Christmas Comes Early Thanks to Orange County Great Park

If your name is not on the Orange County Great Park's Christmas list this year, that makes two of us. Only two of us judging by the number of folks and companies lined up to have the OCGP Corporation Board of Directors begin the process Thursday of stuffing their financial stockings.

(The Great Park is also on the receiving end, winning the National Excellence Award for Innovation in Regional Planning from the American Planning Association.)

Totaling up the amounts listed on an action-packed OCGP agenda, the board is poised to recommend the Irvine City Council dole out $9,384,265--only a small portion of which is reflected in the budget. Since all council members sit on the OCGP board and a majority of members always vote the same way, passage is as much of a lock. Among the items to go before the board Thursday to recommend to the council:

*$320,000 for a Feasibility Study Funding Agreement with Clearwater LLC. The board is also asked to approve increasing revenues $320,000 and expenses $320,000 in the fiscal year 2008-09 budget to cover the amount of the contract.

*$2 million for winter, spring, summer and fall community events, cultural activities and programming in 2009. The budget will have to be increased by that amount.

*$500,000 to Irvine Barclay Theatre to help secure talent and provide production help for those '09 arts and entertainment events, plus $100,000 for "reimbursable expenses."

*$100,000 to former city official and current OCGP chairman Larry Agran crony Henry Corn to provide "management, oversight and coordination" of the events, activities and programming as well as oversight of the private Great Park Design Studio's plans for the more artsy and cultural attractions in the future park.

*$4,228,500 for design and construction of capital improvement projects in '09. This will be paid to private consultants and the Design Studio that already receive millions under contracts with the city.

*$45,000 to lobbying firm Townsend Public Affairs, which is also paid under a separate contract to lobby for the Great Park, and $38,000 to consulting firm Empower/Excel, Inc., which is run by former Irvine Schools Foundation president Tim Shaw. Why? Because separate contracts each Irvine-based firm has with the Design Studio is set to expire. The OCGP Corp. board is thus being asked to essentially pick up those contracts starting in '09.

*$205,000 to Irvine-based engineering firm Dudek & Associates and $200,000 to three aircraft restoration mechanics, to be funded by a reduction of that amount in the budget's Schematic Design Contract section.

*$75,000 to Kevin O'Leary to provide "public information services" for six months. (If this is the same Kevin O'Leary who was once a UCI political scientist and OC Metro editor, anti-Agran conspiracy theorists will love this.)

*347,765 for engineering change orders.

*700,000, of which $100,000 is reimbursable, to extend the scope of part of the Design Studio's work.

*250,000 to San Francisco architectural firm WRNS Studio to double check architectural plans, plus another $150,000 to whip up a "Structured Parking Construction Feasibility Study."

A cynic might conclude that someone waited until the November election guaranteed a bullet-proof Great Park/City Council majority before sprinkling all these goodies on the December agenda. Good thing there aren't any cynics around here. Hey, who put coal in my stocking?


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