Brad McCown is a man with a vision. When he looks at the ranks of gleaming, expensive yachts floating peacefully in Newport Harbor, he sees container ships unloading massive crates packed with goods from all over the world. Where others see the delicate ecology of Newport's Back Bay, he sees a resort and a golf course.
The Mission Viejo resident cites a statement by an unnamed economics professor, which he features prominently on his website laying out his plans for the commercial development of Newport Harbor (www.occonnect.com/trustme/index2.html): "One-third of Southern California's job growth for the next 25 years in trade, transportation, export services and tourism depends upon building a superior 21st-century international port, rail and airport system. Finding ways to expedite this expansion should be the region's top development priority."
"Note that 'port' is the first thing he says," McCown points out. "It's just necessary for the economic development of Orange County over the next 25 years."
The proposed development, which is being heavily promoted by McCown's organization, the Newport Harbor Redevelopment Authority (NHRA), would include a massive container and petroleum terminal, a luxury hotel and resort complex, park facilities, an "ecological preserve and kiddie beach" to maintain the Back Bay's fragile ecological balance, and a world-class golf course.
"This development is necessary to make Orange County a competitive power in the 21st century," McCown says. "It gives Orange County access to the Pacific Rim without paying all our tax dollars to Los Angeles County to ship through their port. It will generate tax revenues, reduce overcrowding on the peninsula, and, of course, increase property values."
McCown's proposal has attracted a fair amount of attention from developers and contractors: both John Q. Andreazola, president of O.C. Building Materials, and developer George M. Haltenberg have endorsed the plan. And psychic Thalia Wilson confirms McCown's—and county government's—predictions of Orange County's future growth.
"Industrial production is expected to double by 2020," she says. "Orange County can only fall behind the rest of the state without this port."
For those concerned about the ecological impact of such a vast commercial development, McCown has proposed setting aside five acres of the Back Bay as a nature preserve. The preserve would include a museum containing examples of the area's indigenous flora and fauna—including a petting zoo so kids can get up close and personal with the many species that once freely roamed the area.
"Very little grading will be used in the construction in order to preserve the natural landscaping," McCown says on the site. "Visitors will be able to experience the native ecoscape in the same state that they would have hundreds of years ago."
Of course, none of what you've just read is true.
Yes, McCown has a website, and, yes, he is proposing a massive, quality-of-life-destroying commercial port smack in the middle of Newport Beach, but Lord knows he doesn't expect anyone to actually believehim. That's why on the second page of his site, the first words you see are, "You're kidding, right?" And the next three words: "Yes! I'm kidding!"
"I sure hope no one takes it seriously," says McCown, a merchandiser and freelance web designer. "You never know, but I figure it's so absurd that nobody would think it was real."
McCown put up the clever parody site shortly before the March primary elections, saying he was inspired by the county's site promoting the El Toro International Airport (www.eltorofacts.org). "It has all these nice pictures and stuff, and it completely ignores the fact that those nice pictures are surrounding an airport," he says. "So I thought, 'Well, that's a bunch of crap' and figured if I did something similar about putting in a commercial harbor, I'd try to play that part down—just like they did."
McCown's site does just that. Its various pages (with titles like "i_wouldnt_lie_to_you.html," "this_wont_hurt_ a_bit.html" and "my_fathers_a_priest_ you_know.html") go on and on about how a commercial harbor would create jobs, reduce traffic and overcrowding, and raise property values . . . all without mentioning the gawd-awful impact a massive commercial harbor and petroleum terminal (located, McCown points out, directly on top of the present City Hall) would have on the surrounding community. Is any of this rhetoric sounding familiar? I thought it might.
"I guess I'm opposed to the airport for the same reason that practically everybody else here is," McCown says. "I think I'm out of the flight line, so we'd catch just a little bit of the noise and all of the traffic. But the concept of putting an airport in the middle of a densely populated area is to me downright foolish."
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Turns out that 67 percent of the county agrees with him, but despite the passage of Measure F, which would seem to put the kibosh on the airport for the moment, McCown has no plans to take down his site.
"I'll leave it up as long as the airport is an issue," he says. "It's going to be in the courts for a while. I even have a couple of other ideas for the site." He might "throw in something" about the myriad ways in which his new port would increase traffic on the county's failing toll roads.
But what McCown really hopes will result from the site is that Newport Beach residents might get a better idea of what their South County neighbors are facing. "It'd be nice if they could look at it and relate to our situation here," he says. "That's basically its purpose—to take a highly populated area and destroy it, all the while talking about how nice it's going to be. Hopefully they'll just look at it and say, 'That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard.' But it would be nice if someone from Newport Beach could look at it and say, 'Wow, he's right.'"
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