Happy Martin Luther King Day: National Day of Service

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

“Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1994, Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act, designating the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Holiday as a national day of service.

Taking place each year on the third Monday in January, the MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service – a “day on, not a day off.”  It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national and community problems.

There are many opportunities for service in Irvine.

Click here to see our City of Irvine website special section on volunteer opportunities.

Among the many Irvine organizations that need volunteer service are: the Irvine Animal Care Center, Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Farm + Food Lab at the Great Park, Irvine Fine Arts Center, the Irvine Global Village Festival, Heritage and Aviation Exhibition-Orange County Great Park, High School Youth Action Team, Irvine 2/11 Marine Adoption Committee, Irvine Disaster Emergency Communications (IDEC), Meals on Wheels, Senior Center, and the Turtle Rock Nature Center and Irvine Open Space Preserve.

Volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to our community and directly help those in need.

In addition, Irvine Gives is a comprehensive online resource to help locate the giving opportunities you seek.

If you want to donate time, money or materials, clicking on Irvine Gives is a great place to start.

Thank you for your service to our community!

Hike to OC’s Grand Canyon with Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox!

Join me and naturalists from the Irvine Ranch Conservancy on Friday, January 26, on a hike up Agua Chinon Wash to The Sinks, with a visit to one of Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s large riparian habitat restoration projects.

This spectacular hike takes you alongside a dry creek bed in Agua Chinon Wash, the headwaters of San Diego Creek, which meanders through Irvine before eventually flowing into Newport Bay.

It begins with a flat and sometimes sandy walk through lush riparian, or creek side, habitat with periods of shady, oak woodlands. Elderberry and mulefat shrubs abound in the creek bed while the hillsides of the canyon are covered in native sage scrub.

After a couple of miles, the trail begins to climb relatively steeply out of the canyon and away from the creek bed, leading to extraordinary views of the iconic geological formation known as The Sinks.

It is sometimes called “OC’s mini-Grand Canyon.”

A rich diversity of plants and animals is found in this canyon, which is currently undergoing habitat restoration.

The hike to the Sinks involves multiple steep climbs and descents and is 6 miles round trip with a 1300′ total elevation change and a challenging hill climb on a dirt ranch road.

This hike will be done at a moderate pace of approximately 3 mph with rest breaks as needed.

Please bring plenty of water as well as everything you need to keep healthy on the trail (sun protection, medications, snacks) and please wear sturdy closed-toe shoes.

This activity originates in the City of Irvine and travels into OC Parks’ Limestone Canyon Nature Preserve. This hike is moderate to strenuous (level 3) in nature.

Pre-registration is not required in order to attend, however a waiver will be provided at the activity for you to complete at this special event.

What: Hike to OC’s Grand Canyon with Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox!

Date: Friday, January 26, 2018

Time: 8:00 am – 11:00 am

Duration:  About 3 hours

Type: Hiking & Fitness

Organization: City of Irvine

Area: Irvine Open Space Preserve

Staging Area: Portola Staging Area (Take Portola Pkwy past Portola Springs all the way to the toll road – go across the toll road and make a left down the access road and the staging area is right there.)

Difficulty: 3

Distance: 6 miles

Elevation Change: 1300 feet

Minimum Age: 18

You can see more details about the hike (and register) on the Irvine Ranch “Let’s Go Outside” website here.

You can also see information about the hike on the Facebook event page here.

For more information, contact Allison Binder at 949-724-6226.

The Sinks is a magnificent sight to see and is located right in our own backyard!  It is accessible only via guided hikes through the Irvine Ranch Conservancy.

I hope you’ll join me!

Irvine Wins Tennis Magazine’s Parks & Rec Agency of the Year!

“Tennis is mostly mental. Of course, you must have a lot of physical skill, but you can’t play tennis well and not be a good thinker. You win or lose the match before you even go out there.” — Venus Williams

“Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquillity.” — Billie Jean King

“Life is like a tennis game. You can’t win without serving.” — Arthur Ashe

I’m proud to announce that Tennis Industry Magazine has named Irvine’s Community Services Department as Park & Rec Agency of the Year for 2017.

In making the award, Tennis Industry Magazine explained:

“For the last 14 years, Steve Riggs has been the tennis director for the city of Irvine, Calif., overseeing one of the top city-run tennis programs in the country. Riggs is in charge of 91 public tennis courts (all with lights) at 19 facilities, including the brand-new, 25-court Orange County Great Park Sports Complex. On weekends, he also oversees 31 courts at four high schools.

‘At first, I wasn’t happy about having all these neighborhood parks,’ Riggs says. ‘But for customer service, it’s actually better. It’s easy for kids, for instance, to get to nearby courts.’

The courts are free to play on, but Riggs says programming brings in about $1.8 million from lessons, clinics, leagues and tournaments. ‘As a city-run program,’ he says, ‘we’re lucky to be in a strong tennis community.’

That’s why the city of Irvine’s Community Services Department is Tennis Industry’s 2017 Park & Rec Agency of the Year.

Riggs is quick to credit the 24 full-time teaching pros for the success. ‘Our program is built on our pros,’ he says. ‘If they don’t do a good job, then you don’t have a good program. I have a great staff—many have been here for many years — and they make it all go’.”

Thank you to Steve Riggs for your dedication to Irvine and to tennis.  As Southern California Tennis News wrote in 2016:

Steve Riggs

“When it comes to giving back to the Southern California junior tennis community, few can match Steve Riggs’ dedication and drive to make life better tennis players. Riggs, the Director of Programming and Tennis for the City of Irvine, has a passion to share his love of the sport with all. This year, the highlights include organizing two coaching education seminars (January and June) and a new four-tournament Grand Slam Round Robin series for novice level juniors.

Riggs is a certified teaching pro, tournament organizer, and community advocate. He has been a leader in the Southern California tennis world for the past 25 years, and based in Orange County since 2004. During that time he has run So Cal junior tournaments at every level from novice to national. Other past accomplishments include being a JTT Area League Coordinator, and a member of the SCTA Advocacy and Red-Orange-Green (ROG) Committees.

When the USTA introduced the 10-and-Under Tennis program, Riggs was one of the first to step up and offer Red-Orange-Green (ROG) Events for kids. He currently offers an innovative 4- tournament ROG Grand Slam Round Robin Circuit in 2016, which highlights the Australian, French, British and U.S. Opens respectively at each event.

Tennis education is also very important to Riggs. For the past eight years, he has offered a variety of seminars on various topics for adults and juniors.  ‘I’m happy to be in a position to give players, parents and coaches at all levels a taste of fun and competitive tennis as well as great information,’ Riggs said. ‘All it takes is a few good ideas and the time to plan them. I have an outstanding staff and together we make things happen’.”

The City of Irvine has 91 public tennis courts and offers beginning, advanced beginning, intermediate or advanced level tennis lessons, leagues and tournaments for youth, adults and seniors.

The new tennis courts at the Orange County Great Park Sports Park.

The newly opened Sports Complex at the Great Park has a new Tennis Center that includes a championship tennis court with seating for 132 spectators and an additional 24 lighted tennis courts.

It also includes a conference room, concession area, restrooms, and City athletics offices.

These new Great Park tennis courts offer space for kids camps and lessons, adult team workouts, recreational programs, and the Brymer Lewis Tennis Academy, as well as leagues, match play and championship tournaments.

Drop-in courts are also available daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information about tennis at the Great Park, call the Tennis Center at 949-724-6400 or email tennis@cityofirvine.org.

I am proud to serve on the City Council that is finally fulfilling the promise of a truly Great Park for the residents of Irvine and Orange County!

Coffee with a Cop!

I’m extremely proud of the men and women of our Irvine Police Department and of our commitment to community policing.

As our Police Chief Mike Hamel has said, “One of the best things about Irvine is that we are dynamic and diverse. We are made up of people from cultures and countries all over the world, but this also means that various community groups may have specific and unique needs. We are here to do all we can to help address your needs.  It doesn’t matter where you come from, your lifestyle, what language you speak or what religion you practice, we are your police department and we are here for you.”

Join the Irvine Police Department for a cup of coffee and a chance to chat in a relaxed, one-on-one atmosphere.

Irvine Police Officers will be at Starbucks at Alton Square on Jan. 18  from 7 to 9 a.m.

WHAT: Coffee with a Cop!

WHERE: Starbucks, Alton Square (5365-B Alton Parkway, on the corner of Alton and Jeffrey).

WHEN: Thursday, Jan. 18, 7:00 to 9:00 a.m. Join us at any time during this two-hour event.

WHO: This is a kid and family-friendly event. All ages are welcome!

COST: Free.

See the Facebook event page here.

 

Irvine Parents: Join Us for a “Diversity Play Date”

In Irvine, we are proud of saying that our city is not only among the most diverse cities in the nation, it is also the most fully integrated.

There are no ethnic, linguistic, religious, or cultural enclaves in Irvine: every neighborhood reflects Irvine’s ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural diversity.

How diverse is Irvine?  A non-English language is spoken in a remarkable 58% of Irvine homes, with more than 70 different languages spoken in residences throughout Irvine.  Nearly 40 % of Irvine’s public school students have a primary language other than English.

Irvine is also home to more than 80 different churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship, serving Irvine’s wonderful cultural and religious diversity.

But sometimes we face prejudice in Irvine.

That’s what happened recently when a young African-American boy was teased at school because of the color of skin.

His mother, Kourtney McGowen, was understandably hurt and upset and reached out on social media to other Irvine moms.

I’m proud of my community to say that the response she received was 100% love.

Kourtney then decided to create a “diversity play date” at an Irvine park to share — and celebrate — our diversity.

Here is how Kourtney describes what happened:

“It all started with Johnathan sharing his experiences at school with me.  He told me that children were calling him names because of his skin color. As a mom of course I tried to make him feel better about being black by purchasing books, watching certain movies and talking to him about it. I even reached out to the school leadership. But his peers quickly diminished what confidence he had just gained.

I then decided to vent to my Irvine moms group on Facebook and share my concern and frustration. I even went as far as saying ‘please teach your children to accept other children that look different than they do, it starts at home.’ I wasn’t sure how the response would be. But, to my surprise, the post went viral. I had many moms express how sorry they were, private message me for play dates and share their own similar experiences with the same thing! I felt like this was an opportunity to make a difference so I went for it!

I am now planning a play date for the entire community and calling it “Celebrate Diversity”. To my surprise so many families got excited and I have over 84 saying they’re going. I now have the City Councilwoman Melissa Fox of Irvine as well as the Irvine Community Service Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris co-hosting this event with me! It will be next Sunday January 14th at 2:00pm. I plan to go live on Facebook for a portion of the event.

This is just another example of how one voice can make change happen. How are we using our voices? For change? Or for gossip? So excited for this opportunity!”

Here are the details:

What: Diversity Play Date

When: Sunday, January 14, 2018  2:00 pm — 5:00 pm.

Where: Santa Ynez Park, 110 Santa Ynez, Irvine, CA 92606

Description:  “All ages are welcomed! Come bring your kiddos dressed in cultural clothing (if you’d like) and their favorite snack to share! This is an opportunity for us as parents to bring awareness to an ongoing issue of separating by race, culture, religion, skin color. Please join me in bringing our little ones together to encourage acceptance of others! Can’t wait to see you all!”

You can see the Facebook page for the event here.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I am extremely proud of our city for surrounding Kourtney McGowan and her son with so much love and delighted to co-host this event together with Kourtney and Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris.

I am also tremendously impressed by how Kourtney McGowan turned a negative incident into a positive learning and sharing experience for our whole community!

Please join us!

See you there!

 

 

Welcome 2018!

Irvine 2017 by the Numbers:

  • No. 1 Major American City in Fiscal Strength.
  • No. 1 FBI’s Safest American City. Lowest rate of violent crime among cities with a population of 250,000 or more (12th consecutive year that City of Irvine has earned the Safest City accolade).
  • No. 2 Safest Big City, based on categories that go beyond violent crime rates, including motor vehicle safety.
  • No. 3 Most Prosperous City.
  • No. 3 Happiest Residents.
  • No. 6 Least Stressed American City
  • No. 8 Best Public Parks.
  • No. 8 Best City to Raise a Family, based on crime rate, vehicle safety, air quality, and educational attainment.
  • No. 9 Healthiest Lifestyles.
  • No. 15 Best Places to Buy a Forever Home.
  • Listed as one of 20 Western Dream Towns.
Great Park Progress:
  • Opened new 12,000-seat live music FivePoint Amphitheatre in in the Great Park. The inaugural concert in October 2017 was headlined by Irvine’s own “Young the Giant.”
  • Groundbreaking for new ice skating facility in the Great Park (largest public ice skating facility in the West).
  • Opened new 5,000-seat Championship Soccer Stadium and numerous other sports fields and facilities in the first phase of 194-acre Great Park Sports Park, the largest of its kind in Orange County – larger than Disneyland and Disney California Adventure combined.
  • Great Park Sports Complex presented with the Orange County Business Council’s Turning Red Tape into Red Carpet Award for Public-Private Partnership.
  • Great Park Championship Stadium becomes home of Orange County Soccer Club, Orange County’s only professional soccer team and official affiliate partner of the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC) of Major League Soccer (MLS). Orange County SC is a part of the United Soccer League (USL), the fastest growing Division II professional soccer league in the world comprised of 34 teams across the United States.
  • Reached agreement with Wild Rivers for a new 30-acre water park in the Great Park.
Traffic Progress:
  • City Council did not approve a single new entitlement for housing or offices in 2017.
  • Reinstated Irvine Transportation/Traffic Commission (with my appointee, Ken Montgomery, as Chair).
  • Created and filled new City of Irvine staff position of Director of Transportation.
  • Curtailed traffic in and out of Concordia University.
  • Approved $19 million plan to reduce traffic congestion throughout Irvine.
  • Approved plan to widen University between MacArthur and Campus, adding a lane in each direction and upgrading traffic signals.
  • Working with CalTrans to upgrade and improve timing on 40 traffic signals near freeway ramps.
  • Working on pedestrian/bicycle bridge over Jamboree at Michelson.
  • Defeated proposed 1,960-unit “Travel Land” apartment complex at the 5 and Sand Canyon, based on negative impact on traffic congestion.
Environmental Progress:
  • Reinstated the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Commission (with me as Chair and my appointee, Krishna Hammond, as Vice-Chair).
  • Organic Landscape Leadership Award from Pepperdine Center for Sustainability for Irvine’s exclusive use of organic non-toxic materials in its gardens, parks, and grounds-keeping.
  • 2017 Sustainable Government of the Year for recycling and waste reduction from Sustain OC.
  • 2017 Eco-Award from U.S. Green Building Council.
  • Continued working with Non-Toxic Irvine to ensure that all City of Irvine pest pressure is maintained organically, and that our public gardens and fields are not only beautiful, they are safe.
  • Worked with Irvine-based Wyland Foundation to provide education in water and ocean conservation.
 Civic, Educational, and Cultural Progress:
  • Expanded Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial.
  • Submitted bid for Amazon HQ2.
  • Opening of the new Charlie and Ling Zhang Musical Arts and Education Center, including Orange County Music and Dance, a non-profit school in Irvine, and headquarters for Arts OC and the Pacific Symphony.
  • All of Irvine’s high schools rated in the top 10% of the nation’s high schools.
  • Cadence Park School (K-8) opens in Great Park Neighborhoods.
  • Dedicated 125 acres of land from the former El Toro Marine Base for Orange County’s first veterans’ cemetery and held dedication ceremony attended by hundreds of veterans.
  • Opening of the Quail Hill Community Center.
  • UC Irvine breaks record with 116,192 undergraduate applications.
  • 16th Annual Global Village Festival.
  • 8th Annual Korean Festival.
  • 4th Annual Diwali Festival.
  • 4th Annual Persian New Year Nowruz Festival.
  • 3rd Annual Winter Wonderland Festival.
  • 12th Annual Orange County Fire Open House.
  • 3rd Annual Irvine Police Open House.
  • 1st Annual “Days of Remembrance” Proclamation, remembering the Holocaust and calling on all of us to be “vigilant against hatred, persecution, and tyranny.”
  • Deployed firefighters to Houston, saving thousands from flooding.
  • Deployed firefighters throughout California to fight worst fire season in California history.
  • Instituted first-ever Irvine Police Mounted Unit.
  • 12th Annual Super Pet Adoption at Irvine Animal Care Center.
  • 12th Annual Home for the Holidays Pet Adoption at Irvine Animal Center.
  • 4th Annual Spooktacular Fun Days at Great Park.
And some personal accomplishments:
  • “Best Politician” by the Orange County Weekly.
  •  “Taxpayer Watchdog Award” by Orange County Auditor-Controller.
  • “100 Most Influential” by Orange County Register.
  •  “Hero of Children Award”  by Child Abuse Prevention Network.
  • “Active Transportation Change Maker Award” by Alliance for a Healthy OC

Serving the residents of Irvine this year as a member of the Irvine City Council has been a great joy and privilege.

Together we can do even more in 2018!

Michael, Max, our entire team, and I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year!
The best is yet to come!
 
Melissa

Orange County Fire Authority by the Numbers in 2017 (to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”)

I have had the honor of serving as a member of the Board of Directors of the Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) this year.

The men and women who comprise Irvine’s firefighting, fire suppression, and emergency response force are some of the most dedicated and bravest people I’ve ever met.

They also have a great sense of humor.

Here is a short video that they made to the story of OCFA in 2017, based on “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

I would like to share it with you.

Click to play: OCFA by the Numbers 2017.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year to the brave men and women of OCFA!