Rally for Flying the Pride Flag in Irvine! Tues., June 23, 2020 Time: 3:30 pm at Irvine City Hall Plaza!

June is Pride Month, when the State of California, and nations and cities around the world, stand with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community as they declare their pride in who they are and who they love.

Show your support for flying the Pride Flag in Irvine by joining Irvine City Councilmembers Melissa Fox and Farrah N. Khan at a Rally at City Hall before Tuesday’s Irvine City Council Meeting! 

What: Rally for Flying the Pride Flag in Irvine
Where: Irvine City Hall, 1 Civic Center Plaza
Date: Tues., June 23, 2020
Time: 3:30 p.m. 

Click here to see the Facebook event page for the Rally.

Remember face coverings and social distancing is legally required in Irvine! Let’s keep each other safe while we make the world a better place!

Please also show your support for flying the Pride Flag in Irvine by contacting Mayor Christina Shea and the Irvine City Council to let them know. We need only one more vote! Contact the Irvine City Council: https://www.cityofirvine.org/city-council/contact-council

Note: At the following meeting on July 14th, we will be urging the Irvine City to repeal and remove its unconstitutional and cruel anti-LGBTQ ordinance!
https://melissafoxblog.com/2020/06/14/irvine-should-repeal-its-anti-lgbtq-ordinance-now/

June is Pride Month: Support Flying the Pride Flag at Irvine City Hall!

June is Pride Month, when the State of California, and nations and cities around the world, stand with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community as they declare their pride in who they are and who they love.

June holds historic significance for the LGBT community.  In 1969, the Stonewall Riots occurred in the New York City as a protest against the police department’s unfair targeting of the LGBT community. The Stonewall Riots led to political organizing that is considered to be the beginning of the modern LGBT civil rights movement. The following year, the first LGBT Pride Parade was held in New York City on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Today, California has the largest LGBT population in the nation and is home to over forty LGBT Pride celebrations. 

As Governor Newsom stated recently in his Pride Month Proclamation, “The LGBTQ community has worked tirelessly for respect, equality and their very right to exist. Their battles have been fought in the courts, from marriage equality to demanding equal protection under the law.  While there has been remarkable progress towards acceptance and equality in recent years, members of the LGBTQ community in the United States and around the world still face an unacceptable level of discrimination and violence. This includes LGBTQ people who aren’t safe at home and those who do not have a home in which to stay.  We must push back against those who threaten the safety of LGBTQ Californians and challenge our progress. And we must continue to make the case that all human beings share something fundamental in common – all of us want to be loved, and all of us want to love. We cannot march in a parade this June, but we can and will stand with our LGBTQ family, friends and neighbors. Pride celebrations may look different this year, but in California, no matter the circumstances, we are proud to support our LGBTQ community’s right to live their lives out loud. As we celebrate Pride across the state, we must continue to demand equal rights for all to create a California for all.”

Last year, I asked the Irvine City Council to fly the Pride Flag from our Civic Center. In doing so, we would be joining many other cities, including Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, and Fullerton, as well as the Orange County Fairgrounds, in flying the Pride Flag to recognize Pride Month by making it clear to all that our community is a place where LGBT people are visible, accepted, and welcome.

Unfortunately, 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. Councilmember Mike Carroll even called the Pride Flag “a spectacle of divisiveness.” 

In fact, in direct response to my motion to fly the Pride Flag, the Irvine City Council took the unprecedented step of voting to prohibit a council member from placing an item on the agenda without two other council members’ approval.  As the Orange County Register correctly stated in a powerful editorial opposing the Council’s action, “the transparent goal [was] to shut down the views of the political minority.”

Following the City Council’s rejection of my Pride Flag motion, I joined with numerous other Irvine residents in our own Pride Flag event in front of City Hall, celebrating LGBTQ Pride and diversity in Irvine.  I also placed a Pride Flag in front of my office at City Hall.

I said at the time that I had no intention of being silent.  Therefore, I will again bring a motion to the Irvine City Council to fly the Pride Flag from our Civic Center as a visible and prominent expression of our City’s commitment to equal rights for all and to ensure that our LGBTQ community can live their lives out loud.

Under the new rules imposed by the City Council majority in response to my Pride Flag motion last year, I asked Councilmember Farrah Khan to join me in placing this motion on the City Council agenda.  She told me she was working with other, Republican, councilmembers on a Pride-related agenda item.  When I asked her specifically whether the item included flying the Pride Flag, she did not respond.

I have now seen the agenda item, a proclamation, and it does not call for flying the Pride Flag from the Civic Center as a clear symbol of Irvine’s commitment. 

Accordingly, this year I will again bring a motion to fly the Pride Flag from our Irvine Civic Center.

Please show your support for flying the Pride Flag in Irvine by contacting Mayor Christina Shea and the Irvine City Council to let them know.  Click here for their email addresses.

Click here for a link to e-comment of the agenda item. Your comment is supposed to be read aloud by the clerk during the City Council meeting.

As Harvey Milk told us, “Hope will never be silent.”

UPDATE: Tues., June 9, 2020

I am deeply disappointed that no other member of the Council supported my motion to fly the Pride flag in Irvine during Pride. Not Mayor Christina Shea. Not Councilmembers Farrah Khan, Anthony Kuo, or Mike Carroll. What an embarrassment for our City. 

 

Join Me for a ZOOM Town Hall on California’s Fiscal Health with State Controller Betty T. Yee!

Join me on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. for a Virtual Town Hall on California’s Fiscal Health with California State Controller Betty Yee!

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I have made it a priority to support local business and ensure that our government operates with fiscal responsibility, openness, and transparency.

I’ve received the Orange County Taxpayers Watchdog Award for “demonstrating dedication to the protection of taxpayer funds and for the advocacy of government transparency and fiscal responsibility.”

Under my leadership, the Irvine Community Land Trust has received the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, the world’s most respected source of information on nonprofit organizations.

I was also the only member of the Irvine City Council to oppose Measure D, which would have eliminated voter input into development decisions, because I believe that citizens must have a strong voice in deciding the future of their neighborhoods.

I enthusiastically supported the City’s adoption of the Irvine Sunshine Ordinance, which expanded public notice to four times longer than California law requires and prevents government action without full and informed participation from the community. I also supported approval of a two-year budget cycle, along with a five-year financial planning program, to bring more accountability to government spending.

I’ve often said that Government transparency and fiscal responsibility should be neither a conservative nor a liberal idea, but appeal to both, as we strive to address increasing social needs with limited resources.

The economic distress caused by COVID-19 will make this important task even more difficult.

COVID-19 has already impacted every facet of California’s economy, including the fiscal health of California’s government institutions, from large state agencies to cities and school districts. 

That’s why it will be especially valuable to hear from California State Controller Betty T. Yee on California’s fiscal health.

State Controller Betty T. Yee was elected in November 2014, following two terms of service on the California Board of Equalization. As Controller, she continues to serve the Board as its fifth voting member. Reelected for a second term as Controller in 2018, Ms. Yee is only the tenth woman in California history to be elected to statewide office.

As the state’s chief fiscal officer, Ms. Yee chairs the Franchise Tax Board and serves as a member of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) Boards. These two boards have a combined portfolio of more than $620 billion.

Ms. Yee has more than 35 years of experience in public service, specializing in state and local finance and tax policy. Ms. Yee previously served as Chief Deputy Director for Budget with the California Department of Finance where she led the development of the Governor’s Budget, negotiations with the Legislature and key budget stakeholders, and fiscal analyses of legislation. Prior to this, she served in senior staff positions for several fiscal and policy committees in both houses of the California State Legislature. She also co-founded the Asian Pacific Youth Leadership Project, which exposes California high school youth to the public service, public policy, and political arenas.

A native of San Francisco, Ms. Yee received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and she holds a master’s degree in public administration.

What: Virtual Town Hall on COVID-19 and California’s Fiscal Health with California State Controller Betty T. Yee.

When: Wednesday, May 6, 2020 at 4:00 p.m.

Where: On-line at ZOOM Meeting ID 951-321-0807

To see the Facebook page for this event, click here.

For more information, contact Allison Binder at abinder@cityofirvine.org.

 

Irvine Again Ranked No. 1 City in Fiscal Strength!

I am proud to report that the City of Irvine has again — for the 3rd straight year — been ranked as the No. 1 City in the United States in Fiscal Strength by Truth in Accounting (TIA), a nonprofit organization that “cuts through politicization and accounting tricks, presenting transparent and nonpartisan figures of government finances.”

The Truth in Accounting ranking of America’s largest 75 cities calculated how a city would fare financially after all the bills are paid. Irvine was given a surplus score of $4,100 per taxpayer, earning the distinction as the most fiscally healthy large city in the United States.

The key findings of the report regarding Irvine were:

  • Irvine’s Taxpayer Surplus is $4,100, and it received a “B” from TIA. A particular city’s Taxpayer Surplus/Burden is the money available (or needed, if a burden) to pay bills divided by the number of taxpayers.
  • Irvine is a Sunshine City with enough assets to cover its debt. A Sunshine City is a city in state with a taxpayer surplus, which means that the state has enough funds and resources to pay its bills.
  • Decisions by elected officials have created a Taxpayer Surplus, which is each taxpayer’s share of money available after city bills have been paid.
  • Irvine has $626 million of assets available to pay bills.
  • Irvine has $380.4 million available after bills have been paid, which breaks down to $4,100 per taxpayer.

You can read the report on Irvine here and read the full report here.

We were also ranked No. 1 by Truth in Accounting in 2018 and 2017.

I am extremely proud of these awards, which reflect the strong commitment I’ve made to assuring Irvine’s fiscal health and stability, as well as the commitment of my City Council colleagues and City Staff.

Most important to me is the fact that our City is truly serving its residents with fiscal responsibility and financial transparency.

I ran for City Council on a platform of using my skills as a business attorney to safeguard every public dollar, and I have kept that promise by making sure that Irvine is financially transparent and doesn’t spend more than it can afford.

I have made it my mission to make our City’s budget truly transparent and free from any obfuscations or accounting tricks — and I am tremendously proud that Irvine has received this prestigious non-partisan award as America’s most fiscally healthy city in every year that I have served on the City Council.

Government transparency and fiscal responsibility should be neither a conservative nor a liberal idea, but appeal to both, as we strive to address increasing social needs with limited resources.

California State Auditor Gives Irvine Highest Rating for Fiscal Health!

As an Irvine City Councilmember who ran on a promise of fiscal responsibility, I am very pleased to announce that the California State Auditor’s Office has recently published a comprehensive ranking of 471 California cities based on their fiscal health and that Irvine achieved the Auditor’s highest possible rating of “low risk.”

This designation indicates that a city has low risk of experiencing fiscal distress.

A map created by the state auditor’s office ranks cities by fiscal health. Green is low risk, yellow is moderate risk and red is high risk.

Among the indicators used to evaluate the cities’ fiscal health were each city’s cash position or liquidity, debt burden, financial reserves, revenue trends, and ability to pay for employee retirement benefits.

I’m proud of my record on the Irvine City Council in increasing government accountability, openness, and transparency.

I’ve received the Orange County Taxpayers Watchdog Award for “demonstrating dedication to the protection of taxpayer funds and for the advocacy of government transparency and fiscal responsibility.”

Under my leadership, the Irvine Community land Trust was awarded the Platinum Seal of Transparency from GuideStar, the world’s most respected source of information on nonprofit organizations.

I was also the only member of the Irvine City Council to oppose Measure D, which would have eliminated voter input into development decisions, because I believe that citizens must have a strong voice in deciding the future of their neighborhoods.

I enthusiastically supported the City’s adoption of the Irvine Sunshine Ordinance, which expanded public notice to four times longer than California law requires and prevents government action without full and informed participation from the community. I also supported approval of a two-year budget cycle, along with a five-year financial planning program, to bring more accountability to government spending.

You can read the full California State Auditor’s Report HERE.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I am extremely proud of these accomplishments But much more important to me is the fact that our city is truly serving its residents with fiscal responsibility and transparency.

I ran for City Council on a platform of using my skills as a business attorney to safeguard every public dollar, and I have kept that promise by making sure that Irvine is financially transparent and doesn’t spend more than it can afford.

These awards reflect the commitment that I and my colleagues on the Irvine City Council, as well as our Finance Commissioners and our professional staff, have made to the taxpayers and residents of Irvine, and to the principles of government transparency and fiscal responsibility.

Government transparency and fiscal responsibility should be neither a conservative nor a liberal idea, but appeal to both, as we strive to address increasing social needs with limited resources.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I have no intention of being silent.

And neither do you.

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

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

 

No, We Won’t Back Down

At its last meeting, the Irvine City Council took the unprecedented step of voting to prohibit a council member from placing an item on the agenda without two other council members’ approval.

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

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

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

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

But I have no intention of being silent.

And neither do you.

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

And throw them out decisively in November 2020.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irvine Community Land Trust Earns Highest Award for Transparency!

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Irvine Releases Proposed 2019-2021 Budget. Tell Us What You Think!

The City of Irvine has released a proposed budget for FY 2019-2021.

Tell us what you think!

I ran for City Council on a platform of using my skills as a business attorney to safeguard every public dollar, and I have kept that promise by making sure that Irvine is financially transparent and accountable, and doesn’t spend more than it can afford.

Government transparency and fiscal responsibility should be neither a conservative nor a liberal idea, but appeal to both, as we strive to address increasing social needs with limited resources.

I am proud to have received the Orange County Taxpayers Watchdog Award from Orange County Auditor-Controller Eric H. Woollery, along with Mayor Don Wagner and Councilmember Christina Shea.

I am proud that during my tenure on the Irvine City Council, Irvine has received numerous awards for fiscal responsibility and transparency. These awards reflect the commitment that I and my colleagues on the Irvine City Council have made to the taxpayers and residents of Irvine, and to the principles of government transparency and fiscal responsibility.

I am also proud that during my term in office, Irvine has adopted the Irvine Sunshine Ordinance that expands public notice to four times longer than California law requires, and has approved a two-year budget cycle, along with a five-year financial planning program. These changes make planning more transparent, give residents more opportunity for input into budget and planning, and make city government more accountable.

The City of Irvine has now released its proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2019-2021.

Prior to proposing a budget for FY 2019-2021, the City hosted four Community Budget Meetings in March. These meetings were the City’s first-ever attempt at both informing constituents about the state of its finances and seeking input on spending priorities before the budget proposal was finalized.

Strategic priorities addressed in the proposed budget include: maintaining high-quality essential City services, enhancing Citywide mobility through transportation improvements, promoting innovation through effective use of Information Technology solutions, and recruiting and retaining high-quality employees.

Next in the process, the budget will be presented to the Finance Commission in April 2019.  These meetings are open to the public and your continued input in the form of public comment is welcome.

My appointee to the Finance Commission is Roger Sievers. Roger is a long-time corporate CFO/VP/Controller with a master’s degree in finance from Stanford University who cares deeply about ensuring both Irvine’s financial health and our quality of life.  He would love to hear from you about the proposed FY 2019-2012 budget. He can be reached at rsievers@cityofirvine.org.

Following Finance Commission input, the proposed two-year budget and five-year plan will be presented to the City Council for approval in May.

For more information about the budget process, and to access the Fiscal Year 2019-21 Proposed Budget, visit cityofirvine.org/budget.

You can also contact the City of Irvine’s Financial Management & Strategic Planning Department at 949-724-6255.

Democracy Requires an Election to Fill the Vacancy on the Irvine City Council

When Irvine Mayor Donald Wagner took office as an Orange County Supervisor, Mayor Pro Tem Christina Shea automatically took his place as Mayor.

As a result, there is now a vacancy on the Irvine City Council.

Democracy requires an election rather than an appointment to fill this vacancy.

According to law, a vacancy on the Irvine City Council can be filled by appointment by the remaining four members of the Council or by election by the vote of all the residents of Irvine.

Even if the City Council appoints a new member, the people can still override that appointment and demand an election by filling a petition signed by seven percent of the voters of the City.

Some argue that precedent and financial concerns support appointing the third-place runner-up in the previous election to the open seat on the Irvine City Council, rather than holding an election in which the people will choose the person to serve as their representative.

In fact, neither precedent nor principle support an appointment over the people’s choice as determined by an election.

Since the incorporation of Irvine as a City in 1971, there have been three times that a vacancy needed to be filled for a councilmember.

In the first instance, on October 15, 1985, Ralph A. “Ray” Catalano, a professor at UCI and a former planning commissioner, was appointed to serve the remaining three years of Councilmember David Sills term when Sills resigned from the Council to become a superior court judge.

Significantly, Catalano was not the next highest vote-getter in the previous election.  Catalano was not even a candidate in that election and had never run for office. The person who was the next highest vote-getter in the previous election, Mary Ann Gaido, was not appointed to the open seat. Catalano later explained that he was a political compromise choice and was picked by Sills as his successor.

That is the only time that the Irvine City Council has used an appointment by Councilmembers rather than an election by the people to fill a vacancy on the Council.  In every other case of a vacancy on the City Council, the seat has been filled by a vote of the people in a special election.

Our very first Irvine City Council election was a special election, held on December 21, 1971, when Irvine residents approved the City charter.

On November 6. 1990, a special election was held to fill the vacancy on the City Council when Councilmember Sally Anne Sheridan was elected Mayor the previous June. The next highest vote-getter from the previous election – again it was Mary Ann Gaido – was not appointed.  Bill Vardoulis, who had not run in the prior election, entered that race and won that special election.

On November 3, 1992, a special election was held to fill the vacancy on the City Council when Councilmember Art Bloomer resigned with two years remaining in his term.  The next highest vote getter from the year of Bloomer’s election – and it was again Mary Ann Gaido — was not appointed. Greg Smith won that special election.

Additional special elections have also been called numerous other times for various reasons, such as voting on charter amendments, measures and ordinances.

In fact, in the history of municipal elections in Irvine, special elections seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

Third-place candidates have been elected to the City Council under Measure A, which was adopted by the voters in 1991.

Measure A provides in that in City Council elections where one of the sitting Councilmembers is running for Mayor, the voters can cast three ballots for candidates for the office of City Council, so that “if a council member whose term of office has not yet expired is elected to the office of Mayor, the vacancy in the office of that Councilmember shall be filled by the candidate for Councilmember receiving the third highest number of votes.”

So far, this situation has happened four times.

On June 7, 1988, third-place City Council candidate Cameron Cosgrove was elected when Larry Agran was elected Mayor.

On November 7, 2000, third-place City Council candidate Beth Krom was elected when Larry Agran was elected Mayor.

On November 2, 2004, third-place City Council candidate Sukhee Kang was elected when Beth Krom was elected Mayor.

On November 4, 2008, third-place City Council candidate Larry Agran was elected when Sukhee Kang was elected Mayor.

Our current situation is very different from those cases.

In those cases, the voters were given the explicit opportunity to vote for three candidates for City Council.

As a result, the third-place candidate gained his or her seat on the City Council directly and democratically through the knowing vote of the people, not by appointment based on coming in third when the voters only had the choice of two.

Indeed, as I have shown, our City has NEVER appointed a Councilmember based on a third-place or next-highest finish in a previous election.

Some have argued that we should use this method of appointment – which we’ve never used before – simply in order to save the money that would need to be spent on an election.

First, it should be noted that other local cities are conducting special elections for councilmembers that could easily be coordinated by the Orange County Registrar with our own, thereby reducing the cost of the election.

Most importantly, however, I believe that democracy is worth the cost.

Democracy is far from perfect.

Many of us are convinced that we could pick better officials than those the people elect.

But that is not what our nation is about.

We elect our officials as our representatives; they are not appointed over us.

Democracy is messy, inefficient, and, yes, sometimes expensive.

In the words of Winston Churchill, “democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

I agree.

We should fill the vacant seat on the City Council with the choice of the people as determined by an election.

UPDATE:

On Wednesday, April 3, 2019, the Irvine City Council officially declared a vacancy on the Council.

I have been informed by the city’s attorney and the city manager this declaration “starts the clock” regarding the process of filling the vacant council seat. We now have 60 days from April 3, 2019, to come to an agreement on the appointment of a new Councilmember or there will be an election.

Residents have 30 days from April 3, 2019, to file a petition signed by seven percent of Irvine’s registered voters to require an election regardless of what the council does.

UPDATE:

There is now a Republican proposal to circumvent this voting process by using an arbitrary ‘point proposal,’ under which “each Councilmember shall list three (3) applicants [candidates] in order of preference.” The candidates will be assigned the following point values: Top candidate 3 points, second candidate 2 points, and third candidate, 1 point.

Under this proposed procedure, the applicant receiving the most points will be appointed.

This proposed “point ” procedure:

(1) has never been used by the Irvine City Council to decide how to fill a council vacancy or to make any other appointment;
(2) violates the most crucial principle of a representative democracy — that the people’s representatives are selected by majority rule.

Arbitrarily assigning points to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice applicants, and then saying the applicant with the “most points” wins, is simply a way to avoid majority rule. It undermines the basic legitimacy of Irvine’s government.

Please attend the next Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 9, at approximately 3:00 p.m. to make sure your voices are heard.

UPDATE:

While the so-called “point” procedure was defeated at the last meeting, the question of whether to appoint or have an election is still not settled.

Please attend the next Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 23, where the Council will likely decide either on a process for appointment of the 5th council member to the vacant seat or deadlock to cause an election.

Closed session starts at 4:00 p.m. and the open meeting begins at 5:00 p.m. The agenda is packed so this may run late.

Let the voters have their say!

 

The City of Irvine’s Budget Will Not Include Cuts to Irvine Schools

Recently, City of Irvine staff proposed that, due to a projected budget shortfall, the City should consider cutting its support for Irvine’s public schools and reduce its spending on public safety.

I strongly opposed these cuts.

While I am concerned about the City’s fiscal health and our budget — a topic I will address soon in a future blog post — I do not believe that it is in the best interests of Irvine’s residents to curtail our support for education and public safety.

Due to my opposition and that of other City Council Members, as well as conversations between myself and Irvine Unified School District Board Members, and IUSD and City staff, reductions to school funding will no longer be proposed for the upcoming City budget.

Here is the official announcement:

“A special message about the City of Irvine’s $80 million in cash grants and program support for Irvine schools since 2008.

The City of Irvine has proudly provided cash grants to benefit Irvine schools and students for 13 years. The City uses vehicles such as the Educational Partnership Fund (EPF) program, established in 2006, and the Challenge Match Grant Program, created in 2008, to facilitate support.

From 2006 through June 2019, the City has provided $32 million in direct cash grants benefiting Irvine schools. The City is continuing to commit another $4 million annually for the next two fiscal years, for a total cash contribution of $40 million to benefit Irvine schools.

Beyond cash support, the City provides over $10 million annually in direct and indirect services to Irvine schools and students. The City of Irvine has provided over $80 million in direct and indirect support benefiting Irvine schools since 2008.

Indirect programs include school resource officers at middle and high schools; D.A.R.E. instruction so that elementary school students refrain from drug use and bullying and practice responsible internet use; crossing guards; middle school and high school youth action teams; and joint field and pool use. The two Partnership for Educational Excellence Programs grew from $1.5 million per year to $4 million per year in direct cash grants. The City Council established this funding because schools are a priority; voters affirmed it, and the Irvine City Council continued this unique funding tradition after the voter measures expired in 2016.

The City remains committed to supporting Irvine schools. The City is also committed to its long-term financial planning, transitioning to a two-year budget and a five-year financial plan. The City’s financial condition shows a structural deficit. The executive management team values transparent discussions early in the budget planning cycle. This includes open dialogue at community meetings, in order to facilitate a proposed balanced budget that meets many needs. City executive management proposed a host of changes and reductions to address the shortfall, including a possible reduction to some of the $10 million in annual support to Irvine schools in order to ensure adequate City and Police services.

While reductions to school funding will no longer be proposed for the upcoming budget, we need to work together to find constructive approaches. The City faces leaner times. We want to ensure our support for Public Safety, which is a top priority for the Council and the community, is not jeopardized. Mutual cooperation and productive communication is critical for effective long-term financial planning that balances community priorities and the City’s budget.”

Thank you to the many Irvine residents and IUSD Board Members who reached out to me and other members of the City Council opposing these cuts.

Our voices have been heard.

What I’m Listening for in the Mayor’s 2019 State of the City Address

Irvine Mayor Don Wagner will give his “State of the City” address at the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, February 26, 2019.

The Mayor will have many positive things to talk about, including the tremendous progress that we’ve made on fulfilling the promise of the Great Park — a new 80,000 square-foot ice arena, a 1200-seat Great Park Championship Baseball Stadium and new additional baseball and softball fields, a 5,000-seat Championship Soccer Stadium, a 2.5 mile nature corridor, plus an agreement with Wild Rivers to build a new water park and an exclusive negotiating agreement with Pretend City Children’s Museum to relocate in the Great Park

He will remind us that Irvine remains America’s safest city and was recently declared one of the safest cities in the world.

He will also note that Irvine was rated the number one city in the nation in fiscal strength.

He can also speak positively about the advances that our City Council has made in providing for greater openness and transparency in our budget process, pointing to our new two-year budget cycle, our new five-year planning program and our new Irvine Sunshine Ordinance that expands public notice of agenda items to four times longer than California law requires.

These are indeed wonderful accomplishments that the Mayor, the entire City Council, and all residents of Irvine should be proud of.

But much more remains to be done and problems remain to be solved.

Here is what I would like to hear the Mayor address:

Climate and the Environment

Irvine must become ever more environmentally responsible and should be a national leader in meeting the existential ecological demands of the future.

As Chair of the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, I have helped guide Irvine toward greener policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

But more must be done.

I would like to hear the Mayor commit to establishing a Climate Action Plan for Irvine, with the goal of eliminating half of all greenhouse gas emissions in the city and aiming for all electricity used in the city to be from renewable sources by 2035.

Climate Action Plans make it easy for the public to see what cities plan to do to meet state targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sprinkling such actions throughout the General Plan is not as transparent and is not in the best interest of the public.

Other cities, including San Diego, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Seattle, Baltimore, Phoenix and Houston already have Climate Action Plans.  As the self-proclaimed City of Innovation, Irvine should be a leader in this national effort.

An Irvine Climate Action Plan would benefit both the environment and the regional economy, creating new jobs in the renewable energy industry, improve public health and air quality, conserve water, more efficiently use existing resources, increase clean energy production, improve the quality of life, and save taxpayer money.

Most importantly, a Climate Action Plan would fulfill our obligation to ensure that Irvine remains a beautiful green city for future generations.

Traffic Congestion and Traffic Safety

We have made significant progress in alleviating Irvine’s traffic congestion.  We expanded the iShuttle to provide more transportation.  We’ve enabled left-hand turns in some intersections to allow traffic to move faster and more efficiently.  We’ve widened roads and made other improvements.

But we need to do more.

I would like to hear the Mayor announce a plan to create a greener, smarter, and more efficient transportation future by further expanding our iShuttle.  For example, a route that would take people from UCI to the Spectrum would be good for both Irvine traffic reduction, Irvine’s air quality, as well as for UCI students and Spectrum businesses.

Our roads are not only too often congested, they are also becoming too dangerous, as people fail to obey stop signs and follow the rules of the road.

I have been working with residents and the Irvine Police Department on improving the safety of our pedestrians and bicyclists, especially our children, and I held a Town Hall Meeting on Traffic Safety with the Chief of Police, but more must be done.

I would like to hear the Mayor propose a major comprehensive traffic safety project, focusing on ensuring motorists come to a full stop at stop signs.  This project would involve education, increased enforcement and deploying more advanced stop sign technology.

Many cities have lighted stop signs.  Irvine should have them as well.  Our Irvine Police should also receive a clear mandate from the Mayor and the City Council to take whatever enforcement actions are necessary to make our streets safer for our residents.

The Great Park

Irvine has made tremendous progress on fulfilling the promise of the Great Park and all of us should be proud of what we’ve accomplished.

I am looking forward to the Grand Opening of the new 270,000-square-foot Great Park Ice Area — the largest ice-skating facility in California and one of the largest in the United States.

I am also looking forward to the announcement of further progress on the return of Wild Rivers Water Park.

I also continue to support a veterans cemetery within the hallowed grounds of the former Marine Air Station El Toro, where so many brave men and women flew to Vietnam and other war zones, some never to come back.  My proposal (along with Christina Shea) to locate the veterans cemetery on land that had been intended as a golf course has been through the Commission process and will soon come before the City Council.

What I would like to hear the Mayor speak about tonight is a vision and a plan for completing the next crucial phase of the park – the Cultural Terrace.

The City Council entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement to bring Pretend City Children’s Museum to the Cultural Terrace.  When the relocation of Pretend City to the Great Park Cultural Terrace initially came before the City Council in 2017, I strongly supported it and was disappointed when we did not have the votes to act at that time.  I am extremely pleased that we have moved forward this year.

But much more needs to be done to truly create the Cultural Terrace as the jewel of the Great Park.

I believe the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace would be the ideal location for a natural history museum, showcasing the natural history of our area.

Importantly, the history of the Juaneno/Acjachemen and Gabrielino/Tongva — our County’s indigenous people — needs to be told!

In fact, while Orange County is the only county in Southern California that does not have a natural history museum, Orange County is already home to a fabulous collection of fossils and artifacts in the Dr. John D. Cooper Archaeological and Paleontological Center, now located in several warehouses in Santa Ana.  This rich history of fossils and artifacts, perhaps one of the most important fossil-bearing areas in North America, if not the world, needs to be curated and displayed.

Our county’s rich store of fossils and artifacts ought to be open to all in a magnificent museum – a new Orange County Natural History Museum in the Great Park!

I have also made clear my support for the California Fire Museum and Safety Learning Center, and for preserving the heritage of our California firefighters in a permanent facility in the Great Park.

I have also long been a strong advocate for botanical gardens in the Great Park’s Cultural Terrace.  In fact, every survey we’ve done has shown that gardens are among amenities that people most want in the Great Park.

I agree with the Great Park Garden Coalition that “We need places where children can experience nature and explore, where all can find refuge from the ever-increasing urban density and traffic, where people of all ages and abilities can experience beautiful outdoor spaces. All great urban parks have great garden spaces: Golden Gate Park, Central Park, Balboa Park.”

The Great Park in Irvine should, too.

Homelessness and Attainable Housing

As we all know, Irvine is among the most expensive real estate markets in the nation; for this reason, there is a tremendous need for, and tremendous obstacles to, affordable housing.

Finding solutions to the housing crisis and alleviating homelessness has been a priority for me, both as a member of the Irvine City Council and as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust.

Irvine has been a model in this area and the Land Trust concept, now being adopted by Orange County and many other cities, is something that Irvine has pioneered.  No other city has a Land Trust like we have, and other cities are working to copy ours.

I’m proud of what the Irvine Land Trust has accomplished in the past year.

In 2018, we opened Parc Derian, which brings 80 new units of housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine.  We also began work on Salerno, a new 80-unit rental community. Like Parc Derian, Salerno will provide permanent affordable housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine.

Significantly, we have begun to develop our first homes for ownership with help from a new partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. This new Irvine community, called Chelsea on Native Spring, located north of Irvine Boulevard, will include 68 affordable home for sale to income-eligible veterans, working families, and young professionals.

In all, that’s 466 households, and more than a thousand people, who can comfortably live, work and raise families in Irvine directly because of the work of the Irvine Community Land Trust.

In addition to my work on the Irvine Land Trust, I have traveled to Pittsburgh and San Antonio to see what other cities have done to successfully combat homelessness, and I have traveled to Sacramento to encourage the legislature to revise regulations and the tax code to make it easier to build affordable housing.

I would like to hear the Mayor reaffirm Irvine’s commitment to support the Irvine Community Land Trust as successful model for other cities to emulate in providing housing for diverse income levels.

I would also like to hear the Mayor present his vision for alleviating the homelessness crisis, and especially what role he envisions Irvine should play in providing shelter and services, especially in light of the case in federal court.

How will he work with the federal court and Board of Supervisors to tackle this crisis on a truly regional basis, and how will he get the Board of Supervisors to spend the money and resources that they have been given specifically to deal with homelessness on an actual solution?

Working Together in an Inclusive Democracy  

Our City Council is no longer gridlocked in the partisan bickering that prevented progress for so many years; we have seen that we need to work together to improve the lives of all of Irvine’s residents.

I would like to see our city leaders display the truly democratic spirit that united all decent people in our community in condemning religious and racial bigotry, and not the divisiveness that is created when wedge issues, outside our jurisdiction and purview, are brought before the City Council.  Focusing on these wedge issues does not produce positive policies that bring our city together, but instead a theatrical politics of division that can only drive us apart.

I would like to hear the Mayor reach out to those of us on the other side of the aisle, as he has often done, recognizing that it is best for our city and our residents when we work for the common good by looking for common ground.

A Vision for our Great City of Irvine

Our great City of Irvine is truly blessed with wonderful people, a beautiful natural environment, thriving businesses, and remarkable schools.

What Irvine needs is a vision for the future that focuses and energizes our continued quest for being the very best place in the world to live, work and raise a family.

The event begins with a reception at 5:00 p.m., followed by the Mayor’s address at 6:00 p.m.

Both the “State of the City” address and the reception are open to the public. No RSVP is necessary to attend.

The Civic Center is located at 1 Civic Center Drive, Irvine CA 92606-5207.  Call 949-724-6077 for more information.

I hope to see you there!

Irvine Ranked No. 1 City in Fiscal Strength!

I am proud to report that the City of Irvine has been ranked as the No. 1 City in the United States in Fiscal Strength by Truth in Accounting (TIA), a nonprofit organization that “cuts through politicization and accounting tricks, presenting transparent and nonpartisan figures of government finances.”

According to TIA, “it is imperative to provide an honest accounting of each city’s financial condition. Therefore, we developed a sophisticated model to analyze all the assets and liabilities of the nation’s 75 most populous cities, including unreported liabilities.”

Based on their thorough ans nonpartisan analysis, Truth in Accounting ranked Irvine as the most fiscally healthy large city in the United States.

You can read the Truth in Accounting report, “The Fiscal States of the Cities,” here

The Truth in Accounting report comes at a crucial time as the City of Irvine begins to apply several increases in fiscal responsibility and government transparency that I strongly urged and supported — a two-year budget in the context of a comprehensive five-year financial plan and an Irvine Sunshine Ordinance that expands review time of all regular agenda items to 12 days.

Recently, in addition to the No. 1 ranking from Truth in Accounting, the City of Irvine has been awarded national and state awards this year for its budget team: The Distinguished Budget Presentation Award by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada represents the highest form of recognition in government budgeting for a municipal entity, and the Excellence Award for Fiscal Year 2018-19 Operating Budget was presented to Irvine by the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers.

Irvine is used to winning awards for fiscal responsibility and transparency. We were also ranked No. 1 by Truth in Accounting in 2018.

Also last year, the City of Irvine received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report from the Government Finance Officers Association , as well as two other prestigious awards: The GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award representing the City’s commitment in meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting, and the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers Award for Excellence in Operational Budget.

In addition, I received the Orange County Taxpayers Watchdog Award from Orange County Auditor-Controller Eric H. Woollery in 2017, along with Mayor Don Wagner and Councilmember Christina Shea.

I am extremely proud of these awards. But much more important to me is the fact that our City is truly serving its residents with fiscal responsibility and transparency.

I ran for City Council on a platform of using my skills as a business attorney to safeguard every public dollar, and I have kept that promise by making sure that Irvine is financially transparent and doesn’t spend more than it can afford.

I have made it my mission to make our City’s budget truly transparent and free from any obfuscations or accounting tricks.

These awards reflect the commitment that I’ve made to the taxpayers and residents of Irvine, and to the principles of government transparency and fiscal responsibility.

Government transparency and fiscal responsibility should be neither a conservative nor a liberal idea, but appeal to both, as we strive to address increasing social needs with limited resources.

 

City of Irvine Wins National Awards for Budgeting and Fiscal Transparency!

I am proud to announce that the City of Irvine has been awarded the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA).

The award is the highest form of recognition in government budgeting for a city.

It is a significant achievement by the City of the Irvine. The award reflects the commitment of the Irvine City Council, our City Manager, and City staff to meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting.

In order to receive the budget award, the City had to satisfy nationally recognized guidelines for effective budget presentation. These guidelines are designed to assess how well an entity’s budget serves as: a policy document, a financial plan, an operations guide, and a communications device. Budget documents must be rated “proficient” in all four categories, and the 14 mandatory criteria within those categories, to receive the award.

In addition, the City received the Excellence Award for Fiscal Year 2018-19 Operating Budget from the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers.

There are more than 1,600 participants in the Budget Awards Program. The most recent Budget Award recipients, along with their corresponding budget documents, are posted quarterly on GFOA’s website. Award recipients have pioneered efforts to improve the quality of budgeting and provide an excellent example for other governments throughout North America.

These awards come at a crucial time as the City of Irvine begins to apply several increases in fiscal responsibility and government transparency that I strongly urged and supported — a two-year budget in the context of a comprehensive five-year financial plan and an Irvine Sunshine Ordinance that expands review time of all regular agenda items to 12 days.

Last year, the City of Irvine received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report from the Government Finance Officers Association , as well as two other prestigious awards: The GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award representing the City’s commitment in meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting, and the California Society of Municipal Finance Officers Award for Excellence in Operational Budget.

I also received the Orange County Taxpayers Watchdog Award from Orange County Auditor-Controller Eric H. Woollery, along with Mayor Don Wagner and Councilmember Christina Shea.

As a member of the Irvine City Council, I am extremely proud of these awards. But much more important to me is the fact that our City is truly serving its residents with fiscal responsibility and transparency.

I ran for City Council on a platform of using my skills as a business attorney to safeguard every public dollar, and I have kept that promise by making sure that Irvine is financially transparent and doesn’t spend more than it can afford.

These awards reflect the commitment that I and my colleagues on the Irvine City Council, as well as our Finance Commissioners and our professional City staff, have made to the taxpayers and residents of Irvine, and to the principles of government transparency and fiscal responsibility.

Government transparency and fiscal responsibility should be neither a conservative nor a liberal idea, but appeal to both, as we strive to address increasing social needs with limited resources.

 

 

Making Affordable Housing a Reality: My Remarkable Year with the Irvine Community Land Trust!

In 2018, I was elected to serve as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust, guiding its mission of providing secure, high-quality affordable housing for the benefit of income-eligible families.  Like all Irvine Community Land Trust Board Members, I serve as a volunteer, without compensation.

I am very proud of what we accomplished at the Irvine Community Land Trust (ICLT) this year!

As we all know, Irvine is among the most expensive real estate markets in the nation; for this reason there is a tremendous need for, and tremendous obstacles to, affordable housing. 

Finding solutions to the housing and homelessness crisis has been a priority for me, both as a member of the Irvine City Council and as Chair of the Irvine Community Land Trust.  Irvine has been a model in this area and the Land Trust concept, now being adopted by Orange County and many other cities, is something that Irvine has pioneered.  No other city has a Land Trust like we have, and other cities are working to copy ours.

Here is a short video that explains the work the Irvine Community Land Trust does to create more affordable housing in Irvine:

2018 was truly a remarkable year for the Land Trust.

In 2018, we opened Parc Derian, which brings 80 new units of housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine. Located in the Irvine Business Complex, Parc Derian is a beautiful multifamily community with a pool, tot lot, private parking, exercise center, computer lab, and onsite resident services.

Designed to bring employees closer to work, it is a short walk to many jobs as well as Irvine Unified Schools, public transportation, dining and shopping options. Apartments range from one- to three bedrooms and include walk-in closets, energy-efficient appliances, assigned parking and balconies.  Parc Derian is the result of a public/private partnership between the Irvine Community Land Trust, C&C Development, Innovative Housing Opportunities (IHO), Lennar Corporation, and the City of Irvine.

Also in 2018, we began work on Salerno, a new 80-unit rental community. Like Parc Derian, Salerno will provide permanent affordable housing for working families, veterans, and special-needs residents of Irvine.

Significantly, in 2018 we began to develop our first homes for ownership with help from a new partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. This new Irvine community, called Chelsea on Native Spring, located north of Irvine Boulevard, will include 68 affordable home for sale to income-eligible veterans, working families, and young professionals.

Homes will be sold to first-time homebuyers who earn up to 120 percent of the area’s medium income. In an area where the median home price is $727,000 and average annual income is around $80,000 for a family of four, many people are priced out of the market and face housing and financial uncertainties while trying to build a life in Irvine. The Chelsea on Native Spring project aims to keep those people in Irvine, especially military veterans, teachers, nurses, and young professionals.  It is expected to begin construction in 2019.

In addition to these new projects, we continued in 2018 to provide quality housing and services to 238 households living at Alegre Apartments and Doria Apartment Homes.

In all, that’s 466 households, and more than a thousand people, who can comfortably live, work and raise families in Irvine directly because of the work of the Irvine Community Land Trust.

In 2018, I traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to represent the Irvine Community Land Trust at a national conference on affordable housing and traveled to Sacramento, where we moved forward to convince the California Legislature to remove tax barriers to creating permanent affordable housing, meaning that more affordable housing could be built in California. We expect that this year we will have the support we need to pass the legislation and I am again making the trip to Sacramento to secure more affordable housing in our state.

It should also be noted that in 2018, the Irvine Community Land Trust became an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation. This development was envisioned as eventual in the City’s initial 2006 plan for the Land Trust, which states that the trust shall become self-sustaining and independent after it attains 200 affordable housing units. That threshold was crossed in 2017, and the Irvine Community Land Trust now owns more than 200 homes in three Irvine communities.

The move to become independent from the City of Irvine is designed to make it easier for donors and strategic partners to contribute materials, services, and funds on a tax-free basis, therefore increasing the resources that the Irvine Community Land Trust has to create more affordable housing.

The City of Irvine and its residents also benefit from the separation due to the financial savings in regard to staff salary and office space, which will no longer be provided by the City.

As ICLT Executive Director Mark Asturias explained, becoming legally independent from the City “is a tremendous win-win for both the Land Trust and the citizens of Irvine.  We can operate more efficiently and with less reliance on taxpayers, and we can apply a greater focus on our core mission – to provide high-quality affordable housing to the community.”

Moreover, in the interest of maintaining transparency and community engagement, the Irvine Community Land Trust, on my motion, has voluntarily opened all meetings to the public.  The open session format will allow members of the community to come, hear and be heard on programs and projects being implemented by the Land Trust Board.

Through this meeting format the Land Trust Board hopes to generate community interest and support for its programs, and foster collaboration on its mission to build quality affordable housing for Irvine residents.

I have also called for a City Council vote to apply the City’s Sunshine Ordinance to all non-profit agencies that receive significant funding from the City of lrvine.

Accordingly, for the January 8, 2019 City Council meeting, I have requested a presentation from City staff followed by discussion and direction from the City Council, regarding the application of the City’s Sunshine Ordinance to all non-profit entities in the community that receive significant funding from the City. Please come to the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, to discuss this important matter.

Stay tuned to this blog, as well as the Land Trust’s newly launched Facebook and Linkedin pages, for more information on our progress in creating affordable housing.

2019 promises to be even more positive and exciting!

 

Let the Sunshine In! Apply Irvine’s Sunshine Ordinance to All Non-Profits Receiving Significant City Funding!

Let the sunshine in!

As an Irvine City Councilmember, I am proud of my record regarding increasing government accountability, openness, and transparency.

In 2017, I received the Orange County Taxpayers Watchdog Award for “demonstrating dedication to the protection of taxpayer funds and for the advocacy of government transparency and fiscal responsibility.”

In February 2018, I was the only member of the Irvine City Council to oppose Measure D, because I believe that Irvine residents must continue to have a strong voice in determining how our city grows.

This year, I enthusiastically supported the City’s adoption of the Irvine Sunshine Ordinance, which expands public notice to four times longer than California law requires and will prevent government action without full and informed participation and input from the community.

In addition, I have supported approval of a two-year budget cycle, up from the present one-year budget, along with a five-year financial planning program, to bring more accountability to government spending.

We need to do more.

This week, on my motion, the Irvine Community Land Trust, which I chair, has voluntarily opened all future meetings to the public. 

The Irvine Community Land Trust intends the open meeting format to allow members of the community to come, hear, and be heard on programs and projects being implemented by the board.  Through this meeting format, the Land Trust hopes to generate input, interest, and support for its projects and funding programs from the community. All Irvine Community Land Trust board meetings will be open to the public beginning the next regularly scheduled meeting.

I have also called for a City Council vote to apply the City’s Sunshine Ordinance to all non-profit agencies that receive significant funding from the City of lrvine.

Accordingly, for the January 8, 2019 City Council meeting, I have requested a presentation from City staff followed by discussion and direction from the City Council, regarding the application of the City’s Sunshine Ordinance to all non-profit entities in the community that receive significant funding from the City.

Please come to the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, to discuss this important matter.

You can find more information about speaking at our Irvine City Council meetings here.

See you there!

Join Me to Call for More Transparency at the Irvine City Council!

Join me at City Hall to show your support for approval of an Irvine Sunshine Ordinance that would expand review time of all regular agenda items to 12 days.

California’s open meeting law, the Brown Act, requires an agenda be posted 72 hours in advance of a regular meeting.

The Irvine Sunshine Ordinance would expand public notice to four times longer than California law requires.

The proposed new Irvine Sunshine Ordinance will be heard and discussed during the City Council meeting beginning at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, October 23. 

As always, the public is invited to comment.

I am a strong supporter of the Irvine Sunshine Ordinance, which will prevent government action without full and informed participation and input from the community.

In describing the proposed Irvine Sunshine Ordinance, City Manager John Russo explains that “The 12-day window allows every community member the time they need to review agenda items thoroughly.”

“People and business owners who pay their taxes to run a good government ought to have the opportunity to share information, ask questions, and make their opinions known before City Hall acts on their behalf,” said Russo.

In addition, the City Council is expected to consider approval of a two-year budget cycle, up from the present one-year budget, along with a five-year financial planning program at the November 27 City Council meeting.

An ordinance requires a second reading, which would be November 13.

As your representative on the Irvine City Council, I strongly support these measures to increase government transparency and openness. If you agree, please come to the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, October 23, to show your support!

You can review the Irvine Sunshine Ordinance (Item 3.1 of the October 23, 2018 agenda) here.

You can find more information about speaking at our Irvine City Council meetings here.

See you there!

UPDATE:

At the November 27, 2018, Irvine City Council meeting,  I was pleased to have seconded the motion to approve a two-year budget cycle, up from the present one-year budget, along with a five-year financial planning program.

These changes will make planning more transparent, give residents more opportunity for input into budget and planning, and make city government more accountable.

As the publication The Hill recently observed, “Biennial budgeting should be neither a conservative nor a liberal idea, but appeal to both. The efficiency that could come from increased examination could both limit spending and increase its efficacy — each necessary to address increasing demands with limited resources.”