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Page 34
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Slippery Slope Agreement Leads Veteran's Land Grab

By Steve Crandall

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120 years ago, on 3 March 1888, a plot of land was irrevocably deeded by John P. Jones and Arcadia de Baker to the United States for the "sole purpose of providing veterans a place to heal from war." That property is now called the "VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System" and is managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

In September 2007, the local VA entered into a "Shared Property" agreement with an organized group of Brentwood and Beverly Hills residents calling themselves the "Veterans Park Conservancy" to use 16+ acres of that land, rent-free, as a public park. The agreement runs for 20 years with an option for 10 more. The $6M - $7M worth of improvements are to be paid for through donations collected by the Conservancy. It is clear that this amount of money represents the cost for permanent structures and not just planting trees on the property. Also, prior to entering into the agreement, the VA was pressured into spending $1M+ on a new cast iron fence to remove what the Conservancy termed an eyesore to this wealthy community. To understand how transparent, the Conservancy's motives are, they advertised the proposed park by placing a sign "Beauty, Honor, Country," thus trivializing the US Military Academy's motto "Duty, Honor, Country." Their focus on "Beauty" rather than "Duty" explains their concern clearly. They do not understand the sacrifices veterans and their families have endured to protect our country.

The quest to turn the veteran's land into a public park does not rest solely with the Conservancy group. They are backed by Congresspersons who would rather put this land in the hands of their wealthy constituents than honor the original deed agreement and provide the veterans that fought for this country a protected place to heal from the war. The Conservancy is promoting their project by saying that the land would be used "for the enjoyment and education of the entire community" as if the veterans would share equally in the use of the land. Once this land becomes "public property" the veterans will never see it again because reversing a "public agreement" will be next to impossible.

Veterans groups who have been at odds with each other for over forty years regarding the Vietnam War and more recently over the War in Iraq have joined forces to oppose this give-away. We must all stand together to protect this land on behalf of all veterans and not let this land be stolen.

The "slippery slope" land grab by the Conservancy is not a Democratic or Republican fight. It is also not a local fight here in Los Angeles; this is a national fight for veteran's rights. Public opinion counts the most, so write your Congressmen and Senators to let them know you oppose the VA's actions. Also contact as many people as you can, veterans or not, and ask them to email Veterans United for Truth at vetshome@vuft.org and let them know you also oppose Brentwood's encroachment on this land. Join us and support all veterans!

Steve Crandall is the president of the California Central Coast Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

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