OC Register Editorial: Democracy Cannot be Stage-Managed by the Majority for their Own Convenience and Political Advantage

The Orange County Register’s editorial of July 17, 2019, correctly calls out and condemns the recent move by the Irvine City Council to prevent a Council Member from putting an item on the agenda unless two other members agree to do so.

As the Register states, “The transparent goal is to shut down the views of the political minority. Irvine officials said they want to stop ‘grandstanding,’ but one person’s grandstanding is another’s chance to raise vital concerns.”

The Register also recognizes that while the new rule was adopted specifically to silence me, the effect of the rule will be to silence all disagreement and dissent:

“Fox has previously discussed supposedly ‘divisive’ issues ranging from flying the LGBTQ flag at City Hall to creating a veterans’ cemetery near the Great Park. But this fracas isn’t about the particular issues any member might want to discuss, but about whether a duly elected official has the right to publicly discuss them. Councils are not private clubs . . . These are the public’s meetings and all officials, even minority voices, represent their constituencies. All elected bodies need to encourage wide-ranging discussions so the public can be part of the self-government process – and not just observers of a carefully crafted script. That’s the essence of representative democracy.”

Thank you to the OC Register for recognizing that public meetings in a real democracy cannot be stage-managed by the majority for their own convenience and political advantage.

As I’ve said before, Irvine’s current pro-Trump Council majority has made it clear that they are following in Irvine the very same playbook of obstruction and bullying used in Washington by Trump and Mitch McConnell, and with the same goal: to silence opposing voices.

But I have no intention of being silent.

And neither do you.

As with Trump and McConnell, we must persist and resist every day, and throw them out decisively in November 2020.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to raise my voice to speak for progressive policies and values — like respect for LGBTQ people, a state cemetery for our veterans, implementation of a serious plan to tackle climate change, more accessible child care, ending sexual violence and discrimination in the workplace, building affordable housing, and ensuring greater government transparency — as I was elected to do.

 

No, We Won’t Back Down

At its last meeting, 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.

Now, only the mayor will be allow to put an item on the agenda — a power that until last week had for decades belonged to every individual member of the City Council.

There have been many shifting majorities on the City Council over the years, but no other Council has gone so far to silence dissenting voices and points of view.

You can read about what took place in this excellent article in Voice of OC, including how this new rule is directed squarely at me in retaliation for proposing that Irvine fly the Pride Flag at City Hall, and how they made sure to propose the new rule — and then quickly enact it —  while I was on a long-planned trip to Alaska.

The truth is that Irvine’s Republican, pro-Trump Council majority — created by appointment in a back-room deal — has made it clear that they are following in Irvine the very same playbook of obstruction and bullying used in Washington by Trump and Mitch McConnell, and with the same goal: to silence opposing voices.

But I have no intention of being silent.

And neither do you.

As with Trump and McConnell, we must persist and resist every day.

And throw them out decisively in November 2020.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to raise my voice to speak for progressive policies and values — like respect for LGBTQ people, a state cemetery for our veterans, implementation of a serious plan to tackle climate change, more accessible child care, ending sexual violence and discrimination in the workplace, building affordable housing, and ensuring greater government transparency — as I was elected to do.

 

State Treasurer Fiona Ma Announces $20 Million in Sales Tax Aid for Irvine-Based Biotech Company Edwards Lifesciences

I’m extremely pleased to report that California State Treasurer Fiona Ma has approved up to $20 million in sales tax benefits for Irvine-based biotech company Edwards Lifesciences to upgrade and expand a facility that makes devices to treat cardiovascular disease.

This action will support the retention and creation of 974 production jobs and 90 construction jobs, primarily in Orange County.

The award to Edwards Lifesciences was one of several approved by the California Alternative Energy and Advanced Transportation Financing Authority (CAEATFA) which is chaired by Treasurer Ma.  CAEATFA works collaboratively with public and private partners to provide innovative and effective financing solutions for California’s industries, assisting in reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by increasing the development and deployment of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, and advanced transportation and manufacturing technologies to reduce air pollution, conserve energy, and promote economic development and jobs.

Edwards Lifesciences makes transcatheter heart valves, surgical heart valves, and blood flow monitoring devices. In 2011, it made the first aortic value approved in the U.S. that does not require open heart surgery to place inside the patient.

In announcing her decision, Treasurer Ma stated that Irvine’s Edwards Lifesciences is “the kind of company that we need to keep in California. Edwards Lifesciences is saving lives and keeping our state on the cutting edge of technology, and doing all of this while reducing its energy consumption.”

The sales tax benefits will be applied to the purchase of $239 million of production equipment, facility improvement, tooling equipment, lab instruments, computers, and information technology. The upgrade, according to the company, will reduce energy use by 10 percent and trim the amount of hazardous and solid waste produced by the facility.

Edwards Lifesciences employees approximately 5,000 people in Orange County.

I have had the privilege of being friends with California State Treasurer Fiona Ma for many years and have long been a supporter of her approach to business-government relations and her efforts to promote economic development and jobs while also protecting the environment.

I am very happy to see that her policies as Treasurer are having a direct and positive impact on people and businesses here in Orange County.

Transparency Requires the Immediate Release of City Council Candidates’ Applications and the Postponement of Hearings Until the Public Has Had Time to Read Them

Transparency requires the immediate public release of the Irvine City Council candidates’ applications, as well as the postponement of any hearings on the applicants until the public has had time to read them.

The City Council explicitly promised that the application process would be open and transparent.

The Council also stated that the public would have the right to participate meaningfully in the appointment  process.

However, consideration of the candidates by the Council based on applications that are hidden from the public is the very opposite of transparency and openness.

In addition, transparency and openness requires that the public have sufficient time to read and review these applications before any public hearing on appointments.

Therefore, I plan to call upon my colleagues on the City Council to order staff to immediately release the candidates’ applications, and that any hearing be postponed for at least one week to give the public time to read and consider them. 

Irvine Community Land Trust Earns Highest Award for Transparency!

As Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, and as a longtime advocate for more affordable housing, I am very pleased to announce that the Irvine Community Land Trust has been awarded the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, the world’s largest and mos respected source of information on nonprofit organizations.

This award is the highest honor that GuideStar can bestow — an objective and authoritative affirmation of the Irvine Community Land Trust’s dedication to transparency and openness.

In fact, the Irvine Community Land Trust trust goes well beyond what is expected of a typical nonprofit by voluntarily keeping our board meetings open to the public, by making our board agendas and minutes, going back to 2012, available online, as well as by making our financials and tax returns available online for all to see.

Nonprofit organizations like the Irvine Community Land Trust that work to create more affordable housing are often under attack from NIMBY groups.  That’s one of the reasons why I’m so delighted to see that GuideStar, a universally well-respected and objective organization, has officially recognized the commitment to openness of the Irvine Community Land Trust with their highest award for transparency!

You can read more about my work with the Irvine Community Land Trust to create more affordable housing here, herehere and here.

 

All You Need is Love: Volunteers Needed to Foster Kittens!

It’s kitten season.

Every week, dozens of stray kittens are brought into the Irvine Animal Care Center and the OC Animal Shelter in Tustin.

Many of these kittens are too young to even open their eyes, and unfortunately many of them will not survive without their mothers.

Neonatal kittens are especially susceptible to picking up infectious diseases in-shelter because their immune systems are so weak

Many of the current shelter volunteers already foster kittens at home, but their resources are stretched thin.

New volunteers are needed who can foster the kittens, which involves bottle feeding the kittens every three or four hours.

The kittens can survive only with this attention and care.

Bottle baby fostering may be best for people who work from home, have flexible schedules, or are retired.

f you think that you might be able to foster these kittens, please go to the shelters or visit them online at here (Irvine Animal Care Center) and here (Orange County Animal Care in Tustin)

The shelters are located at 6443 Oak Creek, Irvine, CA 92618 and 1630 Victory Road, Tustin, CA 92782.

Never bottle-fed a kitten before?  No problem!

Our shelters have experienced volunteers and staff happy who will help every step of the way.

Need Supplies?  Our shelters have you covered!

All you need is love.

Your love and care could mean the difference between life and death for these young kittens.

Irvine Community Land Trust Featured in Case Study in UC Berkeley’s Affordable Housing Series

As Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, and as an Irvine City Councilmember who has made helping to create affordable housing a priority, I am excited that the Land Trust was recently featured in a case study by the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley, exploring the impact that local efforts can have in improving the state’s housing crisis.

The Terner Center explains that “Cities have an important role to play in addressing California’s affordable housing shortage, and local policies such as community land trusts, reforming impact fees, and reducing barriers to multi-family housing production can all make a significant difference. Made possible by the support of California’s Department of Housing and Community Development, the Terner Center has conducted a series of case studies to explore how action at the local level can help to address the state’s housing shortfall.”

Irvine Community Land Trust Chair Melissa Fox with Affordable Housing Award for ICLT’s Parc Derian

The case study explains that “Homes for sale or rent within a CLT [Community Land Trust} are permanently held below the market cost while also offering the potential for residents to build equity and share in the economic advancement of their neighborhood.

Faced with rising housing costs and a steady decline in affordable homes, Irvine, California created the Irvine Community Land Trust (Irvine CLT) in 2006 to ensure that all new units created using a public subsidy or as a result of the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance would remain affordable in perpetuity.”

It notes that the Land Trust has recently run into greater opposition from some residents who oppose additional housing, noting that “While
initially the Irvine CLT only developed on vacant land without much neighborhood opposition, the CLT reported that they had
begun to experience neighborhood resistance to an infill project.”

In fact, one of the most difficult to overcome obstacles to creating affordable housing throughout California is resistance from the affluent neighbors, which was the subject of a special — and packed — session at the 2019 Housing California Conference I attended this month in Sacramento.

At the Irvine Community Land Trust, we have sought to overcome resistance and generate community support by voluntarily continuing to keep our board meetings open to the public, by making our board agendas and minutes, going back to 2012, available online, as well as by making our financials and tax returns also available online.

You can read the Terner Center Case Study, which is part of its series “Statewide Goals, Local Tools: Case Studies in Affordable Housing Development in California,” here.

You can read more about my work with the Irvine Community Land Trust to create more affordable housing here, here and here.