Monday, July 28, 2014

Forde and Agran's Great Park: a query

OC Weekly
     I offer the following “connective,” represented by the "circle" symbol: °
     The circle connective indicates that the person (or agency) to its left is “somehow connected to” the person (or agency) to its right. Hence, the sentence
Roy ° Teddy
Asserts that Roy (yours truly) has some connection to Teddy (his cat). (As Huey Long might have said, Roy and Teddy are living in "open celibacy" in a home in Trabuco Canyon.)
     It’s a pretty hazy connective: it could mean a lot; or it could mean virtually nothing.

Tom Fuentes ° Butcher-Forde

Caspers
     Now, it’s plain that the late SOCCCD trustee (2000-2012) and one-time OC GOP chief (1985-2004), Tom Fuentes (1948-2012), was “somehow connected to” Bill Butcher (now age 82) and Arnold Forde (now age 78) of the notorious campaign consulting firm Butcher-Forde. I’ve explored and described the strong TF/BF connections that existed early in Tom Fuentes’ career (starting c. 1969, when college kid Tom became Supervisorial candidate Ronald Caspers' campaign manager). In later years, Tom would have been “connected” to Butcher-Forde if only because many Republican candidates secured the services of B-F, and, as a GOP official (Fuentes was on the OC GOP central committee by 1971; eventually, he became second vice chair, then first vice chair, then chair of the OC GOP [1985]—until 2004) he would likely be friendly with leading campaign consultants, and Butcher-Forde were "stars" in their field. I'm guessing their relationship continued to be much more than that, though. (A case can be made that "modern" [i.e., ruthless and sophisticated] politicking, in OC, all started with Caspers' notorious 1970 campaign, which not only started Fuentes' political career, but essentially started B-F's rise to prominence.)
     (Note: Butcher and Forde parted company in 1995. Essentially, Butcher moved to Britain [changing his name to "Lord-Butcher"], then to San Diego, then to LA [Encino]. Meanwhile, Forde continued in OC [he lives in Laguna Beach; his office is in Newport Beach]. Forde partnered with B-F associate Stu Mollrich; hence Forde & Mollrich.)

Tom Fuentes ° Larry Agran

     Larry Agran, former Mayor (and present City Councilman) of Irvine is “somehow connected” to Tom Fuentes, if only in the sense that, at one point, Fuentes supported Agran’s efforts to pursue a Great Park instead of an airport at El Toro:

Irvine's Next Mayor Comes With High Voltage (LA Times, October 2000, Jean Pasco)
     —Larry Agran, controversial in job during '80s and unopposed now, sparks alarm over sizzling El Toro issue.
Arnie Forde, c. 1982
     ...David Ellis, a Republican consultant who favors an airport at El Toro, said Agran's forte has been to use public money to fund personal causes. The Great Park plan, for example, was developed using a city-paid consultant.
     "He's a committed liberal, and you've got to respect him for that," Ellis said.
     Until recently, the mayor's race [in Irvine] had caused little stir in Republican circles in South County. Even Thomas A. Fuentes, the longtime chairman of the county GOP and a Lake Forest resident, joined Agran in promoting the Great Park plan….
     To the surprise of many, Fuentes "came out" for the park in a piece that appeared in the OC Register on August 13, 2000. He wrote:
[H]ow about a spectacular urban national park with vast green areas and plenty of orange trees to enshrine the county's agricultural heritage and provide contact with the land for generations to come? With Saddleback Mountain in the distance and the local foothills as a backdrop, an urban national park in Orange County could be a dream come true. (Quoted by Anthony Pignataro.)
     OK, that might be a pretty tenuous connection. So what if right-winger Tom briefly found it expedient to support this "great park" idea? But maybe there's more here than meets the (or, at any rate, my) eye. (I'm thinking: how explain Agran's picking a guy like Forde?)
     WELL, in recent years, we’ve come to realize that Arnold Forde (of BF) has been the secret "boss" of Agran's Great Park, a fact that is scandalous all by itself (why is this private PR guy running this public project?). And so
Tom Fuentes °°° BF (and thus)
Tom Fuentes °°° Arnold Forde [You bet!]
Tom Fuentes ° Larry Agran [Well, maybe]
Larry Agran °°° Arnold Forde [Amazing but true!]
     The above “connections” might add up to nothing, of course, re the BIG BOONDOGGLE. On the other hand, they might not. It all depends on the details in these connections.
     Anybody got any thoughts on the matter?

Some mental noodling:

Forde, c. 1978
     Note that it would be odd for Fuentes and Agran to form any sort of alliance, though it is fairly well understood why both Fuentes and Agran were drawn to opposition [starting in the late-90s] to the El Toro Airport and thus (?) support of the emerging alternative, the “Great Park.” So, at the very least, Fuentes and Agran had, in some sense, one goal in common, though, otherwise, they would seem to have been at opposite poles of the political spectrum, with very differing goals. (It was because Fuentes was so very conservative [in one sense of conservative] that he ran afoul of the Big Money wing of the local party [the "New Majority"], which tends to shed conservative "principle" in favor of big-profits-by-any-means*; he was drawn to opposition to the airport as a way of increasing the power of the right-wing of the party over the Big Money moderates of the party: Argyros, et al.)

     That Agran “connected” with Forde—as, evidently, he did, in a big way—is very odd. Arnold Forde is a Republican and a conservative who has generally affiliated himself with right-wing causes (he was a big player in Jarvis’ anti-tax crusade; he was part of the movement to oust Rose Bird). Larry Agran has had the reputation (probably undeserved) for being OC’s most liberal/progressive politico. He inspired the one-time jokey moniker of Irvine as the “People’s Republic of Irvine.” Despite some changes in his approach in the last dozen years, he's still opposed to the right's agenda.

     On the other hand, starting about a dozen years ago (see here and here), Agran, to the horror of many of his fans and associates, began to embrace a kind of realpolitik—an embrace of hardball tactics and corrupt secret shenanigans, often of the self-serving variety. But when one thinks of the rise of hardball campaigning, etc., in the OC, one immediately thinks of Butcher-Forde, the "Darth Vaders" of ugly direct mail tactics. That is, one immediately thinks of Arnold Forde.

Bill Butcher, c. 1982
     Fuentes was still a big mover and shaker at the beginning of the millennium—he wasn't deposed as chair until 2004 (they took him out for several reasons, including his opposition to the airport and his bungling of outreach to Mexican-Americans). Privately, he was (always) all about lobbying for big money to secure fat government contracts. (I was much amused by how noisily he declared his "vindication" when my FPPC complaint turned up nothing. Gosh, dude, why was that silly agency's favorable finding so important to you? Were you worried about what everybody was thinkin'? Think so. [Do you suppose that Tom really prayed for me like he said he would?])
     (*Fuentes was complex. What he preached, as a GOP leader, was one thing; what he did in his private affairs was quite another. As GOP leader, he celebrated the efforts of the "many" [volunteers] over special interested Fat Wallets; but, in truth, he made his money getting those Fat Wallets juicy government contracts—by hook or by crook. He was loudly homophobic in his politics, and yet--well, whatever.)

     How does this all fit together? Does it?
     Maybe TF has nothing to do with anything here. Could be. The more fundamental question is: just how does a right-wing, hardball playing guy like Arnie Forde get into the catbird seat of a liberal's Great Boondoggle? 
     Inquiring minds wanna know. (Yes, yes, I know: it could be just another opportunity for AF to grab enormous wads of cash. It may go no deeper than that, I suppose. Forde is just a very prominent flack, so he got the gig. --Nah, there's gotta be more to it.)

Supervisor Caspers and right-hand man Fuentes, c. early 70s
     On the other hand, it's just the usual heart of darkness, the usual apathetic vague awareness of which seems, ultimately, to constitute ongoing support.

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