Letting the Public Join El Toro Debate

* Although the May 8 editorial is entitled "Let the Public Join the El Toro Discussion," it is critical of our attempts to draw the public into El Toro Reuse discussion by circulating a petition which would lead to the designation of El Toro as a commercial airport. We believe that the circulation of these petitions effects the most direct form of participatory control over the most significant land-use decision affecting Orange County.

Although The Times apparently believes that petitions are signed by people who don't know what they are signing, we have found the citizenry informed and concerned about the ramifications for the reuse of El Toro.

We have chosen the initiative vehicle because the planning agency that has been created gives de facto control to the well-documented opponents of commercial aviation at El Toro. The El Toro Reuse Planning Authority (ETRPA) is structurally set up to approve any alternative for Base Reuse other than commercial aviation.

We know this because of ETRPA's nine members, three come from the Irvine City Council (whose General Plan prohibits commercial aviation use for El Toro), one is from the Lake Forest City Council (which has adopted at least two resolutions opposing airport usage.) We cannot allow two cities with predisposed parochial positions to control the economic future of Orange County.

The setting that we see evolving for El Toro is a prescription for failed base reuse.

The petition we have circulated seeks land-use designation of El Toro as a commercial airport. El Toro is a regional resource whose closure affects far more than the communities which surround it; its replication elsewhere would be prohibitively expensive.

Moreover, use of El Toro as an airport would infuse economic vitality into a region wider than constrained by the myopic group controlling ETRPA. In sum, the reuse of El Toro should be determined by a regionally based reuse group which has something other than the narrow-perspective members of the currently constituted ETRPA.

The California Military Base Reuse Task Force found that those military facilities which ended up being litigation Super Bowls got that way because reuse planning authorities presented only local, narrow and parochial interests and not the broad-based interests of the affected region. Our petition is designed to draw all of the county into the planning process. Unlike the May 8 editorial, we have faith in the public's intelligence and right to join the El Toro discussion by participating in the initiative process that we have begun.

GEORGE ARGYROS

WILLIAM BUCK JOHNS

Newport Beach

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