Stanton Central Park Grand Opening Gets Pranked by Social Justiceers

Will Swaim (right) chats up a resident at the Stanton Central Park grand opening Saturday.
Will Swaim (right) chats up a resident at the Stanton Central Park grand opening Saturday.
Courtesy of Will Swaim

Stanton Central Park had its grand opening Saturday with a petting zoo, a train ride, walking tours, the requisite ribbon cutting and social justice prankstereering.

The latter came in the form of a bunch of college activists and Will Swaim, the Weekly's founding editor, former publisher and writer of the April cover story, "Despite the Threat of Bankruptcy, Stanton Is Spending Millions to Build One Park."

Swaim's story opened at a March 2011 Stanton City Council meeting, where a $4 million fiscal emergency was declared and the panel composed mostly of Republicans ultimately decided to raise the sales tax within the city to 9 percent.

That remains the highest rate in Orange County, in one of the smallest and poorest cities in Orange County. There is irony in that given Republicans say the state and nation must cut spending, eliminate programs and sacrifice virgins to volcanoes before ever resorting to a tax increase.

Read my lips: No new parks, especially if it means raising taxes because we're already out of money. 

Needless to say, Swaim the writer and activist drove home the message that it was nuts a city in such dire financial straits would have months earlier agreed to spend $6 million for a new park, the one that opened to fanfare Saturday. With cost overruns, the price tag has ballooned up to $24 million and will likely cost even more than that because the land the park is on was paid for with bonds.

The activists handed out 450 fliers like these:

Stanton Central Park Grand Opening Gets Pranked by Social Justiceers
Courtesy of Will Swaim

They also talked social justice with folks who'd turned out for the park opening. Among the activists was Swaim, dressed like a businessman in suit and tie in the sweltering sun. (He claimed it was to play his role as a thankful Wall Street businessman but, truth be told, Swaim often dressed like that around the Weekly office.)

One resident, upon hearing that the park cost four times as much as projected, said he was OK with that because the people need a park. Swaim was seen shaking the guy's hand and saying, "Sir, thank you so much. I thrive because of men and women like you, men and women who don't mind sending millions from Stanton to rich people on Wall Street."

The fellow shook Swaim's hand and smiled.

"It's all the same anyhow, right?" Swaim continued. "Six million of one, $24 million of another?"

Swaim wondered how traffic was getting into the park.

"Not bad," the fellow replied. "They had everything pretty well organized."

Swaim responded that he found that shocking as locating a yacht slip in Newport Beach had turned out to be much harder than the mock Wall Street businessman expected.

Because you don't even want to know how much it will cost if you do.
Because you don't even want to know how much it will cost if you do.
Courtesy of Will Swaim

"You came by boat?" the gent asked Swaim.

"Goodness, no," Swaim said. "That would be impossible. I parked my boat in Newport. I took my helicopter from there."

One who did not like the merry pranking was Stanton Mayor Brian Donohue, who tried to get Swaim arrested multiple times.

"This is not the appropriate time and place for what you're doing," Donohue told Swaim.

The former Weekling replied it was precisely the best time to talk to people respectfully about the park's cost and the sales tax.

(Mr. Mayor might also want to acquaint himself with the First Amendment.)

The Swaim-Donohue conversation lasted just long enough for the mayor to turn red faced and split. 

The cops left the activists alone.


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