The OC Board of Supervisors Should Increase COVID-19 Testing, Work with OC Cities to Distribute Federal CARES Act Funds, and Follow the Governor’s Guidelines to Re-Start Our Economy

As of Monday, May 18, 2020, there have been 4,434 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Orange County, with 88 deaths.  Over the past week, Orange County has averaged 125 new cases and 1.7 new deaths per day

Recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom has issued new, less retrictive guidelines for moving further into the four stages toward reopening our economy. 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government passed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act,” or CARES Act, which created a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund to be used to help state, local, and tribal governments navigate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak.

These federal funds were mean to help American cities remain fiscally responsible while organizing essential emergency actions such as food delivery to seniors, support for small businesses, personal protective equipment, and rental assistance to tenants.

Orange County received $554 million in CARES Act funding from the federal government, earmarked for local jurisdictions, in order to pay for services such as police and fire protection, as well as social services.  But none of these funds have been released to Orange County cities.

Orange County COVID-19 Tracker for Mon., May 18, 2020. Source: OC Register

In fact, although 31 out of Orange County’s 34 mayors recently requested that the county distribute the $554 million in CARES Act funding it received from the federal government, the Board of Supervisors has been silent on when, how or whether it intends to fulfill its obligation under the CARES Act to distribute this much needed funding so that our cities remain able to function..

In addition, while the Board of Supervisors has indicated that it plans soon to “re-open” Orange County, the County has not provided the COVID-19 testing and contact tracing needed to improve public confidence and sustain our economic recovery.

Therefore, I have joined with Sunny Park, Buena Park City Councilmember, and 19 other local Orange County elected leaders in writing a letter to the Board of Supervisors calling on them to increase testing, work with local cities to distribute federal CARES Act funds, and follow the Governor’s guidelines to keep OC residents safe from COVID-19 as we re-start our economy.

Here is the full text of our letter to the Board of Supervisors, as printed in the Voice of OC:

“Everyone wishes we could just go back to our old normal life of hugs, handshakes, restaurants and ball games. But we know we’re not going to achieve our “new normal” without a thoughtfully planned process that increases our understanding of the virus, reduces risk of exposure, and includes all responders in coordinated action.

A successful and sustained economic recovery requires that we avoid COVID-19 outbreaks. This is especially true for Orange County, because we depend on tourism, retail, restaurants and entertainment to fuel a significant portion of our economy. If customers do not feel safe in our county’s businesses, recovery will be much more difficult, if not impossible.

Orange County has been operating under a shelter-in-place order since March 19. Governor Newsom acted quickly and, in large part, the residents and businesses of Orange County have complied. As of May 13, there were 3,749 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Orange County, 80 deaths, and 248 were currently hospitalized. While those numbers represent immense human suffering, they certainly would have been much worse without the profound, selfless sacrifices made by our entire community to comply with the stay-at-home order.

New COVID-19 Cases in Orange County by Date Reported. Source: OC Health Care Agency.

We are moving toward carefully reopening the county. Governor Newsom is set to move into Phase 2 of his plan by reopening certain retail businesses in a matter of days, again with appropriate precautions. We support a thoughtful, incremental reopening that avoids the risk of an outbreak that would set back the substantial progress we have made at great cost.

More testing and contact tracing can improve public health and accelerate our economic recovery. More information could allow restrictions to be more narrowly tailored to those who are infected or at-risk.

We need the right kinds of tests to know who is currently infected with COVID-19, and who may have already recovered from it. This is why, as fellow elected officials committed to safely and effectively reopening Orange County, we respectfully requested that the Board of Supervisors aggressively increase antibody and antigen testing in each city that has a qualified testing facility.

Not only do we need the right kinds of tests, we need to consider who receives them. While the Board of Supervisors has taken new steps to allow teachers, essential workers, and senior citizens to receive tests whether they have symptoms or not, it won’t be enough to rebound our economy. We have encouraged the Board of Supervisors to expand this eligibility pool, allowing anyone who requests a test to receive one, regardless of symptoms.

Each city in Orange County has taken local emergency actions on COVID-19, but these actions have significant costs. The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, set aside funds to help cities remain fiscally responsible while organizing essential emergency actions such as food delivery to seniors, support for small businesses, personal protective equipment, and rental assistance to tenants.

Thirty-one out of Orange County’s 34 mayors recently requested that the county distribute the $554 million in CARES Act funding it received from the federal government, which is earmarked for local jurisdictions. Unless the county begins to distribute these funds soon, our cities will be crippled, which could impact services such as police, fire, or social services.

Each of us can do our part to reduce COVID-19 by practicing social distancing and wearing protective face masks. In addition, we urge public support for more testing in Orange County, and the collaborative distribution of CARES Act funding to our local communities, each of which desperately needs it.”

The letter was signed by the following Orange County elected officials:

  • Sunny Park, Councilmember, City of Buena Park
  • Jordan Brandman, Councilmember, City of Anaheim
  • Jose Moreno, Councilmember, City of Anaheim
  • Glenn Parker, Councilmember, City of Brea
  • Art Brown, Councilmember, City of Buena Park
  • Katrina Foley, Mayor, City of Costa Mesa
  • John Stephens, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Andrea Marr, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Manuel Chavez, Councilmember, City of Costa Mesa
  • Jan Florey, Mayor, City of Fullerton
  • Diedre Thu-Ha Nguyen, Councilmember, City of Garden Grove
  • Kim Carr, Councilmember, City of Huntington Beach
  • Melissa Fox, Councilmember, City of Irvine
  • Sergio Contreras, Councilmember, City of Westminster
  • Kerie Kropke, Board Clerk, Brea Orlina Unified School District
  • Ian J. Mcdonald, Boardmember, Centailia Elementary School District
  • Joanne Fawley, Boardmember, Fullerton Joint Union High School District
  • Cynthia Aguirre, La Habra Unified School District
  • John Polacio, Santa Ana Unified School District
  • Chris Brown, Board Vice President, Savanna Unified School District
  • Lorainne Prinsky, Board Vice President, Coast Community College District

If you agree with us that OC Board of Supervisors should increase COVID-19 testing and tracing, work with OC cities to distribute federal CARES Act funds, and follow the Governor’s guidelines to re-start our economy, please let the Orange County Board of Supervisors know by contacting them at (714) 834-3100 or sending them an email.

Thank you.

For more information and resources regarding COVID-19, please click here.

 

 

 

Tell the Orange County Board of Supervisors to Require Face Coverings for All Food Service, Grocery, and Other Essential Workers!

Did you know that every neighboring county of Orange County requires face coverings for all food service, grocery store, and other essential workers except Orange County?

Did you know that many of these workers are under the age of 18?

In order to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to protect both workers and customers, every neighboring county of Orange County — including San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles Counties — now require face coverings for all food service, grocery store, and other essential workers.

Only Orange County does not. I believe this failure to protect public health is unacceptable and unconscionable.

My friend, Gina Clayton-Tarvin, President of the Board of Trustees at the Ocean View School District, who has also been a classroom teacher in Orange County for 25 years, has started a petition to address this very serious problem.

The petition calls on Michelle Steel, Chair of Orange County Board of Supervisors, to “allow a vote to order face coverings for all food service, grocery store, and other essential workers, many of whom are children under the age of 18, to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Orange County.”

I have signed this petition because I believe that all workers who are providing us with food, groceries, and other essential goods and services during this pandemic deserve to be as protected from this deadly virus as possible.

As customers of these businesses and as residents of Orange County, we also deserve to be protected.

The protection of public health is an essential responsibility — and must be a top priority — of any government.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I have already voted to require all retail workers in Irvine to wear face coverings.

Our Orange County Supervisors need to step up now and do the same, and stop putting our food, grocery and other essential workers — and ourselves — in unnecessary danger of contagion and death.

Please sign the petition HERE.

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.

Preserving Irvine’s Neighborhoods and Open Space: Why I’ll Vote to Protect Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course

At tonight’s Irvine City Council meeting, I intend to vote to protect the Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course from development.

Councilmember Melissa Fox celebrates Irvine’s open space with Board of Equalization Member and candidate for California Treasurer Fiona Ma

Here’s why:

One of the best, and most distinctive, things about Irvine is our commitment to preserving open space.

The City of Irvine has more than 16,000 acres of permanently preserved parkland and open space – remarkable for a city of our size.

Since its incorporation in 1971, Irvine has been committed to balancing the built and the natural environment.  As our incredible master-planned community has grown, we have remained attentive to the need to preserve and enhance our natural open spaces, creating a network of parks, trails, and wildlands that residents and visitors enjoy today and will continue to enjoy for generations to come.

Neighborhoods are also a crucial aspect of life in Irvine.

When I ran for City Council, I promised that I would protect the beauty and character of our neighborhoods in all of Irvine.

I also promised to fight runaway development; in  fact, as an Irvine City Councilmember, I have not voted for a single new entitlement nor have I approved any new construction.

Moving forward, I intend to see that Irvine reaffirms its commitment to protecting open space, preserving neighborhoods, and following the wisdom of the General Plan.

I like what my appointee to the Irvine Planning Commission, Dustin Nirschl, has said: “Villages are not just measurements, it’s a feeling.”

Neighborhoods matter.

Open space matters.

And neighbors working together to preserve their neighborhood and their open space matters most of all.

For these reasons, I intend to vote to prevent any development on the Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course by keeping it as a permanent, open space, recreational amenity to serve all Irvine residents — now and in the future.  

Update:  The Irvine City Council voted 5-0 on August 28, 2016, to affirm the Master Plan and maintain the zoning that protects the Rancho San Joaquin Golf course open space and preserves the character of the Rancho San Joaquin neighborhood. Thank you to the residents who joined together in this community-based and community-led effort!

Update: The folks at Protect Rancho Joaquin Golf Course have posted my comments and a video of my remarks at the August 28, 2018, Irvine City Council meeting.

My comments were: “I do want to thank everyone who’s come out today [to the City Council meeting]…I am so grateful that you’re here today to take the time out of your lives to protect your neighborhood, and our community.  It is a core principal of Irvine that we protect our open space, and we’re here today to do that.  And I wanted to thank my colleagues for bringing forth this issue — and particularly the right time with the General Plan update — that there could be no question now that the devotion of our City is to the protection of open space.  And so, I thank you for that.”

 

 

Distinguished Environmental Group Laguna Greenbelt Endorses YES on Measure B for Veterans Cemetery!

The leaders of the distinguished environmental group Laguna Greenbelt recently issued a strong statement urging voters to support Yes on Irvine’s Measure B in order to facilitate the creation of a veterans cemetery on the site known as the strawberry fields.

Laguna Greenbelt is a grassroots organization that has worked ceaselessly to protect wildlife habitat in Orange County since 1968. Over the last fifty years, it has led efforts to preserve a coastal wilderness area that is now 22,000 beautiful acres. Today Laguna Greenbelt continues to defend this iconic landscape for the sake of its wild inhabitants and the people who love it.

The Measure B Strawberry Fields Veterans Cemetery site is bisected by the lower part of the “Central Reach” of the Nature Greenbelt, which is crucial to preserving our environmental heritage.

One of Laguna Greenbelt’s major projects has been the creation of an essential nature corridor across Irvine to connect the coastal wildlife habitat west of the I-5, to the much larger open space of the Santa Ana Mountains, including the Cleveland National Forest.

Last March, I had the opportunity to join Laguna Greenbelt President Elisabeth Brown, Ph.D, along with Irvine Mayor Donald P. Wagner and Councilwoman Christina Shea at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Orange County Great Park Wildlife Corridor.

As envisioned by Laguna Greenbelt, this nature corridor will link our coastal wilderness with the Santa Ana Mountains/Cleveland National Forest and will ensure the health and future of wildlife and their habitat in our region’s 22,000 acres of coastal parks.

As the leaders of Laguna Greenbelt noted, “A cemetery built on the strawberry-growing site [i.e., the Yes on Measure B site] would be bisected by the wildlife corridor, greatly increasing the amount of green space available to the animals. The lush greenery of the cemetery would help support wildlife to feed and mingle before moving on.  In contrast, the original cemetery site on Irvine Blvd is not near the wildlife corridor, and would have no benefits for wildlife movement or encouraging genetic mixing. Animals moving downslope from the mountains that found their way to the cemetery across busy Irvine Blvd would be blocked from moving safely inland or seaward. Surrounded by urban development and Irvine Blvd on all sides, the cemetery would be just another isolated fragment of open space”

For this reason, they “urge Irvine voters to approve the land swap in June, and vote yes on Measure B.”

Here is their statement:

“Last September, the City of Irvine agreed to a land swap with developer Five Point Communities. This moved the cemetery site to land near the Spectrum V development and the I-5/I-405 interchange. The gently sloping new site is currently being used as agricultural land to grow strawberries. In exchange, the city deeded over the parcel along Irvine Blvd, where the cemetery was originally planned. After the land swap was completed, the City deeded the new site to the State of California, which is responsible for building the cemetery.

There is now controversy over whether the land swap is in the best interest of the City of Irvine. Political squabbles aside, Laguna Greenbelt, Inc., would like the public to consider the land swap’s merits through the lens of land use principles, open space preservation, and wildlife movement.

Representatives of Laguna Greenbelt, FivePoint, and the City of Irvine at the groudbreaking for the Great Park Nature Corridor in March 2018.

Our grassroots organization has been working with the City of Irvine since before 2000, and since 2012 also with the developer Five Point Communities, to design and complete an essential wildlife corridor across Irvine to connect coastal wildlife habitat west of the I-5, to the much larger open space of the Santa Ana Mountains (including Cleveland National Forest). This wildlife corridor, that we have come to call the Coast to Cleveland Wildlife Corridor, is currently taking shape on the only possible route that will ensure that the coastal wild lands, including Shady and Bommer Canyons, and several other parks and preserves, will not wither and die over time (ecologically speaking), throwing away hundreds of millions of dollars that the community has invested over the many decades it took to set aside and manage our parks and preserves.

In mid-March, as a community, we celebrated the groundbreaking of the last stretch of the wildlife corridor between the Santa Ana Mountains and the coastal open space. In short, it’s a dating corridor for wildlife, at a time when they are increasingly isolated from one another by multi-lane roadways and urban development.

The event was important; the corridor is about 6 miles long, and the stretch under construction will be almost half of that, as it crosses Irvine between Irvine Blvd and the I-5. The so-called Great Park stretch will be entirely on the former Base, but not near the park. Instead, it will be adjacent to future urban development around the park on the East side, and, depending on the June fifth vote, it might meet the Veterans Cemetery.

When considering land uses that will be neighbors of habitat and wildlife corridors, it’s clear that some are better than others. Animals exploring for food, cover, and water are spooked and avoid moving towards noisy areas with human activity, lights, cars, unfamiliar smells, and domestic pets. Land uses that are quiet at night and minimize human activity near a wildlife corridor are favorable for animals moving through the area, allowing them to continue on their journeys.

In general, a cemetery is one of the best complementary land uses for natural areas and wildlife; a dark and quiet place at night, when many animals are active. However, in real estate, it’s all about the location, and one of the sites proposed for the Veterans Cemetery is much better than the other for animals traveling along the corridor.

A cemetery built on the strawberry-growing site would be bisected by the wildlife corridor, greatly increasing the amount of green space available to the animals. The lush greenery of the cemetery would help support wildlife to feed and mingle before moving on.

In contrast, the original cemetery site on Irvine Blvd is not near the wildlife corridor, and would have no benefits for wildlife movement or encouraging genetic mixing. Animals moving downslope from the mountains that found their way to the cemetery across busy Irvine Blvd would be blocked from moving safely inland or seaward. Surrounded by urban development and Irvine Blvd on all sides, the cemetery would be just another isolated fragment of open space.

The health and future of wildlife and their habitat in 22,000 acres of coastal parks rides on the success of the wildlife corridor. The land swap supports the bottom line, too: In sheer dollars, so much has been invested in our public lands, don’t we want to protect our investment? We urge Irvine voters to approve the land swap in June, and vote yes on Measure B.”

Learn more about the Coast to Cleveland Corridor here.

You can watch a video on the Great Park Nature Corridor here.

Elisabeth M. Brown, PhD is a biologist and the president of Laguna Greenbelt, Inc. She has resided in Orange County for 51 years. Elisabeth’s involvement in managing local wildlands has included founding roles in the Nature Reserve of OC and the Coastal Greenbelt Authority.

Gabriela Worrel is the outreach coordinator at Laguna Greenbelt, Inc and a freelance writer. She is a Southern California native currently living in Los Angeles, and holds degrees in biology (Westmont College) and urban planning (UC Irvine).

To learn more about why it is so important to Vote YES on Measure B, please see:

Vote YES on Measure B on June 5 for an OC Veterans Cemetery!

Putting Politics Aside to Honor Veterans with a Final Resting Place

Stop Playing Political Games with Veterans Cemetery

Stop the Politics and Build the Veterans Cemetery Now

Irvine Takes Historic Step Forward for a Veterans Cemetery at the Former El Toro Marine Base

Tell the Irvine City Council to Keep Your Promises to Our Veterans

The Strawberry Fields Site is the Best Location for the Veterans Cemetery. Now Let’s Get it Done!

Don’t Be Deceived By The “Save The Veterans Cemetery” Petition!

OC Register Slams Agran, Lalloway, and “Despicable,” “Misleading” Veterans Cemetery Petition

Help Us Defeat the Paid Mercenaries who have Invaded Irvine and their Fraudulent “Save the Veterans Cemetery” Petition!

As the daughter of an Orange County Korean War combat veteran, I am proud to have participated in making sure that Orange County’s veterans – who have sacrificed so much for us – will at last have a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.

Please help by voting YES on Measure B!

Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox Receives OC Taxpayer Watchdog Award for Fiscal Responsibility!

Irvine, CA – On June 8, 2017, Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox received the Orange County Taxpayers Watchdog Award from Orange County Auditor-Controller Eric H. Wollwery.

The Orange County Taxpayers Watchdog Award was for “demonstrating dedication to the protection of taxpayer funds and for the advocacy of government transparency and fiscal responsibility.”

Irvine City Councilmember Fox received the Award, along with Irvine Mayor Donald P, Wagner and Councilmember Christina Shea, for her successful efforts to designate agricultural land near the 5 and 405 freeways that was once part of the former Marine Air Station El Toro as a new Orange County Veterans Cemetery and Memorial in a land exchange with FivePoint Communities.

The land exchange with FivePoint Communities will ensure that the Veterans Cemetery is build faster and with approximately $80 million in savings for state and local taxpayers.

“I am honored to receive this award,” Councilmember Fox said.  “I ran on a platform of using my skills as a business attorney to safeguard every public dollar.  I also ran on the promise to build the Veterans Cemetery in Irvine at the old El Toro Marine base, and to build it as quickly as possible. I’m extremely happy that this land exchange has allowed me to fulfill both of these campaign promises.”