Irvine Needs a Permanent Veterans Advisory Committee Comprised Solely of Veterans

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Irvine is home to thousands of military veterans and members of the active military returning from deployment overseas. These veterans should be represented within Irvine’s city government by a Veterans Advisory Committee expressly dedicated to the unique needs and interests of the men and women who have served and are currently serving in our nation’s armed forces.

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox with her father, Korean War US Air Force combat veteran Stan Kay, at Memorial Day ceremony at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park

One of the key lessons of the fight for the Irvine City Council’s approval of a Veterans Cemetery and Memorial in the Great Park is that Irvine needs a permanent Veterans Committee, composed solely of Irvine veterans, to advocate for veterans and advise the City and the Council on veterans’ issues.

The Ad Hoc (temporary) Veterans Cemetery Committee established by the current Council majority of Mayor Steven Choi and Councilmembers Jeffrey Lalloway and Christina Shea during the fight for approval of the Veterans Cemetery was anything but an advocate for veterans.

It all began in March, when Councilmember Larry Agran, himself a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army Reserve, introduced a resolution supporting AB 1453 (creating a state Veterans Cemetery in Orange County) and, more importantly, expressing the City Council’s strong interest in locating the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park (formerly the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro).

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox urging the City Council to set aside land in the Great Park as a final resting place for Orange County veterans in March 2014.

The resolution passed, over the objection of Mayor Choi, who made clear his opposition to a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park because a big developer – FivePoint Communities – thought it might affect the prices of the homes it plans to sell in the area.

The Council then set up an Ad Hoc Committee, supposedly to identify a specific site for a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park.

However, it soon became apparent the real purpose of the Ad Hoc Committee created by the Council majority was to delay and obstruct the search for a site in the Great Park, and at the same time to try to find a site somewhere else – anywhere else – in Orange County, in order to please the developer.

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox with veterans’ advocate, USMC veteran and VFW Chaplain Bill Cook

The Council majority appointed Mayor Choi as the Ad Hoc Committee vice chair – despite his publically announced opposition to a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park because of FivePoint’s objections.

They appointed Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway as the Committee Chair, who then insisted on placing nearly every one of his local political cronies on the Ad Hoc Committee, not one of whom is a veteran.

The only U.S. military veteran on the Irvine City Council – Councilmember Larry Agran, who was also the author of the resolution and a strong advocate for locating the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park – was deliberately not placed on the Ad Hoc Committee.

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox speaking to the City Council on behalf of a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park in April 2014

After excluding the only U.S. military veteran on the Council from the Ad Hoc committee, Choi, Lalloway and Shea insisted that a Five Point representative be included on the committee.

Only one Orange County veteran (USMC veteran and VFW Chaplain Bill Cook) and one long time veterans advocate (Isabelle Krasney) were made part of the Ad Hoc committee.

By late April, the Ad Hoc Committee created by the Irvine City Council majority had not met and had not conducted any business.  Veterans groups were becoming increasingly concerned that the Ad Hoc Committee was not interested in finding a location for a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park, and that the Committee was a sham, set up only for show, not to take action.

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox with USMC veteran and veterans’ adocate Bill Sandlin

In response to the Ad Hoc Committee’s inaction, Orange County Veterans Memorial Park group (OCVMP), along with many leaders of Orange County veterans’ groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Disabled American Veterans, issued a “Call to Action” to attend the next Irvine City Council meeting, where I, among others, called on the Council to fulfill its promise to create an Orange County Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park without delay.

In mid-May, we learned that the Ad Hoc Committee still had not met because, supposedly, many of the politicians who were added by Jeff Lalloway as Ad Hoc Committee members, including Irvine Mayor Steven Choi, could not find the time for a Committee meeting in their schedules. In addition, the Ad Hoc committee refused to provide a progress report (or, rather, a lack-of-progress report).

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox speaks to City Council on behalf of OC veterans, urging the City Council to set aside land in the Great Park as a final resting place for Orange County veterans

I spoke to the City Council, saying that “the addition of so many players [to the ad hoc committee] seemed to me a way to hamstring the committee, to actually prevent it from reaching its stated goal, which was to find a suitable location for a Veterans Cemetery in Irvine.  This concern is exacerbated by the rancor I’ve witnessed here this evening at the mere mention of a request for a progress report. I hope that my fears are not realized and that this isn’t a way to ground the ball and run out the clock. When I last addressed the Council, I was here with my father, and when the veterans were asked to stand, he could barely stand because he had just had chemotherapy.  His passion was to come here and talk to you.  He isn’t physically able to do that for himself, so I am his voice . . . Please don’t ground the ball.  Don’t let time run out.”

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council,votemelissafox, votemelissafox.com, veterans, Orange County veteransMy comments, as well as the comments and questions raised by numerous veterans about the seriousness of Irvine’s commitment to an Orange County Veterans Cemetery, were met with stone cold silence from the Irvine City Council majority of Choi, Lalloway and Shea.

By late July, AB1453 has sailed through the Assembly and was going through the final phases of the legislative process. Senator Lou Correa’s Senate Veterans Affairs Committee had passed the bill on June 24th and sent it to Senate Appropriations Committee with the recommendation to approve it.  The only thing missing to make an Orange County Veterans Cemetery a reality was a decision by the Irvine City Council to make a portion of the Great Park available as its location.

Yet the developer-beholden Ad Hoc Committee had done nothing since its inception in March except delay, obstruct, and attempt to prevent the cemetery from being located in the Great Park

Here is what the only two real veterans’ advocates on the Committee (Bill Cook and Isabelle Krasney) had to say in a message from the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park group:

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council,votemelissafox, votemelissafox.com, veterans, Orange County veterans“We on the committee have reason to believe that our concerns as a group may be tied up in a mishmash of parliamentary procedures and legal manipulation by some members on the Ad Hoc Committee who have expressed no interest in seeing their charge through to completion. . . Unfortunately, [some] members of the Ad Hoc Committee seem to be doing their utmost to drag the process out until a target date of August 1 has come and passed. OCVMP Committee Chair Bill Cook had put a motion on the floor to present both viable site options to the Irvine City Council. Bill’s motion was ruled out of order as it was Ad Hoc Chairman Jeff Lalloway’s opinion that we had moved on to discussing the agenda items for the next Ad Hoc meeting. This undue action took the audience by surprise and resulted in a great deal of disappointment and distrust in the Ad Hoc Committee’s leadership (bear in mind that the Ad Hoc Committee Chairman is Irvine City Councilman Jeff Lalloway, the Vice-Chairman is Irvine City Mayor Steven Choi, and a third member is a representative from the Five Points Communities).  There has been too much work done and too much time spent to let the whole concept get hijacked by those who were predisposed to prevent a cemetery from being built at the outset.”

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox celebrates veterans’ victory with US Army veteran Ed Pope, Councilmember and US Army veteran Larry Agran, Assemblymember and author of AB 1453 Sharon Quirk-Silva, and VFW Chaplain and USMC veteran Bill Cook

The message from the OCVMP led to the Council chamber being packed with veterans and their supporters.  Councilmember Agran then proposed a resolution designating a specific 125-acre parcel of the Great Park for future conveyance to the State of California for “purposes of establishing a Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery”

When speaker after speaker after speaker, including Bill Cook, the only veteran on the Ad Hoc Committee, then spoke in favor of the resolution, the Council majority was forced to concede that they had been licked, that their strategy of using the Ad Hoc Committee as a means of delay and obstruction had failed. They then voted in favor of the resolution.

What this experience teaches me is that Irvine’s veterans need a strong, permanent voice of their own in city government, not adulterated by developers or by politicians whose interests may well conflict with those of the veterans they supposedly serve.

Accordingly, when I am elected to the Irvine City Council, my first action will be to propose that the City Council establish a permanent Irvine Veterans Advisory Committee – compromised solely of Irvine residents who are U.S. military veterans – to provide advocacy for veterans, and to inform, educate and advise the City Council on issues of importance to veterans and their dependents.

It’s the right thing to do.

 

 

 

Woodbridge’s Fate will be Decided at the Ballot Box

Woodbridge.01

Woodbridge residents are gravely concerned that new development will soon add unwanted housing and traffic congestion to Woodbridge and forever change the character of their beautiful community – without their input or consent.

Here is what the group Friends of WVC (Woodbridge Village Center) recently said in an email: “Big changes are in the works for the Woodbridge Village Center. The Irvine Company is presently evaluating options to replace the Village Center with either a residential development (most likely condominiums), or with a standard shopping center. Regardless of the option selected, the current Village Center will most likely be destroyed.”

Melissa and her son, Max, bicycling in Woodbridge.

Bicycling with my son, Max, in Woodbridge.

When Woodbridge opened on Father’s Day in 1975, it was Irvine’s premier master planned community, showcasing Irvine’s commitment to creating villages of single family homes and townhouses, with parks, greenbelts, bicycle trails, interconnecting pathways, open space, and neighborhood shopping.

By any measure, Woodbridge has been a fantastic success.

Community spirit has been, and continues to be, tremendously high. Sure, there are a few problems and some things that people would like to see changed or improved.  For example, many people would like to see a new anchor store in the Village Center and new coffee houses and restaurants.

And, like most of Irvine, the WVC could use more ample and more secure bicycle parking, especially since Woodbridge has some of the most used and beautiful bikeways in the City.

But these few problems and suggested minor changes are very small in comparison to the great sense of community belonging and community pride shared by the residents of Woodbridge. Woodbridge remains one of Irvine’s most walkable, bikeable, and beautiful communities.

And, as someone wrote in OC Housing News, “the Woodbridge Center is an integral part of Irvine, connected to both lakes, Woodbridge high school and walking trails, literally in the center of Irvine.”

With Woodbridge Village Center business owner Bob Bibee at Pedego Electric Bikes Irvine.

After 40 years of success, the people of Woodbridge love their community, and they love their Woodbridge Village Center.

That’s why people are so upset by the prospect that their Village Center will be destroyed and replaced with high density apartments and condos or office buildings

What people may not realize is that the City Council has the full legal power to tell the developer that it can’t do whatever it wants to the Woodbridge Village Center, and specifically that it can’t unilaterally change the fundamental character of the community.

In fact, I believe it is the obligation of the City Council to ensure that the public interest – in preventing over-crowding, increased crime and congestion, and in preserving the character of our communities – comes before the private interests of developers, no matter how big and powerful those developers may be.

As another Woodbridge resident put it in OC Housing News, “Slow the growth. Build with creativity and respect for the Woodbridge neighborhood. The great recession is behind us. Time to dial back to measured growth and masterful planning such as the community was built on.”  I could not agree more.

Unfortunately, the current City Council majority of Mayor Steven Choi, Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway and Councilmember Christina Shea, see it quite differently.  They want more development, faster development, and denser development.

Recall that this is a City Council majority that has hastily approved an unprecedented 10,000 additional new houses and apartments in Irvine (bringing along an additional 20,000-30,000 new cars and 30,000-50,000 new people), jamming our traffic and over-crowding our schools.

If the current City Council majority is retained – if Mayor Steven Choi and Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway are relected – nothing will stop developers from doing whatever the developers want to do, in Woodbridge and throughout the City.

In contrast, I pledge that when I am elected to the City Council I will use the full legal authority of the Council to prevent runaway development, to demand that the voices of Irvine’s residents be heard before any new development is approved, and to ensure that no new condos, office buildings or housing tracts will be permitted without proper planning and consideration of their impact on our traffic, our schools, and the character of our communities.

The fate of the Woodbridge Village Center – and Woodbridge’s survival as a family oriented community with a relaxed village atmosphere – will be decided this November, at the ballot box.

Questions and Answers with Irvine City Council Candidate Melissa Fox

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox

Irvine Community Services Commissioner and City Council candidate Melissa Fox

by Frank Lunding. [Originally published in Irvine Community News and Views. Used with permission.]

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Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

My Q & A with Melissa Fox grew out of her gracious offer to let me spend a day in her north Irvine home. After meeting Melissa’s family — husband Michael, teenage son Max, and their Siberian Husky, “Scout” — and then having some of her delicious home-baked bread, we began our interview. 

When I asked, “So, who is Melissa Fox?” — she responded with lawyer-like organization, starting with her public persona as an Irvine Community Services Commissioner and, now, a candidate for the Irvine City Council. But, she acknowledged, central to her personality is the pride she takes in becoming a lawyer — a good lawyer. In fact, she’s a very good lawyer for her clients and a very good lawyer in her public service to the Irvine community.

Melissa Fox was part of the wave of women lawyers who have been smashing through the male-dominated barriers of the legal profession since the 1990s. She runs her own law firm, specializing in business litigation. While she represents businesses large and small, her professional passion seems greatest when talking about the problems of small, independent Irvine businesses. “Think about it,” she told me. “When small businesses flourish, the economy and the character of Irvine flourish. When they leave our community, because of tough economic times or because they’ve been victimized by landlord excesses or even fraud, our entire community suffers a loss.”

It’s fitting that Council candidate Melissa Fox’s 3-word ballot designation reads “Attorney/City Commissioner.” Meet Melissa Fox.

Q. What are the three things people should know about Melissa Fox?

I’m a wife, mother and daughter. I’m an attorney and I run my own law firm in Irvine. And I’m Irvine’s most enthusiastic cheerleader.

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Melissa Fox, Esq. , founder of The Fox Law Firm

Q. What kind of law do you practice?

I’m a litigator – a lawyer who actually goes to court. My clients are usually businesses, large and small, as well as individuals who have business and contract issues. I’m also a specialist in fighting fraud – preventing bad guys from stealing, scheming or taking advantage of people through deceit and misrepresentation.

Q. Why do you choose to live in Irvine?

I was born in Orange County and first came to Irvine when I was 16 years old as a freshman at UCI. I moved away to finish school at Brandeis University in Boston and then Tulane Law School in New Orleans. I moved back to Irvine with my husband Michael when he was selected to be among the first Ph.D. students in the UCI School of the Arts. Irvine’s great schools and stellar public safety record were major factors in choosing to live here. And we loved the commitment to open spaces and parks and amazing cultural diversity. Our neighborhood is composed of people from all over the world. Irvine truly is a global village.

Q. How do you like being an Irvine Community Services Commissioner?

I love being an Irvine Community Services Commissioner! I was brought up to believe in public service. My father was in the U.S. Air Force flying bombers in the Korean War. Afterwards, he became a police officer and then an inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. My mother was a nurse and then a librarian. My parents instilled in me a strong belief in public service. I’ve been an Orange County Reserve Park Ranger, a volunteer with Cub Scouts and Sea Scouts, and a board member of Beckman High School Football and Wrestling Boosters. I’m an active member of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce, where I love celebrating new business openings. So when I had the opportunity to become an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, I jumped at the chance.

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox welcoming OC Blues FC to Irvine

As a Commissioner, I’ve been able to make sure that new developments provide ample open space and park facilities for both children and adults. I’ve also been able to work with community leaders on planning and getting the go-ahead for a new Adventure Playground. Plus, I really love supporting Irvine’s community events — from the Irvine Korean Festival to the Diwali (Indian) celebration to New Year’s at the Irvine Chinese School to the Memorial Day ceremonies at Bill Barber Park and the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial. I have the privilege of representing our City at many of these events.

Q. Tell us about the “Irvine Food Tours” you’ve led as a Commissioner.

Irvine is home to scores of remarkable locally-owned restaurants featuring cuisine as diverse as Irvine’s population. But many people who live in Irvine aren’t aware of the great restaurants we have, or perhaps they’re a little uncertain about trying food they haven’t eaten before. So UCI Professor Catherine Liu and I decided to create the Irvine Food Tour, where we visit a local restaurant and the owner or chef selects the menu and explains the food as it is brought to us. So far, we’ve done Food Tours to Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, and Middle Eastern restaurants. The Irvine Food Tour is also a great way to support local businesses and to connect local business owners with the community. I definitely plan to continue with the Irvine Food Tour after I’m elected to the City Council.

Q. You were very active in the movement to create a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park. Why does that cause matter so much to you?

rvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox with her father, Korean War veteran Stan Kay, at Memorial Day ceremony at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox with her father, Korean War veteran Stan Kay, at Memorial Day ceremony at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park

As the daughter of a combat veteran, I know what veterans have sacrificed for our nation. Orange County veterans do not have their own official military cemetery and those who want to visit a veteran’s grave in a veterans cemetery must travel to Riverside, San Diego or Los Angeles. When Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva introduced a bill to remedy this problem by creating a Veterans Cemetery in Orange County, I decided to do whatever I could to make it a reality. It’s time that Orange County offered its veterans a final resting place close to their families and loved ones. And, as an Irvine resident, I strongly believe that a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, is the perfect location for a Veterans Cemetery and a fitting memorial to Irvine’s proud military heritage.

I spoke to the City Council in support of a Veterans Cemetery in March, April and May, and attended the subcommittee meetings. It often seemed to me that the Council majority cared more about developers’ desire for more profit than about the veterans. I was thrilled when the City Council in July voted 5-0 to approve 125 acres in the Great Park as a military cemetery. Our veterans won a great victory, but the battle isn’t over. The developer still will not allow a Veterans Cemetery to be located in the Great Park unless the pressure from the veterans continues and the Council backs the veterans. That’s not going happen with the current pro-developer Council majority. So we need to stay vigilant and we need to make our support for a Veterans Cemetery clear with our vote in November.

We also need to do more for our veterans across-the-board. Irvine is home to thousands of military veterans. They should be represented within Irvine’s city government by an advisory committee expressly dedicated to the unique needs and perspective of the men and women who have served and are serving in our nation’s armed forces. That’s why one of the very first things I’ll do once I’m elected to the City Council is create a permanent Irvine Veterans Advisory Council to provide advocacy for veterans and to advise the Council on issues of importance to veterans and their families.

Q. Why are you running for Irvine City Council?

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Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

As a business owner, attorney and City Commissioner, I understand the relationship between strong, pro-resident leadership and our Irvine quality of life. Runaway development is negatively impacting our schools, traffic flow, public safety, and our quality of life – all the reasons we choose to make Irvine our home.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I pledge to use my legal knowledge and skills to prevent runaway development of new housing tracts and apartments, causing terrible traffic and overcrowded schools – posing a clear and present danger to our quality of life.

I also want to safeguard Irvine’s standing as a world-class city in education and public safety. I want to ensure every public dollar is wisely budgeted and accounted for, using my skills as a business attorney specializing in fighting fraud. I want to promote Irvine businesses, large and small.

And, finally, I’m going to make very sure that a Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery is actually created in the Great Park.

I will keep my eyes focused on Irvine’s future – creating opportunities, solving real problems, and producing concrete results.

You can contribute to Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council by clicking the link here.

UCI Sets “Green” Example for City of Irvine (with Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters endorsements update)

UCI aerial.01

Congratulations to the Univerisity of California, Irvine, on its selection as the 2014 “Greenest School in the Nation,” according to the Sierra Club’s magazine. The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and oldest environmental organization.

The decision was based on a survey of America’s four-year degree-granting undergraduate colleges conducted by four organizations: the Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI), and the Princeton Review.

President Obama speaking at UC Irvine 2014

UCI came in first out of the 173 colleges that completed the survey by scoring 813.51 out of a possible total of 1000 points.

According to the Sierra Club Magazine, “In 2008, UC Irvine vowed to improve its energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020, then hit that target seven years early, making it the first U.S. school to achieve that goal. Then administrators doubled down by pledging an additional 20 percent energy reduction by 2020. Helping the matter: three on-site solar power projects and a 19-megawatt cogeneration plant with turbines powered by combustion and steam. The school’s water-recycling program saves more than 210 million gallons per year.”

This recent recognition by the Sierra Club comes just a few weeks after President Obama, at his UCI Commencement Address, lauded UC Irvine for “set[ing] up the first Earth System Science Department in America. A UC Irvine professor-student team won the Nobel Prize for discovering that CFCs destroy the ozone layer.  A UC Irvine glaciologist’s work led to one of last month’s report showing one of the world’s major ice sheets in irreversible retreat. Students and professors are in the field working to predict changing weather patterns, fire seasons, and water tables – working to understand how shifting seasons affect global ecosystems; to get zero-emission vehicles on the road faster; to help coastal communities adapt to rising seas. And when I challenge colleges to reduce their energy use to 20 percent by 2020, UC Irvine went ahead and did it last year.  Done.  So UC Irvine is ahead of the curve. All of you are ahead of the curve.”

To me, one of UCI’s most impressive “green” achievements is ZotWheels, an  innovative bike sharing system.  As UCI explains, ZotWheels is “the first automated self-service bike share program in California . . .  Almost a pound of tailpipe emissions will be saved for every mile a member rides a bike instead of driving.  Bike sharing allows faculty, students, and staff an alternative to driving when making short-distance trips during the work and school day, as well as addressing important issues such as health and environmental sustainability, the future of transportation, and promoting community building on campus. Bike sharing already exists in many European cities, such as Paris and Barcelona. Take our bikes for a short ride around the inner ring, to the park, to a meeting, or to class.  ZotWheels are meant to be shared; so rent one, ride it, return it and repeat any time you want to bring a little fun to your day!”

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at 2013 Solar Decathlon

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at Solar Decathlon

The City of Irvine has a lot to learn from UC Irvine’s accomplishments.

The City of Irvine ought to be a leader in creating sustainable communities that incorporate smart growth principles, public transit and active transportation access to work, parks, shopping and recreation. Our heritage as a master planned community and our long-standing commitment to well-planned smart growth ought to make Irvine a natural leader in promoting green building practices and smart growth principles.

Unfortunately, in recent years we have set our environmental goals too low.  Nor is the current council majority committed to smart, green growth, instead approving frantic growth and development at any cost.

The result of the current council’s rubber-stamping of developers’ proposals has been runaway development of housing tracts and apartments causing terrible traffic and overcrowded schools – posing a clear and present danger to our quality of life.

Irvine is currently headed in the wrong direction: toward increased congestion, increased pollution, and lower environmental standards and quality of life across the board.

Shockingly, the current council majority supports a candidate for city council who denies that we need to take any action whatsoever on fossil fuels, ozone depletion, and climate change (“I don’t see the harm to the planet that nearly surpasses the harm to the people when they cannot access the many comforts we/I take for granted living in America, and that some say are destroying the planet. Somehow I don’t think that God is at all surprised by the invention of the internal combustion engine, nor Freon.”)

Irvine is positioned to become a leader in renewable energy use.  Last year, the Solar Decathlon was held for first time outside of Washington, D.C. – at the Great Park, in Irvine. Despite a lukewarm, anti-environmentally conscious majority on the city council, the event was successful.  The 2015 Solar Decathlon will be held once again here in Irvine. And a team from Orange County, led by UC Irvine, will be in the competition.  This time, with an enthusiastic and committed city council and thoughtful promotion and planning, the event could have much more wide-ranging and economically beneficial impact for the city.  But before that can happen – and before Irvine can claim the title of the nation’s energy innovation capitol – we must elect a city council committed to making solar and renewable energy a far more significant energy source for Irvine’s city buildings, homes and businesses.

So congratulations UC Irvine!  You’ve shown us the direction that the City of Irvine should be taking.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I’ll advocate that Irvine follow many of the exemplary environmental practices adopted by our own University of California, Irvine.

I’ll fight to restore Irvine’s traditional environmental leadership and our commitment to environmentally responsible, community-oriented planning, including green building practices and smart, sustainable growth principles.

UPDATE: Sierra Club endorses Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

I just received a letter dated August 18, 2014, from the Sierra Club saying they have “endorsed [my] candidacy in the 2014 Irvine City Council election in appreciation of your demonstrated commitment to protecting the environment.”

Thank you for the honor, Sierra Club!  Let’s move Irvine forward together — toward a re-commitment to Irvine’s tradition of environmentally responsible, community-oriented planning.

http://www.votemelissafox.com/

UPDATE: League of Conservation Voters Endorses Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

I received word on August 30, 2014, that the League of Conservation Voters, which “works to turn environmental values into national, state and local priorities . . . advocates for sound environmental laws and policies, holds elected officials accountable for their votes and actions, and elects pro-environment candidates who will champion our priority issues” has endorsed my campaign for Irvine City Council.

Thank you, League of Conservation Voters! Let’s move Irvine forward together toward a more environmentally friendly future!

http://www.votemelissafox.com/

It’s Official! Melissa Fox Files for Irvine City Council

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It’s official!  Yesterday I filed the paperwork to qualify as a candidate for Irvine City Council!

Here is the press release we sent out:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jason Mills (714) 576-4303

Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox Files for Irvine City Council

Irvine Business-Owner and Attorney the Top Fundraiser Among Candidates

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox announced her filing for Irvine City Council on Friday. Fox has also filed her campaign finance reports, showing her to be the top fundraiser among all candidates – even outpacing two council incumbents running for re-election.

“I’ve been tremendously encouraged by the support our campaign has received,” Fox said. “People in Irvine are responsive to a message that focuses on restoring community-oriented planning. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done so far and excited about ramping up our campaign and focusing on the November election.”

An Irvine business-owner and attorney, Fox has also been holding neighborhood meet-and-greets across the city after opening up her campaign committee last year. In listening to residents from across the political spectrum, she has heard the same complaints about the direction of the city.

“People think that the current council is rubber-stamping too much development in the city. New housing tracts and apartment buildings are springing up over-night — they aren’t seeing the thought and planning that has made Irvine so special,” Melissa added. “People don’t move to Irvine to sit in traffic and send their kids to over-crowded schools. As a member of the City Council, I pledge to address the runaway development that’s threatening our quality of life.  I will be a strong pro-resident voice on the Council.”

Fox also pledges to ensure every public dollar is wisely budgeted and accounted for using her skills as a business attorney specializing in fighting fraud; promote Irvine businesses, large and small; and safeguard Irvine’s standing as a world-class city in education and public safety.

Melissa Fox is the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran and has been active in advocating for a Veterans Cemetery and Memorial Park in the Great Park.

Melissa Fox lives with her husband, Dr. Michael Fox, their son, Max, and their Siberian Husky, Scout, in the Northwood Park area of Irvine.

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council 2014

www.votemelissfox.com

Please note: this blog is maintained by Melissa Fox and is not an official blog or website of the City of Irvine.

A Magical Evening Aboard the USS Iowa

I had the pleasure this past weekend of attending the first Western Region Sea Scouts Bridge of Honor, held aboard the battleship USS Iowa in the Port of Los Angeles.

A Bridge of Honor recognizes advancement and other achievements earned by Sea Scouts – the co-ed, nautical program of the Boy Scouts of America.

At this Bridge of Honor, several Sea Scouts were recognized for achieving the Quartermaster Award (the highest award in Sea Scouts) and many more were recognized for achieving the ranks of Apprentice, Ordinary and Able.

I was in attendance because my son, Max, received his rank of Ordinary, and because my husband serves as Commodore for our area of the Western Region Sea Scouts.  I also serve as a Sea Scout adult volunteer for Sea Scout Ship 90 at the Newport Sea Base.

The early evening ceremony aboard the USS Iowa was breathe-taking. There could be no more majestic location than the deck of one of America’s mightiest battleships, which earned nine battle stars for World War Two service and two battle stars for Korean War service, and which carried President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Admiral D. William Leahy, General George C. Marshall, Admiral Ernest King, and General Henry “Hap” Arnold to the Tehran Conference in the midst of World War II.

Along with more than 100 Sea Scouts from across the West, National Sea Scout Executive Keith Christopher was present, as was the Sea Scouts National Commodore (and retired Coast Guard Vice Admiral) Charles D. Wurster.  I was tremendously proud when Admiral Wurster and Western Region Commodore Josh Gilliland congratulated Max.

I was also tremendously impressed by the enthusiasm, focus, patriotism, and camaraderie of these young Sea Scouts dressed in their best dress whites and dress blues — and by their love of the sea and adventure.

It was magical to watch them dancing in the twilight on the deck of the Iowa to the sounds of a live swing band.

Truly an amazing evening – with the USS Iowa to remind us of the greatness of our past and these young men and women of the Sea Scouts ready, eager and able to secure the greatness of our future.

Call for Action: Support Our Veterans at the July 22 Irvine City Council Meeting and Urge the Irvine City Council to Designate a Portion of the Great Park for the Orange County Veterans Cemetery

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If you agree that our Orange County veterans deserve a final resting place close to their families and loved ones, and that a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, would be an altogether fitting and proper location for this Orange County Veterans Cemetery, as well as a lasting memorial to the Great Park’s military heritage, please attend the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 22, beginning at 5:00 PM, make your voices heard!

This may be our last, best chance to create a veterans cemetery in a portion of the Great Park that was formerly the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.

Orange County has a long and proud military tradition. More than two million veterans live in California – more than in any other state. This military tradition continues into the present, as nearly 7,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars live in Orange County.

Yet Orange County veterans do not have their own official military cemetery and those in Orange County who want to visit a veteran’s grave in a national cemetery must travel to Riverside, San Diego or Los Angeles counties. We are the state’s largest county with no dedicated burial ground for its combat veterans and other servicemen and women.

Last January, California Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silver introduced a bill (AB 1453) to right this wrong and create a state-owned and state-operated veterans’ cemetery in Orange County.

For several years, a group of Orange County veterans has urged that a veterans cemetery be located in the Great Park, on land which from 1942 to 1999 served as Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, and where an estimated 2 million men and women served this nation in peace and war.

When Assembly Member Quirk-Silva’s Orange County veterans cemetery bill was introduced, the Great Park in Irvine seemed to them – and to many others –  to be the perfect and most appropriate location.

The question was, would the City of Irvine – which owns and controls this land – make it available for a veterans cemetery?  This is still the question now.

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Melissa Fox in March 2014 addressing the Irvine City Council in support of locating an Orange County veterans cemetery in the Great Park (the former MCAS El Toro).

When the matter of the location of the veterans cemetery first come before the Irvine City Council in March, I wrote that “as the daughter of an Orange County Korean War combat veteran, I strongly support this bill [to create an Orange County veterans cemetery]. It is time that Orange County offered its veterans – who have sacrificed so much for us – a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.”

I also wrote that “as an Irvine resident, I believe that a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, would be an altogether fitting and proper location for this Orange County Veterans Cemetery, as well as a lasting memorial to the Great Park’s military heritage.”

In addition, I personally addressed the Irvine City Council and urged them to support AB 1453. I was also tremendously proud that my father joined with many other Orange County veterans and spoke to the Irvine City Council, urging them to support a veterans cemetery in a portion of the Great Park.

The Irvine City Council then narrowly voted 3-2 to support AB 1453 and call for the establishment of the Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County, to express the City’s strong interest in providing at least 100 acres of land at the Orange County Great Park (formerly MCAS El Toro), and to form an ad hoc committee to see if a suitable location is feasible in and around the Great Park.

However, instead of creating a committee composed of council members and a few interested parties, at Council Member Jeff Lalloway’s insistence the committee was composed of numerous politicians, including Irvine Mayor Choi, who had opposed establishing a veterans cemetery at the Great Park because it might make it more difficult for a developer, FivePoint Communities, to sell homes in the area.  Council Member Larry Agran, who had proposed that Irvine make at least 100 acres of the Great Park available for an Orange County veterans cemetery, was left off the committee.

By April, it appeared that the committee created by the Irvine City Council was not actually interested in finding a location for a veterans cemetery in the Great Park. The veterans of the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park group, along with many leaders of Orange County veterans’ groups, issued a “Call to Action” to attend the Irvine City Council meeting.

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Melissa Fox in April 2014 addressing the Irvine City Council in support of locating an Orange County veterans cemetery in the Great Park (the former MCAS El Toro).

I again addressed the Irvine City Council, again urging them to provide Orange County veterans with a final resting place close to their families and loved ones, and to designate a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, as an altogether fitting and proper location for this Orange County Veterans Cemetery, as well as a lasting memorial to the Great Park’s military heritage.

In May, on learning that ad hoc committee set up by the Irvine City Council to establish an Orange County Veterans Cemetery had not even had its first meeting because some politicians who were added as committee members could not find the time in their schedules, I wrote that the Irvine City Council should fulfill its promise to create an Orange County veterans cemetery without any further delay.

I noted that there is now profound concern in the veteran community that the unnecessarily large committee formed by the Irvine City Council, based on Council Member Jeffrey Lalloway’s insistence on including numerous politicians, is a sham, set only up for show and delay, not to take action.

Speaking again to the City Council, I said that “the addition of so many players seemed to me a way to hamstring the committee, to actually prevent it from reaching its stated goal, which was to find a suitable location for a veterans cemetery in Irvine. This concern is exacerbated by the rancor I’ve witnessed here this evening at the mere mention of a request for a progress report. I hope that my fears are not realized and that this isn’t a way to ground the ball and run out the clock. When I last addressed the Council, I was here with my father, and when the veterans were asked to stand, he could barely stand because he had just had chemotherapy. His passion was to come here and talk to you. He isn’t physically able to do that for himself, so I am his voice . . . Please don’t ground the ball. Don’t let time run out.”

My comments, as well as the comments and questions raised by numerous veterans, about the seriousness of Irvine’s commitment to an Orange County veterans cemetery, were met with stone cold silence from the Irvine City Council.

We have now arrived at another crossroads.

AB 1453, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council,votemelissafox, votemelissafox.comAB1453 has sailed through the Assembly and is now going through the final phases of the legislative process. Senator Lou Correa’s Senate Veterans Affairs Committee passed the bill on June 24th and sent it to Senate Appropriations Committee with the recommendation to approve it. To date, there have been zero “no” votes on this bill.

Now, the only thing missing to make an Orange County veterans cemetery a reality is a decision by the Irvine City Council to make a portion of the Great Park  – the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro  – available as its location.

This Tuesday, July 22, Irvine City Council Member Larry Agran intends to propose a resolution designating a specific 125-acre parcel at the Great Park the Orange County veterans cemetery.  He has also prepared a Memorandum in support of this proposal and map of the proposed veterans cemetery site within the Great Park.

Once this resolution is adopted by the Irvine City Council, AB 1453 will likely pass through the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 4th with an appropriation of funds. Then, it’s on to the Governor’s desk for signature. The Orange County Veterans Cemetery — appropriately located in a portion of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro — would be a done deal.

But we have serious concerns that the same group of developer-beholden politicians who have thus far delayed and stymied the process will prevent the Great Park location from being selected — unless large numbers people show up on July 22 and tell the Irvine City Council that they must support the resolution to designating the 125-acre site in the Great Park as the Orange County veterans cemetery.

Here is what a leader of Orange County Veterans Memorial Park group has to say:

OCVMP, Orange County Veterans Memorial Park, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council,votemelissafox, votemelissafox.com“We need your help! Next Tuesday  – July 22  – the next Irvine City Council meeting will be held. The OCVMP committee is asking for all veterans and all of our supporters to attend this most important meeting as the issue of the Veterans Cemetery at the Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro promises to be the hot topic.

We on the committee have reason to believe that our concerns as a group may be tied up in a mishmash of parliamentary procedures and legal manipulation by some members on the Ad Hoc Committee who have expressed no interest in seeing their charge through to completion. . . Unfortunately, [some] members of the Ad Hoc Committee seem to be doing their utmost to drag the process out until a target date of August 1 has come and passed. OCVMP Committee Chair Bill Cook had put a motion on the floor to present both viable site options to the Irvine City Council. Bill’s motion was ruled out of order as it was Ad Hoc Chairman Jeff Lalloway’s opinion that we had moved on to discussing the agenda items for the next Ad Hoc meeting. This undue action took the audience by surprise and resulted in a great deal of disappointment and distrust in the Ad Hoc Committee’s leadership (bear in mind that the Ad Hoc Committee Chairman is Irvine City Councilman Jeff Lalloway, the Vice-Chairman is Irvine City Mayor Steven Choi, and a third member is a representative from the Five Points Communities). It is our hope and our goal that we can expedite the process and get the issue to the next level in the approval and funding process. Please join us in this worthwhile endeavor. There has been too much work done and too much time spent to let the whole concept get hijacked by those who were predisposed to prevent a cemetery from being built at the outset. We are YOUR veterans, and we need your support.”

This is not  – and should not be  – a partisan issue. I agree completely with blogger Jeff Gallagher that “the only ones who don’t think placing a veterans cemetery at the Great Park is appropriate are those who desperately want the income that would be lost by establishing one [and the politicians who are doing their bidding].”

“We think MCAS El Toro is the most appropriate location to honor our veterans. . . .Surely, the time has come to bring this dream to fruition. Every veterans organization from the Orange County Veterans Advisory Council to The American Legion, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars are actively involved with this project. More than 200 veterans and interested persons showed up to hear Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva’s update on AB1453 and efforts to put this plan together. Importantly, Quirk-Silva said AB1453 is just the beginning. Once the legislative authority has been granted, money still needs to be raised. Hope lies in the Feds who, although they won’t establish a cemetery here, will provide grant money to allow the state to establish and run one. Speaking as a veteran, I don’t really care one way or the other where the money comes from. The important thing is to honor our veterans by giving them a final resting place near their home. By rights, that resting place should be on, what The American Legion 29th District Commander, Bill Cook, called “Sacred Ground.”

The Irvine City Council needs to know that Orange County veterans and their families and supporters are not going to fade away.

Marine Corps veteran Nick Berardino, General Manager of the Orange County Employees’ Association, has has announced that the OCEA will be there with their hot dog cart from about 3:30 PM until the meeting starts around 5:00 PM. The OCEA is providing free hot dogs and condiments to all attendees as long as the hot dogs last.

What: Support an Orange County Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park (the former MCAS El Toro).
Where: The Irvine Civic Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606
When: The meeting will start at 5:00 pm. If you want a seat in the Council Chambers you may want to arrive earlier.

Please share this information with your Facebook friends and e-mail contacts.

See you there!

UPDATE 

We just received the following information from American Legion 29th District Chaplain Bill Cook:

• The Irvine City Council meeting starts at 4:00 pm with a closed session;  open session will start at 5:00 pm.  We expect the cemetery vote around 6:00 pm.

• Overflow parking, with shuttle service, will be provided from Creekside High School at Harvard/Barranca.

• Water will be provided in the courtyard to go with the great OCEA hot dogs

• Extra motorcycle parking area will be provided.

• Video connections will be provided in the conference room and lobby for overflow, if the chambers get full.

• Plenty of speaker cards will be available, and all speakers will be accommodated. Wanna speak? Fill out a speaker card!

• Spread the word!