What I’m Listening for in the Mayor’s State of the City Address

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Irvine Mayor Don Wagner and I have very different views on many national issues. Yet in the short time that we have served together on the Irvine City Council, I believe we have come to mutually respect each other’s genuine concern for solving Irvine’s problems and improving the lives of the residents of our City.

That’s why I look forward to Mayor Wagner’s first State of the City Address.

Here’s what I will be listening for:

Plans to tackle Irvine’s growing traffic and transportation problems. Everyone who lives or works in Irvine knows that Irvine has serious traffic and transportation problems. Every person who ran for Mayor or City Council in 2016 – including myself and Mayor Wagner – promised to take bold and meaningful action to reduce traffic congestion. To solve these problems, Irvine needs to increase the safe, effective, and efficient transportation choices available in the City (including public transportation and bicycle routes), and will need to hold developers accountable for resolving traffic issues before more entitlements and building permits are issued. While I agree that there is no quick-fix or miracle cure for traffic, I believe Irvine’s voters spoke loudly and clearly in the most recent election: our Mayor and City Council must take decisive action against Irvine’s transportation issues – congestion, environmental impact, accessibility, and public safety.

Progress on the Great Park. For too long, the promise of a truly Great Park has been obscured by bickering and recriminations. All of us on the Irvine City Council need to move forward and put the interests of Irvine’s residents and our regional neighbors first. Among the specific Great Park projects I am interested in supporting is a new amphitheater to host world-class musicians and local favorites, as well as a new world-class water park, while not negatively impacting our traffic or public safety. The Mayor and the City Council need to work in harmony with Irvine residents, our regional neighbors, developers, and other partners in creating a Great Park that we can all be proud to bequeath to future generations.

Plans to ensure smart growth in Irvine instead of runaway development. Here, too, Irvine’s residents have spoken loud and clear in the last election: Development must not come at the price of Irvine’s schools, public safety, or quality of life. I look forward to hearing the plans Mayor Wagner has for working with our school districts, developers, and regional partners to prevent school overcrowding and further exacerbation of our traffic woes, while maintaining Irvine’s high educational and public safety standards.

Assure our Muslim and foreign-born residents that Irvine welcomes them. The current political climate has made many Muslim and foreign-born residents of Irvine fearful. I have met many people in Irvine who are genuinely fearful that harm will come to them and their families because of their religion, their appearance, their accent, or their even their names. I would like to hear Mayor Wagner assure these residents that Irvine welcomes them, appreciates them, stands with them, and will not tolerate any bigotry against them.

Commitment to building the Veterans Cemetery and Memorial. One of my proudest moments as an Irvine resident was when the City Council in 2014 voted unanimously to set aside 125 acres in the Great Park for an Orange County Veterans Cemetery. The Governor then signed Assembly Bill 1453 into law, authorizing the State of California “in voluntary cooperation with local government entities in Orange County [to] design, develop, construct, and equip a state-owned and state-operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery, which shall be located at the site of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, on 125 acres known as the Amended and Restated Development Agreement Site in the Great Park in the City of Irvine.”

Since that time, questions have been raised regarding whether there will be sufficient funds to build the veterans cemetery on the allocated site in the Great Park, or whether the best course of action is to accept an offer from the Great Park developer to build the cemetery in another, close-by, location in return for a swap of land. I strongly prefer the original allocated site, not least for historical reasons: The Great Park location is on the site of the old Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, where many thousands of brave men and women served, and from where too many departed American soil to fight in foreign lands and never returned.

But for me, the decisive question is what is best for our veterans and their families. Orange County has a long and proud military tradition. As the daughter of an Orange County Korean War combat veteran, I will insist that we fulfill our promise to Orange County veterans – who have sacrificed so much for us – to provide a fitting and beautiful final resting place close to their families and loved ones. I look forward to hearing what Mayor Wagner says on this matter, and expect I him to unequivocally reaffirm Irvine’s sacred commitment to our veterans.

Concern for the less fortunate and plans for affordable housing. The great prosperity in Irvine is not shared by all. Many students in Irvine’s public schools qualify for free or reduced-price lunches. Too many of the jobs created in recent years do not pay a middle-class or even a living wage. We don’t have enough places to live, and too many people can’t afford the places that do exist. Millennials, especially, have a tough time finding places they can afford to live in our City. In addition, our local region has a severe homelessness crisis that our City must pitch in to solve. I look forward to hearing the Mayor’s plans for tackling these issues.

Plans for more childcare facilities. My neighborhood is filled with the happy sounds of young children. Irvine’s schools and beautiful parks and recreational facilities make it exceptionally attractive for families with young children. Yet Irvine already has a serious childcare crisis. At present, nearly 2,500 Irvine families do not have adequate child care. Our Child Care Needs Assessment revealed a current city-wide shortfall of 2,433 child care spaces across all age groups, with the most acute shortage for children under 2 years-old and children 6 to 12 years-old. Churches and other houses of worship traditionally provide a third of all childcare. Our Irvine City Council and the Planning Commission must zone sufficient areas for churches and houses of worship, as well as take other steps, to meet our growing child care needs.

An inspiring vision for Irvine’s future. Irvine cannot afford to sit on its laurels. Other cities are already moving forward with state-of-the-art communications and smart transportation systems. Other cities are moving forward with environmental protections for its residents and incentives for entrepreneurs and innovators. Irvine has all the tools and resources to continue to be among the best places in the world to live and work. I look forward to hearing Mayor Wagner’s vision for a 21st Century Irvine that continues our quest for being the best.

Like many Irvine’s residents, I am optimistic and have positive expectations for Irvine’s elected officials and Irvine’s future. I know we will succeed if we work together putting the residents first.

Autonomous Vehicle Technology in Irvine: Moving Irvine Toward Greener, Smarter Transportation Solutions

Mercedes-Benz Future Bus mit CityPilot; teilautomatisiert fahrender Stadtbus mit Ampelerkennung; Hindernis- und Fußgängererkennung; 10 Kameras; automatisierte Haltestellenfahrten; Radarsysteme für Nah- und Fernbereich Basisfahrzeug: Mercedes-Benz Citaro; OM 936 mit 220 kW/299 PS; 7,7 L Hubraum, Länge/Breite/Höhe: 12.135/2.550/3.120 mm ; Mercedes-Benz Future Bus with CityPilot; semi-automated city bus with traffic light recognition; recognition of obstacles and pedestrians; automated bus stop approaches basic vehicle: Mercedes-Benz Citaro; OM 936 rated at 220 kW/299 hp; displacement 7.7 l; length/width/height: 12135/2550/3120 mm;

Note:  I recently had the opportunity to present a talk to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) about bringing research and jobs to Irvine involving the development of autonomous vehicle technology.  Among those present were representatives of major innovative corporations.  I would like to say thank you to Irvine Planning Commissioner Dustin Nirschl for his invaluable help in writing this talk and in bringing AV technology to Irvine. 

Here is the text of that talk.

Irvine boasts a long-standing, commitment to planning that has resulted in it’s being viewed as one of the more desirable locations in the nation.  The city has been planned under a village community model to ensure that residents enjoy safe, accessible, family-oriented living, with short commutes to local entertainment, dining, shopping, and nearby schools.  To complement these village communities, Irvine has consistently worked to develop a robust network of bicycle paths.

Recently, Irvine’s population has surged, and two high-density hubs are nearly built out.  Residents still travel to close-proximity, village destinations, but now also frequent the Spectrum and Irvine Business Complex hubs.  These high-density hubs draw additional vehicle trips on Irvine roadways because: (1) the hub is too far to make walking/bicycling practical, (2) bicycle/pedestrian paths fail to completely connect community to key locations, or (3) a form of preferred alternative transportation such as shuttle or trolley is unavailable to the commuter. Congestion is compounded because Irvine’s daily population nearly doubles due to the influx of business professionals circulating to the Spectrum and IBC hubs. These issues signal that Irvine has reached a point of maturation where more sophisticated and smarter transportation planning with increased transportation choices for Irvine’s residents and commuters is required.

As a 21st century city, Irvine must shape its transportation initiatives and policy to accommodate its residents both for today and for the future.  One especially encouraging option for the future is the use of autonomous vehicles (AVs).  AV technology promises efficiency, and sustainability, as well as economic opportunity, improved freedom, and safety for residents.

Irvine is committed to both listening and leading. We recognize that implementing AV technology can only be done with the City fully behind the project.  We will need to continually educate residents, and to continue to refine the processes we intend to pursue to integrate AV into the community.  For this reason, we are working to re-purpose an abandoned air strip for the establishment of a Center for Excellence conducting AV and other research.  The Center for Excellence will house key players like Tesla and other innovative technology companies.  City partnerships with these innovative companies can enable necessary testing, while simultaneously demystifying many of the unknowns surrounding AV transportation.  Moreover, it will help develop additional partnerships and find ways to overcome infrastructure obstacles and regulatory issues raised by AV transportation to implement AV transportation in the City.

The City also plans to work closely with the University of California Irvine to find ways to bring the UCI Applied Innovation Department, an innovative technology incubator, into the City’s AV effort. This unique department connects the University’s intellectual property and entrepreneurism studies to real world applications.  In addition, the City will look to work with UCI Law School’s innovative Technology & Entrepreneurship Competition, which challenges interdisciplinary teams of graduate students from across the University to structure and negotiate a joint development agreement for a new and exciting technology.  We believe the Center for Excellence can integrate UCI faculty and students into an unrivaled force for research and real-world technological progress.

In addition, we are channeling Irvine City staff toward opportunities involving zero emissions and green city initiatives.  Recently, the VW settlement made available funding for City proposals committed to ZEV infrastructure, public outreach, redevelopment, and green city initiatives.  Obtaining extrinsic funding can help boost public participation and political momentum, while minimizing financial risk.  These initiatives are established to incentivize political mobility, and to lighten transition burdens.

Policymakers in California and across the country understand that local economies, the environment, and resident health all benefit across individual and collective layers of the community by embracing smart, green innovation, especially in transportation.

As an Irvine City Councilmember, I am grateful for the opportunity to better enable and further this quest.  In January, I successfully committed Irvine’s city staff to the exploration and implementation of advanced transportation methods and infrastructure.

I believe that our city, our businesses, and our people can become more connected.  AV transportation modes can connect village communities and travelers by acting as a first/last mile solution to business, entertainment, and transportation hubs.

We look forward to a greener, smarter future, but understand we have work to do right now to make that future possible.

10+ Quotes for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

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“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

mkl-02-3“If the cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. Because the goal of America is freedom, abused and scorned tho’ we may be, our destiny is tied up with America’s destiny.”

If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.”

“The time is always right to do what is right.”

“Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

and my personal favorite:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”

Celebrating Korean American Day!

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Today, January 13, has been designated by the City of Irvine as Korean American Day.

On January 13, 1903, a group of 102 Korean laborers arrived in Honolulu from Japan aboard the steamship RMS Gaelic to work in the Hawaiian sugar cane fields. This date is traditionally regarded as marking the first Korean immigration to the United States and celebrated as Korean American Day — although several individual Koreans had immigrated to the United States earlier, including Philip Jaisohn (Seo Jae-pil), a journalist and medical doctor and a noted champion for Korea’s independence, who in 1890 became the first Korean to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Korean American Youth Performing Artists mix colorful fans and clothing with graceful dance during the Korean Cultural Festival at Irvine City Hall on Sunday. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: - Photo by MINDY SCHAUER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - shot: 051416 i.0514.koreanfestival Thousands attend the seventh annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, which commemorates Korean immigration to the United States since Jan. 13, 1903.

Korean American youth performing during the Korean Cultural Festival at Irvine City Hall. Photo: Mindy Schauer, OC Register

From these humble beginnings, a large and vibrant Korean American community has grown, now numbering nearly 2 million people of Korean descent in the United States, including nearly half a million people in California.

Irvine is proud to celebrate our thriving Korean American community each year in our annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, designed to share Korean culture with the entire community by showcasing its customs, heritage, arts and cuisine.

Our city has adopted the South Korean city of Seocho-gu as one of Irvine’s four “Sister Cities,” and has begun planning for the construction of a traditional Korean garden in Col. Bill Barber Park next to Irvine City Hall.

As the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans have made to our city (including two Korea-born mayors), our state, and our country.

I am proud to live and serve on the City Council in a city that celebrates and treasures our Korean American community and I join my Korean American friends and neighbors in celebrating Korean American contributions to our shared American heritage and way of life.

Melissa Fox’s City Council Agency and Committee Appointments 2017

I am pleased to report that I have been appointed by Irvine Mayor Don Wagner and my City Council colleagues to serve as Irvine’s representative on the Board of Directors of the Orange County Fire Authority and other regional and local agencies and committees.

Below is a complete list of my appointments to regional and local agencies and committees.  I am particularly pleased with my energy, watershed, wildlife, environmental, childcare and infrastructure appointments, since I have a longstanding interest in moving forward in these areas of policy.  I am also particularly pleased to join the Library Advisory Board, since my mother was a librarian and taught me the importance of community access to literature and information.

Appointments to Outside Agencies

sj-preserve-1005Community Energy Partnership (Aspen Accord)

Established to forge effective strategies and programs to foster smart energy management, build positive relationships between cities, energy consumers and their serving utilities and to educate communities about sustainable energy efficiency in Southern California.

Irvine Child Care Project (NonProfit JPA between City and Irvine USD)

Non-profit joint powers agency that provides after school care at all elementary schools in the City. Note: Alternate for Lynn Schott.

Library Advisory Board (LAB) of Orange County Library System (Formerly County-Wide Library Task Force, name-change in 2006)

Participating cities appoint members to attend and represent the City’s interests.

Laguna Canyon Foundation

Reflects a unique partnership between community and environmental activists, civic and municipal leaders, and private property owners and developers. Note: Irvine is no longer a voting member and only participates on a semi-annual or quarterly basis in large stakeholders meetings only.

Newport Bay Watershed Executive Committee

An agreement with the County of Orange to monitor sediment discharge within the watershed, with the costs shared by all parties, except the Department of Fish and Game.

One Water One Watershed (OWOW) Steering Committee

(Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority “SAWPA”)

Next generation of integrated regional watershed planning is under development to solve water issues on a regional scale and give all water interests a voice in the planning process. Note: Appointee will be considered for vacancy subject to final approval by OCCOG

San Joaquin Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary

Committee coordinated by the Irvine Ranch Water District to manage the Sea and Sage contract for the marsh program.

Santa Ana River Flood Protection Agency Commission

The purpose of this commission is the dissemination of flood hazard information; unanimity among the citizens of Orange, San Bernardino, and Riverside Counties on flood protection alternatives; and promotion of federal project authorization.

 Orange County Fire Authority

Serves 22 cities in Orange County and all unincorporated areas. The OCFA protects over 1,300,000 residents from its 60 fire stations located throughout Orange County. Stipend: $100 per meeting per day; maximum of $300 per month for voting member in attendance (No mileage).

Appointments to Irvine Commissions and Committees

Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Seeks to increase public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, helping the City serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs. I am glad to work on this Commission with my appointee, Krishna Hammond, and others.

Industrial Development Authority (IDA)

Functions in accomplishment of the purpose provided in the California Industrial Development Financing Act (Title 10, commencing with Section 91500 of the Government Code of the State of California) and to carry out and complete projects and perform and exercise derivative obligations and powers as set forth in the Act.

Irvine Community Land Trust (ICLT)

Created by the City of Irvine to provide secure, high-quality affordable housing through the operation of a non-profit community land trust, securing and retaining title to land on which permanently affordable rental, ownership and special needs housing will be constructed and maintained for the benefit of income-eligible families.

Irvine Child Care Project (NonProfit JPA between City and Irvine USD)

Non-profit joint powers agency that provides after school care at all elementary schools in the City. Note: Alternate for Lynn Schott.

Irvine Public Facilities and Infrastructure Authority (IPFIA)

Provides for the financing and refinancing of public capital improvements of the City, through the Purchase by the Authority of obligations of the City pursuant to a bond purchase.

Note: There is no additional pay or stipend for service on any of these agencies and committees except as specifically indicated.

If you have questions or concerns regarding any of these agencies and committees, or on any matter regarding the City of Irvine, please do not hesitate to contact me at my official Irvine City Council email at mefox@cityofirvine.org. All correspondence is public record.

Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox Advises City Manager to Submit U.S. Department of Transportation Proposal for Autonomous Vehicle Testing

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 Irvine, CA — At the request of Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox, the City of Irvine has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Department of Transportation, expressing the City of Irvine’s interest to become a testing site or “proving ground” for autonomous vehicle technology.

“Autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to have a very positive impact on congested traffic throughout Irvine. Self-driving vehicles can be a life-saving and economy-boosting technology, with the potential to transform how we live, work and travel.  I want Irvine to be in the forefront of this exciting innovation and continue to be a leader in cutting-edge research. The Great Park would be an ideal location for testing this technology.” Fox said.

Fox added: “I look forward to working with my colleagues on the City Council to integrate cutting-edge transportation innovations into the City of Irvine. Our City is a leader in business (number 1 in job-to-population ratio in the nation), public safety, and in educational support of the young people who will be leaders in technological breakthroughs. It is my hope that we will be able to use these new technologies to resolve Irvine’s traffic problems – making Irvine a better place to live, work and raise a family.”

Invitation to My Swearing-In Ceremony

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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Please join me at Irvine City Hall on Tues., December 13, for my swearing-in ceremony as a member of the Irvine City Council.

My election victory was the result of the contributions and hard work of many people. I am tremendously grateful for your efforts and contributions, and I am honored and privileged to serve the residents of Irvine.

I am also honored to announce that California State Treasurer John Chiang will swear me in.

The swearing-in ceremony will take place at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, December 13, 2016, at Irvine City Hall, located at 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606.

There will be a reception afterward, beginning at 6:00 pm.

I have attached a copy of the invitation here.

I hope to see you there!

With appreciation,

Melissa Fox
Irvine City Councilmember-Elect