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Freeway Financing and the 'Right-to-Vote' Initiative

July 21, 1985

The citizens of Irvine recently collected about 10,000 signatures to qualify a ballot initiative that would give Irvine residents the opportunity to approve or reject any new taxes or fees to finance construction of major new freeways in south Orange County.

Your article, "Corridor Cities OK Developer Fee Plan to Finance Freeways" (July 9), describes efforts by the Irvine Co. to formulate a legal challenge to the "Citizens' Right-to-Vote" initiative. With billions of dollars in development profits at stake, proponents of freeway financing and construction plans, which were overwhelmingly rejected by Orange County voters in June, 1984 (remember Proposition A?), are now attempting to circumvent the public and impose new freeways by administrative fiat.

By arguing that "new freeways are the responsibility of the state and are therefore beyond the jurisdiction of the local initiative process," the Irvine Co. evidently hopes to avert a second and possibly decisive repudiation of freeway construction by the residents of Irvine.

In language that is contradictory and borders on duplicity, Irvine Co. president Thomas Nielsen asserts: "I don't think anybody opposes people's right to vote. The question really comes to be much more technical, as to what we can vote on, and there's no question that we along with many others will be looking at whether this thing can be challenged in some way."

It is a sad commentary on the political process when the residents of a community are forced to collect signatures to ensure that a plan that they have overwhelmingly rejected is not implemented through back-room bureaucratic maneuvers.

It is an outrage, however, when the efforts of common citizens to participate in the most important decisions affecting their lives are systematically subverted and denied.

Despite Nielsen's disclaimer regarding the public's right to vote, it is apparent that the Irvine Co. will spare no expense or effort to deny Irvine residents the hard-won right to vote on a matter that dramatically affects the quality of their lives.

For the 10,000 residents who signed the "Citizens' Right-to-Vote" initiative, however, even more is at stake. When voters defeat a proposal at the ballot box, only to later find that special interests resurrect the plan and seek to abort a second public referendum, the result must be a devastating erosion of the public's trust in the governmental process.

The infamous year of 1984 has come and gone, but George Orwell's chilling prophecy of political double-speak, betrayal and bureaucratic strong-arming is about to come true in, of all places, Orange County.

MARILYN VASSOS

Irvine

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