Watch My Town Hall Meeting!

I held a public Town Hall Meeting at the Irvine Championship Stadium in the Great Park on Saturday, October 21, where we discussed traffic, childcare, the Southern California Veterans Cemetery, affordable housing, and other issues of interest to Irvine residents.

I was joined by several of my city commissioners, as well as by members of the Irvine Police Department, who were also there to answer questions.

Several dozen Irvine residents spoke and asked questions, and I thank everyone who attended.

Here are some photos from the event:

I really enjoyed the open, public dialogue with Irvine residents, and I intend to make these Town Hall Meetings a regular part of my work as an Irvine City Councilmember.

You can watch the complete October 21 Town Hall Meeting on my YouTube channel (Melissa Fox, Irvine City Council) here:

 

 

 

 

 

Irvine’s Kids Need You! City of Irvine Seeks Applicants for Four Positions on Child Care Committee!

The Irvine Community Services Commission is accepting applications to fill two government, civic, or community agencies vacancies, and two child care provider vacancies on the Irvine Child Care Committee.

There is a serious child care crisis in Irvine.  At present, nearly 2,500 Irvine families do not have adequate child care. Irvine will need an additional 4,551 child care spaces by 2035, due to the increase in housing development and the concomitant increase in the number of families with young children moving to Irvine.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I have made it a priority to increase childcare and early childhood education opportunities in Irvine. By volunteering to serve on the Irvine Child Care Committee, you can serve our community and help me and others work to alleviate our childcare crisis.

The Irvine Child Care Committee is a 15-member advisory body to the Irvine Community Services Commission, and works cooperatively with the Irvine Children, Youth, and Families Advisory Committee, Child Care Coordination staff, and Community Development to enhance the quality of childcare and school readiness in the City of Irvine.

Committee meetings  are held on the second Tuesday of January, March, May, September, October and November, from 9:00 am to 10:30 am at Heritage Park Community Center, or other designated Irvine location.

Staff and committee members will interview candidates in October 2017.  Following interviews, recommendations will be presented to the Community Services Commission for appointment effective January 2018.

Applications are available here, or at the Irvine Civic Center (on the 2nd floor in the Community Services Department), and at the Irvine Child Resource Center.

If you would like more information, please contact my Lead Council Executive Assistant, Allison Binder, at abinder@ci.irvine.ca.us.

Thanks!

Stay Cool!

Temperatures will reach triple digits this week in some parts of Orange County, increasing the risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke for those who are sensitive to heat.

Stay hydrated, limit outdoor activities, and NEVER leave kids or pets in a parked car!

ALL City of Irvine facilities are designated cooling centers.  Click here for a list of facilities and open hours!

Here are some recommended precautions to prevent heat-related illnesses:

  • Drink plenty of water; don’t wait until you are thirsty.
  • Wear light, loose-fitting clothing.
  • Stay out of the sun if possible, and when in the sun wear a hat, preferably with a wide brim. Use sunscreen.
  • Avoid strenuous activities if you are outside or in buildings that aren’t air-conditioned. If you are working outdoors, take frequent rest and refreshment breaks in a shaded area.
  • Never leave children, older people or pets unattended in closed vehicles.
  • Ensure outdoor pets have access to shade and water.
  • Check on those who are at high risk to make sure they are staying cool – including seniors who live alone, people with heart or lung disease, and young children.
  • Stay cool indoors – if your home is not air-conditioned, visit public facilities such as shopping malls and libraries to stay cool.

Prolonged exposure to excessive temperatures may cause serious medical conditions and can even be fatal. Symptoms of heat exhaustion may include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and dizziness. Warning signs of heat stroke may include an extremely high body temperature; unconsciousness; confusion; hot and dry skin (no sweating); a rapid, strong pulse; and a throbbing headache. If symptoms of heat stroke occur, immediately call for medical assistance. Assist those with signs of heat stroke to a shady area and begin cooling their body with water.

Let’s be cool — and make sure we all survive the heat!

Irvine Should Move Forward with a Memorandum of Understanding for Pretend City Children’s Museum at the Great Park

Irvine Should Move Forward with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for Pretend City Children’s Museum at the Cultural Terrace of the Great Park.

I am disappointed that at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, only Councilmember Christina Shea joined with me in agreeing to an MOU with our great Irvine-based Pretend City Children’s Museum regarding a lease of property at the Cultural Terrace of the Great Park.  Mayor Don Wagner and Councilmember Lynn Schott voted against.  Councilmember Jeff Lalloway was absent.

Because of the City Council’s decision, Pretend City Children’s Museum is in danger of losing a seed money grant from the County for $5 million that depends on the MOU.

Pretend City Children’s Museum, which opened in Irvine in 2009, is an interactive children’s museum that builds better brains through whole body learning experiences, educational programs, and creative exhibits.  Designed as a small city, with a grocery store, construction site, art studio, house, café, bank, emergency services, health center and farm, Pretend City will be a familiar environment in which children infant through eight-years-old will have joyful opportunities to build problem solving and critical thinking skills, develop creativity and begin a life-long love of learning. It is dedicated to ensuring that each child is ready for school success by providing the ideal real-world learning experiences needed by children to develop their essential foundational learning skills.  This month, the Institute of Museum and Library Services announced that Pretend City is a finalist for the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

Susan Bolton, the Executive Director of the Pretend Museum, has explained that the museum “seeks to move to the Great Park to expand its mission in serving the county’s children in providing early childhood education, developmental screenings, hands on play environment for children of ALL abilities and school readiness.”

The arguments against the MOU were that it would give Pretend City Children’s Museum an advantage over other possible occupants of the Cultural Terrace, and that the Cultural Terrace project should not be approved piecemeal. However, we already know the value and quality of Pretend City, which has operated in the city for many years, and the MOU would not commit the city to any final decision regarding the Cultural Terrace.

Moreover, we should be not be pitting the fine organizations that are seeking space in the Cultural Terrace against each other.  As Don Croucher – the leading advocate for a California Fire Museum at the Great Park – has pointed out, he and other supporters of the Fire Museum “are very much in favor of Pretend City getting their MOU so they do not lose the grant that is offered to them. We understand the need for them to move forward. It is NOT putting them ahead of any others at the Cultural Terrace, but rather a hand up to get the $5 million grant. We, in no way, want to hinder this important step for Pretend City.  We will support them in every step of the way to make sure they get this MOU ASAP.”

Irvine is a great city for families with young children, but we can and should make it even better.  We need more childcare and more pre-school programs for children under six-years-old, and I and my Commissioners are working to make this happen. We should also do everything we can to support the terrific work being done by the Pretend Museum for young children right here in Irvine.

As Councilmember Christina Shea has said, “If Pretend City loses their grant and we in turn lose a fantastic partner that supports our children and families, the community will lose and this isn’t what Irvine is about.”

I hope that we can move forward with the MOU soon and that the grant is not lost.

I recommend that those who are interested in this issue contact other members of the Irvine City Council.

Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson Asks Irvine Parents about Their Childcare Needs

Guest article by Lauren Johnson, Irvine Community Services Commissioner

Hello Irvine Moms and Dads!

What kind of waiting periods are you facing right now for childcare and preschool in Irvine?

What kinds of improvements do you want to see in the availability of childcare and preschool in Irvine?

As a Community Services Commissioner and Co-Chair of the Irvine Children, Youth and Families Committee, Lauren Johnson Norris has spoken with numerous parents who are experiencing significant waiting lists to access childcare.

Parents are being advised to apply for childcare and get on waiting lists while they are expecting a child and still report waiting several months to a year to secure a spot for their child. Infant care has been identified as the most challenging childcare to secure, especially considering the important low provider-to-child ratio mandated by state law. Some Irvine parents report putting their families on lists and simply never hearing of an opening.

The consequence of the Irvine childcare gap is that families are forced to make unanticipated career and financial decisions. Parents report having to make the sometimes difficult decision to have one parent stay home, even where the families was previously a dual-income family.

Statistically, it is increasingly difficult to return to the workforce the longer a worker is away.

In addition, the result is not only lost income while the child is infancy, but potentially for years to come. For a single parent, the situation is even worse — and may be untenable if family care or care outside the city is unavailable.

A critical part of any thriving community is safe, professional, reliable, and affordable preschool and child care. Preschool has been shown to positively affect children’s social skills and prepare them for the rigors of K-12. Children who miss the opportunity for preschool because of inadequate childcare in a community start kindergarten at a disadvantage. Ultimately, the negative effects unavailable or inadequate preschool or childcare extend beyond individual children and families to the community as a whole.

It is time to address the shortage of childcare for families in Irvine. Increased childcare through designated private sites as part of an overall city development plan, access to childcare in houses of worship, and the option of city early childhood education must be part of this plan. Too many families are waiting for these solutions.

What kind of waiting periods are you facing right now for childcare and preschool in Irvine?

What kinds of improvements do you want to see in the availability of childcare and preschool in Irvine?

Send your information to me at laurenjohnson78@gmail.com.

Stop in the Name of Love: Irvine Motorists Must Obey Stop Signs and Respect Pedestrians’ Right-of-Way. Our Lives and the Lives of Our Children are at Stake!

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There has been a sharp uptick in complaints about motorists not obeying stop signs in Irvine.

The greatest concern has been expressed in Woodbury, but there have also been rising concerns in other parts of the city, including Cypress Village, Woodbridge, Stonegate, Northpark and Portola Springs.

A number of Irvine residents have posted videos on youtube showing just how dangerous our streets and roads have become.  You can see them here, here, and here.

I am very concerned — as are others — that we will soon see someone seriously injured or killed because a motorist in Irvine did not obey a stop sign or respect a pedestrian’s right of way.

It has happened before: Last year a nine-year-old boy was killed in Cypress Village when his bicycle was struck by a motorist.  The year before, I friend of mine was struck by a motorist and killed in Woodbridge as he crossed the street while Trick or Treating with his young son.

The statistics are chilling: California leads the nation in pedestrian traffic deaths.

Each year, more 700 pedestrians are killed by motor vehicles in California.

In California, 23% of all motor vehicle fatalities were pedestrians — well above the national average.

The primary responsibility for protecting pedestrians belongs to motorists; all motorists must watch out for pedestrians, especially children, and obey all stop signs.

If you see a motorist failing to obey a stop sign or endangering pedestrians, take down their license plate number and contact the Irvine Police Department at 949-724-7000.  You can also call the Irvine Traffic Research and Control (ITRAC) Center at 949-724-7324.

Irvine is world-famous as a safe place to live and raise our families.

But it won’t stay that way unless all Irvine’s motorists obey the stop signs and respect pedestrians’ right-of-way.

It’s not just our reputation as America’s safest city that is on the line.

Our lives, and the lives of our children, are at stake.

 

 

Irvine’s New Adventure Playground Rated #1!

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As an Irvine Community Services Commissioner who spent many months working with Irvine residents and city staff on this project, I am proud to see that the OC Register‘s article Orange County’s 10 Best Playgrounds has rated Irvine’s newly re-designed and re-opened Irvine Adventure Playground at 1 Beach Tree Lane in University Park as the #1 children’s playground in Orange County.

Irvine-Adventure-Playground-OC-Mom-BlogThe new Irvine Adventure Playground is the result of many years of dedicated activism by Irvine residents, numerous community hearings, hard work by city staff, and the collaboration and cooperation of all members of the Irvine Community Services Commission. We succeeded in creating an innovative and truly wonderful place for children to play while working within strict budget and liability constraints.  As writer Michele Whiteaker has said, the new Irvine Adventure Playground is a great example of community activism, progressive planning and design, and governmental support all working together for the good of Irvine’s children and families.

Here is what Register writer Dawn Antis said about the Irvine Adventure Playground:

“One of only a few of its kind in the United States, Adventure Playground is one of the most unusual parks Orange County has to offer. Built in the 1970s and closed in 2008 for an extensive remodel, the unstructured play environment remains a favorite for locals since it reopened last December.

Shoes aren’t required, and children can play at their own risk in the shin-deep mud hole or build forts with giant Legos in the two most populated areas of the innovative play space. A sensory garden, gigantic tree house, sandboxes, an art zone, concrete slides, Tonka trucks galore, grassy hills, hammocks and a water pumping station can all be found here. The natural space is enclosed but spans almost 2 acres, so keeping a close eye on little ones is imperative. There are clean restrooms, shaded picnic tables and multiple hoses for rinsing off on the way out.

It’s easy to spend a couple of hours here, so pack a lunch along with a hat because shade is minimal. This playground has something for kids of all ages and is stroller- and wagon-friendly. For the ultimate experience, come on a weekday to avoid the crowds. The staff members are friendly, and parking and entrance are free.”

Congratulations to everyone — parents, community advocates, city staff, and my fellow Community Services Commissioners — who worked so hard together to make this new playground a reality!

If you have young children, please take them to visit our new Irvine Adventure Playground! It is, as Michelle Whiteaker has said, “a symbol of what childhood play could and should be.”