Celebrate Harvey Milk Day — Be an Agent of Change!

Today, Friday, May 22, is Harvey Milk Day. I am proud to join millions of people in California and throughout the world today in celebrating the life of Harvey Milk, born on this day in 1930 and murdered in 1978 because of his outspoken and courageous activism in the fight for equal rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation.

Since 2009, in California, Harvey Milk Day has been recognized as a day of special significance and an opportunity to remember and teach about Milk’s life and his work to stop discrimination against gays and lesbians.

We’ve come a long way, thanks in large measure to the courage of Harvey Milk.

When Harvey Milk first ran for supervisor in San Francisco in 1977, he was told that an openly gay man could never get elected. When he won, he became the first openly gay non-incumbent ever to win an election for public office in the United States.

Now there are hundreds of openly gay men and women serving their communities and states in elected office.

But much more needs to be done.

We must continue to fight for the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity – in our own communities and throughout the world.

We must ensure that governments everywhere respect the dignity and human rights of all people in regard to their own gender identity.

We must continue to fight for the sexual and reproductive rights of all people.

Last year, I introduced a resolution of the Irvine City City to fly the Pride Flag from Irvine City Hall.  

That resolution failed on a 2-3 party-line vote last year. As the OC Weekly reported, “the Irvine City Council voted down Fox’s proposal. Instead, they approved an utterly meaningless substitute motion that authorized councilmembers to fly flags of their choosing in their own offices. Even worse, Councilmember Michael Carroll accused Fox of trying to ‘divide the community’ with her resolution. It’s no wonder Fox – who noted during the meeting that LGBT people around the world face violence for who they choose to love – called the vote a ‘circus’.”

I will bring the resolution forward again this year.  If you agree, please email the Irvine City Council to let them know that Irvine should join the State of California, as well many other states and cities, including Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, and Fullerton, and the Orange County Fairgrounds, in making it clear to all that our community officially rejects prejudice against people based on who they love and that Irvine is a place where LGBT people are visible, accepted, and welcome.

When President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian award, he said Milk was “an agent of change” who “saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.”

Let’s each of us honor Harvey Milk by committing to being an agent of change.

As Governor Newsom reminds us, today we should remember Harvey Milk’s own words “Hope will never be silent” as we “carry on his fearless  advocacy and work toward a California for all.”

Yes, Let’s Create a Gun Violence Task Force — And Let’s Also Have a Real Discussion about How to Prevent Mass Shootings and Gun Violence

Based on her recent social media post, it appears that in the wake of three recent mass shootings (in Gilroy, California, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio) leaving at least 45 people dead and many dozens more injured, Irvine Mayor Christina Shea intends to create a task force to discuss what we can do in Irvine to prevent gun violence.

Significantly, Mayor Shea asks that we not turn this discussion into a “partisan” issue, and that we not hold local, state, or national politicians responsible for their actions, or lack of action, leading to the proliferation of mass shootings and gun violence.

I fully support a discussion of how our City Council can help prevent Irvine from becoming the site of the next gun violence atrocity. This discussion is long overdue. Our nation is suffering from a gun violence emergency.

But the discussion must not be a sham, and not be muzzled from the very beginning by preventing mention of the fact that Republican politicians — at every level of government — have sided with gun dealers and the NRA over the safety of our communities and families, and have stubbornly blocked Congress from enacting meaningful, common sense federal gun regulation.

We must also be willing to acknowledge the fact that President Donald Trump has incited violence and manipulated racial hatred in ways that many of us had hoped belonged to our tragic past. And we must explicitly reject and condemn Trump’s racist rhetoric.

As President Obama recently said, as elected officials and community leaders, we must reject the rhetoric of those “who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.” Such language “has no place in our politics and our public life” and it is time “for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much — clearly and unequivocally.”

Let’s have a real discussion of mass shootings and gun violence — without any attempts at mirco-management by the Mayor or self-serving limitations on that discussion being imposed in advance by local politicians who are afraid that the public is fed up with the Republican Party’s spinelessness in the face of the NRA and the racist rhetoric of Trumpism, and their policy of creating diversions after each mass shooting rather than enacting real, common sense, gun control regulation.

I also ask that this Task Force be comprised of and led by real experts in the field of gun violence prevention. We have many such experts here in Irvine on the faculty of UCI and the UCI School of Law.  Our task force should not be solely composed of — or led by — politicians with an interest in self-promotion or self-protection, or protecting their political allies from justified and necessary criticism.

In addition, I suggest that the Irvine City Council immediately direct our Irvine Police Department to promote awareness of California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) law, which allows family members and law enforcement to seek the temporary removal of firearms from someone they believe poses a danger to themselves or others.

While GVROs have been called “the best tool in the state of California for responding to a threat of gun violence,” they are rarely used because residents and law enforcement remain largely unaware of the law and its potential to help stop a crime before it has been committed.

You can see a video presentation of California GVROs here:

I also propose that the City of Irvine and the Irvine Police Department remind residents about California’s safe storage laws requiring that guns be locked away from minors and anyone who should not have access to them.

I look forward to a lively, positive and open-minded discussion of what we can do in Irvine to prevent mass shootings and gun violence, including an awareness and educational campaign about GVROs, issuing official statements from our City Council calling on President Trump to stop his inflammatory rhetoric demonizing immigrants, Muslims, and people of color, and calling on Congress to pass common sense gun regulations relating to universal background checks, military-style assault rifles, and high capacity magazines.

 

How Orange County Lost the U.S. Solar Decathlon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

June is Pride Month: Join Me at the Irvine City Council Meeting on June 11, 2019, to Support My Motion to Fly the Pride Flag at Irvine City Hall!

I join California Governor Gavin Newsom in celebrating June 2019 as “LGBTQ Pride Month” in the State of California.

As Governor Newsom beautifully stated in his proclamation:

“As we celebrate and declare June as Pride Month in California, we are reminded of what makes California great — our remarkable capacity to live together and advance together across every conceivable difference. This June, we stand with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community of California as they declare their pride in who they are and who they love.”

“Time and time again, this community has worked tirelessly for respect and equality. Their battles have been fought in the courts, from marriage equality to demanding equal protection under the law. Their fight continues to this day, as we combat discriminatory laws across the country.”

“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. We must remain vigilant and push back against those who seek to roll back our progress, and continue to make the case that each of us as human beings share a fundamental thing in common – all of us want to be loved, and all of us want to love.”

“In California, we celebrate and support our LGBTQ community’s right to live their lives out loud — during Pride month and every month. As we celebrate Pride across this state, we must continue to demand equal rights for all to create a California for all.”

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.

At the Irvine City Council Meeting on Tuesday, June 11, 2019, I will be introducing a resolution to fly the Pride Flag from Irvine City Hall.

In doing so, Irvine would join the State of California, as well many other states and cities, including Anaheim, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, and Fullerton, and the Orange County Fairgrounds, in making it clear to all that our community is a place where LGBT people are visible, accepted, and welcome.

We would also be joining many of the largest corporations that do business in Irvine and Orange County, including Disney, Banana Republic, Starbucks, Verizon, Nordstrom, Budweiser, Bombas, Sephora, Chipotle, Reebok, Calvin Klein, Express, Kind, Nike, Adidas, Target, Ralph Lauren, Gap, Macy’s, and T-Mobile, in recognizing that taking a stand for LGBT equality is a positive sign to the business world that we are committed to ending prejudice against people based on who they love.

Community support is very important.  If you support this resolution, please attend the June 11, 2019, Irvine City Council Meeting and speak in favor. 

Your presence can make a very big difference.

Your personal stories are our most powerful and persuasive argument!

You can read my memo regarding the Pride Flag resolution HERE.

You can see the Facebook Event for Supporting the Pride Flag at the City Council Meeting HERE.

I hope to see you there!

UPDATE:

Sadly, even though more than a dozen Irvine residents spoke in favor of my resolution, the three Republicans on the Irvine City Council each voted against flying the Pride Flag from Irvine City Hall.

You can read the OC Weekly story about the vote HERE.

In response, Irvine residents initiated their own a Pride Flag flying event in front of City Hall, celebrating LGBTQ Pride and diversity in Irvine.  I joined them on Friday, June 28, 2019.

Below are some photos of the event:

MJF Pride Flag City Hall June2019.01MJF Pride Flag City Hall June2019.02MJF Pride Flag City Hall June2019.04MJF Pride Flag City Hall June2019.05

Celebrate Harvey Milk Day — Be an Agent of Change!

I am proud to join millions of people in California and throughout the world today in celebrating the life of Harvey Milk, born on this day in 1930 and murdered in 1978 because of his outspoken and courageous activism in the fight for equal rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation.

Since 2009, in California, Harvey Milk Day has been recognized as a day of special significance and an opportunity to remember and teach about Milk’s life and his work to stop discrimination against gays and lesbians.

We’ve come a long way, thanks in large measure to the courage of Harvey Milk.

When Harvey Milk first ran for supervisor in San Francisco in 1977, he was told that an openly gay man could never get elected. When he won, he became the first openly gay non-incumbent ever to win an election for public office in the United States.

Now there are hundreds of openly gay men and women serving their communities and states in elected office.

But much more needs to be done.

We must continue to fight for the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity – in our own communities and throughout the world.

We must ensure that governments everywhere respect the dignity and human rights of all people in regard to their own gender identity.

We must continue to fight for the sexual and reproductive rights of all people.

When President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian award, he said Milk was “an agent of change” who “saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.”

Let’s each of us honor Harvey Milk by committing to being an agent of change.

Celebrate Harvey Milk Day — Be an Agent of Change!

I am proud to join millions of people in California and throughout the world today in celebrating the life of Harvey Milk, born on this day in 1930 and murdered in 1978 because of his outspoken and courageous activism in the fight for equal rights for all people regardless of sexual orientation.

When Harvey Milk first ran for supervisor in San Francisco in 1977, he was told that an openly gay man could never get elected. When he won, he became the first openly gay non-incumbent ever to win an election for public office in the United States.

Harvey Milk stamp, Melissa Fox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, melissafoxblog, melissajoifox, Melissa Fox blogNow there are hundreds of openly gay men and women serving their communities and states in elected office.

We’ve come a long way, thanks in large measure to the courage of Harvey Milk.

But much more needs to be done.

We must fight for the elimination of violence and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity – in our own communities and throughout the world.

We must ensure that governments everywhere respect the dignity and human rights of every minority group and every marginalized community.

When President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian award, he said Milk was “an agent of change” who “saw an imperfect world and set about improving it, often overcoming great obstacles along the way.”

Let’s honor Harvey Milk by each of us, in our own way, being an agent of change.

UCI Sets “Green” Example for City of Irvine

UCI aerial.01

Congratulations to the Univerisity of California, Irvine, on its selection as the 2014 “Greenest School in the Nation,” according to the Sierra Club’s magazine. The Sierra Club is the nation’s largest and oldest environmental organization.

The decision was based on a survey of America’s four-year degree-granting undergraduate colleges conducted by four organizations: the Sierra Club, the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE), the Sustainable Endowments Institute (SEI), and the Princeton Review.

President Obama speaking at UC Irvine 2014

UCI came in first out of the 173 colleges that completed the survey by scoring 813.51 out of a possible total of 1000 points.

According to the Sierra Club Magazine, “In 2008, UC Irvine vowed to improve its energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020, then hit that target seven years early, making it the first U.S. school to achieve that goal. Then administrators doubled down by pledging an additional 20 percent energy reduction by 2020. Helping the matter: three on-site solar power projects and a 19-megawatt cogeneration plant with turbines powered by combustion and steam. The school’s water-recycling program saves more than 210 million gallons per year.”

This recent recognition by the Sierra Club comes just a few weeks after President Obama, at his UCI Commencement Address, lauded UC Irvine for “set[ing] up the first Earth System Science Department in America. A UC Irvine professor-student team won the Nobel Prize for discovering that CFCs destroy the ozone layer.  A UC Irvine glaciologist’s work led to one of last month’s report showing one of the world’s major ice sheets in irreversible retreat. Students and professors are in the field working to predict changing weather patterns, fire seasons, and water tables – working to understand how shifting seasons affect global ecosystems; to get zero-emission vehicles on the road faster; to help coastal communities adapt to rising seas. And when I challenge colleges to reduce their energy use to 20 percent by 2020, UC Irvine went ahead and did it last year.  Done.  So UC Irvine is ahead of the curve. All of you are ahead of the curve.”

To me, one of UCI’s most impressive “green” achievements is ZotWheels, an  innovative bike sharing system.  As UCI explains, ZotWheels is “the first automated self-service bike share program in California . . .  Almost a pound of tailpipe emissions will be saved for every mile a member rides a bike instead of driving.  Bike sharing allows faculty, students, and staff an alternative to driving when making short-distance trips during the work and school day, as well as addressing important issues such as health and environmental sustainability, the future of transportation, and promoting community building on campus. Bike sharing already exists in many European cities, such as Paris and Barcelona. Take our bikes for a short ride around the inner ring, to the park, to a meeting, or to class.  ZotWheels are meant to be shared; so rent one, ride it, return it and repeat any time you want to bring a little fun to your day!”

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at 2013 Solar Decathlon

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox at Solar Decathlon

The City of Irvine has a lot to learn from UC Irvine’s accomplishments.

The City of Irvine ought to be a leader in creating sustainable communities that incorporate smart growth principles, public transit and active transportation access to work, parks, shopping and recreation. Our heritage as a master planned community and our long-standing commitment to well-planned smart growth ought to make Irvine a natural leader in promoting green building practices and smart growth principles.

Unfortunately, in recent years we have set our environmental goals too low.  Nor is the current council majority committed to smart, green growth, instead approving frantic growth and development at any cost.

The result of the current council’s rubber-stamping of developers’ proposals has been runaway development of housing tracts and apartments causing terrible traffic and overcrowded schools – posing a clear and present danger to our quality of life.

Irvine is positioned to become a leader in renewable energy use.  Last year, the Solar Decathlon was held for first time outside of Washington, D.C. – at the Great Park, in Irvine. Despite a lukewarm, anti-environmentally conscious majority on the city council, the event was successful.  The 2015 Solar Decathlon will be held once again here in Irvine. And a team from Orange County, led by UC Irvine, will be in the competition.  This time, with an enthusiastic and committed city council and thoughtful promotion and planning, the event could have much more wide-ranging and economically beneficial impact for the city.  But before that can happen – and before Irvine can claim the title of the nation’s energy innovation capitol – we must elect a city council committed to making solar and renewable energy a far more significant energy source for Irvine’s city buildings, homes and businesses.

So congratulations UC Irvine!  You’ve shown us the direction that the City of Irvine should be taking.