Irvine Mayoral Candidate Determined to Build Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park

Irvine Mayoral Candidate Determined to Build Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park
A man plays soccer at the Great Park in Irvine, Calif., on May 6, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)
Jack Bradley

Irvine resident Tom Chomyn is running for the city’s mayor in the Nov. 8 election, against incumbent Farrah Khan, Katherine Daigle, Branda Lin, and Simon Moon.

The first-time politician is an account executive for a technology company, where he sells copiers for a living.

Chomyn said if elected, he would build a 125-acre veterans memorial park and cemetery at the now decommissioned El Toro Marine base at Irvine’s Great Park.

(Courtesy of Tom Chomyn)
(Courtesy of Tom Chomyn)

The push for a veterans cemetery at the park goes back over a decade. Chomyn said he got involved in 2019 when the city was looking into an alternative site, called “Strawberry Fields,” near the I-5 and I-405 freeway interchange.

But the Great Park site was more “valuable” and “symbolic,” he said, as the land was worth more and it honored the Marines that used that site as a major west coast jet fighter facility.

Chomyn, whose father was in the Navy in World War II, helped lead a ballot initiative in 2020 to build the cemetery at the park.

“I said, ‘You know what, I got to do this for my dad.’ … And then it became … I can do good for all veterans,” he told The Epoch Times.

He marketed the site, made banners, and organized about 150 volunteers to gather signatures for about six months, he said.

The ballot initiative was successful, collecting nearly 20,000 signatures—enough to force a vote on the issue by Irvine voters. Rather than put it on the ballot, the city council voted to adopt the proposal soon after.

However, the council later did not break ground on the site and voted last year to support building the cemetery in Anaheim Hills.

If elected, Chomyn said one of his first initiatives would be to build a 20-acre brim at the Great Park to designate the land for a veterans memorial park.

He said there will be tiered walkways with monuments along the way explaining the history of the El Toro marine base.

“Everybody in that neighborhood in the city and in the county can use it as a walking path,” he said.

Dissolve the Orange County Power Authority

Chomyn said he would also work to disband the city’s new electricity provider, the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA).

The OCPA was formed in 2020, with Irvine taxpayers fronting around $7.5 million to get the agency off the ground. It also serves Fullerton, Huntington Beach, and Buena Park.

He said the agency is “not transparent” and is a “major issue” for him because he doesn’t believe the city government should be involved in the sale of electricity, competing against the region’s original provider Southern California Edison.

Since its founding, the OCPA has been embroiled in allegations of mismanagement, rising energy costs, and a lack of transparency.

The county Board of Supervisors voted to launch an investigation in June into legal and financial risks associated with the OCPA. The state’s Joint Legislative Audit Committee also agreed in September to audit the agency.

Chomyn said he would “disband [the OCPA] in a heartbeat. Let the experts handle it; Southern California Edison—they know what they’re doing.”

Adopt District Elections

Chomyn said if elected mayor, he would work to change the way locals cast ballots in elections.

Irvine has five city councilors that represent roughly 270,000 residents.

Chomyn said he would split the city into five districts of similar population size, each overseen by a councilor. Irvine voters would then vote only for candidates in their own district.

“If we had district representation ... people could have a better say on what happens in their community,” he said.

Additionally, he would add three city council seats to be elected at-large so that voters can cast ballots for all three positions citywide—like how the mayoral elections have been conducted.

“I think that’s a better balance with three at-large and five districts—a truer picture of the importance of at large but also the importance of local representation,” he said.

Close the American Asphalt Plant

If elected, Chomyn said he would close the asphalt plant in north Irvine by paying the company to vacate.

He said the facility releases chemicals unsafe for the residences nearby.

The air quality agency which oversees the plant, South Coast AQMD, claims it has received more than 1,400 complaints from residents since 2019 alleging the plant is releasing burnt-rubber-type odors.

“It’s not [the asphalt plant’s] fault,” he said. “They were there first, but we’re building houses around them. And we have to be responsible if we’re going to continue to build houses around them.”

Irvine, a Great Place to Raise a Family

Chomyn moved to Irvine 26 years ago so his two sons and daughter could attend its schools, saying Irvine is a great place to raise a family.

“My wife said, ‘if I can walk my children to school every day, we can move to Irvine,’” he said.

Chomyn coached his kids’ AYSO soccer and PONY League baseball teams.

For nine years, he was a part of Indian Guides, a program that helps develop bonds between fathers and their kids through camping, hiking, fishing, and other activities. For a period, he served as Indian Chief for over 280 members.

One time, he and his kids camped out on the USS Midway aircraft carrier in San Diego, sleeping in the same bunks that were used during World War II.

“That was one of the best times,” he said. “It was just one of the greatest events the kids had ever witnessed.”