Tell the Irvine City Council No Back Room Deals! Keep Your Promises to Our Veterans!

Once again, we must fight to ensure that a Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Irvine becomes a reality.

All of us must tell the Irvine City Council, “No back room deals! Keep your promises to our veterans!”

Here are the facts:

Ever since the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro (MCAS El Toro) in Irvine was decommissioned in 1999, a growing number of veterans dreamed of locating a veteran’s cemetery and memorial on a portion of the closed base, where an estimated 2 million men and women served this nation in peace and war, and from which too many of them departed to foreign lands never to return.

These veterans formed the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation to advocate for an Orange County veterans cemetery.

Proud to stand with my dad, Korean War combat veteran Stan Kay, and Vietnam veteran and Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation leader Bill Cook.

The need is great. Orange County has a long and proud military tradition. Currently, more than two million veterans live in California – more than in any other state.  This military tradition continues into the present, as nearly 7,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars live in Orange County.

Yet there is no Orange County military cemetery for the estimated 133,000 Orange County veterans and their families.  Those in Orange County who want to visit a veteran’s grave in a cemetery must travel to Riverside, San Diego or Los Angeles counties.  The national cemetery in Los Angeles is at capacity and the one in Riverside requires a lengthy wait.

In 2014, Assembly Bill 1453 (AB 1453) was introduced by Assemblymember Quirk-Silva in the California legislature to establish a Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County.

The legislation, co-sponsored by Assemblymember Donald Wagner representing the City of Irvine, was approved by the state legislature as of August 25, and signed by Governor Brown on September 27, 2014.

On July 22, 2014, after several months of debate and hearings, and appeals from numerous veterans and veterans’ organizations, the Irvine City Council adopted a resolution expressing its intent to convey the Amended and Restated Development Agreement (ARDA) site, just north of the Great Park and on land that was formally part of former MCAS El Toro, consisting of 125 acres, to the state for the purposes of creating the Southern California Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery.

Speaking to the Irvine City Council in 2014 in support of an Orange County Veterans Cemetery located on the grounds of the old Marine base in Irvine.

I had spoken at City Council meetings numerous times in favor of this resolution, as had my father, a Korean War combat veteran.

We were thrilled that the City Council had approved providing 125 acres of City-owned land for the veterans cemetery.  While we knew that the City Council had not approved spending any money for the cemetery, our expectation, as well as that of the Irvine City Council, was that once the land was provided, sufficient funds to build and maintain the cemetery would come from the federal government and the State of California.

Over the next year and a half or so, very little was done to move the project forward, as both the state and federal government considered the matter.

Then in June 2016, the City received a disheartening report from California Department of General Services that projected the cost of Phase 1 of building the veterans cemetery at the ARDA site to be a startling $77,372,000.

Most of this enormous cost involved the decontamination and demolition of 77 buildings (both residential and non-residential) remaining on the site.  The report noted that many of these remaining buildings and facilities “contain hazardous building materials such as asbestos-containing building materials (ACM) and lead-based paint (LBP).”

More bad news followed.

On July 25, 2016, the City learned that the Federal Veterans Administration had ranked the Southern California Veterans Cemetery at a mere 74 out of 101 proposed state veteran cemetery projects, and that the project was eligible for only $10 million from the federal government.

In other words, we learned that there was a $67,372,000 shortfall between what the cemetery would cost and what the federal government was willing to contribute. Moreover, no state funding was promised.

It appeared that the Southern California Veterans Cemetery that so many of us had long fought for was not going to get built.

During this time, FivePoint, the developer of the Great Park and the Great Park Neighborhoods, made the City an offer to exchange 125 acres of land that it owns just south of the Great Park, which it was now using as a field to grow strawberries, for the ARDA land.

The City could then provide this Strawberry Fields land to the State of California for a veterans cemetery, rather than the ARDA site.

No costly decontamination or demolition would be necessary to begin construction.

Speaking with California Governor Jerry Brown after his tour of the two proposed sites for an Orange County veterans cemetery in Irvine.

Like the ARDA site, the Strawberry Fields site had once been part of the El Toro Marine base.

In addition, FivePoint offered to pay for the cost of building Phase 1 of the veterans cemetery, thus saving the public nearly $80 million as compared to attempting to build the cemetery on the original ARDA site.

Still, there remained some uncertainty about the details of FivePoint’s offer.

Based on these financial facts and FivePoint’s offer, the City Council voted on April 4, 2017, to adopt my motion to pursue a dual track option of telling the Governor’s office, CalVet, and the State Legislature, that the City would guarantee local funding of up to $40 million, and, simultaneously, to direct staff to clarify and nail down the details of FivePoint’s land exchange, which could expedite the creation of the cemetery and save the City millions of taxpayer dollars that could then be used for other purposes, including construction of the Cultural Terrace and other amenities at the Great Park.

On May 12, 2017, Governor Brown toured both of the sites proposed for a veterans cemetery on the former El Toro Marine base. After his tour, Brown said either site was acceptable to the state. He also indicated that he preferred the Strawberry Fields site offered by FivePoint:  “It’s absolutely certain that Orange County will get the veterans cemetery that it deserves and the veterans deserve,” Brown said.  He later added, “Obviously, I like [the] strawberry patch — ‘Strawberry Fields Forever.’ Remember that song?”

Following the Governor’s visit, the land exchange proposed by FivePoint was supported in letters to the City Council by a formidable and bipartisan array of Orange County elected officials, including Congresswoman Mimi Walters (Republican), Congressman Lou Correa (Democrat), State Senator Josh Newman (Democrat), Assemblymember Steven Choi (Republican), and Assemblymember Sharron Quirk-Silver (Democrat) — the author of the original Southern California Veterans Cemetery legislation.

In addition, the land exchange was strongly supported by the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, the non-partisan veterans’ group that had tirelessly and heroically pressed for an Orange County veterans cemetery for many years.

On June 6, 2017, the Irvine City Council voted 3-2 to change the site originally designated for a veterans’ cemetery and to proceed with the land exchange (125 acres of the ARDA for 125 acres of the Strawberry Fields) with FivePoint.

Mayor Don Wagner, Councilmember Christina Shea, and I voted in favor of this land exchange.  Councilmembers Jeff Lalloway and Lynn Schott voted against.

The State legislature then adopted two budget trailer bills related to the Southern California Veterans Cemetery. These bills authorized CalVet to acquire, study, design, develop, construct, and equip a state-owned and state-operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery at the new Strawberry Fields sites; provided $500,000 for a new CalVet study; authorized CalVet to submit a request for Federal Cemetery Grant funds; and provided $5 million to the Southern California Veterans Cemetery Master Development Fund.

Over the next few months, further approvals of the land exchange were then made by the Irvine Transportation Commission, which found that the land exchange would not have any significant impact on Irvine’s traffic, and by the Irvine Planning Commission, which urged approval necessary zoning changes.

Proud to wear a Southern California Veterans Cemetery cap with Vietnam War veteran Bill Sandlin, after receiving a commemorative cup on the 241st anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps.

It now seemed that the Southern California Veterans Cemetery was finally on track and was smoothly moving forward at last.  All that remained was final approval of the land exchange agreement by the City Council at the City Council meeting on September 26, 2017.

But just when it seemed that the veterans cemetery was soon to be launched with a jubilant official groundbreaking ceremony, suddenly everything was thrown up in the air once again.

I heard from Bill Cook, a leader of the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation and a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran, that the City Manager was now insisting on providing only 25 acres for a veterans cemetery.  According to the scheme concocted by the City Manager, the remaining 100 acres would then be available for more houses, apartments, and hotels.

Next, I read in Voice of OC that the Irvine City Council is rumored to have “scheduled a closed session discussion of the veterans cemetery during its Sept. 26 meeting. The discussion reportedly will include using 100 acres of the veterans cemetery land for hotels, homes or other commercial purposes until the land is needed to bury veterans.”

Apparently, the City Manager had taken it upon himself to push this new 25 acre scheme for several weeks in staff negotiations with FivePoint, without direction from — or even informing — the City Council.

This action by the City Manager is outrageous.

Let me be clear:

Failing to provide the full 125 acres as promised will kill the veterans cemetery.  CalVet has made it clear to the City that “The USDVA requires that the entire 125 acres be transferred to the state in whole in order for the state to receive a grant to begin Phase I construction. Additionally, the CA Public Works Board requires the same. Anything short of a 125 acre transfer to the state puts the entire project in jeopardy. Once the state takes possession of the land and construction begins, the land can only be used according to the SCVC Master Plan. No additional use leases, etc. will be authorized.”

The City Council never authorized or even discussed this outrageous betrayal of our commitment to provide 125 acres for a veterans cemetery. This was undertaken by the City Manager without my knowledge or, as far as I know, the knowledge of any other member of the City Council.

I will not participate in any secret session or back room deals. There are no terms in the land exchange agreement that cannot be shared with the public in open session. 

I will fight to ensure that Irvine provides the full 125 acres as approved and committed by the City Council.  Anything less would be a betrayal of our promise to our veterans, and I will vehemently fight against it.

What you can do:

Send emails to the Mayor and City Council. Tell them to stick to their promise to provide the full 125 acres.  Tell your friends and neighbors, especially veterans, to do so as well.

Attend the City Council meeting on Tuesday, September 26, 2017.  Publicly tell the Council to keep its promise to our veterans.  The meeting will start at 4:00 pm and be held at the Irvine City Hall City Council Chamber, One Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606.

We’ve fought long and hard so that Orange County veterans have a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.

The fight isn’t over yet.

Let’s make sure Irvine keeps its promise to our veterans.

See you there!

Update:

I have seen the official appraisal of the two properties (the ARDA site and the Strawberry Fields site). The Strawberry Fields site, being given up by FivePoint, is by far the more valuable of the two properties.  It is the City of Irvine (not Fivepoint) that is getting the best of the land exchange for pennies on the dollar. ARDA Appraisal Report (1)

 

 

Support the 5th Marines Vietnam War Memorial

“A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.” — President John F. Kennedy

It was my great honor to contribute to the 5th Marines Vietnam Memorial.

Vietnam War veteran Bill Sandlin, USMC, ret., presents 5th Marines Challenge Coin to Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox.

The 5th Marines Vietnam Memorial is dedicated to planning, building, installing, and dedicating a monument at Camp Pendleton that will remember and honor the combat veterans of the 1st Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division (1/5/1), who served during the Vietnam War, and, in particular, the 2,706 U.S.Marines and Sailors of the 5th Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Because of the generous donations of so many people, the manufacturing of the 6 black paneled granite has begun, and we are on track for the Dedication Ceremony on Memorial Day 2018. But we still have funds to raise to make the Memorial a reality.

The 5th Marine Regiment has a rich and distinguished history. Its reputation as the Marine Corps’ most decorated infantry regiment has been seared in the crucible of many wars and crises since its establishment in 1917, from the Battle of  Belleau Wood in World War I, the Battle of Guadalcanal in World War II,  the Battle of Inchon in Korea, the Battle of Fallujah in Iraq, and the Battle of Helmand Province in Afghanistan.  Today, the 5th Marines are involved in the battle against ISIS.

I have a personal connection to the 5th Marines. Several of my relatives served in the 5th Marines, including my cousin, PFC Irwin Handler, who was killed in action in Korea during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir.

Every American owes a debt to the 5th Marines, for their courage and service to this nation.

This Memorial is about the sacrifice made by the 5th Marines who courageously fought in Vietnam because our nation asked. It honors their courage, commitment to duty, and commitment to country, and it says that we will never forget them.

You can watch a video of the proposed Memorial here,

You can make a contribution here.

If you have the means, please join me in contributing to this very worthy cause of honoring the 2,706 U.S.Marines and Sailors of the 5th Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War.

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.”

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

I believe that locating the Orange County Veterans Cemetery at the Strawberry Fields Site is by far the most advantageous option for the residents of Irvine.  This site, overwhelmingly preferred by the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Committee (OCVMP), saves at a minimum $77.5 million in city, state and national tax dollars, does not require the substantial remediation and decontamination of the original site, and reduces traffic through the City.

My family has a long history of service. My father sacrificed his hearing and many years flying combat missions over North Korea as a bombardier and crew chief.  We lost his cousin at Inchon.  All of my uncles served in the Marine Corps.  My grandfathers and my father-in-law served in WWII in the Navy.  There are many more.  I respect and honor our military tradition and I serve the residents of Irvine.

I was one of the earliest and strongest advocates for a Veterans Cemetery located at the old El Toro Marine Air Station.  I attended and spoke at every Irvine City Council meeting where the Veterans Cemetery was discussed.

I was also tremendously proud that my father, a Korean War combat veteran, joined with many other Orange County veterans and spoke to the Irvine City Council, urging them to support a veterans cemetery in a portion of the former Marine Corps base.  As an Irvine resident and as the daughter of a combat veteran, I believe that it is time that Orange County offered its veterans, who have sacrificed so much for us, a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.

My strong commitment to an Orange County Veterans Cemetery located on the grounds of the old El Toro Marine base in Irvine has never wavered.  My goal remains to establish this cemetery as expeditiously as possible.

Here are the facts:

  • Neither the ARDA Site nor the Strawberry Fields Site are within the boundaries of the Great Park. Both are contiguous to the Great Park: The Wildlife Corridor bisects the Strawberry Field Site and the ARDA Site sits just to the north of the park.
  • For providing the Strawberry Fields Site and a financial commitment to build the entirety of the veterans cemetery through Phase 1, the developer seeks no additional entitlements, only to move what they already have at the Strawberry Fields Site to the ARDA Site, adding no new housingno additional traffic and no additional automobile trips.
  • The $77.5 million estimate to prepare the ARDA site is only an estimate. The ARDA Site contains 77 buildings that would need to be demolished, and a dump site filled with unknown materials dumped over the entire lifespan of the base.
  • The ARDA Site contains FAA facilities that must remain in use and cannot be removed.
  • The Strawberry Fields Site is currently used as agricultural fields. No decontamination or demolition would be necessary before construction could begin.
  • The majority of the funding for the Great Park comes from a settlement with the State of California for the return of $280 million over an unspecified period of time. A portion of those funds are dedicated to affordable housing, leaving $258 million available for the Park. The $38 million proposed by the City would come from these funds, necessarily reducing the funds available for gardens, museums, a library, maintenance and operations.
  • The veteran members of the OCVMP Committee, who have fought for an Orange County Veterans Cemetery on the grounds of the old MCAS El Toro for many years, favor the Strawberry Field Site because it would be more visible from the freeway, has easier access, and the motorcade traffic and daily rifle volleys would not impact surrounding residences and schools.
  • The ARDA was last appraised in 2014 at $9,425,224. In 2015, the developer sold 72 acres adjacent to the Strawberry Fields Site for $128,000,000.

This is not  – and should not be  – a partisan or divisive issue.

Let’s do what’s best for Orange County veterans and for the residents of Irvine.

Let’s get it done.

Update:

The Irvine City Council voted on June 6, 2017, to designate the Strawberry Fields Site as the new location of the Orange County Veterans Cemetery.

The vote was 3-2 with Mayor Donald Wagner, Councilmember Christina Shea and myself voting in favor, and Councilmembers Jeffrey Lalloway and Lynn Schott voting against.

In addition, the State legislature has adopted two budget trailer bills related to the Southern California Veterans Cemetery that Governor Brown has now signed into law.  

These bills provide for:

§ $500,000 for CalVet study (site studies, concept plan and Phase I cost estimates).

§ Authorizes CalVet to acquire, study, design, develop, construct, and equip a state-owned and state-operated Southern California Veterans Cemetery at the Bake Parkway [Strawberry Fields] Site.

§ Authorizes CalVet to submit a pre-application requesting Federal Cemetery Grant funds.

§ $5 million transfer to the Southern California Veterans Cemetery Master Development Fund.

I believe that designating the Strawberry Fields Site will get the Veterans Cemetery built faster and with significant less cost.  In fact, it will save Irvine taxpayers upwards of $50 million — money that we can use to create more and better amenities at the Great Park, including museums, a library, and a world-class botanical garden.

I want to thank those elected officials who have stood with me throughout this process.

I want to thank Governor Brown for supporting the decision of the Irvine City Council to designate the Strawberry Fields Site as the better location for the Orange County Veterans Cemetery, and for signing the legislation quickly providing for state authorization and state funds for the Strawberry Fields Site.

I want to thank Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva for originating this process in the state legislature and seeing that it received the support of Governor Jerry Brown.  She made it clear that she would be pleased with the Strawberry Fields Site and that she “wholeheartedly back[ed] the decision of the Irvine City Council.”

I want to thank Congressman Lou Correa, who sent a letter to the Irvine City Council expressing his “support for the Orange County Veterans Cemetery to be built on the “Strawberry Field” site at the old MCAS El Toro  . . . This is the site perferred by the Orange County Veterans Memorial Foundation and the consensus of most Veterans, family, and friends.”

I also want to thank State Senator Josh Newman, Chair of the California Senate Veterans Committee and proud U.S. Army veteran, for writing to the City Council stating that in his view “the recently presented alternative site [i.e., the Strawberry Fields Site] represents the best prospect for a feasible location and plan [for the Veterans Cemetery].”

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.

“We Live in Fame or Go Down in Flame”

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A-26 Invader from my father’s squadron on a mission during the Korean War. Photo by Stanley Kay.

My father, Stan Kay, in the U.S. Air Force in Korea during the Korean War.

Today, September 18, 2016, is the 69th anniversary of the creation of the United States Air Force, which became an independent military service on September 18, 1947.

The Air Force evolved from the United States Army Signal Corps in the early 1900s, and then into the United States Army Air Corps and the Army Forces in World War II.

After World War II, Congress created the Air Force as a separate branch of the United States military in recognition of the importance of air power in preserving American freedom and American interests around the world.

A-26s from my father’s bomber squadron flying on a mission during the Korean War. View from my father’s perspective as navigator.

The mission of the Air Force declared to be:

  • to preserve the peace and security, and provide for the defense, of the United States, the Territories, Commonwealths, and possessions, and any areas occupied by the United States;
  • to support national policy;
  • to implement national objectives;
  • to overcome any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States.

The stated mission of the USAF today is to “fly, fight, and win in air, space, and cyberspace.”

My father, Stan Kay, served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War, flying A-26 Invaders  on bombing missions against North Korean targets.

He never fully recovered his hearing.

Thank you, Dad, for teaching me to “Aim High.”

Happy Birthday to the United States Air Force and thank you to all the brave men and women who have served and are serving in the United States Armed Forces.

 

 

Happy Korean American Day!

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Today commemorates the 113th  year of Korean immigration to the United States.

Korean War veterans (2)On January 13, 1903, a group of 102 Koreans arrived in Honolulu from Japan aboard the steamship RMS Gaelic to work in the Hawaiian sugar cane fields. This date is traditionally regarded as marking the first Korean immigration to the United States and celebrated as Korean American Day, although several individual Koreans had immigrated to the United States earlier, including Philip Jaisohn (Seo Jae-pil), a journalist and medical doctor and a noted champion for Korea’s independence and democracy, who in 1890 became the first Korean to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

From these humble beginnings, a large and vibrant Korean American community has grown, now numbering nearly 2 million people of Korean descent in the United States, including nearly half a million people in California, and more than 13,000 Korean Americans living in Irvine.

melissa-koreanfestival-02 (2)Irvine is proud to celebrate our thriving Korean American community. Each year Irvine holds our annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, designed to share Korean culture with the entire community by showcasing its customs, heritage, arts and cuisine.

Our city has adopted the South Korean city of Seocho-gu as one of Irvine’s four “Sister Cities,” and has begun planning for the construction of a traditional Korean garden in Col. Bill Barber Park next to Irvine City Hall.

As the proud daughter of a Korean War veteran, and as a proud resident of Irvine, I feel a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans have made to our city, our state, and our country.

I am proud to live in a city that celebrates and treasures our tremendous diversity, including our vital Korean American community, and I join my Korean American friends and neighbors in celebrating Korean American contributions to our shared American heritage and way of life.

Happy Korean American Day!

Questions and Answers with Irvine City Council Candidate Melissa Fox

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox

Irvine Community Services Commissioner and City Council candidate Melissa Fox

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, votemelissafox.com, Melissa Fox Irvine

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

My Q & A with Melissa Fox grew out of her gracious offer to let me spend a day in her north Irvine home. After meeting Melissa’s family — husband Michael, teenage son Max, and their Siberian Husky, “Scout” — and then having some of her delicious home-baked bread, we began our interview. 

When I asked, “So, who is Melissa Fox?” — she responded with lawyer-like organization, starting with her public persona as an Irvine Community Services Commissioner and, now, a candidate for the Irvine City Council.  Central to her personality is the pride she takes in becoming a lawyer — a good lawyer. In fact, she’s a very good lawyer for her clients and a very good lawyer in her public service to the Irvine community.

Melissa Fox was part of the wave of women lawyers who have been smashing through the male-dominated barriers of the legal profession since the 1990s. She runs her own law firm, specializing in business litigation. While she represents businesses large and small, her professional passion seems greatest when talking about the problems of small, independent Irvine businesses. “Think about it,” she told me. “When small businesses flourish, the economy and the character of Irvine flourish. When they leave our community, our entire community suffers a loss.”

Q. What are the three things people should know about Melissa Fox?

I’m a wife, mother and daughter. I’m an attorney and I run my own law firm in Irvine. And I’m Irvine’s most enthusiastic cheerleader.

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, votemelissafox.com, Melissa Fox Irvine

Melissa Fox, Esq. , founder of The Fox Law Firm

Q. What kind of law do you practice?

I’m a litigator – a lawyer who actually goes to court. My clients are usually businesses, large and small, as well as individuals who have business and contract issues. I’m also a specialist in fighting fraud – preventing bad guys from stealing, scheming or taking advantage of people through deceit and misrepresentation.

Q. Why do you choose to live in Irvine?

I was born in Orange County and first came to Irvine when I was 16 years old as a freshman at UCI. I moved away to finish school at Brandeis University in Boston and then Tulane Law School in New Orleans. I moved back to Irvine with my husband Michael when he was selected to be among the first Ph.D. students in the UCI School of the Arts. Irvine’s great schools and stellar public safety record were major factors in choosing to live here. And we loved the commitment to open spaces and parks and amazing cultural diversity. Our neighborhood is composed of people from all over the world. Irvine truly is a global village.

Q. How do you like being an Irvine Community Services Commissioner?

I love being an Irvine Community Services Commissioner! I was brought up to believe in public service. My father was in the United States Air Force flying bombers in the Korean War. Afterwards, he became a police officer and then an inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. My mother was a nurse and then a librarian. My parents instilled in me a strong belief in public service. I’ve been an Orange County Reserve Park Ranger, a volunteer with Cub Scouts and Sea Scouts, and a board member of Beckman High School Football and Wrestling Boosters. I’m an active member of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce, where I love celebrating new business openings. So when I had the opportunity to become an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, I jumped at the chance.

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, votemelissafox.com, Melissa Fox Irvine

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox welcoming OC Blues FC to Irvine

As a Commissioner, I’ve been able to make sure that new developments provide ample open space and park facilities for both children and adults. I’ve also been able to work with community leaders on planning and getting the go-ahead for a new Adventure Playground. Plus, I really love supporting Irvine’s community events — from the Irvine Korean Festival to the Diwali (Indian) celebration to New Year’s at the Irvine Chinese School to the Memorial Day ceremonies at Bill Barber Park and the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial. I have the privilege of representing our City at many of these events.

Q. Tell us about the “Irvine Food Tours” you’ve led as a Commissioner.

Irvine is home to scores of remarkable locally-owned restaurants featuring cuisine as diverse as Irvine’s population. But many people who live in Irvine aren’t aware of the great restaurants we have, or perhaps they’re a little uncertain about trying food they haven’t eaten before. So UCI Professor Catherine Liu and I decided to create the Irvine Food Tour, where we visit a local restaurant and the owner or chef selects the menu and explains the food as it is brought to us. So far, we’ve done Food Tours to Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, and Middle Eastern restaurants. The Irvine Food Tour is also a great way to support local businesses and to connect local business owners with the community. I definitely plan to continue with the Irvine Food Tour after I’m elected to the City Council.

Q. You were very active in the movement to create a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park. Why does that cause matter so much to you?

rvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox with her father, Korean War veteran Stan Kay, at Memorial Day ceremony at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox with her father, Korean War veteran Stan Kay, at Memorial Day ceremony at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park

As the daughter of a combat veteran, I know what veterans have sacrificed for our nation. Orange County veterans do not have their own official military cemetery and those who want to visit a veteran’s grave in a veterans cemetery must travel to Riverside, San Diego or Los Angeles. When a bill introduced in the Assembly to remedy this problem by creating a Veterans Cemetery in Orange County, I decided to do whatever I could to make it a reality. It’s time that Orange County offered its veterans a final resting place close to their families and loved ones. And, as an Irvine resident, I strongly believe that a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, is the perfect location for a Veterans Cemetery and a fitting memorial to Irvine’s proud military heritage.

I spoke to the City Council in support of a Veterans Cemetery in March, April and May, and attended the subcommittee meetings. It often seemed to me that the Council majority cared more about developers’ desire for more profit than about the veterans. I was thrilled when the City Council in July voted 5-0 to approve 125 acres in the Great Park as a military cemetery. Our veterans won a great victory, but the battle isn’t over. The developer still will not allow a Veterans Cemetery to be located in the Great Park unless the pressure from the veterans continues and the Council backs the veterans. That’s not going happen with the current pro-developer Council majority. So we need to stay vigilant and we need to make our support for a Veterans Cemetery clear with our vote in November.

We also need to do more for our veterans across-the-board. Irvine is home to thousands of military veterans. They should be represented within Irvine’s city government by an advisory committee expressly dedicated to the unique needs and perspective of the men and women who have served and are serving in our nation’s armed forces. That’s why one of the very first things I’ll do once I’m elected to the City Council is create a permanent Irvine Veterans Advisory Council to provide advocacy for veterans and to advise the Council on issues of importance to veterans and their families.

Q. Why are you running for Irvine City Council?

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, votemelissafox.com, Melissa Fox Irvine

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

As a business owner, attorney and City Commissioner, I understand the relationship between strong, pro-resident leadership and our Irvine quality of life. Runaway development is negatively impacting our schools, traffic flow, public safety, and our quality of life – all the reasons we choose to make Irvine our home.  We need smarter growth that protects and preserves what has made Irvine such a special place to live, work and raise our families.

I also want to safeguard Irvine’s standing as a world-class city in education and public safety. I want to ensure every public dollar is wisely budgeted and accounted for, using my skills as a business attorney specializing in fighting fraud. I want to promote Irvine businesses, large and small.

And, finally, I’m going to make very sure that a Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery is actually created in the Great Park.

I will keep my eyes focused on Irvine’s future – creating opportunities, solving real problems, and producing concrete results.