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Top Ten Stories of the 1990s

December 30, 1999

that halfway house just weeks after Wagner was sentenced.

When the Pilot caught up with Dixon in Berkeley earlier this year, he

had nothing to say.

2. EL TORO. It's the base closure that just doesn't have any closure.

Ever since the federal government decided back in 1993 to close the El

Toro Marine Corps Air Station, what to do with the property has dominated

headlines -- not to mention pocketbooks.

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It has pitted North County cities, led by Newport Beach, against South

County cities in a bitter, Civil War-style war. The north wants to keep

John Wayne Airport from becoming a major commercial hub and the south

wants to keep the roar of engines from invading quiet residential

communities from Irvine to Laguna Woods.

In 1994, voters got involved when they narrowly passed Measure A,

which allowed the county to move forward with its plans to build an

international airport at the 4,700-acre base.

Two year later, an attempt to overturn Measure A failed miserably as

Measure S went down to defeat.

But that was hardly the end of the story as things have only heated up

since the base actually closed in July. The Safe and Healthy Communities

Initiative, which would require a two-thirds vote for any new jail,

airport or landfill in the county, has created a renewed and expensive,

campaign.

The two sides will spend about $14 million of public funds -- through

the county and the cities -- on the fight this year, which is about as

much as has been spent for the two previous votes.

The fight has been at times testy and personal and always political.

Among the individuals who have contributed to the pro-El Toro side,

none has given quite like Newport Beach's George Argyros, who has pumped

more than $2 million into the fight.

Alternative plans being thrown into the mix by South County forces

include turning the base into a huge, regional park rivaling San

Francisco's Golden Gate and San Diego's Balboa.

Voters will decide the initiative's fate in March.

And then, the next chapter in this never-ending story will begin.

3. UPPER NEWPORT BAY. Throughout the 1990s, civic leaders and

environmentalists alike struggled to find the answer to what seemed like

a simple question: How to prevent Upper Newport Bay -- one of the largest

remaining estuaries in Southern California -- from turning into a giant

meadow.

But the task, which spanned the decade, proved difficult.

The problem was this: sediment, pouring in from inland areas, was

threatening to prevent tidal flushing, which would clog up the bay. It

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