July 4th: We Hold These Truths . . .

We hold these Truths to be self-evident,

that all Men are created equal,

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights

that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

— That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men,

deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed,

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States, that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

    —  The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.

Irvine Should Repeal Its Anti-LGBTQ Ordinance Now!

At the Tues., July 14, 2020, Irvine City Council meeting, I will move to repeal Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance [Sec. 3-5-501 through 503] as unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and in violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which explicitly prohibits discrimination against people based on “sexual orientation.”

Councilmember Farrah Khan has agreed to join me in putting this item on the July 14 Council agenda and in supporting this motion.

Most residents of Irvine do not know that our diverse and forward-thinking city has an ordinance on the books that specifically and explicitly denies anti-discrimination protection to people based on their sexual orientation.

In fact, most residents are shocked when they learn that the Irvine Municipal Code includes the following:

“Sec. 3-5-503. – City Council parameters.

Except as provided in section 3-5-502, the City Council shall not enact any City policy, law or ordinance that:

A.  Defines sexual orientation as a fundamental human right.

B.  Uses sexual orientation, in whole or in part, as the basis for determining an unlawful discriminatory practice and/or establishes a penalty or civil remedy for such practice.

C.  Provides preferential treatment or affirmative action for any person on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

These provisions were added by Ord. No. 89-1, which was adopted as Measure N by 53% of the voters as an initiative on Nov. 7, 1989, overturning an Irvine Human Rights Ordinance enacted by the Council in July 1988 that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The main proponent of the Measure N ballot initiative and the subsequent anti-LGBTQ ordinance was a group calling itself the “Irvine Values Coalition,” led by carwash-developer Michael Shea and his then-wife (and later Irvine mayor) Christina Shea.

According to Christina Shea, the initiative was needed because the earlier Human Rights ordinance gave “special legislative protection to the homosexual, bisexual and lesbian communities” and “homosexuality is characterized by a wide range of sexual perversions, varying degrees of promiscuity and a disproportionate percentage of sexually transmitted diseases.”

This anti-LGBTQ ordinance violates both the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution and California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.

In Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution prohibits a state from banning LGBTQ people from seeking “specific legal protection from injuries caused by discrimination.”

The facts of Romer v. Evans are as follows: after various cities and counties in Colorado enacted laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, the State of Colorado, through a ballot initiative, amended its state constitution to “prohibit[] all legislative, executive or judicial action at any level of state or local government designed to protect . . . homosexual persons or gays and lesbians.”  As the Supreme Court explained, under the amendment, “Homosexuals, by state decree, are put in a solitary class with respect to transactions and relations in both the private and governmental spheres. The amendment withdraws from homosexuals, but no others, specific legal protection from the injuries caused by discrimination, and it forbids reinstatement of these laws and policies.”

The Supreme Court declared that the Colorado constitutional amendment was based upon animosity toward homosexual people and lacked a rational relation to any legitimate governmental purpose.  Accordingly, the Court determined that Colorado’s constitutional amendment violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, applicable to the states through the 14th Amendment.

Like the Colorado constitutional amendment that the Supreme Court invalidated in Romer v. Evans, Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance attempts to prohibit local government action “designed to protect . . . homosexual persons or gays and lesbians” [i.e., protects people based on “sexual orientation.”] and like the Colorado constitutional amendment invalidated in Romer v. Evans, Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance “withdraws from homosexuals, but no others, specific legal protection from the injuries caused by discrimination.”

Accordingly, Romer v. Evans renders Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance unconstitutional.

Moreover, not only is Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance unconstitutional, it also clearly contradicts and is superseded by California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which explicitly prohibits discrimination against people based on “sexual orientation.”

Because state law supersedes any city law or local ordinance, the Unruh Civil Rights Act’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation anywhere in California means that Irvine lacks the power to declare that “the City Council shall not enact any City policy, law or ordinance that: Uses sexual orientation, in whole or in part, as the basis for determining an unlawful discriminatory practice and/or establishes a penalty or civil remedy for such practice.”

Irvine anti-LBGTQ initiative was one of several ballot measures across the nation in the late 1980s and early 1990s not only to seek to repeal existing anti-discrimination ordinances, but to proactively prohibit any local unit of government from ever passing such ordinances in the future.

Hence, the Irvine anti-LGBTQ ordinance includes provisions that purport to make it extremely difficult for a future Irvine City Council  to repeal it.  According to the ordinance, “Any law or ordinance pertaining to Section 3-5-503 may only be enacted by obtaining the approval of a majority of the voters of the City of Irvine voting on the measure at a regular or special election. Such a measure may only be placed on the ballot by citizen’s initiative or a two-thirds majority vote by the City Council.” [Sec. 3-5-502.].

The Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans made clear that it is an unconstitutional violation of the Equal Protection Clause to single out LGBTQ people for special burdens. including burdening them with special difficulties in enacting anti-discriminatory laws.  According, it is clear that the procedural provisions of Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance — requiring a 2/3 vote of the Council and then a ballot initiative for repeal — is again a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 5th and 14th Amendments because it is designed to make passage of protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation especially burdensome and difficult.

The California Legislature dealt with this very issue in its repeal of the unconstitutional sections of Prop 187 by Senate Bill 396 (2014) by a majority vote of the Legislature without a vote of the entire electorate.

As the Judicial Committee of the California Senate noted, “Under existing law, California’s Constitution only authorizes the Legislature to amend or repeal initiative statutes by way of another statute that becomes effective only when approved by the electors –unless the initiative statute permits amendment or repeal without their approval. (Cal. Const., art. II, Sec. 10, subd. (c).) This bill [SB 396] seeks to repeal several state statutes implemented upon voter approval of Proposition 187, which generally prohibited the provision of various benefits to undocumented aliens. That proposition did not authorize the Legislature to amend or repeal its provisions without voter approval.”

Nevertheless, the Judicial Committee found that the Legislature had authority to repeal the unconstitutional sections of Prop 187 without a vote of the entire electorate. It reasoned that because the bill did not modify or repeal any provisions of Prop 187 except those that are unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable, it did not make any change in existing law. Accordingly, “SB 396 would not impermissibly repeal or amend the initiative; rather, it would merely update California statutes to accurately reflect current law.” The bill passed the Assembly and the Senate with only a single No vote.

The same circumstances exist here.

Like the parts of Prop 187 repealed by a simple majority vote of the Legislature in 2014, the anti-LGBTQ ordinance is unconstitutional and enforceable. Like the unconstitutional parts of Prop 187, although Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance is unconstitutional and unenforceable, its language remains on the books. Keeping this discriminatory language on the books, “causes confusion and harmful outcomes . . . [Therefore], it is fitting that [we] expressly acknowledge the detrimental impact of the discriminatory [language] by removing its stain from the state’s statutes.”

That is what our City Council needs to do now, and what the precedent of SB 396 gives us clear authority to do: “expressly acknowledge the detrimental impact of the discriminatory [language of Sec. 3-5.501-503] by removing its stain from the [City’s Code.]”

In addition to being unconstitutional and in violation of superseding state laws, Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance is a cruel and embarrassing relic of a more prejudiced time.

Does Irvine want to remain on record as being one of the very few cities in America, and  indeed the world, that still officially discriminates against people based on their sexual orientation?  I hope not.

For all of these reasons, I will move to repeal Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance.  

As noted above, Councilmember Farrah Khan has agreed to join me in putting this item on the next Council agenda for Tues., July 14, 2020, and in supporting this motion.

If you agree with us, please tell Mayor Christina Shea and the rest of the Irvine City Council that Irvine’s anti-LGBTQ ordinance [Sec. 3-5-501 through 503] needs to be repealed NOW.

Contact the Mayor and the Irvine City Council by email here.

“Breaking Bread”: Councilmember Melissa Fox Joins Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, Goodstock Consulting, and Others in an Important Discussion on Race in America

GOODSTOCK Consulting, LLC presents a discussion between its directors — Black women Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, Kellye A. McKenzie, Kimberly Butler Willis and Jocelyn Rogers — and three white women — Betsy Neely Sikma (corporate executive), Janet Robinson Alterman (women’s rights activist) and Melissa Fox (City Council Councilmember and California State Assembly candidate) — in the wake of the murder of Black man George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the racist threats made to Black man Christian Cooper by a white woman in New York’s Central Park.

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox was asked to participate by Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, following their recent ZOOM Town Hall on “Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19.”

Watch here:

Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton is Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia and a nationally recognized expert on how institutional racism has led to more severe impacts for communities of color from diseases such as COVID-19.

Melissa Fox is an Irvine City Councilmember and a candidate to represent the 68th Assembly District in the California State Assembly.

Visit Melissa’s assembly campaign website at http://votemelissafox.com

“Like” Melissa’s campaign Facebook page at
https://www.facebook.com/melissafoxforcalifornia/

Click here to watch Melissa Fox’s conversation with Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, “Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19.”

“Breaking Bread: Dear White Women”: Join Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton and Goodstock Consulting in an Important Discussion on Race in America

Join GOODSTOCK Consulting, LLC for a discussion between its directors — Black women Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, Kellye A. McKenzie, Kimberly Butler Willis and Jocelyn Rogers — and three white women — Betsy Neely Sikma (corporate executive), Janet Robinson Alterman (women’s rights activist) and Melissa Fox (City Council Councilmember and California State Assembly candidate) — in the wake of the murder of Black man George Floyd by Minneapolis police and the racist threats made to Black man Christian Cooper by a white woman in New York’s Central Park.

GOODSTOCK Consulting, LLC. From L to R: Kimberly Butler Willis, MPH, CHES, CDP; Ebony Jade Hilton, MD; Kellye A. McKenzie, MPA; Jocelyn Rogers, MPH

We’ll talk about the collective responsibility of white women to do the right thing in the 400 year fight for the freedom of Black and Brown people in America. Join the conversation.  Join the work.  Join us!

Watch “Breaking Bread: Dear White Women”

Date: Weds. June 10, 2020

Time: 3:00 pm Pacific (6:00 pm Eastern) — 4:30 pm (7:30 pm Eastern)

Live on the GOODSTOCK Consulting YouTube Channel
www.youtube.com/channel/UCebSLSY2vh2H5pnkk74kDUQ

This is an important discussion that our hosts have said “will not be an easy conversation.”

Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox was asked to participate by Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, following their recent ZOOM Town Hall on “Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19.”

Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton is Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia and a nationally recognized expert on how institutional racism has led to more severe impacts for communities of color from diseases such as COVID-19.

Melissa Fox is an Irvine City Councilmember and a candidate to represent the 68th Assembly District in the California State Assembly.

Visit Melissa’s assembly campaign website at http://votemelissafox.com

“Like” Melissa’s campaign Facebook page at
https://www.facebook.com/melissafoxforcalifornia/

For more information, please contact Allison at alli@votemelissafox.com

Visit the Facebook page for this event: https://www.facebook.com/events/188795332408895/

Click here to watch Melissa Fox’s conversation with Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton, “Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19.”

Irvine Must Declare Its Unequivocal Condemnation of the Murder of George Floyd. We Must Also Commit to Immediate, Practical Changes to Our Own Use of Force Policies

The Irvine City Council will be considering at our next meeting on Tues., June 9, a proposed “Resolution Assuring Our Community that the City of Irvine Will Not and Does Not Tolerate the Violent Treatment of Others and the Disregard of the Sanctity of Human Life” in response to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, as well as the protests taking place across the nation, including Irvine.

I strongly agree that the City of Irvine must go on the record officially declaring its unequivocal condemnation of the killing of George Floyd, casually and callously murdered by police officers on an American street in full public view and with an attitude of absolute impunity.

But a resolution alone is a woefully insufficient response to the killing of George Floyd and to the widespread and justified outrage across our nation.

This murder was no isolated incident. George Floyd was another person of color killed by excessive police force in a horrible history of victims of widespread and systemic racism that has plagued us since 1619.

As municipal officials, it is incumbent upon us not only to speak against this murder and the racism underlying it, but even more importantly, to make concrete, substantive changes to our use of force policies and procedures to assure a safer and more just future for our whole community.

As currently written, the proposed resolution fails to specifically acknowledge the profound pain and anguish in our nation and in our own community caused by the death of George Floyd and the racism and injustice his death has exposed; it fails to acknowledge the systemic racism and implicit bias and discrimination against people of color that has plagued our law enforcement practices; it does not acknowledge the justice of the cause of the rightfully outraged peaceful protesters, including thousands of Irvine residents; and it does not make any practical changes to the use of force policies for law enforcement in our own City

There is much that we can and should do as elected leaders in Irvine rather than simply state platitudes while taking no concrete action. Irvine needs to seize this moment and make real institutional changes to our use of force policies and procedures in support of justice and real equality.

Our neighboring City of Tustin has done much better.

Accordingly, I will move to amend the currently proposed resolution, using the Tustin proclamation as our guide.

Specifically, I will move that we add the following language taken from the Tustin proclamation: “the City Council supports peaceful protests in [Irvine] that can serve as a critical tool for public awareness; “the City also intends to engage the community to promote open dialogues about intolerance of racism, implicit bias, and discrimination,” and that Irvine “proclaim its solidarity with those who protest peacefully against injustice, racism and hate.”

Additionally, I move to immediately adopt the following eight common sense “use of force” policies that have been identified by experts as having the greatest impact on reducing the excessive use of force by law enforcement and ending the mistreatment of people of color:

  • Prohibit the use of choke and strangle holds.
  • Require officers to exhaust all other reasonable means before resorting to deadly force.
  • Require officers to de-escalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance, and otherwise eliminating the need to use force.
  • Develop a “force continuum” that limits the types of force and/or weapons that can be used to respond to specific types of resistance.
  • Require officers to intervene and stop excessive force used by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor.
  • Prohibit officers from shooting at moving vehicles.
  • Require officers to give a verbal warning before shooting at a civilian.
  • Require comprehensive reporting that includes uses of force and threats of force.

My call for these changes does not mean or imply criticism of the professionalism and dedication of our own Irvine Police Department.

I have tremendous confidence in the integrity and commitment of our police officers, and the inspirational leadership of our Chief of Police. Not only has the Irvine Police Department made Irvine America’s Safest City for 14 years in a row, Irvine was 1 of only 11 police major departments in the nation that did not use deadly force from 2016-2018.

I am glad that Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel has publicly stated that he was personally “deeply disturbed” as a member of law enforcement by the “unjust and disgraceful” murder of George Floyd; that it “erodes the trust and confidence we work so hard to reach”; and that he demands that his officers “treat every member of the public with respect and professionalism.”

Nor does my call for these changes in our use of force policies mean or imply criticism of law enforcement officers in general. The majority of police officers in our nation are dedicated and conscientious public servants, true to their oaths to serve the public with respect and fairness.  As the daughter of a retired law enforcement officer, I know the difficulties faced by law enforcement and the sacrifices that law enforcement officers and their families make to keep our communities safe.

It is as a supporter of law enforcement and a member of a law enforcement family that I say that now is the time to end, once and for all, the murder and mistreatment of black and brown people by the police. In particular, now is the time to adopt common sense restrictions on the use of force against civilians as the best way to counteract the institutional bias and systemic racism against people of color.

June is Pride Month: Support Flying the Pride Flag at Irvine City Hall!

June is Pride Month, when the State of California, and nations and cities around the world, stand with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community as they declare their pride in who they are and who they love.

June holds historic significance for the LGBT community.  In 1969, the Stonewall Riots occurred in the New York City as a protest against the police department’s unfair targeting of the LGBT community. The Stonewall Riots led to political organizing that is considered to be the beginning of the modern LGBT civil rights movement. The following year, the first LGBT Pride Parade was held in New York City on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Today, California has the largest LGBT population in the nation and is home to over forty LGBT Pride celebrations. 

As Governor Newsom stated recently in his Pride Month Proclamation, “The LGBTQ community has worked tirelessly for respect, equality and their very right to exist. Their battles have been fought in the courts, from marriage equality to demanding equal protection under the law.  While there has been remarkable progress towards acceptance and equality in recent years, members of the LGBTQ community in the United States and around the world still face an unacceptable level of discrimination and violence. This includes LGBTQ people who aren’t safe at home and those who do not have a home in which to stay.  We must push back against those who threaten the safety of LGBTQ Californians and challenge our progress. And we must continue to make the case that all human beings share something fundamental in common – all of us want to be loved, and all of us want to love. We cannot march in a parade this June, but we can and will stand with our LGBTQ family, friends and neighbors. Pride celebrations may look different this year, but in California, no matter the circumstances, we are proud to support our LGBTQ community’s right to live their lives out loud. As we celebrate Pride across the state, we must continue to demand equal rights for all to create a California for all.”

Last year, I asked the Irvine City Council to fly the Pride Flag from our Civic Center. In doing so, we would be joining many other cities, including Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, and Fullerton, as well as the Orange County Fairgrounds, in flying the Pride Flag to recognize Pride Month by making it clear to all that our community is a place where LGBT people are visible, accepted, and welcome.

Unfortunately, although dozens of residents spoke at the meeting in support of flying the Pride Flag, the Council defeated the proposal and I was the only Councilmember to speak in favor of it. Councilmember Mike Carroll even called the Pride Flag “a spectacle of divisiveness.” 

In fact, in direct response to my motion to fly the Pride Flag, the Irvine City Council took the unprecedented step of voting to prohibit a council member from placing an item on the agenda without two other council members’ approval.  As the Orange County Register correctly stated in a powerful editorial opposing the Council’s action, “the transparent goal [was] to shut down the views of the political minority.”

Following the City Council’s rejection of my Pride Flag motion, I joined with numerous other Irvine residents in our own Pride Flag event in front of City Hall, celebrating LGBTQ Pride and diversity in Irvine.  I also placed a Pride Flag in front of my office at City Hall.

I said at the time that I had no intention of being silent.  Therefore, I will again bring a motion to the Irvine City Council to fly the Pride Flag from our Civic Center as a visible and prominent expression of our City’s commitment to equal rights for all and to ensure that our LGBTQ community can live their lives out loud.

Under the new rules imposed by the City Council majority in response to my Pride Flag motion last year, I asked Councilmember Farrah Khan to join me in placing this motion on the City Council agenda.  She told me she was working with other, Republican, councilmembers on a Pride-related agenda item.  When I asked her specifically whether the item included flying the Pride Flag, she did not respond.

I have now seen the agenda item, a proclamation, and it does not call for flying the Pride Flag from the Civic Center as a clear symbol of Irvine’s commitment. 

Accordingly, this year I will again bring a motion to fly the Pride Flag from our Irvine Civic Center.

Please show your support for flying the Pride Flag in Irvine by contacting Mayor Christina Shea and the Irvine City Council to let them know.  Click here for their email addresses.

Click here for a link to e-comment of the agenda item. Your comment is supposed to be read aloud by the clerk during the City Council meeting.

As Harvey Milk told us, “Hope will never be silent.”

UPDATE: Tues., June 9, 2020

I am deeply disappointed that no other member of the Council supported my motion to fly the Pride flag in Irvine during Pride. Not Mayor Christina Shea. Not Councilmembers Farrah Khan, Anthony Kuo, or Mike Carroll. What an embarrassment for our City. 

 

Watch Melissa Fox’s Town Hall with Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton — “Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19”

Black and brown communities in the United States are being hit much harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than white communities. 

On May 28, 2020, Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox held a virtual Town Hall Meeting with special guest Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton on “Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19.” Irvine City Council Member Melissa Fox and Dr. Hilton discuss why people of color have a much higher risk of being infected and dying from COVID-19, what the pandemic reveals about the underlying racial and economic disparities in our society, and what we can — and must — do about it.

Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton is Associate Professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia Medical School, medical director of Goodstock Consulting, and a nationally recognized expert on how institutional racism has led to more severe impacts for communities of color from diseases such as COVID-19.

Dr. Ebony Jade Hilton received her M.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) in 2008. She remained at MUSC for completion of her Residency in Anesthesia, followed by a Fellowship in Critical Care Medicine. In 2013 Dr. Hilton made history as she was hired as the 1st African American Female anesthesiologist since the hospital’s opening in 1824.

Throughout her tenure at MUSC Dr. Hilton’s passions have centered on exploring the issue of health disparities, particularly as it pertains to race, and bridging the gap between physicians and the communities they serve. Her works have led to her integration in the medical school curriculum, serving as a clinical instructor for fourth year medical students in Intern 101 and has taken her across the globe as a participant in numerous medical mission trips via Project Madaktari at Bugando Medical Center in Mwanza, Tanzania.

Now as a practicing physician at the University of Virginia – Charlottesville, Dr. Hilton has continued advocating for underserved and marginalized populations.

Her efforts have been recognized by the National Medical Association as well as the National Minority Quality Forum as one of the top 40 under 40 Leaders in Health Care award recipients.

She is also the author of the children’s book “We’re Going to be O.K.,” a book about staying safe, healthy, and optimistic during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Watch the full Town Hall on “Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19” here:

Exposing Inequalities During COVID-19

Part One

Part Two

Irvine Creates Local Business Support Program From $5 Million in Federal CARES Act Funds to Help Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

(Irvine, CA) — At a special meeting on May 29, the Irvine City Council voted to establish a Local Business Support Program to provide financial support to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Irvine has received close to $5 million for COVID-19 related grants for the City’s small business community from the federal CARES Act, distributed to Irvine by the County of Orange.

“Thank you to our outstanding Orange County Congressional delegation — Katie Porter CA-45, Harley Rouda CA-48, Lou Correa CA-46, Mike Levin CD-49, Gil Cisneros CA-39, Alan Lowenthal CA-37, and Linda Sanchez CA-38 — for your hard work in bringing these crucial federal dollars back to Orange County.” Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox said.

“We are very happy to be able to use these federal funds to help our small businesses begin to recover from the economic shock of COVID-19.”

The program will allow Irvine-based small businesses that meet the following criteria to apply for one-time grants of $10,000.

To qualify, businesses must:

  • Have 25 or fewer employees
  • Have an active Irvine business license at the minimum of one year
  • Demonstrate a financial impact due to COVID-19, and
  • Have reopened or are ready to reopen, meeting guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the State and Orange County.

An estimated 500 businesses will be able to receive relief funds. Sixty percent ($3 million) of the $5 million City allocation will be directed to businesses that generate taxable retail sales. The other forty percent ($2 million) will be available to other small businesses with 25 or fewer employees.

Applications will be accepted for 30 days beginning next week, with grant funding awarded quickly on a first-come, first-served basis. Funds could be used to meet eligible businesses’ working capital needs such as payroll or operating expenses.

Businesses will be asked to provide a budget reflecting the proposed use of grant funds, and will be required to submit a post-expense report detailing how the funding was actually utilized.

“I’m glad we’ll be able to provide some basic recovery to our small businesses, which employ so many people who have been hit hard by the economic consequences of the quarantine, including many people who are self-employed” Councilmember Fox said. “I wish it could be more.”

“Now we need to get the U.S. Senate to pass and the President to sign the federal Heroes Act, already passed by the House of Representatives, which would give $2.7 billion in federal recovery funds to Orange County, so that our first responders, front-line health care workers, teachers, and working families will get the economic help they need and deserve.” Fox added.

More information and a grant application will be available at cityofirvine.org this week.

Watch Melissa Fox’s ZOOM Town Hall with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Director Mike O’Connell!

I’ve always been an outdoors person, and I love going hiking and exploring in Southern California’s beautiful wild lands, mountains, and deserts.  Long before I entered politics, I served as a volunteer Ranger with the Orange County Park Ranger Reserve.  This past week, I had the pleasure of talking with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Executive Director Michael O’Connell last week during a ZOOM meeting Town Hall.  

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization, committed to the highest possible standards of long-term land stewardship. Based in Orange County, California, the mission of the IRC is to ensure the protection, restoration and enhancement of the natural resources of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks forever and to provide diverse opportunities for public participation by conducting and supporting scientific, recreational and educational initiatives and programs.

Michael O’Connell, Irvine Ranch Conservancy President and Executive Director, oversees all aspects of stewardship, public programs and business operations for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. He has 25 years experience in land protection and conservation science including senior positions with The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund. He has served on the Board of Governors of the Society for Conservation Biology, and the Advisory Board of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. He is currently on the Dean’s Leadership Council for the School of Biological Sciences at UC Irvine. Michael has co-authored two books on conservation and a number of scientific and popular articles. He has a bachelor’s degree in Geology from Carleton College and a Master’s in Conservation Biology from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

After we talk about the history and the special character of this incredible land, Mike leads us on a tour of this incredible natural resource in our backyard.

 Watch our Town Hall on the Irvine Ranch Conservancy here:

“ReOpen OC Safely” — Orange County Business Council Posts Guidelines for Safely Reopening Orange County Businesses

The Orange County Business Council (OCBC) has developed and published a set of guidelines called “ReOpen OC Safely: Requirements and Best Pratices for Reopening Your Business Safely and Within Current Guidelines” for safely reopening Orange County businesses as the county continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. 

ReOpen OC Safely was developed in collaboration with Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce, North Orange County Chamber of Commerce, Anaheim Chamber of Commerce, Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce, and Visit Anaheim as a resource to prepare to safely reopen for business as the county continues to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. 

The State of California has issued “stay at home” emergency orders, but is slowly reopening business segments, subject to restrictions, with modified operations, click here to learn more.

The OCBC guidelines are intended to conform to the restrictions and recommendations of both the State of California and the federal government regarding COVID-19.

Regardless of your industry sector, OCBC recommends that businesses begin planning to reopen, consider guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), state, county and local guidelines (which may be more restrictive), and plan to ensure the safety and well-being of employees, customers and all those interacting with your business. Note: many draft guidelines will be changed as new information is obtained. Stay engaged. Some general guidelines for developing your plan may include:

  1. Social Distancing : Develop a plan that enables social distancing with current CDC guidance in mind. When possible, practice social distancing by staying at least 6 feet apart from others, particularly for prolonged periods of 10 minutes or more. Develop a plan to manage customer density in queues, restaurants, retail environments or other business facilities.
  1. Cleanliness and Sanitation: Develop a plan that provides enhanced cleaning procedures including establishing frequency, products, and methods on all high touch areas.
  1. Screening and Prevention: Develop a plan that incorporates government/medical recommended screening procedures and preventative measures including personal protective equipment (masks or gloves). 
  1. Transactions: Develop and implement a plan to expedite transactions and where possible incorporate technology like online/mobile order pick up or touch-less transactions.
  1. Employee Training and Tools: Develop a plan that includes training for employees regarding  procedure and expectation changes related to COVID-19

The OCBC guidelines also include specific guidance for individual sectors of the economy, including manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and logistics, professional and business services, global trade, utilities, construction, hospitality and tourism, retail, child care, communications infrastructure, hotels and lodging, life sciences, real estate, theme parks, convention centers, delivery services, agriculture and livestock, food packaging, public transportation, restaurants, and shopping centers.

The OCBC provides links to a checklist for what to do when an employee tests positive for COVID-19, as well as a link to a survey of California businesses regarding re-opening issues.

There are also links to many helpful resources from state, county, and federal agencies.

I strongly recommend that all businesses (and business patrons) in Orange County become familiar with these guidelines, and that they be followed in order to prevent a spike in COVID-19 infections as Orange County businesses begin to re-open to the public.

Thank you to the Orange County Business Council for developing these extremely helpful guidelines!

COVID-19 Notes

I’ve added a new “COVID-19 Community Resources and Information Page to my blog, with links to up-to-date and reliable resources and information from federal, state, and county sources, as well as the cities and public schools in the 68th Assembly District.

I have also decided to use my Assembly campaign phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need. Read the story in the O.C. Register.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.comSee our event page on Facebook HERE.

If you need help yourself or have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com or call me at 949-683-8855.

Join Melissa Fox’s ZOOM Town Hall with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Director Mike O’Connell. Thurs., May 14 at 4:00 PM!

Join Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox in a ZOOM Town Hall with Irvine Ranch Conservancy Executive Director Mike O’Connell

Thurs., May 14, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. — 5:00 p.m.

ZOOM Meeting ID 951-321-0807

Note: We will also be streaming live from Melissa Fox’s YouTube Channel HERE.

The Irvine Ranch Conservancy is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization, committed to the highest possible standards of long-term land stewardship.

Based in Orange County, California, the mission of the IRC is to ensure the protection, restoration and enhancement of the natural resources of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks forever and to provide diverse opportunities for public participation by conducting and supporting scientific, recreational and educational initiatives and programs.

Michael O’Connell, Irvine Ranch Conservancy President and Executive Director, oversees all aspects of stewardship, public programs and business operations for the Irvine Ranch Conservancy. He has 25 years experience in land protection and conservation science including senior positions with The Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund. He has served on the Board of Governors of the Society for Conservation Biology, and the Advisory Board of the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. He is currently on the Dean’s Leadership Council for the School of Biological Sciences at UC Irvine. Michael has co-authored two books on conservation and a number of scientific and popular articles. He has a bachelor’s degree in Geology from Carleton College and a Master’s in Conservation Biology from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Melissa Fox has been a member of the Irvine City Council since 2016. She is life-long hiker, outdoors person, and fierce environmental advocate. She also served as a Ranger in the Orange County Park Ranger Reserve.

For more information, contact Allison Binder at abinder@cityofirvine.org

To see the Facebook event for this Town Hall, click here.

UPDATED: Watch the ZOOM Town Hall with Mike O’Connell here.

We look forward to you joining us!

Join Me for a ZOOM Town Hall on California’s Fiscal Health with State Controller Betty T. Yee!

Join me on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. for a Virtual Town Hall on California’s Fiscal Health with California State Controller Betty Yee!

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I have made it a priority to support local business and ensure that our government operates with fiscal responsibility, 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 has received 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.

I’ve often said that 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.

The economic distress caused by COVID-19 will make this important task even more difficult.

COVID-19 has already impacted every facet of California’s economy, including the fiscal health of California’s government institutions, from large state agencies to cities and school districts. 

That’s why it will be especially valuable to hear from California State Controller Betty T. Yee on California’s fiscal health.

State Controller Betty T. Yee was elected in November 2014, following two terms of service on the California Board of Equalization. As Controller, she continues to serve the Board as its fifth voting member. Reelected for a second term as Controller in 2018, Ms. Yee is only the tenth woman in California history to be elected to statewide office.

As the state’s chief fiscal officer, Ms. Yee chairs the Franchise Tax Board and serves as a member of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) Boards. These two boards have a combined portfolio of more than $620 billion.

Ms. Yee has more than 35 years of experience in public service, specializing in state and local finance and tax policy. Ms. Yee previously served as Chief Deputy Director for Budget with the California Department of Finance where she led the development of the Governor’s Budget, negotiations with the Legislature and key budget stakeholders, and fiscal analyses of legislation. Prior to this, she served in senior staff positions for several fiscal and policy committees in both houses of the California State Legislature. She also co-founded the Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Project, which exposes California high school youth to the public service, public policy, and political arenas.

A native of San Francisco, Ms. Yee received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and she holds a master’s degree in public administration.

What: Virtual Town Hall on COVID-19 and California’s Fiscal Health with California State Controller Betty T. Yee.

When: Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

Where: On-line at ZOOM Meeting ID 951-321-0807

To see the Facebook page for this event, click here.

For more information, contact Allison Binder at abinder@cityofirvine.org.

 

Watch Melissa Fox’s Town Hall on Small Business Assistance, Affordable Housing, and COVID-19 with California State Treasurer Fiona Ma and Small Business Majority’s Claudia Moreno

COVID-19 has impacted both small businesses and housing in California.

In this Town Hall held on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox , California State Treasurer Fiona Mam and Claudia Moreno of Small Business Majority discuss the impact of COVID-19 on California’s economy, small business assistance programs, and new opportunities for affordable housing.

Fiona Ma is California’s 34th State Treasurer. She was elected on November 6, 2018, with more votes (7,825,587) than any other candidate for treasurer in the state’s history. She is the first woman of color and the first woman Certified Public Accountant (CPA) elected to the position.

Claudia Moreno is an Southern California Outreach Director for Small Business Majority, a national small business advocacy organization. She previously worked at the White House during the Obama Administration in the Executive Office of Presidential Correspondence where she served as an intermediate between the President and the American people. She also took lead in the Office’s Spanish Analytical Department as an interpreter to support the President’s vision to serve all communities.

Melissa Fox is an Irvine City Councilmember and an attorney, and also serves as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, dedicated to building more affordable housing.

Watch the Town Hall here:

Note:

Join me for our next virtual Town Hall!

On Wednesday, May 5, 2020, at 4:00 p.m., I’ll be speaking with California State Controller Betty T. Yee about the COVOD-19 Crisis and the California Economy.

The title of the Town Hall is “The California Economy Challenged.”

The ZOOM Meeting ID is 951-321-0807.

Please contact my Chief City Council Aide Allison Binder at abinder@cityofirvine.org.

I hope you can join us!

 

Irvine City Council Okays Lease for New Wild Rivers Water Park at the Great Park!

At last night’s Irvine City Council meeting, I was delighted to join my colleagues in voting to approve the lease agreement enabling the return of Wild Rivers Water Park to Irvine, with a new location in the Orange County Great Park.

Hundreds spend Labor Day cooling off in the waters of Monson Lagoon at Wild Rivers on Labor Day.
///ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: wildrivers – 9/6/10 – LEONARD ORTIZ, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER – Thousands of people enjoyed the waters at Wild Rivers water park in Irvine as the park enters it’s last week before closing for the season. According the the year-to-year lease the park has with the Irvine Company the park will remain open for the 2011 season.

I have been working to bring Wild Rivers back to Orange County since 2017, when I successfully asked the Irvine City Council, acting as the Great Park Board of Directors, to approve construction of a new Wild Rivers Water Park at the Orange County Great Park.

Under the lease agreement, the City of Irvine will receive 4.5% of the park’s annual gross revenue as a lease payment, and if the park remains closed for the summer or underperforms, the City is still set to receive a lease payment of $550,000 for that year. The annual lease is expected to bring in anywhere from $550,000 to $1 million to the City, according to a report prepared by City staff.

Wild Rivers will pay for the construction of the water park, while the City will pay for and maintain a parking lot with over 1,200 spaces for Wild Rivers use during the summer, but managed by the City the remainder of the year.

The old Wild Rivers Water Park opened in July 1986 on the site of the former Lion Country Safari, now the site of Los Olivos Apartments. Following the expiration of its lease with The Irvine Company, it closed permanently on September 25, 2011.

The new Wild Rivers Water Park will be located on 20 acres in the heart of the Great Park, at the intersection of Skyhawk and Great Park Blvd.

Wild Rivers will build a new water park with waterslides, an uphill water coaster, water play structures for children, a wave pool, a lazy river and Wild Rivers’ popular Congo River Rapids.  I have also been working with Wild Rivers management to create an “all access” area, so that children and adults with disabilities can also enjoy a day at the water park.

We have missed having a water park in Irvine.  I was a kid sliding down the water slides at the old Wild Rivers and I was a young mom taking my son there on hot summer days.  We know that Wild Rivers provides fun and safe water parks, and they’ve always had a great relationship with the residents of Orange County.  We look forward to having them back very soon.  In fact,  we can anticipate a Grand Opening sometime in 2021!

 

Irvine Should Require COVID-19 Protections for Nursing Home Patients and Staff

Nursing homes in California have been hit hard by COVID-19. 

As the Los Angeles Times points out, “Nursing homes have become a tragic focal point of the coronavirus outbreak, with their elderly residents, many of whom have underlying health conditions, accounting for a large percentage of COVID-19 deaths across the country. More than 30% of those who have died in Los Angeles County were residents of long-term care facilities; more than 70% of the deaths in Long Beach have been nursing home residents.”  

Patients are removed from Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Riverside after dozens tested positive for the coronavirus and staffers, afraid for their safety, stopped showing up for shifts.(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Nationally, outbreaks in nursing homes and assisted living centers have been among the most quick-spreading and deadly of the crisis.

Long-term care facilities have accounted for at least 221 deaths in Washington, or about half of the deaths in the state. In New York, more than half of nursing homes have positive cases, and more than 1,700 people in such facilities, about a third of nursing home residents with COVID-19, have died.

Yet, even as deaths from COVID-19 continue to climb in California, especially among older people, our state, county and local governments have not acted with the decisiveness needed to protect our most vulnerable population.

The Los Angeles Times reports that “As the novel coronavirus continues to tear through nursing homes, state and local governments have been slow to inform the public about the scope of the crisis. The state’s list, which officials have promised to update regularly, does not show how many people have died at each facility. It is also plagued by apparent omissions and undercounts. For weeks, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has been publishing names of group living facilities with COVID-19 cases, without specifying how many people have tested positive at each place. Some of those homes do not appear on the state list. The state list also does not include data from California’s 7,461 residential care facilities.”

The Los Angeles Times further explained that “Dotting the state are nursing homes where the deadly contagion has taken hold. In San Bernardino County, at least 25 people have died, about half of them residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. At least 94 confirmed cases came from a single facility in Yucaipa where 10 residents have died. Four people have died and 38 others have tested positive for the virus at the Kensington assisted living facility in Redondo Beach. More outbreaks have been reported in Orinda, San Jose, Burlingame and San Francisco. At a care center in Hayward, 49 staffers and residents tested positive.”

As the devastating impact of COVID-19 on nursing home patients (and staff) comes into sharper focus, many jurisdictions have taken steps to alleviate the crisis and reduce the number of deaths by requiring special protections for nursing home patients.

I believe that our nursing home patients and staff in Irvine also need and deserve these special protections.

Accordingly, at the next Irvine City Council meeting, I will propose that City of Irvine staff determine the protocols relating to preventing the spread of COVID-19 that are currently being followed at nursing home facilities within the City; what additional measures and protocols other jurisdictions are now requiring to protect residents and staff in the subject facilities, and that City staff make recommendations regarding actions to be considered and taken by the City Council to provide additional special protections for nursing home residents and staff during the COVID-19 crisis.

These additional protections may include:

1) Limiting entry into Licensed Congregate Health Care Facilities;
2) Prohibiting employees who have tested positive for or who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 from returning to work until having fulfilled CDC Criteria for Return to Work;
3) Suspending communal dining and activities;
4) Providing separate areas and staff for those with COVID-19;
5) Requiring all staff to wear a surgical masks at all times in the facility;
6) Requiring all staff to follow all infection prevention guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the CDC;
7) Requiring all residents and patients to wear a surgical mask or clean face covering when outside their room;
8) Requiring symptom screening for all; and
9) Requiring daily temperature checks for staff, patients, and residents. 

My goal, as with other matters related to preventing the spread of COVID-19, is to ensure that Irvine’s residents and businesses have the most effective and appropriate help from government that we are able to provide, guided first and foremost by the advice of medical and public health professionals.

Please contact the Irvine City Council to voice your support for additional measures to protect our most vulnerable population!

You can contact all of us on the Irvine City Council at citycouncil@cityofirvine.org.

Also, because the April 28, 2020, Irvine City Council meeting will be held online, you may make a comment opposing the proposed resolution (Item 5.2) and supporting an order for a moratorium on evictions. Your comment will be part of the official record. 

Submit your comment at: Ecomment on Agenda Item 5.2

Thank you!

* * *

COVID-19 Notes

I’ve added a new “COVID-19 Community Resources and Information Page to my blog, with links to up-to-date and reliable resources and information from federal, state, and county sources, as well as the cities and public schools in the 68th Assembly District.

I have also decided to use my Assembly campaign phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need. Read the story in the O.C. Register.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.comSee our event page on Facebook HERE.

If you need help yourself or have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com or call me at 949-683-8855.

Join Me for a Virtual Town Hall on Small Business Assistance and Affordable Housing with State Treasurer Fiona Ma!

Join me on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. for a Virtual Town Hall on Small Business Assistance and Affordable Housing with California State Treasurer Fiona Ma!

ZOOM Meeting ID is 951-321-0807

COVID-19 has impacted both small businesses and housing in California.

Join Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox and California State Treasurer Fiona Ma as they discuss the impact of COVID-19 on California’s economy, small business assistance programs, and new opportunities for affordable housing.

Fiona Ma is California’s 34th State Treasurer. She was elected on November 6, 2018 with more votes (7,825,587) than any other candidate for treasurer in the state’s history.

She is the first woman of color and the first woman Certified Public Accountant (CPA) elected to the position.

Melissa Fox is an Irvine City Councilmember and an attorney, and also serves as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, dedicated to building more affordable housing.

For more information, contact Allison Binder at abinder@cityofirvine.org.

To see the Facebook page for this event, click here.

UPDATE:

Melissa Fox will also be joined joined on the Virtual Town Hall by Claudia Moreno, Southern California Outreach Manager for Small Business Majority.

Claudia Moreno develops relationships with both business partners and small business owners across the region to discuss ways to best help small businesses thrive in their local economies. Claudia also works closely on statewide policy initiatives. The daughter of a small business owner, Claudia understands the importance of giving back to her community and intentionally working to empower under-served entrepreneurs.

She previously worked at the White House during the Obama Administration in the Executive Office of Presidential Correspondence where she served as an intermediate between the President and the American people. She also took lead in the Office’s Spanish Analytical Department as an interpreter to support the President’s vision to serve all communities.

Happy Earth Day 2020!

Today, Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day.

Nearly 50 years ago, on April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the US and around the world, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

The global ecological awareness was growing, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly.  In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

Earth Day is now a global event each year, and more than 1 billion people in 193 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.

The City of Irvine has been a leader in earth-friendly environmental policies, green technology, and environmental awareness.  Irvine’s environmental programs have been on the leading edge of advances in green building and construction, environmental education, recycling, water conservation, waste disposal, and energy-saving.

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.

 

 

.

A crucial environmental issue facing Irvine in the near future is whether to switch from purchasing energy from SoCal Edison to utilizing a Community Choice Energy provider.

Community Choice Energy (CCE) is a program that brings local control and freedom of choice and competition into the electricity marketplace. Community Choice allows cities and counties to purchase power on behalf of their residents and businesses to provide cleaner power options at a competitive price.

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.

 

Melissa Fox Tele-Town Hall on Pediatric Mental Health During COVID-19 with Dr. Ben Strack

Please join me for a ZOOM Tele-Town Hall on Pediatric Health During COVID-19. 

My very special guest is psychologist Dr. Ben Strack.

Dr. Strack is a licensed psychologist and certified sport psychology consultant (CMPC). Over the past 15 years he has consulted H.S./Collegiate athletes, professional athletes (MLB, MiLB, NHL, PGA, NBA, Professional Soccer/USL), and Olympic athletes (Women’s Indoor Volleyball, Speed Skating, Swimming, Fencing).

He is a former division I college baseball player and founding partner of Proball Inc., private baseball academy. During the 1999 and 2000 MLB seasons, he was the batting practice pitcher for the Anaheim Angels. From 1999 to 2004, he was hand-picked to pitch in the MLB Players’ Association and ESPN’s Big League Challenge Home Run Contests where he was the personal pitcher for Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez, Raphael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco, Shawn Green, Magglio Ordonez, Andruw Jones, and Troy Glaus.

Dr. Ben Strack is a United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Sport Psychology Registry Member, board member of the Orange County Psychological Association and a co-chairperson for the Optimal Performance/Functioning division of the Association of Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback. He is also an active member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP).

As an adjunct professor at California State University Long Beach and Argosy University, Dr. Ben Strack taught sport psychology classes in the undergraduate and graduate programs. He is also a frequent speaker at workshops and conferences throughout the country. His work with athletes has appeared in various media including ESPN, The New York Times, and on local television shows in Southern California.

The video of our Tele-Town Hall is below:

StoryTime with Melissa Fox: Melissa Reads Children’s Books Recommended by A Whale of a Tale Bookshoppe!

Welcome to StoryTime with Melissa Fox!

I’ve always loved reading children’s stories out loud.  During this time of social distancing, I’ve decided to make some videos of me reading children’s books aloud in the hope that your children might find these stories entertaining.

All the books that I’m reading were recommended by my insightful friend Alexandra Uhl, the founder and proprietor of the wonderful A Whale of a Tale Bookshoppe, located in Irvine, which has been part of our family’s reading experience for many, many years.

All of the books I’m reading are available to purchase at A Whale of a Tale Bookshoppe!

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, A Whale of a Tale has had to close to the public.

However, they are offering carry-out curbside book service You can order these books from A Whale of a Tale and pick them up curb-side. Not only will you great books — you’ll also be supporting one of our most community-oriented local independent small businesses!

A Whale of a Tale is located at 16277 Laguna Canyon Rd, Ste G, 92618 Irvine, California.
Their phone number is (949) 854-8288.

 

Now for the stories!

Our first story is “What Does an Anteater Eat?” by Ross Collins.  As a former UC Irvine student, and the wife of someone who received his M.F.A. and Ph.D from UC Irvine, and am very partial to anteaters. In fact, there’s one in my office!

Our next story is “If I Build a Car” by Chris Van Dusen. Did you ever stay up all night dreaming about your next invention? This book’s for you! Feeling like you need to go somewhere? Well, let’s go in Jack’s spectacular car! This one goes out special to Christine Tully and Coleman!

Next is “The Story Book Knight” by Helen Docherty & Thomas Docherty.  Here is a lovely tale about a gentle knight and the power of a good story. Even dragons love a good story!

Feeling like you need some more space? Bear and Mousie are having issues too! Here’s a great next story called “There’s a Bear in My Chair” by Ross Collins that’s perfect for quarantine!

Our next story is one of my favorites, especially when you’re not feeling too happy and want to complain — like many of us feel at times during this quarantine! This wonderful story called “Penguin Problem” by Jory John is about a complain-y penguin and has some wise advice from Walrus that might be very helpful right now.

That’s it for now!

Thank you for reading along with me.

Thank you again to Alexandra Uhl and the great folks at A Whale of a Take Children’s Bookshoppe!

I’ll keep adding new stories as I record them, and I’ll be posting them on a new page on my blog called StoryTime with Melissa — so keep there checking for updates!

Stay safe!

We’re all in this together!

Melissa

 

Child Care is Now Available for Essential Workers in Orange County!

Early Childhood OC is working with agencies across Orange County to compile a searchable database of currently open child care centers and family child care homes serving children aged birth – 12.

This database will be updated every Friday.

To find available child care, click here.

Governor Newsom’s executive order allows essential workers to access child care payment assistance, regardless of their income, while schools are closed because of COVID-19.

Children’s Home Society of California (CHS) has three Child Care Payment Programs that provide subsidized child care services to eligible families: Alternative Payment, CalWORKs, and Family Child Care Home Education Network programs.

Through these programs, in Fiscal Year 2018, CHS provided services to over 9,700 children and over 5,500 families. In all, more than 2,099,000 days of care were provided to children across California.

To find out more about child care payment assistance, click here.

If you operate a child care facility, are currently open, and would like it listed in the data base, click here.

The City of Irvine also has several hundred child care spots available for essential workers.  To find out more, click here.

COVID-19 Notes

I’ve added a new “COVID-19 Community Resources and Information Page to my blog, with links to up-to-date and reliable resources and information from federal, state, and county sources, as well as the cities and public schools in the 68th Assembly District.

I have also decided to use my Assembly campaign phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need. Read the story in the O.C. Register.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.comSee our event page on Facebook HERE.

If you need help yourself or have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com or call me at 949-683-8855.

Celebrate “The Week of the Young Child” at Home with Pretend City Children’s Museum!

The Week of the Young Child (April 11-17) is an annual celebration hosted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) celebrating early learning, young children, their teachers, and families.

Unfortunately, this year, young children are stuck at home, away from their schools, teachers, and friends.

The good news is that although Irvine’s Pretend City Children’s Museum is temporarily closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it has made it easier to celebrate the Week of the Young Child from your home — and keep your young children moving, thinking, and expressing throughout this quarantine period.

The staff at Pretend City has said, “We want to share our sincere hope that you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy. As we continue to monitor COVID-19, our top priority remains the well-being of our Pretend City citizens -– all of you! While we’re adapting to new ways of serving you while the museum is temporarily closed, our team is committed to working together to support you.”

Pretend City has put together some fun at-home activities for young children for every day of the week.

To view these activities, click HERE.

Pretend City has also put together a terrific “Way to Play Guide” for Pretend City @ Home, providing age and development appropriate play activities for children from birth to 6 months old, 7 to 12 months old, 13 to 18 months old, 19 to 24 months old, 2 to 3 years old, 3 to 4 years old, 4 to 5 years old, and 5+ years old.

To view the “Way to Play Guide” for Pretend City @ Home, click HERE.

As Pretend City says, “You are your child’s best teacher. By trying these simple and fun play activities, you are helping your child reach his or her developmental milestones. This process of change involves learning skills like walking, talking and playing with others, often at predictable times during the first five years of life. You can use this sheet as a tool to help you better understand your child’s milestones, gauge each new stage of growth and encourage emerging abilities in your child’s life.”

To learn more about helping Pretend City Children’s Museum continue its great work during this difficult time, please click HERE.

Visit Pretend City Children’s Museum on Facebook HERE.

COVID-19 Notes

I’ve added a new “COVID-19 Community Resources and Information Page to my blog, with links to up-to-date and reliable resources and information from federal, state, and county sources, as well as the cities and public schools in the 68th Assembly District.

I have also decided to use my Assembly campaign phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need. Read the story in the O.C. Register.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.comSee our event page on Facebook HERE.

If you need help yourself or have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com or call me at 949-683-8855.

 

Irvine Child Care Spots Available for Essential Workers!

I am pleased to announce that Irvine has several hundred spots now open for child care for essential workers.

I currently serve as the Irvine City Council’s representative on the board of directors of the Irvine Child Care Project, along with other representatives from the City of Irvine and Irvine Unified School District. 

Established in 1984, the Irvine Child Care Project (ICCP) is a Joint Powers Agreement between the Irvine Unified School District and the City of Irvine, overseen by the Irvine Child Care Project Board of Directors. It is a unique partnership in which the City of Irvine and the Irvine Unified School District collaborate to accommodate more affordable and quality child care in the City.

On Thursday, April 9, 2020, the ICCP Board had a virtual meeting to discuss some of the critical needs of the ICCP during the COVID-19 crisis.  We made several important decisions at this meeting to help facilitate and increase the availability of child care for essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

Crucially,  we voted to waive rental payments from ICC providers for April, May, and June.  Waiving the rent for these providers means that essential child care services will remain accessible to families in need of child care during this crisis. 

Currently, 10 out of the 28 ICCP programs are open to serve children of essential critical infrastructure workers. The sites that are open are located on the following campuses: Canyon View Elementary, Deerfield Elementary, Oak Creek Elementary, Plaza Vista Elementary, Springbrook Elementary, Stonegate Elementary, Turtle Rock Elementary, University Park Elementary, Vista Verde Elementary, and Woodbury Elementary.

These 10 sites currently have the space to enroll approximately 200 additional children. 

If you are an essential critical infrastructure worker and need child care, please click here to access a searchable database of currently open child care centers and family child care homes serving children aged birth –1 2 compiled by Early Childhood OC.  This database will be updated every Friday. The Countywide list linked above lists all open programs in Orange County including, ICCP locations.  In addition, each ICCP location below is identified as OPEN or CLOSED.

Kiddie Academy of Irvine, Prestige Preschool Academy and several family child care providers are open and able to serve school age children, including non-residents.  These programs would be able to serve at least 100 additional children (combined capacity), even with the new guidance from the state regarding decreased capacities for best health and safety practices.  Contact information for each of these programs is available in the searchable database of currently open child care centers and family child care homes compiled by Early Childhood OC. This database is updated weekly.  I anticipate the number of providers on this list to increase as programs re-open to provide emergency child care to essential workers.   Several providers have contacted child care coordination this week to discuss their plans to re-open.

ICCP sites (10 open operated by Child Development Incorporated) are only able to serve Irvine residents and/or children enrolled in the IUSD school district. This is based on the Joint Powers Agreement between the City of Irvine and the Irvine Unified School District.  The ICCP Board has the authority to waive this stipulation, if that is something that the Board would be interested in considering at the May meeting.

You can find more information about these sites and enrollment here

View a directory of ICCP sites here.

Please note: Essential workers include those who work in the following fields: healthcare and public health, emergency services, food and agriculture, energy, water and waste water, transportation and logistics, communications and information technology, government services, critical manufacturing, hazardous materials, financial services, chemicals, and defense/industrial base.  For more details, click here.

COVID-19 Notes

I’ve added a new “COVID-19 Community Resources and Information Page to my blog, with links to up-to-date and reliable resources and information from federal, state, and county sources, as well as the cities and public schools in the 68th Assembly District.

I have also decided to use my Assembly campaign phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need. Read the story in the O.C. Register.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.comSee our event page on Facebook HERE.

If you need help yourself or have any questions, don’t hesitate to email me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com or call me at 949-683-8855.

Join Our “Supporting Seniors” Virtual Phone-Bank!

Governor Gavin Newsom has urged all Californians to check in on their older neighbors with a call, text or physically-distanced door knock to make sure they’re okay during this COVID-19 outbreak and stay-at-home order.

Our campaign — Melissa Fox for California Assembly (AD68) — has decided to use our phone-banking and community outreach resources to call seniors and people in need of critical services in the cities of Assembly District 68 — Lake Forest, Tustin, Orange, Irvine, Anaheim Hills and Villa Park — to ask how they’re doing during this stressful time and to see whether they need any help, including food assistance and mental health assistance and other community resources.  Our volunteer callers will be able to provide information and connect seniors with any community assistance or resources they might need.

If you would like to join our “Supporting Seniors” virtual phone-bank and be a volunteer caller, please contact Carson at carson@votemelissafox.com.

You can also sign-up on our campaign website at https://www.votemelissafox.com/callseniors

See our event page on Facebook HERE.

Thanks!

See also: COVID-19 Resources and Information

California Governor Orders Halt in All Evictions Due to COVID19

Today California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a new Executive Order halting all evictions statewide for those affected by COVID19.

The measure prevents the evictions of renters over the nonpayment of rent through May 31.

It covers those who have lost work because of the pandemic, have become sick or have had to take care of family members with COVID19. Law enforcement and the court system also would be prohibited from executing evictions while the order is in effect.  Renters are required to eventually pay all the rent they owe, and must notify their landlords in writing within seven days of their nonpayment.

In an earlier Executive Order, Governor Newcom had given authority to local governments to ban evictions due to COVID19 for 60 days.  Many cities had exercised this power to halt evictions, including Anaheim and Costa Mesa in Orange County, as well as San Diego, Long Beach, San JoseLos AngelesLong BeachEl MonteFresnoSan Francisco,  CamarilloOjaiOxnardThousand OaksMoorpark, and Santa Monica.

The Governor’s new order is especially welcome in cities like Irvine, where this week, by a 4-1 vote, the Irvine City Council refused even to vote on my motion to order a legal moratorium on evictions due to the COVID19 crisis, opting instead to “strongly encourage” landlords not to seek evictions by passing a non-binding resolution with no legal force. I voted No because Irvine renters need real protection but the resolution passed by the Council has absolutely no legal force or effect. 

Now, renters in all California cities — including Irvine — are protected from eviction due to COVID19.

Thank you, Governor Newsom!

 

Irvine Again Ranked No. 1 City in Fiscal Strength!

I am proud to report that the City of Irvine has again — for the 3rd straight year — been ranked as the No. 1 City in the United States in Fiscal Strength by Truth in Accounting (TIA), a nonprofit organization that “cuts through politicization and accounting tricks, presenting transparent and nonpartisan figures of government finances.”

The Truth in Accounting ranking of America’s largest 75 cities calculated how a city would fare financially after all the bills are paid. Irvine was given a surplus score of $4,100 per taxpayer, earning the distinction as the most fiscally healthy large city in the United States.

The key findings of the report regarding Irvine were:

  • Irvine’s Taxpayer Surplus is $4,100, and it received a “B” from TIA. A particular city’s Taxpayer Surplus/Burden is the money available (or needed, if a burden) to pay bills divided by the number of taxpayers.
  • Irvine is a Sunshine City with enough assets to cover its debt. A Sunshine City is a city in state with a taxpayer surplus, which means that the state has enough funds and resources to pay its bills.
  • Decisions by elected officials have created a Taxpayer Surplus, which is each taxpayer’s share of money available after city bills have been paid.
  • Irvine has $626 million of assets available to pay bills.
  • Irvine has $380.4 million available after bills have been paid, which breaks down to $4,100 per taxpayer.

You can read the report on Irvine here and read the full report here.

We were also ranked No. 1 by Truth in Accounting in 2018 and 2017.

I am extremely proud of these awards, which reflect the strong commitment I’ve made to assuring Irvine’s fiscal health and stability, as well as the commitment of my City Council colleagues and City Staff.

Most important to me is the fact that our City is truly serving its residents with fiscal responsibility and financial 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.

I have made it my mission to make our City’s budget truly transparent and free from any obfuscations or accounting tricks — and I am tremendously proud that Irvine has received this prestigious non-partisan award as America’s most fiscally healthy city in every year that I have served on the City Council.

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 City Council Holding Moment of Silence for Those Lost in Iranian Downing of Passenger Airliner

Tonight, after the pledge of allegiance, the Irvine City Council will hold a moment of silence for the 176 innocent passengers and crew who tragically lost their lives last week when Iran shot down a commercial airliner.

Many of the airliner’s passengers were Iranian Canadians who were affiliated with Canadian universities as students or researchers and had traveled to Iran during Christmas break.

Some victims had ties to our own Iranian American community, which includes more than 11,000 Iranian Americans in Irvine and 36,000 Iranian Americans in Orange County.  Irvine is also the home of UCI’s Samuel Jordan Center for Persian Studies and Culture, one of the world’s leading interdisciplinary institutions for the study of Iranian culture and history.

As my friend, Irvine resident, and community leader Neda Mottaghi-Movahed has said, this has been “a very sad few weeks for all of us” in the Iranian American community, which has held memorials in Irvine for those whose lives were lost.

We are proud of saying that our city is not only among the most diverse cities in the nation, it is also the most fully integrated.  There are no ethnic, linguistic, religious, or cultural enclaves in Irvine: every neighborhood reflects Irvine’s harmonious ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity.

In most cases, this means that we share in each other’s holidays and celebrations.

In this case, it means we share in each other’s sorrow.

My deepest condolences to the families and friends of all who were lost, as well as to the entire Iranian American community.

My heart reaches out to my many Iranian American friends and neighbors.

I join with the Iranian American community in mourning the senseless loss of so many lives and in praying for peace.

 

Irvine Police Use Drone to Catch Burglary Suspect on Christmas Eve

Last year, I joined three of my colleagues on the Irvine City Council to approve establishing an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) by the Irvine Police Department. The UAS program provides aerial video of active crime scenes, traffic collisions, and natural disasters.

On Tuesday night, December 24, 2019, the Irvine Police Department employed the drone to locate and arrest a commercial burglary suspect at a construction site in the 2900 block of Warner Avenue around 10:20 PM.

Following reports of a burglary in progress, police units arriving on the scene located a self-storage facility under construction and learned that a suspect was inside.

Officers then established a perimeter around the site and made announcements ordering the suspect to surrender.

The suspect hunkered down and was eventually located after police employed a number of resources including a small unmanned aircraft system, commonly referred to as a drone, along with a police helicopter and K-9 to search for the suspect.

A male suspect was located and arrested without incident.

Firefighter paramedics evaluated the man on scene before officers transported him from the location.

No other suspects were believed to be outstanding but officers were nonetheless conducting a protective sweep of the site.

Great work, IPD!

In October 2019, the FBI for the 14th year in a row, named Irvine as America’s Safest City among cities with a population of 250,000 or more.

You can watch a video of the incident from ONSCENE TV here:

Help Develop a Strategic Energy Plan for Irvine by Attending a Community Workshop on January 13, 2020

The City of Irvine is developing a Strategic Energy Plan to create a sustainable, economically feasible, and actionable road map for City operations and to identify effective measures the Irvine community can implement to become energy efficient. The objectives of the Plan are to analyze the City’s baseline energy use to project future energy needs, evaluate priorities to meet those needs, and identify funding opportunities to implement the Plan.

The project began in November 2018 and is anticipated to be completed in April 2020. When the Plan is completed, it will be presented to the City Council for consideration and adoption.

Community engagement will help form the vision for the Plan.  As part of the Plan’s development, the City seeks community stakeholder feedback via public workshops, which will be scheduled in the coming months.

The next community workshop on the Strategic Energy Plan will be held on Monday, January 13, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. at City of Irvine City Hall, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, California 92606.

At this workshop, City of Irvine staff will present strategies to reduce energy consumption in our energy supply, buildings, and transportation sectors, and guide participants through facilitated discussions on each area.  All residents are invited to ensure that your ideas and feedback are captured as we create the Strategic Energy Plan.

To register for the workshop and to learn more, click HERE.

You can also help by taking our City of Irvine Strategic Energy Plan Stakeholder Input Survey HERE.

For more information about the project, contact Sona Coffee in Public Works at 949-724-7562.

 

 

 

Irvine Delivers Letters to Santa Claus! The Last Day for Accepting Letters is Monday, December 16!

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. The last day for accepting letters in Monday, December 16.

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.

Why I Voted “No” on a Zoning Change to Permit 1,000 More Million Dollar Single Family Houses in Irvine. Tell the Irvine City Council What You Think!

Recently, I voted “No” on continuing the second reading of a re-zoning proposal that would allow the addition of 1,000 single family million dollar houses to be built by the Irvine Company in the area of Portola Springs/Orchard Hills in Irvine.

This vote could have been the end of the issue, since on the first reading both Mayor Christina Shea and Councilmember Mike Carroll voted against the re-zoning.

However, Councilmember Mike Carroll now voted with the supporters of adding 1,000 new homes (Councilmembers Anthony Kuo and Farrah N. Khan) to continue the item to January 2020.

Carroll, Kuo and Khan won the vote to continue, 3-2. This means that these additional 1,000 million dollar single family houses will again come before the Council.

As a longtime advocate for local communities to permit more housing to alleviate our statewide affordable housing crisis, I was initially disposed to vote in favor of this re-zoning proposal.

But on further reflection, it became apparent to me that this proposed housing development would be built without the necessary infrastructure, including new schools and a local retail center, which are needed and have long been promised to residents.

I am a strong advocate for action on the local and state level addressing the housing crisis, but not at the cost of overcrowded schools and the abandonment of Irvine’s renowned village model and our Master Plan balancing housing with schools, retail centers, and open space.

In particular, I am a strong supporter of Irvine’s village concept, which is intended to reduce sprawl and traffic congestion, and create walkable neighborhoods and a sense of community, by locating housing, at several different levels of purchase price or rental cost, around both local schools and a local retail center.  This village model — an essential part of Irvine’s Master Plan long promoted by the Irvine Company — has been enormously successful.  As the Irvine Chamber of Commerce has boasted, Irvine is a “City of Villages.”

You can see a video promoting the Irvine Master Plan, with specific reference to the Irvine village model as an integral part of the Master Plan, here:

For this reason, I was very concerned — shocked, actually — when a representative of the Irvine Company responded to my questioning by stating that the Irvine Company had no plans to build a retail center near these new homes and were no longer committed to the village model.

In other words, I came to see that voting in favor of this zoning change is tantamount to voting for Irvine to no longer be a “City of Villages.”

On the issue of whether these proposed 1,000 million dollar homes would help alleviate the affordable housing crisis, here are the facts:

This week’s OC Register reports on an analysis by the Southern California News Group that graded every jurisdiction in California on its progress on state-mandated housing goals (the Regional Housing Needs Assessment or RHNA).

According to the article, Irvine is supposed to permit 12,149 homes between 2013 and 2021. Housing units are mandated in each of four categories: (1) very low income, (2) low income, (3) moderate income, and (4) above moderate income.

The number show that Irvine has done exceptionally well in providing housing in the moderate and (especially) above moderate income categories, but is not doing nearly as well in the low income and very low income categories, where it is seriously off track in meetings its RHNA goals.

Very Low Income Units: Irvine has permitted 907 very low income units, needs 1,761 to be on track, 2,817 for final goal.  In sum, very low income units are not on track, and are far from the final goal.

Low Income Units: Irvine has permitted 3 units, needs 271 to be on track, 2,034 for final goal. In sum, low income units are not on track, and are far from final goal.

Moderate Income Units: Irvine has permitted 12,973 units, needs 1,399 to be on track, 2,239 for final goal. In sum, moderate income units are more than on track, and are already in excess of the final goal.

Above Moderate Income Units: Irvine has permitted 12,137 units, needs 3,162 to be on track, 5,059 for final goal. In sum, above moderate income units are far more than on track, and are already far in excess of the final goal.

These numbers demonstrate what everyone knows: Irvine’s housing is overwhelmingly skewed toward the “Above Moderate Income” market.

The 1,000 housing units that would be added to Portola Springs/Orchid Hills under the re-zoning proposed by the Irvine Company are single family homes costing above $1,000,000.  These 1,000 “Above Moderate Income” units would not help Irvine meet its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals.

On the contrary, they would exacerbate Irvine’s school over-crowding and traffic congestion problems while doing little or nothing to ease our affordable housing crisis.

That’s why I voted No.

It is my belief that only saying No to these projects that provide housing only for the well-to-do, will we encourage developers to build more environmentally responsible and affordable housing projects.

I hope Irvine residents will make their views on this proposal for an additional 1,000 million dollar single family houses clear to all members of the Council between now and then.

Contact information for all members of the Irvine City Council can be found here.

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!