How Orange County Lost the U.S. Solar Decathlon

In a recent article in the Voice of OC, Chapman University Professor Fred Smoller and former U.S. Department of Energy official Richard King make a convincing case for a California version of the U.S. Solar Decathlon. The problem is, there already was a California-based Solar Decathlon – located at the Great Park in Irvine – until lack of support and mismanagement by the administration of then-mayor Steven Choi forced the U.S. Department of Energy to find another location elsewhere.

The U.S. Solar Decathlon, which has been sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy approximately every two years since 2002, is an award-winning international competition that challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. The houses are assembled at a central location for display, evaluation, and awards. The winner of the competition is the team that best blends affordability, consumer appeal, and design excellence with optimal energy production and maximum efficiency.

As Smoller and King point out, since the Solar Decathlon’s inception in 2002, more than a dozen California colleges and universities have participated, but no California colleges or universities are slated to participate in the next competition in 2020.

This lack of California participation is troubling, Smoller and King note, because the Solar Decathlon introduces new solar energy technologies to the market and accelerates their implementation; increases and educates the ‘clean tech’ workforce; educates consumers about clean energy; and demonstrates that energy-efficient and solar-powered housing is attainable, practical, and beautiful.

Smoller and King further point out that “as the U.S. surrenders its leadership position on fighting climate change, other nations have stepped in: Solar Decathlons are now being held in Europe, China, the Middle East and Africa. In addition to combating climate change, countries in these regions — especially China — are positioning themselves to take full advantage of the rapidly expanding green economy.”

I wholeheartedly agree with Smoller and King in endorsing a California Solar Decathlon.

California is the ideal location for a Solar Decathlon. California leads the nation, and the world, in developing new and cleaner energy technologies. We are leaders in requiring more effective clean energy standards and in fighting climate change. “To maintain California’s leadership position in the field of clean energy, we must harness the creative energy of our youth, the academic community, industry and labor. By working together, this competition could set a new milestone in clean energy and help make California the sustainability capital of the world.”

Significantly, in both 2013 and 2015, the Solar Decathlon was held right here at the Great Park – until lack of support and mismanagement by the administration of then-mayor Steven Choi forced the U.S. Department of Energy to find another location elsewhere.

It was an incredible achievement in January 2012 when the Great Park team was awarded a $1 million grant to bring the 2013 Solar Decathlon and the XPO in Irvine – the very first time such an award had been made and first time the Decathlon will be held outside of Washington, D.C.

As then-Great Park Board Chair Beth Krom stated at the time, the Solar Decathlon was expected to “bring worldwide attention and economic development to the Great Park and the region and raise public awareness about the benefits of clean energy and energy conservation.”

As I wrote at the time, I was “excited about the potential economic and technological impact that the Solar Decathlon will have for Irvine and Orange County in the future.”

But once the Solar Decathlon contract was awarded, the Irvine City Council, now led by Mayor Steven Choi, completely bungled the opportunity.

First, Mayor Choi and his allies on the Irvine City Council and the Great Park Board (which were then, as now, one and the same) dismissed the public relations firm that had been instrumental in getting the Energy Department to award the Solar Decathlon contract to the Great Park, without hiring any replacement firm – or even adopt a plan – to handle the publicity for the event. The result was far less attendance than been had anticipated when it was assumed that the Solar Decathlon would be properly publicized.

Melissa Fox attending the 2013 U.S. Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park as an Irvine Community Services Commissioner.

Next, Mayor Choi and his allies on the City Council failed to provide proper signage and directions for the event, so that many people who planned to attend could not locate the venue within the uncompleted Great Park.

The City also failed to partner with science, engineering or community based groups to promote and engage with the Solar Decathlon.

In fact, Mayor Choi and his allies on the City Council were hostile to the very premises of the Solar Decathlon. It had been the idea of former Mayor Larry Agran to bring the Solar Decathlon to the Great Park, and the contract was awarded during Agran’s tenure as mayor. Choi never embraced the event as truly belonging to Irvine or the Great Park, instead viewing it with suspicion as belonging to Agran and to Obama’s environmentally pro-active and climate change conscious Department of Energy.

Crucially, Choi did not share the Solar Decathlon’s basic rationale: concerns about the impact of human-caused climate change and the need for new, clean, energy technologies. Rather, Choi told his fellow Republicans that while “it is good to keep the environment clean but [he] completely questions the idea of global warming being caused by human intervention. He opposes cap and trade and other government imposed environmental regulations, calling them an extreme effort to tax businesses and economic growth.”

In line with this anti-scientific thinking regarding the relationship between climate change and human use of fossil fuels, Choi not only cared nothing about ensuring the success of the Solar Decathlon, but ended Irvine’s participation in the Wyland Foundation’s National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation and failed to appoint a quorum for the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, causing that important committee – which I revived, along with Mayor Don Wagner, and which I now chair – to cease meeting for the years that Choi was mayor.

As I said in 2016 when the U.S. Department of Energy announced that the Solar Decathlon would be held in Denver, not the Orange County Great Park, “It is extremely disappointing that the Solar Decathlon will no longer he held in Irvine because the Irvine City Council refused to support the continuation of the Solar Decathlon in the Great Park. The Solar Decathlon served as an international showcase for our city — our businesses and educational institutions — as among the world’s leaders in scientific and environmental innovation, but our shortsighted City Council has allowed this tremendous opportunity to go elsewhere.”

In sum, I agree with Fred Smoller and Richard King that a Solar Decathlon in California– a “leading-edge design competition which promotes innovation, education, and market expansion” of clean energy technologies – would be great for our students, teachers, schools and businesses.  That’s why it’s such a pity that the Solar Decathlon was once here in the Great Park, until the event was mismanaged, and the opportunity was squandered, by the Irvine City Council led by Steven Choi.

 

Join Me as Irvine Valley College Presents “The Courage To Remember,” an Educational Exhibit on the History of the Holocaust

Please join me as Irvine Valley College and the Foundation For California present “The Courage To Remember,” an educational exhibit on the history of the Holocaust.

The opening reception is Monday, March 11, 2019, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Irvine Valley College Performing Arts Center, 5500 Irvine Center Dr., Irvine CA 92618.

The exhibit will remain open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 12 through Thursday, March 14, 2019.

Both the exhibit are the reception are free.

Produced by the Simon Wiesenthal Center, this exhibit is both a tribute and a warning; a tribute to the six million Jews and millions of others, including Gypsies, Slavs, political dissenters, homosexuals, and prisoners of war, who were murdered by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945; and a warning that the root causes of the Holocaust persist.

Especially in light of recent events, we must have the courage to remember and study the Holocaust, no matter how disturbing these studies and memories may be. For only informed, understanding, and morally committed individuals can prevent such persecution from happening to vulnerable minorities again.

You can see a video introduction to the exhibit here:

I hope to see you there!

Zot! The Dramatic Success of UC Irvine is Making Our City Better Educated and More Diverse!

Everyone knows that Irvine is changing.  Our city is becoming more populous and more diverse.

One of the major reasons for this change is the remarkable success of our city’s foundational institution and largest employer: The University of California, Irvine (UCI).

Founded in 1965, UCI now has more than 30,000 students and offers 192 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy.

UCI is now the most sought-after campus in the entire University of California system, according to a recent article in the Orange County Register.

The article reports that “The Irvine campus announced recently that 70,540 California students applied for admission as freshmen in the upcoming fall semester,  the most among the nine campuses in the UC system.”

Much of this growth is recent.  In fact, applications to UCI have increased by an amazing 32 percent just since 2015!

UCI’s growth has also led to a significant increase in the diversity of our City.  UCI has made a strong commitment to being an engine of social mobility for qualified individuals from nontraditional and disadvantaged circumstances.

As a result, UCI is now the top choice among UC schools for first-generation students and those from underrepresented minority groups and lower-income families.  Almost half of UCI’s freshman applicants come from immigrant backgrounds and are first-generation students.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, a former UCI student, and the wife of someone who who received his Masters and Ph.D. from UC Irvine, I want to congratulate UCI on its great success and pledge to help it continue making our city, our state, and our nation better educated and more diverse while ensuring a brighter future for Orange County and California!

Zot!

Press Conference on Recent Anti-Semitic Vandalism in Irvine (Updated with Video)

The City of Irvine, in partnership with the Irvine Police Department and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), will hold a press conference on Friday, November 2, 2018, beginning at 10:00 a.m. on the recent anti-Semitic vandalism at Beth Jacob Synagogue in Irvine.

The press conference will be held at the Irvine Civic Center Plaza, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606.

Among those who will speak: Mayor Wagner, Police Chief Hamel, Rabbi Yisroel Ciner, Beth Jacob Congregation, and Peter Levi, Regional Director, ADL.

City staff has also reached out to other community and faith leaders.

Irvine will always stand strong against intolerance and stand up for our neighbors. We are committed to preserving the peace in our wonderfully diverse community and keeping every resident of Irvine safe and secure.

For more information, contact Craig Reem, Director of Public Affairs and Communications, City of Irvine at 949-724-6077.

RELATED:

Irvine Police Respond Quickly to Anti-Semitic Graffiti and Other Hate Vandalism at Irvine Valley College

Irvine Will Stand Strong Against Intolerance and Stand Up for Our Neighbors

UPDATE: 

The Anti-Defamation League announced a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of the hate crime criminal or criminals.

Video of the Press Conference: 

 

 

 

Irvine Police Respond Quickly to Anti-Semitic Graffiti and Other Hate Vandalism at Irvine Valley College

MJF.protrait.01
Two days ago I learned that restrooms at Irvine Valley College had recently been defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti (swastikas).

I immediately relayed this information to Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel.

Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel

Chief Hamel assured me that the Irvine Police Department would investigate and get back to me ASAP.

Here is the email about the incident that the Irvine Police Department sent today to the Mayor and the City Council:

Mayor and City Council,

Recently, the Irvine Police Department became aware of an incident at Irvine Valley College (IVC) in which anti-Jewish sentiments were the subject of graffiti on campus. Additionally, there was an incident in which fliers for a Muslim group were defaced.

The Irvine Police Department is working closely with IVC campus police and administration to investigate these incidents. To address concerns on campus related to these incidents, IVC will release the following statement from Chief Hamel today.

The statement will be distributed to students, faculty and staff.

There have been no media inquiries related to this incident.

The Irvine Police Department has been made aware of recent incidents of graffiti vandalism on campus, as well as the defacing of college club fliers. IPD is working closely with the Irvine Valley College Police Department to thoroughly investigate these incidents. The Irvine Police Department has long supported IVC campus police in the goal of providing a safe campus for staff, students and visitors. As partners in law enforcement, IPD provides additional resources in support of campus police whenever we are called upon, including these recent incidents. 

The Irvine Police Department stands with President Roquemore, the Irvine Valley College Administration, Chief Meyer and IVC campus police in condemning any acts of vandalism or defacement on campus, especially those that may appear to be directed at specific groups.  We recognize that Irvine Valley College is committed to providing an academic and work environment that respects the dignity of all individuals in the spirit of a diverse, vibrant and all-inclusive campus community.

I am committed to continuing IPD’s close collaboration with IVC campus police to maintain the highest levels of safety on campus. Remember that we rely on you, the members of the IVC community, to be our eyes and ears on campus. If you see something suspicious, please immediately report it to campus police at 949-451-5234. You can also call the Irvine Police Department at 949-724-7000. In an emergency, always dial 9-1-1.

 The Irvine Police Department and IVC campus police will provide updates on these incidents in the event of any new developments that we are able to share. If you have further concerns about this case and wish to communicate with IPD directly, please contact Operations Commander Noelle Smiley at 949-724-7025 or nsmiley@cityofirvine.org

Please rest assured that while these recent incidents are disturbing, we are not aware of any imminent danger to the IVC community or the City as a result of this activity.

Yours in partnership,

 Chief Mike Hamel

Irvine Police Department

Contact:

Kim Mohr, Communications Manager, Irvine Police Department

949-724-7112 (o) 949-299-6887 (c) | 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606 | kmohr@cityofirvine.org

Thank you, Chief Hamel and the Irvine Police Department, for your swift response and commitment to keeping all of Irvine safe.

RELATED:

Irvine Will Stand Strong against Intolerance and Stand Up for Our Neighbors

Irvine Seniors: Take Control of your Health and Fitness at the Irvine Senior Fitness Expo!

We all know that young families are attracted to Irvine because of our superior public schools, our vibrant economy, and our numerous sports facilities and recreational opportunities.

But children, youth, and young families are not the complete picture of Irvine.

Irvine is for seniors, too.  Irvine’s strategic plan addresses the needs of all our community members — children, youth, families — and seniors.

One of Irvine’s most anticipated events for seniors is the annual Senior Fitness Expo.

This year the 10th Annual Senior Fitness Expo will be held at Rancho Senior Center from 9 a.m. to 12:00 noon, on Friday, Aug. 31.

This free event is geared toward adults 50 and older who want to take control of their health and fitness, and will feature health screenings, nutrition information, demonstrations and a wide variety of the latest health and fitness products.

Guests will learn how to improve their well-being through fitness demonstrations including yoga, balance and stretching, circuit training, and more.

Exhibitors will include:

  • Anthem Blue Cross
  • Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi
  • City of Irvine, Environmental Services
  • Coury & Buehler Physical Therapy
  • Friends of Outreach
  • Greater Newport Physicians
  • Hoag
  • Irvine Adult Day Health Services
  • Irvine Senior Services
  • Irvine Senior Travelers
  • Irvine Valley College
  • Lee Chiropractic
  • NexMed Care Centers
  • Orange County Registrar of Voters
  • Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UCI
  • Parkview Optometry
  • Seniors Helping Seniors
  • Voitenko Wellness

The Senior Fitness Expo will also feature an opportunity drawing.

Rancho Senior Center is located at 3 Ethel Coplen Way in Irvine, CA 92612.

For more information, see Irvine’s Senior Expo website or or call 949-724-6800.

Irvine’s Kids Need You: Parent/Guardian Volunteers Needed to Serve on Irvine Child Care Committee!

The City of Irvine is accepting applications for two volunteer positions (parent/guardian representatives) on the Irvine Child Care Committee.

The Irvine Child Care Committee acts in an advisory capacity to the Community Services Commission, providing input on the needs of the community pertaining to child care-related issues.

The Child Care Committee is an advisory body of the City of Irvine, reporting to the Community Services Commission, providing input on the needs of the community pertaining to child care related issues.

The Committee’s mission is to develop recommendations related to the availability of affordable quality child care and early education in Irvine.

The Committee works collaboratively with City departments and community organizations to enhance the provision of child care and early education services, providing outreach, and serving as a liaison to the community by informally sharing information learned at meetings, promoting City events for families and early childhood educators and sharing questions, concerns and ideas from the community with the Committee.

The full committee includes five City Council appointees; two center- or home-based child care providers; two parents/guardians; three representatives, one each from Irvine Unified School District, University of California, Irvine, and Irvine Valley College; and two community representatives.

Applicants must be the parent or guardian of a child younger than 12 at the time of application and be willing to commit to a two-year term of active service, from January 2019 through December 2020.

Irvine Child Care Committee meetings are held the second Tuesday of select months (at least six times a year) from 9 to 10:30 a.m. at Heritage Park Community Center or other Irvine locations.

Applications are available now at the Irvine Child Resource Center and Irvine Civic Center, and online at cityofirvine.org/childcare.

As I’ve said before, Irvine needs more childcare.

We know that our great schools, beautiful parks, and safe environment attract many families with young children.  We also know that a critical part of any thriving community is safe, professional, reliable, and affordable preschool and childcare.  Irvine must become truly family friendly with no more waiting lists.

I strongly urge interested and dedicated parents or guardians to apply to serve on the Irvine Child Care Committee.

Completed applications must be received by 5:00 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10.

Applications may be mailed or hand-delivered to:

Irvine Civic Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606

For additional information, contact Traci Stubbler at 949-724-6635 or tstubbler@cityofirvine.org.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, What are you doing for others?” — Martin Luther King, Jr.