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.”

I Will Sponsor Legislation to Prohibit the University of California from Affiliating with Hospitals that Impose Non-Medically Based Restrictions on Health Care or Discriminate Against LGBTQ People

The LA Times has recently noted that “Religious restrictions on healthcare [at the University of California] have been developing into a public health crisis of the first order.”

The problem is that the University of California has entered into clinical and educational training contracts with religion-based hospitals that place non-scientific and non-medically based constraints on University of California personnel and students at every one of UC’s six medical schools, as well as some nursing, nurse practitioner, physician assistant and pharmacy programs.

These constraints include prohibitions on abortion (even in cases of sexual assault), sterilization procedures such as tubal ligations, provision of contraceptives, counseling patients about contraception and abortion, fertility treatments, use of egg or sperm donor outside of a heterosexual married couple, use of a gestational surrogate, use of fetal tissue, the provision of medical or surgical gender-affirming services for transgender people such as hysterectomy or mastectomy for transgender men, and physician assisted suicide or aid-in-dying.

Due to public outcry against the University of California acquiescing to these non-scientific or healthcare based constraints on medical care, in August 2019 UC President Janet Napolitano appointed an 18-member working group of faculty and administrators from across the UC system to establish guidelines for future collaborations with outside health systems that impose these constraints. UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman was designated the group’s Chair.

In January 2020, the working group issued its report.

Unfortunately, the group failed to reach agreement on whether the University should subject its employees, faculty, and students to religious and non-scientific prohibitions in their medical care.

I agree with working group member Michele Bratcher Goodwin, UCI Law School Chancellor’s Professor and founding Director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy, that UC policies “that impede, restrict, or hinder the care that UC students, faculty, or staff receive based on religious doctrine violate state and federal constitutional law as well as specific California legislation that forbid the imposition of religious doctrine on UC students, faculty, or staff. . . These actions are illegal and thus impermissible.”

Accordingly, when elected to the Assembly, I will sponsor legislation to ensure that UC employees, faculty and students receive medical care based solely on scientific and health-cased factors, and prohibiting the University of California from affiliating with any hospital that imposes non-health based restrictions on care or discriminates against LGBTQ people.

Here is my press release:

“The University of California is publicly funded to serve the people of California as a center of higher learning, transmitting advanced knowledge, discovering new knowledge, and functioning as an active working repository of organized knowledge. As a Californian, I am proud that UC is recognized as the world’s leading public research university system. It is therefore extremely disturbing that the University of California would affiliate with any hospital organization that discriminates against LGBTQ people and imposes non-health based restrictions on care.

UC employees, faculty, and students are entitled to medical care based solely on scientific and health-based factors. As a government entity committed to serving the public under the rule of law, UC and its providers and trainees must not restrict access to any lawful care because certain procedures or medical options may be controversial from a particular political or religious point of view. In particular, UC must never deny a woman’s right to receive comprehensive reproductive health care including abortion and all forms of contraception and assisted reproductive technologies, and must never refuse to provide medical procedures, such as gender affirmation for transgender people and reproductive technologies that support the ability of LGBTQ+ people to have biological children. UC must also provide the full range of medically appropriate and legally available options to patients at the end of life, including legally sanctioned aid in dying.

When elected to the State Assembly, one of my first pieces of legislation will be to ensure that UC employees, faculty and students receive medical care based solely on scientific and health-cased factors, and prohibiting UC from affiliating with any hospital organization that imposes non-health based restrictions on care or discriminates against LGBTQ people.”

— Melissa Fox, Candidate for State Assembly AD 68

For more information, contact J& Z Strategies at info@jacobsonzilber.com.

Learn more about Melissa Fox for California Assembly at http://votemelissafox.com

 

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:

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 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!

 

Defend Democracy. Tell the Irvine City Council: These are the Public’s Meetings!

City Councils are not private clubs. Public meetings in a real democracy should not be stage-managed by the political majority to prevent public discussion of issues that they want to avoid for their own political advantage.

Last July, while I was on a long-planned vacation to visit my son in Alaska, the Irvine City Council adopted a new anti-democratic policy that prohibits an item from being placed on the agenda unless the mayor or two city council members agree to do so.

As the Orange County Register correctly stated in a powerful editorial opposing the Council’s action, “the transparent goal is to shut down the views of the political minority.”

The new policy was in direct response to my proposal in June to fly the Gay Pride Flag from City Hall during Gay Pride Month. 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.

In opposing this restrictive and anti-democratic agenda policy, the Register observed that “Public-meetings laws have a vital purpose in a free society. The public is supposed to be privy to the inner workings of government so they can witness the sausage-making legislative process in action, ugly and unappetizing as it can be. Unfortunately, many local officials act as if hearings are a show – a way to put their best foot forward before the citizenry.”

The Register also recognized 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.”

At this Tuesday’s Irvine City Council meeting, the political majority will propose to extend this anti-democratic policy to the Great Park Board (composed of the members of the Irvine City Council) as well as to all City Commissions.

The public should not tolerate this extension of the current majority’s attack on representative democracy.

Please attend the Tuesday, September 10, 2019, Irvine City Council meeting and let them know that your City Council is not a private club. The meetings of the City Council, the Orange County Great Park, and Irvine City Commissions belong to the public and cannot be staged managed for political advantage. 

As the O.C. Register eloquently stated, “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.”

As I stated in July, I have no intention of being silent.

And neither do you.

Tell the Irvine City Council to Agendize the Proposal to Educate Residents and Law Enforcement about California’s Red Flag Law and Gun Violence Restraining Orders

California has a “red flag law” that allows family members or police to seek a court order to temporarily remove guns from mentally unstable people, but too few are aware of it. I have asked the mayor to place my proposal that Irvine educate our residents and police about California’s red flag law and its appropriate use on the City Council agenda. 

Here is the memo that I sent to the mayor:

“​Re: Reducing Gun Violence and California’s Red Flag Law

After the May 2014 mass shooting in Isla Vista in which a mentally unstable young man killed six people and injured fourteen others before killing himself, California passed a ‘red flag law’ that empowers family members and law enforcement officers to petition a court to obtain a “Gun Violence Restraining Order” (GVRO) to temporarily limit a person’s access to guns if they are an immediate and present danger of harming themselves or others.

Red flags laws have now been passed in 17 states and several more states are considering such laws. Red flag laws have been supported by both Republicans and Democrats. In the aftermath of the recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, President Trump declared that ‘We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process. . . That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders.’

Red flag laws are not just meant to prevent mass shootings. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Nearly two-thirds of the gun deaths in the United States — over 22,000 per year — are suicides. Eighty-three percent of suicide attempts by gun succeed; suicide attempts by other means are fatal only 5% of the time. A GRVO can save lives by temporarily preventing a loved one from accessing the most lethal form of suicide until the crisis passes, giving them a chance to get the help they need.

But for red flag laws to be effective, it is important that members of the public and local police officers are aware of the law and encouraged to obtain Gun Violence Restraining Orders when appropriate. Unfortunately, awareness of our red flag law is not nearly as widespread as it should be.

​I am proposing that the Irvine City Council work with City Staff and the Irvine Police Department to devise and implement a public awareness program regarding California’s red flag law, hold training sessions on the red flag law for members of the Irvine Police Department, and direct our law enforcement officers to use GVRO’s when appropriate.

I am requesting that this item be placed on the agenda for the Irvine City Council.”

Due to the City Council’s new restrictive agenda policy, which prohibits an item from being placed on the agenda unless the mayor or two city council members agree to do so, I can not place this item on the agenda without the support of the mayor or other councilmembers.  Accordingly, I have asked Irvine Mayor Christina Shea to agree to put this proposal on the Irvine City Council agenda.

Red flag laws 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.

OC Sheriff’s deputies in Mission Viejo successfully petitioned the court for a Gun Violence Restraining Order and temporarily removed over 22 firearms and 3,000 rounds of ammunition from the home. All the firearms were legally obtained by the suspect who was arrested for domestic violence.

However, the effectiveness of the red flag law 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.

A national organization, Speak for Safety, has formed for the specific purpose of raising awareness of the Gun Violence Restraining Order as a tool to remove firearms and ammunition from people who are an immediate danger to themselves or others.

Recently, deputies from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department  a domestic violence victim in Mission Viejo who feared for her family’s safety. Deputies petitioned the courts for a Gun Violence Restraining Order and an Emergency Protective Order. They temporarily removed over 22 firearms and 3,000 rounds of ammunition from the home. All the firearms were legally obtained by the suspect who was arrested for domestic violence.

But too often, neither family members nor law enforcement personnel know that such a gun violence prevention tool exists, even in states, like California, that have very effective GVRO laws on the books.

This the reason I have proposed  that the Irvine City Council work with City Staff and the Irvine Police Department to devise and implement a public awareness and education program regarding California’s red flag law, hold training sessions on the red flag law for members of the Irvine Police Department, and direct our law enforcement officers to use GVROs whenever appropriate.

Please join me in this effort by contacting the Mayor and the Irvine City Council and urging them to support this common sense proposal to use California’s existing red flag law to prevent gun violence and save lives in Irvine.