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 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, 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.  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.