Ever want to see politicians simultaneously argue two sides of one stance–and pretend they are consistent? Go to Irvine and see Beth Krom and Larry Agran in action. More than a year ago, Krom and Agran devised a two-pronged communications strategy to undermine the independent audit of how their political machine spent in excess of $200 million without building a single, major, promised feature at the Orange County Great Park.
The first prong involved trying to rile up the public by describing the audit as a waste of taxpayer funds, which was never a concern when their machine ran the proposed park and handed out $165,000 a month in no bid, no benchmark contracts to their own political consultants. Booted from power by 2012 voters, the pair suddenly discovered the notion of frugality.
Once one of California's largest and most anticipated public works projects, the Great Park idea under the leadership of Krom and Agran devolved into a cesspool of incompetence, mismanagement and cronyism you'd expect from two local politicians, one a housewife and the other a lawyer who has never held a private sector job, pretending they possessed the expertise to create a $1.6 billion, "world class" park.
As discussed in this publication for months, the $1.3 million audit–which would have cost less if Agran and his allies hadn't played stonewall games during the process–provides a valuable history that puts the lie to their insistence they achieved victory on a project that remains incomplete to this day.
The adventures in LarryLand don't end there. Having established their stance that the audit of Great Park spending was a horrible fiscal burden on the public, the duo has spent recent months begging their Democratic Party allies in the state legislature to . . . drum roll, please . . . launch a new taxpayer funded audit of the city's audit. Penny-pinching is apparently no longer the ranking talking point.
On April 22, Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson) is expected to have his Joint Legislative Audit Committee ponder auditing the audit. Krom and Agran crave the move in hopes of winning a partisan report that will aid them re-take control of Irvine and the park project's kitty in the 2016 elections. Lefty bloggers are giddy with the prospect. This scenario could get really exciting if the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress initiates a federal audit of the state audit of the city audit.
The second Krom-Agran attack prong is even more laughable. In an April 19 guest column in the OC Register, for example, Krom ignored her alliance's park construction failures and massive spending on well-connected, loafer-wearing consultants. She posited they should get credit for dreaming "big."
Sorry, but city council members don't get applause for an "award-winning master plan" that cost taxpayers more than $40 million, a design worthless the moment it hit paper because the architect pretended he was working for Marie Antoinette and had a bottomless treasury to plunder. In a portion of the park that is as flat as a West Texas prairie, they thought it was a good idea to build a massive man-made canyon. Get it? They wanted the Great Park in heavily residential, suburban Irvine to have a Grand Canyon.
Krom is nevertheless sticking to her script, a lowbrow comedy.
"I'm proud of what was accomplished during the years when vision, innovation and balanced planning defined our city," she wrote in her editorial. "We built the park planning process around public engagement, cultural and recreational experiences and celebrating Orange County's agricultural and military heritage."
Ahhh, if it were only true. During the Krom-Agran years running the city, journalists' digging into park spending was treated like affronts to national security operations. Hard to believe?
Consider this fact: In 2008, Krom, Agran and their then-third ally, Sukhee Kang, refused to show their two elected, Republican colleagues, Christina Shea and Steven Choi, resumes of job applicants seeking to become chief executive officer of the Great Park. Incredibly, Shea and Choi had to sue in Orange County Superior Court. Taxpayers got to pay the legal bills for the Krom-Agran-Kang losing antics. In recent months, an unrepentant Krom has defended that secrecy as a legitimate exercise of her then-council majority's power. Flip flopping on her flip flop, Krom's Reg editorial lambasted the present council majority for its lack of transparency and "unchecked authority."
But the park investigation by Aleshire & Wynder's Anthony Taylor is the most substantive contribution to government transparency in the city's 43 years of existence. Taylor, whose accomplishments include tracing missing public funds in the City of Bell scandal, professionally documented the alarming Great Park mess that should be a cautionary tale for future municipal projects throughout the nation. (See: "Final Audit Report Shows Larry Agran's Great Park Plan Was A Debacle From The Outset," March 24, 2015.) Though unnecessary, a state legislature audit, if truly fair, would come to the same conclusion.