As a supporter of the gay and HIV/AIDS community, I have a responsibility to address the issues. What happened to me should never have taken place. I am thankful that I was not harmed to the extent that I would be unable to write this letter. Unfortunately, the allegations against Kooshian are on par with being raped; a violation of a different nature. I would have understood if Kooshian did not have the facilities or personnel to implement the treatments or have the product available at the time of my appointments, but such circumstances cannot justify injecting me with salt water when I believed I was receiving critical treatment.
I have no doubt that Kooshian will have his day in court. Perhaps without making excuses, he will actually have something meaningful to say.Bryan K. Noble
For starters, I like Rebecca Schoenkopf's stuff: clever, cynical and mostly humorous. One question though, re: her comment "aren't those good stats" about the nirvana-experiencing medical data coming out of Cuba ("It Wasn't the Cheese!" Aug. 3). My bet: $1 million that Commie Girl will never move to Cuba. Don't you and your utopian friends ever get it? You hate America, and you love the socialist paradises, yet . . . YOU WILL LIVE & DIE ON AMERICAN SOIL! How conveeeenient! But I still like your column.Richard Bacon
Rebecca Schoenkopf responds: Richard, I have never, ever once hated America. It's typical Limbaugh logic to accuse of America-hating everyone who doesn't agree with party-line politics. But thanks for liking my column.
Re: Alison M. Rosen's article about restroom graffiti ("For a Good Time, Call," Aug. 3). Did she know that Benjie's Cafe in Santa Ana keeps a pad of paper on the wall above the toilet in the men's room for the convenience of its customers who write graffiti? Unfortunately, it is behind the toilet, so one cannot write while sitting down. But it's a nice gesture on the part of the management.Jeff Foster