Agran Wants Your Federal Dollars for Great Park

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During his fourth annual State of the Great Park address today at Irvine City Hall, Orange County Great Park Corp. board chairman Larry Agran said federal stimulus funds from the Obama administration are being sought to help pay for $61 million worth of construction beginning there this year.

Near the end of his remarks, the Irvine city councilman also mentioned he would like to register the names of everyone who has and will have worked on the 1,347-acre park for future generations.

You can download the full address here.

"We are urging President Obama to consider the Great Park for economic stimulus funds," said Agran, who characterized the park on a portion of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station as an example of the "shovel-ready" projects the White House favors. "We have ample resources for the 500-acre development plan, but federal funds would enable us to accelerate our construction schedule and put more people to work. There is a strong precedent for federal investment in parks and recreation areas in order to stimulate economic recovery. During the 1930s, thousands of Americans were put to work building and improving California's great metropolitan parks-San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, Los Angeles' Griffith Park and Balboa Park in San Diego."

Again referencing those parks, Agran said it is a shame people today do not know the names of all the workers who built those parks and their extraordinary features. He does not want a repeat of that at the Great Park.
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Larry Agran
"Unfortunately, their names are lost to history," he said. "We don't want to make the mistake of forgetting the actual workers who build our Great Park. That's why I've asked Great Park CEO Mike Ellzey to establish a comprehensive, contemporaneous workers registry to record the name and work history of each and every individual making a significant contribution to the design, construction and initial operation of our Great Park.

"At first, these names will be recorded electronically; later, we'll find the appropriate ways to integrate this list into the architecture of our Great Park. Just as artists sign their paintings, I believe the names of all the workers--the planners, designers, the roofers, ironworkers, electricians, and operating engineers--be ncorporated into the plazas, perimeter walls, and other key features of the Great Park. I hope you agree."

The bulk of Agran's speech concerned the park's history, recent awards and what lies ahead, particularly the development of 500 acres of land projected to begin in September. Current park visitors--whose numbers totalled 150,000 last year, according to city figures--see mostly temporary park features. That will rapidly change, claimed Agran, who estimated yearly visitors will soon reach 300,000.

"Over the next few years, we will create a 100-acre Great Park community farm, a sports park with tournament level soccer fields, the site preparation for a 20-acre lake, cultural terrace, botanical terrace and large performance area," he vowed. "The Orange County Great Park is one of the largest development projects of its kind in the United States. We will be putting thousands of people to work when work is desperately needed."

Agran called it "the largest, most compelling metropolitan park built in America in the past 100 years," one that is bucking recent trends.

"Some people have legitimately asked why--especially in this harsh economic
environment--do we press ahead, simultaneously designing the Great Park and yet
opening the Preview Park to hundreds of thousands of visitors," Agran said. "These critics observe that we could have decided to do what a private sector developer might do. We could have just put a green canvas fence around our 1,347 acres; we could have sequestered our $650 million in land, cash and pledged infrastructure. And we could have told folks we're just going to wait out the bad times, even if that meant doing nothing for five or six or seven years.
 
"Well, of course, we haven't done that. We haven't done that because, quite simply, that
wasn't the mission most of us signed on for when we became Great Park board
members."

Their job, he said, was to make the park operational for the public as soon as possible--ironic given that most criticism directed at the project has been how long the project is taking and the lack of "there there." That obviously not how Agran views it, at least publicly.

"The voters' message was unmistakable: In good times or bad--perhaps especially in bad times--keep Irvine and the Great Park moving forward ... in a positive direction," he said. "Last November's voter mandate--both nationally and locally--came at a critical time.  
Our country had already been in recession for 12 months. The ensuing eight months
have brought us worsening economic conditions nationally, regionally and locally. Some say the worst is now behind us; others have a more pessimistic view.

"The fact of the matter is that across America today there are more than 15 million people unemployed and another 5 to 10 million seriously underemployed. More than a million of these men and women are our friends and neighbors here in Southern California. If, as Americans, we truly value work; if we truly value the dignity and self-reliance that comes from honest work; then there should be a job for every woman and man who wants to work. This isn't just an economic issue--it's a moral issue for all of us."

Fire up the brass band!
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