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ORANGE COUNTY COMMENTARY

El Toro, Round 3

Parallel Park: Let's Be Like San Diego

January 27, 2002|PATRICIA BATES | Assemblywoman Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) represents the 73rd State Assembly District.

"As the lungs are to a human body, so is a park the breathing spot of the people, and if these efforts are successful, they will prove a lasting boon to the city." This statement may sound like a recent quote in the ongoing debate between the park and airport plans for El Toro. However, it was made more than 110 years ago by the Ladies Annex of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce.

It was made to urge the planting of trees at Balboa Park in 1889--despite opposition from land speculators who wanted the site used for industrial development. You can read about this debate in "San Diego's City Park, 1868-1902, an Early Debate on Environment and Profit," by Gregory E. Montes.

Will we do for our communities, what San Diego residents of a hundred years ago did for theirs? Will we create our version of Balboa Park, or New York's Central Park or Griffith Park--or will we allow special interests to build a polluting annex to LAX in the heart of Orange County?

If we do not pass the Orange County Central Park and Nature Preserve Initiative--Measure W--on March 5, then just three of the five county supervisors are empowered to start building El Toro airport.

They will tear out the school buildings and playing fields that Marine Corps families enjoyed. They will build pipelines, fuel storage tanks, terminals, towers and lights--and fly planes around the clock as quickly as they can.

Measure W stops them. It protects this vital piece of land for our future generations. The Measure W law limits development to park- and education-compatible uses. The federal government, when it transfers the land free of charge, will put these restrictions in the deed.

Measure W specifies the maximum height and density of what can be built at El Toro, and the noise and traffic. Anyone who says that this carefully drafted measure does not safeguard the land does not understand the initiative.

Airport supporters have based their case on concocted threats of tax increases. They continue to make false claims even though the county's own analysis, by consultants under the supervision of the county auditor-controller, concluded, "The initiative does not impose a new tax or tax increase."

The auditor-controller's analysis recognizes that California's Propositions 13 and 218 require two-thirds voter approval before any special tax can be levied. This initiative says, "No new taxes." There is no need because our park can be financed and built over time, by renting out assets that the Marines left behind--3 million square feet of buildings, more than 1,100 housing units and more than 1,000 acres of scarce farmland.

The auditor's study concluded that a good start on the park could be made from this rental income. It estimates the additional cost to the general fund at less than 65 cents per resident per year.

Furthermore, we know that most museums and cultural centers, and many colleges are financed not by taxpayer money but by philanthropists. Local examples are our own Orange County Performing Arts Center, the Bowers and Discovery museums and Chapman University--all built with private contributions.

For good reason, some of our most fiscally conservative elected officials have joined me in supporting Measure W. We have a chance on March 5 to stop the wasteful airport project and to preserve this land for the future enjoyment of Orange County residents.

Join us in voting "yes" on W for our future and our families.

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Assemblywoman Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) represents the 73rd State Assembly District.

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