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The Proper Vote on El Toro

November 10, 2002

One of these years, Orange County will stage an election that won't force voters to weigh in yet again on El Toro.

No, this wasn't the year.

Residents who bucked the national trend toward ignoring the Nov. 5 election had two airport-related votes to cast. They did the right thing on both counts.

Voters soundly rejected Proposition 51, the statewide measure that masqueraded as a traffic congestion relief package. The proposition would have pushed funding for select projects -- including about $120 million for the Great Park -- to the front of the line. El Toro figured into the Proposition 51 equation in large part because Irvine Mayor Larry Agran, the Great Park's godfather, sits on the board of the Planning and Conservation League, a coalition that sponsored the proposition.

We'll repeat what we said before the election: The proposition was ill-conceived. The title alone -- the Traffic Congestion Relief and Safe School Bus Trust Fund -- told voters what was wrong, because just 8% of the $250 million fund would have gone toward school buses.

But pro-airport forces shouldn't try to cast Proposition 51's defeat as a referendum on the Great Park concept. That issue was settled back in March when county residents voted not to build an airport.

The second El Toro issue was Measure B, an advisory vote that not so politely reminded the Navy to clean up the former Marine base. Voters had little to lose by supporting Measure B because cleanup is a necessary step at a base that merits a place on the federal Superfund list as one of the nation's most polluted sites. What's uncertain is whether anyone in Washington will listen to the county's advice. Supporters argue that the very public call for a full cleanup will resonate in Washington. We hope they're right.

The first Tuesday in November wasn't just about El Toro. Voters, perhaps confused by awkward wording, voted down Measure A, which would have updated the county's proven campaign-spending law. Santa Ana for the first time elected a Latino-majority City Council.

Former Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle found a second act on the political stage; former county Supervisor Roger Stanton wasn't so fortunate. Voters once again showed that education is a priority, approving a boatload of school bonds.

One election-night story that lingers involves Office 21 of the Superior Court, a race that continued on a curious course even after the incumbent withdrew from the race to deal with allegations that he had molested a teenager and downloaded child pornography.

Tuesday's winner was an enigmatic write-in candidate who boycotted a public debate that showcased judicial candidates and refused to sit for a peer review by the county bar association. John Adams won the election, but he still should stand up and answer the questions about his resume that arose during the campaign.

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