Coming Up Next From the Christina Shea Echo Chamber: Contamination Under the Great Park

Christina Shea is not termed out as an Irvine City Council member until November, but she has given her first exit interview.

If you expected the longtime City Hall fixture--who served as mayor from 1996 to 2000--to leave quietly, you obviously haven't been paying attention. Indeed, Shea lets slip one issue that will have her going out with a bang.

No, that is not a reference to Shea's past lobbying to get Irvine ranked as one of the nation's most romantic cities.

These days, Shea and Councilman Steven Choi compose a feisty minority on a panel where Mayor Sukhee Kang and former mayors Beth Krom and Larry Agran share the same brain.

Fortunately for Shea and Choi, they seem to find a lot of fire--like secrecy, cronyism and out-of-whack spending--after the council majority blows its smoke.

Unfortunately for Shea and Choi, this is Irvine so no one in town gives a rat's ass.

Anyway, in her interview with Adam Elmahrek of the non-profit investigative news agency Voice of OC, Shea touches on all this, going so far as to draw parallels between the $800,000 for Bell's city manager and the $120,000 Irvine dishes out monthly to professional shapeshifter Arnold Forde and his Forde and Mollrich consulting firm.

But more interesting is Shea showing her hand when it comes to an issue she plans to press in the fall: contamination caused by the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, which is known these days as the Orange County Great Park.

Elmahrek: Are there any more battles ahead in your last months on the council?

Shea: In September, my intention is to bring forward something that is very troublesome--this environmental study we're doing at the Great Park. I hired a staff member to help me do some investigation--he's looked all over the country; we're talking the Department of the Navy and many other public agencies--and there's not one public agency we have found that hides their environmental studies under attorney-client privilege.

I mean, this is just absolutely ridiculous. You're talking about the health and welfare of our residents and residents who are going to visit the park. I'm going to ask to have a full overview of what's been determined so far, what contaminants have been found, what our progress is in regards to cleanup at the base and determining any environmental problems that could be there. For them to hide that under attorney-client privilege . . . anybody with any sense would know this is just foolishness. It's dishonest. Transparency should be normal at City Hall instead of continually hiding things that Mr. Agran and his team . . . you know. . . . I'm going to bring that forward for sure.

This is certainly not a new issue, having gurgled up for years, even before the Marines closed shop and moved permanently to Afghanistan.

It splashed up again before and during the November 2008 citywide election that earned Shea a final two-year term (she can run again in 2012) and Choi another four-year stint.

Talk around town that toxins from the base are filtering into Irvine's drinking water was so rampant that Great Park chairman Agran felt compelled to have representatives of the city, the Department of the Navy and the Irvine Ranch Water District address the issue.

What's ironic, of course, was when Agran and others were fighting to keep El Toro from becoming a commercial airport, they raised the contamination issue as a reason it should become another Southwest Airlines parking lot.

"Naw, the water's fine," they now claim.

What? You expected them to say something else?

And you expect anyone in town to give a shit when Shea brings it back one more time--with feeling?

Certainly not. There are much more important issues, such as whether to require that new noodle house on Jamboree to have a salmon- or pale salmon-colored facade.


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