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

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 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.

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

 

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.

Roadmap to Recovery: Irvine Issues New Rules and Guidelines for Stage 2 Re-Opening!

As Orange County moves into the next part, Stage 2, of Gov. Newsom’s Resiliency Roadmap, the City of Irvine has prepared a guide for residents and visitors regarding what is now open in Irvine and what is required and recommended to maintain our safety during the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. 

 In Stage Two, the County of Orange will be allowed to have the following businesses re-open with adaptations:

🥙 In-person dining reservations.

🛍 Retail shopping with social distancing and curbside pickup.

🔗 Manufacturing.

🏢 Offices (when telework not possible).

🏯 Outdoor Museums.

▶️ Limited Services.

🚫 What is NOT allowed in Stage 2 🚫:

– Personal services such as nail salons, tattoo parlors, gyms and fitness studios.

– Indoor museums, kids museums and gallery spaces, zoos and libraries.

– Community centers, including public pools, playgrounds, and picnic areas.

– Limited-capacity religious services and cultural ceremonies.

– Nightclubs.

– Concert venues.

– Live audience sports.

– Festivals.

– Theme parks.

– Hotels/lodging for leisure and tourism – non-essential travel.

– Higher Education.

Please be mindful that the pandemic is not over.  COVID-19 is still among us.  It is still highly contagious and potentially deadly.

Face masks are still required by customers and employees in retail businesses and are strongly recommended for everyone whenever going out in public. Social distancing and hand washing remain our most important lines of defense against the spread of COVID-19.

As we re-enter the social world, we need to take care of ourselves and be careful not to harm others.

We are getting through this together.

For more information visit, cityofirvine.org/reopenirvine

For links to resources and information, please see my COVID-19 Resources and information page.

 

Celebrate Harvey Milk Day — Be an Agent of Change!

Today, Friday, May 22, is Harvey Milk Day. I am proud to join millions of people in California and throughout the world today in celebrating the life of Harvey Milk, born on this day in 1930 and murdered in 1978 because of his outspoken and courageous activism in the fight for equal rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation.

Since 2009, in California, Harvey Milk Day has been recognized as a day of special significance and an opportunity to remember and teach about Milk’s life and his work to stop discrimination against gays and lesbians.

We’ve come a long way, thanks in large measure to the courage of Harvey Milk.

When Harvey Milk first ran for supervisor in San Francisco in 1977, he was told that an openly gay man could never get elected. When he won, he became the first openly gay non-incumbent ever to win an election for public office in the United States.

Now there are hundreds of openly gay men and women serving their communities and states in elected office.

But much more needs to be done.

We must continue to fight for the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity – in our own communities and throughout the world.

We must ensure that governments everywhere respect the dignity and human rights of all people in regard to their own gender identity.

We must continue to fight for the sexual and reproductive rights of all people.

Last year, I introduced a resolution of the Irvine City City to fly the Pride Flag from Irvine City Hall.  

That resolution failed on a 2-3 party-line vote last year. As the OC Weekly reported, “the Irvine City Council voted down Fox’s proposal. Instead, they approved an utterly meaningless substitute motion that authorized councilmembers to fly flags of their choosing in their own offices. Even worse, Councilmember Michael Carroll accused Fox of trying to ‘divide the community’ with her resolution. It’s no wonder Fox – who noted during the meeting that LGBT people around the world face violence for who they choose to love – called the vote a ‘circus’.”

I will bring the resolution forward again this year.  If you agree, please email the Irvine City Council to let them know that Irvine should join the State of California, as well many other states and cities, including Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, and Fullerton, and the Orange County Fairgrounds, in making it clear to all that our community officially rejects prejudice against people based on who they love and that Irvine is a place where LGBT people are visible, accepted, and welcome.

When President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian award, he said Milk was “an agent of change” who “saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.”

Let’s each of us honor Harvey Milk by committing to being an agent of change.

As Governor Newsom reminds us, today we should remember Harvey Milk’s own words “Hope will never be silent” as we “carry on his fearless  advocacy and work toward a California for all.”

Honor Our Fallen Heroes on Memorial Day

Orange County has a long and proud military tradition.  From 1942 to 1999, Irvine was home to Marine Air Station El Toro, the largest Marine Corps Air Station on the West Coast. During World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War, thousands of United States Marines, as well as airmen, sailors and soldiers, departed for war from MCAS El Toro.  Many never returned.

As the daughter of a combat veteran, as the cousin of a Marine who was killed in action, and as an Irvine City Council Member, I am proud of Irvine’s commitment to honoring our veterans, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

For many, many years, my family and I have attended Irvine’s two beautiful Memorial Day ceremonies — a community-led candle-lighting ceremony at the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial and the official City of Irvine Memorial Day Ceremony at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps. Memorial Park next to the Civic Center.

Sadly, this year both ceremonies have been cancelled due to the need to limit non-essential gatherings to combat the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

This year, the official City of Irvine Memorial Day Ceremony will be presented online beginning May 25, 2020, for the community to view at their convenience.  The presentation will include words from our mayor, remarks from officers from the City’s adopted 2/11 Marine Battalion, and musical performances from past ceremonies.  For more information, call 949-724-6606.

The Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial, dedicated in 2010, located at 4531 Bryan Avenue, Irvine CA 92620, is the nation’s first and only memorial dedicated exclusively to listing the names of all the fallen American service members in Afghanistan and Iraq. The names of every service member who has died in Afghanistan and Iraq are engraved in granite in a permanent memorial, to ensure that generations of Americans will remember and honor them with gratitude as we do today. Regarding the Northwood Honor and Gratitude Memorial Ceremony, the following notice has been posted on their Facebook page:  

“To all our SoCal friends, it is with great sadness that we announce the City of Irvine, in keeping with the stay at home order, has CANCELED the Memorial Day Ceremony at the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial.

The City will be generously donating a beautiful wreath of remembrance.  American flags will be placed around the perimeter of the memorial and candles for lighting for those who would like to visit during the Memorial Day weekend.

There will be staff at the community center if anyone needs help finding the name of a loved one or needs name rubbing materials.

We encourage everyone to please take a few minutes of your time to stop by and pay your respects during the holiday weekend.

To our beloved Gold Star families . . . please know that even though there is no ceremony we will never forget the sacrifices your heroes made for our freedom. Thankfully this beautiful memorial is a daily reminder that our community has not forgotten those who bravely put on our Nation’s cloth and gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

As in past years, I will thinking especially of my cousin, PFC Irwin Handler, USMC, who was killed at the Battle of Chosen Reservoir during the Korean War, and of the son of family friends, Lance Corporal Donald J. Hogan, USMC, Navy Cross, who was killed in Afghanistan.

 

I will also be remembering Irvine’s own fallen heroes:

Petty Officer Regan Young

Second Lieutenant Mark J. Daily

Lance Corporal Sean Horn

Chief Warrant Officer Steven Michael Larrabee

Major Michael David Martino

Specialist Justin W Pollard

Lance Corporal Michael S. Probst

Major Charles R. Soltes Jr.

Lieutenant Commander Keith E. Taylor

Although we are not able to gather together physically this Memorial Day, we will be gathered together in our hearts

As stated so beautifully and appropriately by the Veterans of Foreign Wars:

“Pausing to remember and honor America’s fallen service members is a practice dating back more than 100 years. Since the days of the Civil War, humble Americans have gathered together on Memorial Day to remember and pay tribute to all who have fought and selflessly surrendered the precious gift of life, so that other could live free.

Again we gather this Memorial Day, as a nation solemnly united in remembrance of the fallen defenders of our great nation. Freedom is not free. It has come at great cost, paid for with the lives of our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, sisters and brothers, friends and comrades.

Every American owes a great debt to the courageous men and women who have selflessly given their all to defend and protect our way of life. And while giving back to the extent they deserve is impossible, celebrating their memory and honoring their most selfless deeds offers a start.

This Memorial Day, pause to reflect on the absolute selflessness of the 1.3 million members of our nation’s military who paid the price needed to ensure our way of life endures, and let us not forget the families whose pain will never go away, but may lessen with our thanks and prayers.”

God Bless our fallen, their families, and our men and women in uniform all over the world.