War of the Rose

How far Right is Eddie Rose? He once called Gil Ferguson-who, while Newport Beach's assemblyman from 1984 to 1994, advocated sea-lion hunts, called state Senator Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles) a traitor, said the U.S. was right to jail Japanese-Americans during World War II, suggested similarly incarcerating people with AIDS, and we could go on-a "consummate business-as-usual politician." While serving on the Laguna Niguel City Council, Rose refused to support Martin Luther King Jr. Day, citing J. Edgar Hoover's claim that King was a red. On the day an LA jury declared O.J. Simpson not guilty of murder, Rose wrote and distributed letters on city stationery hammering the "racially stacked" jury for choosing "to ignore the overwhelming evidence . . . in order to let a 'brother' go free" and "elitist" reporters "and their sheep-like followers who glorify and idolize these semiliterate athletes who, were it not for their prowess in running a football or dunking a basketball, would probably be out pimping or dealing drugs."

Branded a racist and outspent by opponents, Rose lost his re-election bid in November 1998. Yet if he proved anything other than knuckleheadedness during his four-year term, it was that he was a different breed of Orange County conservative. Unlike those who invoke the C-word for votes, image and contributions-only to whore for corporate welfare once in power-Rose fits the narrowest definition of conservative.

"There is no reason why Republicans or conservatives should not support conserving or preserving the environment and open space," he said the other day. "Developers have a large stake in Orange County. They hand-pick all the candidates on city councils. Big money runs the show. Their influence is disproportionate. That's what you're seeing driving the airport, toll roads and all the other big development projects."

Rose rose to prominence in 1990 while seeking the recall of four Laguna Niguel council members, including a future assemblywoman (Patricia Bates) and county supervisor (Tom Wilson). The four had Rose seeing red for opposing an initiative to protect the city's ridgeline from development. His recall fell 500 signatures short, but after two unsuccessful tries, he got himself onto the City Council in '94. He claims "developers spent more than $100,000 in the last election to defeat me" because he had opposed several projects.

Rose says he belongs to the Sierra Club and backs Senate Bill 1277, Hayden's effort to ban road construction through state parks, wildlife areas and ecological reserves unless such roads further the resource and recreational purposes of the parks. The bill "merits our unqualified support," Rose says, because it could deliver the deathblow to the proposed 16-mile, $644 million extension of the Foothill-South Toll Road through San Onofre State Beach.

Rose says Foothill-South construction would destroy a significant natural resource and open the door to more development along the toll-road corridor. Such roads do nothing to alleviate traffic, he observes, but "singularly serve the needs of fat-cat developers who desperately need them in order to facilitate accelerated growth." If passed, Hayden's bill would effectively kill the state-park route. The alternative would be to carve the tollway through the heart of San Clemente, where vehement opposition is palpable.

SB 1277 cleared the Senate Natural Resources and Wildlife Committee on April 21 with a 5-3 vote. All three Republicans on the panel opposed it.

Rose calls stealth conservatives "richy-rich, elitist types" and says: "The one good thing to come out of a Democratic Legislature is stronger environmental concern. I wish more Republicans were environmentally aware and less inclined to be in the pockets of developers, tobacco companies and other big-money interests."

Is it weird for an unabashed conservative to lock arms with a Lefty? "Well, it's kind of rare," Rose admits. "I've never really been a big fan of Tom Hayden, but when someone does the right thing, I will certainly support them." Spoken like a true conservative.


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