ORANGE COUNTY PERSPECTIVE : An Easily Remedied Oversight

Orange County has wasted no time in preparing for the closing of two Marine Corps air stations, at El Toro and Tustin. However, the omission of county representation on the state military base reuse committee is an oversight that should be remedied soon. The remedy is necessary to coordinate statewide efforts to minimize the unavoidable economic impacts of these closings.

It seems clear that there was no deliberate effort to slight Orange County when Gov. Pete Wilson named an eight-member panel last week without including a local representative. Four of the members are from Northern California, which is hardest hit by the closures. For example, while a recent report from the governor's office showed a significant loss in military, civilian and defense contractor-related jobs as a result of the closing of El Toro and Tustin, comparable losses for Alameda County were projected as much higher. Moreover, the governor's aides had a point in seeking to staff the committee with experts in particular areas, such as the environment and commercial redevelopment.

However, none of those considerations diminish the need for Orange County to have a place at the table. Moreover, it no doubt has expertise in these areas, too.

By the way, the county has been positioning itself admirably to begin to cope with the adverse affects of the closings. The Board of Supervisors already has carved out for itself, without flinching, the difficult assignment of trying to forge a compromise among cities that disagree over whether El Toro should be converted promptly to a commercial airport.

Meanwhile, Irvine wisely has sought to get in on the planning process early by directing staff to work with the county in formulating a redevelopment plan for El Toro. As for the Tustin facility, it was ordered closed two years ago, and its planning is being steered by the city of Tustin.

The state panel has the authority to decide whether to expand its membership to include an Orange County representative. A solution is readily available and easy enough to implement.

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