Larry Agran, It's Time for You to Go

[Moxley Confidential] Recent interview inadvertently reveals the slimy side of Irvine's most powerful politician

Never mind that Irvine City Councilman Larry Agran is six years late and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget on his government-led plan to convert an old military airbase into the Orange County Great Park. Never mind that chunks of the nonexistent park's spending have landed in the pockets of Agran's pals, who've routinely nabbed lucrative, no-bid contracts from the public park board, which has been dictatorially controlled by Agran and his political machine since its 2003 inception. Never mind that Agran got voter approval for a massive public park supplemented by light housing and commercial development and is now pushing a massive housing and commercial development supplemented by a park that is half its originally guaranteed 2,800 acres.

On May 21, Agran used a Los Angeles Times column to reassure the public he can be trusted to manage Orange County's largest, most controversial pending public-works project. Agran would like us to believe that mounting complaints about construction delays and dubious spending are the ploys of his (unidentified) political enemies or, more absurdly, (also unidentified) people who hate parks. Please note that this 66-year-old professional politician has never held a private-sector job in his life—certainly not one overseeing a $1.6 billion construction project.

But 490 weeks of waiting for something to be built has prompted even the Times—the newspaper that traditionally has handed Agran's park plans its most glowing, cheerleading coverage—to finally write the obvious: There isn't just a missing park. After all these years, there isn't even meaningful construction of a park under way, and that's likely to be the case for years.

Thomas Pitilli

Details

"There's a lot that's missing," wrote Jim Newton, author of the Times Op-Ed column.

The Irvine Democrat who ran for president in 1992 despises criticism as much as he loves secrecy, so he reacted defensively to Newton's point.

"What do people expect?" asked Agran, insisting that only fools don't appreciate it takes 75 or 100 years to build a park.

It was, of course, Agran who personally created expectations to manipulate favorable public opinion for his takeover of the property from the federal government. In 2002 and 2003, he repeatedly assured voters the park would be built and ready for use by 2005. However, once he got control of the land and a budget, the master bureaucrat and liberal policy wonk by temperament focused on creating a bloated park bureaucracy. Bulldozers are conspicuously idle, but Agran's loyalists occupy cushy $200,000-per-year-plus park jobs, and his dinner pals enjoy no-bid contracts that have already depleted park funds by more than $315 million.

But there's a looming financial disaster. Great Park officials comfortably bankrolled the pre-park bureaucracy gravy train in the belief they could eventually use more than $1 billion in local redevelopment-agency funds for actual park-construction costs. But Governor Jerry Brown has proposed redirecting those monies to help solve California's massive state budget deficit. In perhaps the understatement of the year, Newton noted that Brown's plan would put "a crimp" in building the Great Park.

Don't worry, Agran told Newton. Sure, Brown's plan is "a dumb idea," but he has everything under control. The park board has crafted alternative construction-funding plans.

Here's the most telling line from Newton's column: "[Agran] insisted that the board had a 'Plan B and a Plan C,' though he preferred not to disclose those publicly."

Local liberals like to pretend Agran and the two subservient members of his machine, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang, operate the most transparent government operation in Southern California. But here, Agran essentially concedes to my previous description of him as OC's most pathologically secretive politician since Richard M. Nixon.

Government bodies in this state are not allowed to debate or make decisions in secret. There are laws on this point: The Ralph M. Brown Act requires agencies to give citizens advance notice of meetings as well as unfettered access to the gatherings. The state's open-records act mandates that agencies share government documents with the public. There are a few exemptions from these requirements, but they have nothing to do with keeping citizens in the dark about how government officials plan to fund a public park.

Yet, in Newton's column, Agran stated unequivocally that the board has already devised secret alternative plans. In February, he told a Daily Pilot reporter the board had no alternatives, so between then and now, something must have happened in secret. A review of park-board agendas shows no discussion of alternate-funding plans.

This is not the first time Agran's penchant for backroom deals and deceit has emerged. In 2008, for example, Christina Shea and Steven Choi—two duly elected Republican members of the Irvine City Council—won a lawsuit that forced Agran to share with them official government documents he possessed but didn't want them to see. As it turned out, the documents proved Agran's ties to a candidate seeking the CEO job at the city's Great Park operation.

Based on all the years of Agran's flagrant corruption, I've consistently opined that Irvine's most dominant politician for the past three decades behaves as if the park is his personal property. He loaded the park board with his sycophants. He named himself chairman, and he recently handed the seat to his most loyal hack, Krom. He crafts lies about his maneuvers. He doles out public funds to his buddies, including Arnold Forde, who gets a whopping $120,000 per month to provide public relations for a park that does not exist.

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13 comments
djalkj
djalkj

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Bill Bartell
Bill Bartell

Classic right-wing propaganda- no substance, whatsoever, just "sour grapes" from the loser machine---> all this media ownership STILL doesn't get you the "truth" that you so desire...

Jack
Jack

Agran has shown himself to be an ass ever since one week after 911 (nice timing, asshole) when he tried to sneak in a vote for the centerline rail project which Irvine residents had previously voted down. For bad taste, alone, he should be exiled up the freeway to a job at TBN. A guy that has no more integrity than he, I don't even want flipping a burger at McDonalds for me. Frickin' clown.

Briansays
Briansays

the first goal of a liberal is to create permanent public funded positions and consultant contracts for political supporterswho then create a campaign funding loop to maintain themselvesthen and only then does the idea of tangible results arise

conservatives have recently perverted themselves into a similiar corporatist/fascist/crony capitalist model

MeToo
MeToo

Should have turned it into an air freight depot instead. That could have been done cheaper and quicker. not to mention the millions and millions of dollars that would have flowed into the county coffers in taxes and landing fees. And the jobs that would have come with doing that. But no! Way to look ahead NIMBY's instead millions and millions are flowing the other way.

Paul Zetizio
Paul Zetizio

according to the site it expected to be done by 2012 - ? there is some action going on - "Last of Fifty-four Palm Trees Planted at Great ParkNew cultural complex with art gallery and artists’ studios in tree-lined performance plaza opens July 9." a few years ago their was a vote to keep a town hall from being built there - it was on a ballot and suppose it passed, just sayin http://www.ocgp.org/

HoundOfDoom
HoundOfDoom

Keep up the good work Larry! I was afraid my trailer would have to find new storage, but now it can stay there for 75 to 100 years!

Rexmiller2010
Rexmiller2010

Agran points out that a project of this scale takes years and years to plan and build (in spite of the fact that he promised significant significant progress by 2011).

Please, someone counterpoint this statement with Templehof Airport in Berlin. Within two years they had people picnicking on lawns.

Newportblue65
Newportblue65

Great article Moxley!.....So true!.....The good people of Irvine just keeps on voting him into office!!!!!!!....Crazy!...........

Pedro
Pedro

Unbalanced. Who are the park's opponents and how may they have contributed (and may continue to contribute) to the delays and expenses being criticised? Follow the money interests of the park's opponents for the beginning of answers. Need an editorial on that, too, to determine the true, balanced picture. If Agran is "corrupt," where's the Grand Jury indictment of him? Why not? Lack of evidence?? This editorial is long on accusations but short on any hard evidence, a "grand slam" without any pancakes. Also, fools disclose contingency plans in the face of anticipated opposition.

Allan Bartlett
Allan Bartlett

Thank you Scott for another great article exposing Larry Agran.

LAPBANDDAN
LAPBANDDAN

I'm to busy "Channeling OC's Right Wing Noise Machine" to even think about Master Agran and Mistress Krom's misdeeds.

Besides, did you see Mike Pulido and Sal were doing something wrong.

 
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