Irvine Delivers Letters to Santa Claus!

Irvine will deliver your letters to Santa Claus!

Santa is busy getting ready for the holidays, and he would love to hear from his friends in Irvine!

Heritage and Turtle Rock community parks will be accepting and sorting Santa’s mail this holiday season. All letters will receive responses, which can be picked up where the letter is dropped off.  Allow one week for individual responses; for classrooms, allow two weeks.

A drop-off and pick-up box will be located at both parks.

Send letters to:

SANTA CLAUS SANTA CLAUS
c/o Heritage Park Community Center c/o Turtle Rock Community Park
14301 Yale Ave., 1 Sunnyhill
Irvine, CA 92604 Irvine, CA 92603

For more information, call Heritage Community Park at 949-724-6750 or Turtle Rock Community Park at 949-724-6734.

Also, join me for Irvine’s Winter Wonderland Celebration on Saturday, December 7, 4–6:30 p.m. as “snow” falls over the Irvine Civic Center and the community gathers for games, crafts, entertainment, food, and a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony!

And don’t forget to join the City of Irvine and the Irvine 2/11 Marine Adoption Committee to support the Irvine 2/11 Marine Corps Holiday Toy Drivebrightening the season for military families by donating a new, unwrapped gift suitable for infants or children ages 12 and younger.

California State Auditor Gives Irvine Highest Rating for Fiscal Health!

As an Irvine City Councilmember who ran on a promise of fiscal responsibility, I am very pleased to announce that the California State Auditor’s Office has recently published a comprehensive ranking of 471 California cities based on their fiscal health and that Irvine achieved the Auditor’s highest possible rating of “low risk.”

This designation indicates that a city has low risk of experiencing fiscal distress.

A map created by the state auditor’s office ranks cities by fiscal health. Green is low risk, yellow is moderate risk and red is high risk.

Among the indicators used to evaluate the cities’ fiscal health were each city’s cash position or liquidity, debt burden, financial reserves, revenue trends, and ability to pay for employee retirement benefits.

I’m proud of my record on the Irvine City Council in increasing government accountability, openness, and transparency.

I’ve received the Orange County Taxpayers Watchdog Award for “demonstrating dedication to the protection of taxpayer funds and for the advocacy of government transparency and fiscal responsibility.”

Under my leadership, the Irvine Community land Trust was awarded the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, the world’s most respected source of information on nonprofit organizations.

I was also the only member of the Irvine City Council to oppose Measure D, which would have eliminated voter input into development decisions, because I believe that citizens must have a strong voice in deciding the future of their neighborhoods.

I enthusiastically supported the City’s adoption of the Irvine Sunshine Ordinance, which expanded public notice to four times longer than California law requires and prevents government action without full and informed participation from the community. I also supported approval of a two-year budget cycle, along with a five-year financial planning program, to bring more accountability to government spending.

You can read the full California State Auditor’s Report HERE.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I am extremely proud of these accomplishments But much more important to me is the fact that our city is truly serving its residents with fiscal responsibility and transparency.

I ran for City Council on a platform of using my skills as a business attorney to safeguard every public dollar, and I have kept that promise by making sure that Irvine is financially transparent and doesn’t spend more than it can afford.

These awards reflect the commitment that I and my colleagues on the Irvine City Council, as well as our Finance Commissioners and our professional staff, have made to the taxpayers and residents of Irvine, and to the principles of government transparency and fiscal responsibility.

Government transparency and fiscal responsibility should be neither a conservative nor a liberal idea, but appeal to both, as we strive to address increasing social needs with limited resources.

Irvine Ranked “Safest City in U.S.” by 24/7 Wall St. Public Safety is Linked to Irvine’s Economic and Population Growth in “Virtuous Cycle.”

Recently, using data from the FBI, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the violent crimes rate in the 294 U.S. cities with populations of at least 100,000 — a population-adjusted measure of incidents of rape, robbery, homicide, and aggravated assault — to identify America’s safest cities. Irvine, California, was found to be the safest city in the United States.

Here is their report published on October 23, 2019, on public safety in Irvine:

“1. Irvine, California
> 2018 violent crime rate: 55.5 per 100,000 people
> 2018 homicides: 0
> Poverty rate: 13.2%
> 2018 unemployment rate: 2.8%

According to the most recent FBI data, there were zero murders, 40 rapes, 53 robberies, and 67 aggravated assaults reported in Irvine in 2018. Adjusted for population, there were just 56 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Irvine residents, by far the lowest rate of any U.S. city with a population of at least 100,000 and less than one-sixth the national violent crime rate.

The low prevalence of crime may have been a pull factor for the large influx of residents who moved to Irvine over the past decade. From 2009 to 2018, the population of Irvine grew by 33.6%, more than five times the 6.6% national growth rate.”

As the Orange County Register’s distinguished business and real estate columnist Jon Lansner reports, “when you compare the safety rankings with local housing prices, it’s no surprise that these safe cities are also among the nation’s priciest places to buy a residence.”

Lansner also notes that Irvine’s public safety success is connected to its economic and population growth in what University of Chicago Senior Fellow John Roman calls a “virtuous cycle.” “Growing cities tend to grow because they’re perceived as safe and that safety compounds in a virtuous cycle,” Roman said. “Safe places get safer.”

Congratulations to our outstanding Police Chief Mike Hamel and to all the dedicated professionals of the Irvine Police Department.  I know that Irvine continues to be recognized as America’s safest city because the men and women of the Irvine Police Department perform their duties every day at the very highest levels of professionalism and integrity.  Our community knows that our police officers are dedicated to ensuring the safety of our residents and treating everyone with fairness and respect.

Thank you, Irvine Police Department!

Irvine Police Department Holding Two Educational Community Meetings on Gun Violence Restraining Orders

I am very pleased to announce that the Irvine Police Department is holding two educational community meetings on Gun Violence Restraining Orders.

A Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) prohibits a person who is a danger to themselves or others from owning, possessing, or receiving any firearms, ammunition, or magazines.

You can read my previous posts on the need for educational outreach about GVROs and California’s Red Flag Law HERE and HERE.

Gun Violence Restraining Order Can Save Lives

A recent study by the U.C. Davis School of Medicine found that California’s red flag law has significantly reduced gun violence.

According to Laura Cutilletta, legal director of the Giffords Law Center, California’s red flag law acts as a sort of timeout, so someone in psychological distress can get counseling while their fitness to possess a gun is evaluated.  “It’s a way to allow for temporary removal of firearms in a situation just like this: where somebody has made threats, where they have been expelled from school because of those threats, they’re in counseling, and parents or the school or whoever it is understands that this person poses a threat,” she explained.

However, the effectiveness of Gun Violence Restraining Orders has been limited by the lack of awareness of the law on the part of both the public and the police.  Too often, neither the public nor the local police are aware of or encouraged to obtain Gun Violence Restraining Orders.

That’s why it is so important that our police department has made these educational workshops on GVROs available to the public.

Learn more about Gun Violence Restraining Orders by attending one of the two community meetings presented by members of the Irvine Police Department.

Two community meetings are scheduled:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Irvine City Hall, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine 92606

Tuesday, November 5, 2019, 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. at Portola Springs Community Center, 900 Tomato Springs, Irvine 92618

You can see the Facebook event page for the October community meeting HERE.

Thank you Chief Mike Hamel and the Irvine Police Department for holding these important educational community meetings.

See you there!

 

UCI Named No. 1 College in U.S. for Sustainability. The City of Irvine Should Follow UCI’s Example and Adopt the Community Choice Energy Program and Stand-Alone Climate Action Plan We’ve Been Promised!

Congratulations to the University of California, Irvine (UCI), on being named the No. 1 “Cool School” in the nation by the Sierra Club in its annual ranking of sustainability leaders among U.S. colleges.

UCI is the only university to score in the top 10 for 10 consecutive years.

“As UCI is the only university to have ranked in the top 10 ‘Cool Schools’ for an unprecedented 10 years and counting, we’re continually impressed with its commitment to modeling, teaching and embodying excellent environmental stewardship in all areas,” said Katie O’Reilly, Sierra Magazine’s adventure and lifestyle editor. “The Anteaters are truly standouts in this increasingly important space.”

Colleges were ranked according to which ones offer the best sustainability-focused courses and carbon-neutral land and energy policies, as well as the most opportunities to engage with the environmental movement. UCI was recognized for EV charging stations and converting its central-cooling plant to a system that conserves over 80 million gallons of potable water per year while cooling campus buildings —17 of which are certified LEED Platinum and seven of which are zero-waste facilities. UCI also was recognized for creating a new pilot project to provide free insulation retrofits and solar installations in nearby low-income communities.  In addition, UCI researchers were recognized for their work in  adapting medical and public health curricula to better prepare students to treat tropical diseases as they expand in range due to climate change.

You can listen to a podcast on UCI’s “Cool School” Award, including UCI’s efforts regarding sustainability and achieving reach net-zero carbon dioxide emissions here.

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

Under Irvine Mayors Larry Agran, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang, Irvine was indeed a world leader in environmental programs and innovation. One of the highlights of Irvine’s environmental engagement was presence of the U.S. Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. The Solar Decathlon is an international competition held every two years that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The houses are assembled at a central location for display, evaluation, and awards. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency. The Solar Decathlon was held at the Great Park in 2013 and 2015.

Another highlight of Irvine’s environmental leadership was the creation of the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee in 2012.  The Green Ribbon Committee was charged with the crucial task of developing and recommending environmental policy initiatives and programs, including sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

Unfortunately, when Steven Choi became mayor of Irvine in November 2014, both the Great Park Solar Decathlon and the Green Ribbon Committee became victims of Choi’s climate change denial and hostility to environmental action.

As I’ve detailed in How Orange County Lost the U.S. Solar Decathlon, Steven Choi was hostile to the very premises of the Solar Decathlon — the need for replacing burning fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy.  In sharp contrast to the previous three Irvine mayors who championed environmental and climate concerns, Choi “completely question[ed] the idea of global warming being caused by human intervention.”  Rather than recognizing the importance of environmental action,  both as an opportunity for technological innovation and as an existential imperative, Choi saw all environmental concerns as anti-business and climate change as wholly unconnected to human activity. You can read the full story of the Solar Decathlon here.

Similarly, Choi sabotaged the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee. In fact, when I was elected to the Irvine City Council in November 2016, the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee had been inoperative for several years because Mayor Steven Choi and his allies on the Irvine City Council did not appoint sufficient members to constitute a quorum. In fact, the Committee did not meet during all of 2014 and 2016, cancelling every scheduled meeting. The words “climate change” and “global warming” were not permitted to be used in official City of Irvine publications or staff reports. Choi didn’t even allow the City of Irvine to participate in the Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by the Irvine-based Wyland Foundation.

As a longtime environmental activist, I wasn’t going to allow the City of Irvine to continue to ignore environmental issues and global warming. I convinced newly elected Mayor Donald P. Wagner, who replaced Steven Choi, to re-invigorate the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee and appoint me to the Committee as the City Council’s representative.  I then appointed Krishna Hammond, a young progressive scientist, as my representative to the Committee and encouraged the other Councilmembers to make appointments.  At our first meeting, I was elected Chair of the Committee and Krishna was elected Vice Chair.  The Green Ribbon Environmental Committee was out of Choi-imposed exile and was off and running.

I am extremely proud of the work we’ve done and the things we’ve accomplished since then.

Perhaps most important, we commissioned a study of Community Choice Energy (CCE) and then recommended that the City Council follow its recommendation to implement a CCE plan with an expected savings of $7.7 million per year in citywide electricity cost savings for Irvine residents and businesses, and a $112,000 per year savings for the City itself in municipal energy costs, as well as driving additional local economic development benefits, such as new jobs and $10 million in annual economic output. 

Now I am concerned that the work we’ve done on CCE is about to be undermined by the current City Council leadership.  I have learned that CCE advocates have been getting “push back” from the City and the City Manager.

The Green Ribbon Committee also recommended swift adoption of a stand-alone Climate Action Plan, so that, in the words of climate activist Robin Raeder Ganahl, “Irvine residents know what the City’s plan is to reduce emissions, meet state targets, and protect our quality of life.” Again, I am now concerned that the current City Council leadership has no intention of adopting a stand-alone Climate Action Plan, and is simply sitting on the Green Ribbon Committee’s recommendation with no intention to move forward.

Melissa Fox attending the 2013 U.S. Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park as an Irvine Community Services Commissioner.

We’ve made progress since the days when Steven Choi drove the U.S. Solar Decathlon out of town, shut down the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, refused to participate in the Wyland Foundation’s Water Challenge, and banned the words “climate change” and “global warning.”

But there is still much to be done. In particular, the current Irvine City Council leadership needs to show that its professed concern for action on climate change and protecting the environment isn’t just lip service and a public relations smokescreen.

Instead, the City Council needs to adopt a stand-alone Climate Action Plan that we’ve been promised and implement the Community Choice Energy program that we’ve shown to be a tremendous benefit to both the City and the planet. 

 

Show Your Support for a Great Park Botanical Gardens at our Board Meeting on Tues., October 22, 2019!

If you’re a supporter of botanical gardens in the Orange County Great Park, please attend the important Great Park Board Meeting on Tues., October 22, 2019, at 1:00 p.m. in the Irvine City Council Chambers.

This meeting is scheduled to include a development status update and accounting of projects currently proposed in the Orange County Great Park.

Of special concern to supporters of Great Park Botanical Gardens is the fact that there is no funding or acreage currently allotted or proposed for a botanical gardens.

You can read the Great Park Board Meeting agenda HERE.

You can read the staff report on Great Park development HERE.

It is crucial that supporters of a Great Park Botanical Gardens show up to the meeting and make your voices heard!

I have long been a strong advocate for botanical gardens and museums in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace.  Every survey we’ve done has shown that gardens are among amenities that people most want in the Great Park. The Orange County Register reported that “Gardens were among the most popular features in the surveys, according to the city staff report. Eighty-two percent of Orange County residents said they are at least somewhat interested in having botanical gardens at the Great Park, when they were asked specifically about the feature.”

I agree with the Great Park Garden Coalition that “We need places where children can experience nature and explore, where all can find refuge from the ever-increasing urban density and traffic, where people of all ages and abilities can experience beautiful outdoor spaces. All great urban parks have great garden spaces: Golden Gate Park, Central Park, Balboa Park.”

I also continue to agree with what Joyce Mann wrote in the Voice of OC in 2017: “Gardens are an inclusive, a-political opportunity to bring community together for generations. They are a public benefit that becomes a lasting legacy. Besides being beautiful to look at, education is fundamental to the mission of botanical gardens. Through them, we have an opportunity to teach students of all ages about developing environmental awareness and to learn about plant science, gardening and the ecology of our local forests, rivers and wetlands. Botanical gardens become a living plant museum that will inform visitors about the importance and often-irreplaceable value of plants to the well-being of humans and to the earth’s fragile ecosystems. Isn’t that the very definition of a legacy?”

My top priorities for the Great Park Cultural Terrace are a world-class Botanical Gardens and a California Natural History Museum. I want them moving forward without any more unnecessary delays or unnecessary layers of bureaucracy. I will continue to fight for them until they are a reality.

I appreciate that gardens and museums are not necessarily revenue-producing amenities. But as reported in OC Weekly, “Great Park Director/City Councilwoman Melissa Fox said that, ‘I will also insist that we follow the recommendations of residents and build world-class botanical gardens, museums and a lake to make Irvine the home of a truly Great Park.’ But most heartening, on May 22, Fox pushed back on the notion that everything in the Cultural Terrace must generate a lot of revenue. ‘The Cultural Terrace is the Cultural Terrace,’ she told Irvine planners and consultants at the Great Park board meeting. ‘Not the Commercial Terrace.'”

Please show up at our meeting at 1:00 p.m. on Tues., October 22, 2019, and give voice to the strong community support for a Great Park Botanical Gardens!

 

 

We Had a Wonderful Time at the 2019 Global Village Festival at the Great Park! Help Us by Make It Even Better by Taking Our Survey!

My family had a wonderful time the 2019 Global Village Festival at the Great Park!

When many immigrant communities and religious and ethnic minorities are feeling themselves under attack, the message of the Global Village Festival — “Many Cultures, One World” — was especially welcome.  The Global Village Festival was truly a celebration of the thriving diversity that is now the real Orange County.

Last year was the first time that the Irvine Global Village Festival, formerly held at Col. Bill Barber Park next to Irvine City Hall, was held at the far more expansive grounds of the Orange County Great Park.  This year was the first time that the Festival was extended to two full days.

As in past years, my favorite parts of the Festival were visiting the many different national and ethnic organizations that hosted booths and listening to the great musical performances from many cultures.  I also enjoyed the shopping, the food, watching the children play in the newly expanded Kids Village, meeting old friends and making new ones.

The City of Irvine has created a brief survey for people who attended the Festival.  By completing it, you’ll be helping us make the Festival even better in the future.  You can find the survey HERE.

Here are some of our pictures from our time at the Festival.

I look forward to seeing more of yours!