Happy Earth Day 2020!

Today, Wednesday, April 22, is Earth Day.

Nearly 50 years ago, on April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the US and around the world, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

The global ecological awareness was growing, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly.  In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

Earth Day is now a global event each year, and more than 1 billion people in 193 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.

The City of Irvine has been a leader in earth-friendly environmental policies, green technology, and environmental awareness.  Irvine’s environmental programs have been on the leading edge of advances in green building and construction, environmental education, recycling, water conservation, waste disposal, and energy-saving.

Under Irvine Mayors Larry Agran, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang, Irvine was indeed a world leader in environmental programs and innovation. One of the highlights of Irvine’s environmental engagement was presence of the U.S. Solar Decathlon at the Orange County Great Park in Irvine. The Solar Decathlon is an international competition held every two years 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. The Solar Decathlon was held at the Great Park in 2013 and 2015.

Another highlight of Irvine’s environmental leadership was the creation of the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee in 2012.  The Green Ribbon Committee was charged with the crucial task of developing and recommending environmental policy initiatives and programs, including sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

Unfortunately, when Steven Choi became mayor of Irvine in November 2014, both the Great Park Solar Decathlon and the Green Ribbon Committee became victims of Choi’s climate change denial and hostility to environmental action.

As I’ve detailed in How Orange County Lost the U.S. Solar Decathlon, Steven Choi was hostile to the very premises of the Solar Decathlon — the need for replacing burning fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy.  In sharp contrast to the previous three Irvine mayors who championed environmental and climate concerns, Choi “completely question[ed] the idea of global warming being caused by human intervention.”  Rather than recognizing the importance of environmental action,  both as an opportunity for technological innovation and as an existential imperative, Choi saw all environmental concerns as anti-business and climate change as wholly unconnected to human activity. You can read the full story of the Solar Decathlon here.

Similarly, Choi sabotaged the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee. In fact, when I was elected to the Irvine City Council in November 2016, the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee had been inoperative for several years because Mayor Steven Choi and his allies on the Irvine City Council did not appoint sufficient members to constitute a quorum. In fact, the Committee did not meet during all of 2014 and 2016, cancelling every scheduled meeting. The words “climate change” and “global warming” were not permitted to be used in official City of Irvine publications or staff reports. Choi didn’t even allow the City of Irvine to participate in the Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by the Irvine-based Wyland Foundation.

As a longtime environmental activist, I wasn’t going to allow the City of Irvine to continue to ignore environmental issues and global warming. I convinced newly elected Mayor Donald P. Wagner, who replaced Steven Choi, to re-invigorate the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee and appoint me to the Committee as the City Council’s representative.  I then appointed Krishna Hammond, a young progressive scientist, as my representative to the Committee and encouraged the other Councilmembers to make appointments.  At our first meeting, I was elected Chair of the Committee and Krishna was elected Vice Chair. The Green Ribbon Environmental Committee was out of Choi-imposed exile and was off and running.

 

 

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A crucial environmental issue facing Irvine in the near future is whether to switch from purchasing energy from SoCal Edison to utilizing a Community Choice Energy provider.

Community Choice Energy (CCE) is a program that brings local control and freedom of choice and competition into the electricity marketplace. Community Choice allows cities and counties to purchase power on behalf of their residents and businesses to provide cleaner power options at a competitive price.

We’ve made progress since the days when Steven Choi drove the U.S. Solar Decathlon out of town, shut down the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee, refused to participate in the Wyland Foundation’s Water Challenge, and banned the words “climate change” and “global warning.”

But there is still much to be done. In particular, the current Irvine City Council leadership needs to show that its professed concern for action on climate change and protecting the environment isn’t just lip service and a public relations smokescreen.

Instead, the City Council needs to adopt a stand-alone Climate Action Plan that we’ve been promised and implement the Community Choice Energy program that we’ve shown to be a tremendous benefit to both the City and the planet.

 

I Will Sponsor Legislation to Prohibit the University of California from Affiliating with Hospitals that Impose Non-Medically Based Restrictions on Health Care or Discriminate Against LGBTQ People

The LA Times has recently noted that “Religious restrictions on healthcare [at the University of California] have been developing into a public health crisis of the first order.”

The problem is that the University of California has entered into clinical and educational training contracts with religion-based hospitals that place non-scientific and non-medically based constraints on University of California personnel and students at every one of UC’s six medical schools, as well as some nursing, nurse practitioner, physician assistant and pharmacy programs.

These constraints include prohibitions on abortion (even in cases of sexual assault), sterilization procedures such as tubal ligations, provision of contraceptives, counseling patients about contraception and abortion, fertility treatments, use of egg or sperm donor outside of a heterosexual married couple, use of a gestational surrogate, use of fetal tissue, the provision of medical or surgical gender-affirming services for transgender people such as hysterectomy or mastectomy for transgender men, and physician assisted suicide or aid-in-dying.

Due to public outcry against the University of California acquiescing to these non-scientific or healthcare based constraints on medical care, in August 2019 UC President Janet Napolitano appointed an 18-member working group of faculty and administrators from across the UC system to establish guidelines for future collaborations with outside health systems that impose these constraints. UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman was designated the group’s Chair.

In January 2020, the working group issued its report.

Unfortunately, the group failed to reach agreement on whether the University should subject its employees, faculty, and students to religious and non-scientific prohibitions in their medical care.

I agree with working group member Michele Bratcher Goodwin, UCI Law School Chancellor’s Professor and founding Director of the Center for Biotechnology and Global Health Policy, that UC policies “that impede, restrict, or hinder the care that UC students, faculty, or staff receive based on religious doctrine violate state and federal constitutional law as well as specific California legislation that forbid the imposition of religious doctrine on UC students, faculty, or staff. . . These actions are illegal and thus impermissible.”

Accordingly, when elected to the Assembly, I will sponsor legislation to ensure that UC employees, faculty and students receive medical care based solely on scientific and health-cased factors, and prohibiting the University of California from affiliating with any hospital that imposes non-health based restrictions on care or discriminates against LGBTQ people.

Here is my press release:

“The University of California is publicly funded to serve the people of California as a center of higher learning, transmitting advanced knowledge, discovering new knowledge, and functioning as an active working repository of organized knowledge. As a Californian, I am proud that UC is recognized as the world’s leading public research university system. It is therefore extremely disturbing that the University of California would affiliate with any hospital organization that discriminates against LGBTQ people and imposes non-health based restrictions on care.

UC employees, faculty, and students are entitled to medical care based solely on scientific and health-based factors. As a government entity committed to serving the public under the rule of law, UC and its providers and trainees must not restrict access to any lawful care because certain procedures or medical options may be controversial from a particular political or religious point of view. In particular, UC must never deny a woman’s right to receive comprehensive reproductive health care including abortion and all forms of contraception and assisted reproductive technologies, and must never refuse to provide medical procedures, such as gender affirmation for transgender people and reproductive technologies that support the ability of LGBTQ+ people to have biological children. UC must also provide the full range of medically appropriate and legally available options to patients at the end of life, including legally sanctioned aid in dying.

When elected to the State Assembly, one of my first pieces of legislation will be to ensure that UC employees, faculty and students receive medical care based solely on scientific and health-cased factors, and prohibiting UC from affiliating with any hospital organization that imposes non-health based restrictions on care or discriminates against LGBTQ people.”

— Melissa Fox, Candidate for State Assembly AD 68

For more information, contact J& Z Strategies at info@jacobsonzilber.com.

Learn more about Melissa Fox for California Assembly at http://votemelissafox.com

 

Today is Korean American Day!

January 13 has been designed “Korean American Day.”   On this day in 1903, a group of 102 courageous Korean men, women, and children  arrived in Honolulu from Japan aboard the steamship RMS Gaelic to work in the Hawaiian sugar cane fields.  In the next few years, they would be followed by more than 1,000 Koreans entering the mainland from Hawaii through San Francisco.

This date is traditionally regarded as marking the first Korean immigration to the United States and celebrated as Korean American Day — although several individual Koreans had immigrated to the United States earlier, including Philip Jaisohn (Seo Jae-pil), a journalist and medical doctor and a noted champion for Korea’s independence, who in 1890 became the first Korean to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

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

Irvine is proud to celebrate our thriving Korean American community each year in our annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, designed to share Korean culture with the entire community by showcasing its customs, heritage, cuisine, and arts.

Our city has adopted the South Korean city of Seocho-gu as one of Irvine’s four “Sister Cities.

Irvine is also the home of the King Sejong Institute and the Korean American Center of Orange County, dedicated to promoting Korean language and culture.

As the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran and proud recipient of the Republic of Korea Ambassador for Peace Medal, the cousin of a United States Marine who was killed in action in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir fighting for freedom for the Korean people, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans hve made to our city, our county, our state, and our country.

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

Happy Korean American Day!

A Most Personal Decision

The question of what a woman should do when she is pregnant but does not want to raise a child is extremely personal for me.

It is the question that my birth mother, unmarried and 16-years-old, faced fifty one years ago.

This was before People v. Belous (1969) and Roe v. Wade (1973) established a woman’s fundamental right to decide whether to give birth.

Just a few months before I was born, California Governor Ronald Reagan signed the “Therapeutic Abortion Act,” which changed California’s criminal code to permit the termination of pregnancy by a physician when there was substantial risk that its continuation would “gravely impair the physical or mental health of the mother” or when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

I am not sure whether my birth mother would have qualified for a legal abortion under the “physical or mental health” requirements of the new law, but she could have risked terminating her pregnancy by illegal means – as more than 100,000 California women did every year before the Act’s passage. In fact, Governor Reagan said that he signed the new law to prevent the death and injury of thousands of California women each year from illegal and dangerous “back alley” abortions.

My birth mother decided not to have an abortion, and instead gave me up for adoption.

Of course, I’m happy with her choice – I would not be here otherwise. I was raised by parents who wanted and were able to care for me. I have also had the incredible joy of being able to thank my birth mother for her decision – reuniting with her and my two younger brothers several years ago.

I received a great gift from my birth mother’s decision – but I would not have wanted her to have been forced by the government to give birth to me despite being unable at that time to properly care for a child.

Whether or not to have an abortion – or whether to give a child up for adoption – is a deeply personal and often painful decision for a woman or couple to make, and it is a decision they have to make based on their own faith and values, not someone else’s – and certainly not the government’s.

Our current representative — and my opponent — for the 68th Assembly District, Steven Choi, believes otherwise.

During his political career, Choi has earned a 0% rating from Planned Parenthood.

When seeking the Republican nomination for the Assembly, he stated that “he is pro-life, and he wants to protect all lives, including those of the unborn.”  He has tried to use his position in the legislature to bring back the days when thousands of women each year in California were forced to make the horrific choice between having unwanted children or illegal, dangerous abortions.  He recently voted against a bill in the California legislature that would provide young people with basic contact information about reproductive health. He has been endorsed by groups that are aiming to do to California women what has been recently been done to the women of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Utah — subjecting them to the most restrictive abortion laws in decades.  And he has received thousands of dollars in contributions from groups outside our district that are determined to deny women the right to control their own bodies.

As your representative for the 68th Assembly District, I’ll fight to protect and defend women’s access to the full range of reproductive health care services.  That’s why I’ve been endorsed by Women in Leadership, a bipartisan political action group committed to electing women who share their commitment to women’s rights and freedoms in reproductive health, and why I’ve been endorsed by Fund Her and the Womens Political Committee.

We can’t allow politicians like Steven Choi to deny women basic human rights such as access to safe and affordable reproductive health care or allow the government to intrude into this most personal of decisions.

That’s why I need your help now to keep the decision whether to give birth a deeply personal choice and not the government’s.

You can learn more and join me at VoteMelissaFox.com.

Melissa

Happy Earth Day 2019!

Today, Monday, April 22, is Earth Day.

Nearly 50 years ago, on April 22, 1970, millions of people took to the streets to protest the negative impacts of 150 years of industrial development.

In the US and around the world, smog was becoming deadly and evidence was growing that pollution led to developmental delays in children. Biodiversity was in decline as a result of the heavy use of pesticides and other pollutants.

The global ecological awareness was growing, and the US Congress and President Nixon responded quickly.  In July of the same year, they created the Environmental Protection Agency, and robust environmental laws such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, among many.

Earth Day is now a global event each year, and more than 1 billion people in 193 countries now take part in what is the largest civic-focused day of action in the world.

The City of Irvine has been a leader in earth-friendly environmental policies, green technology, and environmental awareness.  Irvine’s environmental programs have been on the leading edge of advances in green building and construction, environmental education, recycling, water conservation, waste disposal, and energy-saving.

Irvine’s San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary. Photo by Geoff Fox.

Unfortunately, when Steven Choi was Irvine’s mayor, our city took several steps backwards. The term “climate change” was banned from all city documents and not enough Councilmembers made appointments to the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee to enable a quorum.

Mayor Steven Choi even refused to participate in the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by Irvine’s own Wyland Foundation.

When I joined the Irvine City Council, I successfully pushed for revitalization of the Committee, which has now resumed its work of serving as the official environmental advisory committee, increasing public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, and helping the city serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs.

I am delighted that the Committee now has the full support of the entire City Council, and both Mayor Don Wagner and Mayor Christina Shea have joined with other mayors across the country in asking residents to make a commitment to conserve water and protect this vital resource by taking part in annual Wyland Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, through the month of April.

One of the best — and most distinctive — qualities of Irvine is our commitment to preserving open space. The City of Irvine has more than 16,000 acres of permanently preserved parkland and open space – remarkable for a city of our size.

“The Sinks” — Irvine’s own Grand Canyon.

In 1974, early in our city’s history, voters approved multi-million dollar measures to fund public parks and recreational facilities, and for the acquisition and development of bicycle trail and hiking trail improvements.

In 1989, the City negotiated an historic agreement with the Irvine Company that set aside more than 9,500 acres as permanent open space marshlands, bike trails, parks, nature conservancies and agricultural areas, protecting fully one-third of the city from development.

In addition, in 2006, nearly 37,000 acres of the Irvine Ranch were selected as a National Natural Landmark, a designation which reflects the outstanding condition, rarity, diversity, and value to science and education of the natural resources on the land.

As our Irvine Open Space Preserve website explains, “Since its incorporation in 1971, Irvine has had a strong desire to balance the built and natural environment. As this incredible master-planned community has grown, each phase of development has been accompanied by the preservation and enhancement of natural open spaces, creating the network of parks, trails, and wildlands that residents and visitors may enjoy today and for generations to come.”

Bommer Canyon. Photo by Sanjay B. Dalal.

A crucial environmental issue facing Irvine in the near future is whether to switch from purchasing energy from SoCal Edison to utilizing a Community Choice Energy provider.

Community Choice Energy (CCE) is a program that brings local control and freedom of choice and competition into the electricity marketplace. Community Choice allows cities and counties to purchase power on behalf of their residents and businesses to provide cleaner power options at a competitive price.

It has been operating in California since 2002 following passage of Assembly Bill 117.

On September 25, 2018, the Irvine City Council approved conducting a feasibility study to determine the pros and cons of implementing a CCE program, including potential economic benefits for the community.

Community Choice programs enable local government control over energy procurement to purchase power, set competitive rates, and collect revenue. The local utility still maintains the electricity grid, deliver energy, and bill customers.

Community Choice Energy programs offer automatic enrollment to businesses and residences in its jurisdiction, with the ability for the customer to opt out and continue to purchase electricity from the utility. Customers have the option of choosing increased percentages of renewable energy.

Councilmember Melissa Fox with the artist Wyland at his studio in Irvine.

CCE programs in California generally procure and resell a power mix between 50 percent and 100 percent renewable energy to their customers.

Community Choice Energy can be one of the most powerful ways to accelerate the transition from fossil to cleaner renewable energy.

Community Choice introduces competition and consumer choice into the electricity sector with a focus on local, renewable energy to stimulate rapid innovations in clean energy systems.

By the mid 2020s, as much as 85% of Californians will be served by a Community Choice Energy program.

When our feasibility study is completed, I hope Community Choice Energy will soon be available in Irvine and throughout Orange County.

At our best, the City of Irvine has striven to be simultaneously people-friendly, business-friendly, and earth-friendly.

We must continue to insist that each phase of our City’s development be informed by science, accompanied by careful planning, and prioritize the preservation and enhancement of our environment.

Irvine Police Department and O.C. Dept. of Education Host Meeting on Teen Vaping at Irvine High School

The Irvine Police Department is participating in a parents meeting on April 9 at 6:00 PM at the Irvine High School Theater on vaping and other issues regarding substance abuse in conjunction with the Orange County Department of Education.

According to the O.C. Department of Education, “There is a growing concern about youth vaping, especially on school campuses. Newer, pod-based e-cigarettes are easy to conceal and contain high levels of nicotine, which can disrupt adolescent brain development.”

There will be a presentation by Mr. Stephan Lambert, the Orange County Department of Education’s Prevention Coordinator, on vaping and other issues regarding substance abuse. Jim Wright, the IHS School Resource Officer, will also be present to provide his perspective.

All are welcome.

In March 2014, the Irvine City Council, in one of its worst decisions, rejected a resolution to prohibit electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or vaping) in city parks and recreational facilities.

Then-Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway celebrated the Council’s decision in favor of e-cigarettes with a misguided appeal to the rhetoric of personal liberty, saying he had confidence in “individuals and their ability to make their own [health] choices.”

At the time, I strongly criticized the City Council’s decision.

First, I pointed out the scientific evidence of the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes, especially on developing brains.

Second, I made it clear that, for me, “what’s at issue is our freedom to enjoy Irvine’s parks and recreational facilities without breathing air polluted with second-hand e-cigarette chemicals. I have no problem with adults smoking e-cigarettes in their own homes or on their own property or on the property of people who say it’s okay with them. But I don’t want members of my family or yours — especially children — to be forced to inhale second-hand e-cigarette chemicals when they come to enjoy Irvine’s beautiful public parks and recreational facilities. That’s where we should draw the line.”

I am glad to see that we’ve made progress since that time.

You can find more information about the meeting and how to rsvp here.

Celebrating Korean American Day!

Councilmember Melissa Fox with her father, Stan, and Korean-American veterans of the Korean War.

This Sunday, January 13, has been designated by the City of Irvine as Korean American Day.

Melissa Fox’s Irvine Senior Council Representative Juno Kim

On January 13, 1903, a group of 102 Korean laborers arrived in Honolulu from Japan aboard the steamship RMS Gaelic to work in the Hawaiian sugar cane fields.  In the next few years, they would be followed by more than 1,000 Koreans entering the mainland from Hawaii through San Francisco.

This date is traditionally regarded as marking the first Korean immigration to the United States and celebrated as Korean American Day — although several individual Koreans had immigrated to the United States earlier, including Philip Jaisohn (Seo Jae-pil), a journalist and medical doctor and a noted champion for Korea’s independence, who in 1890 became the first Korean to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

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

Irvine is proud to celebrate our thriving Korean American community each year in our annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, designed to share Korean culture with the entire community by showcasing its customs, heritage, cuisine, and arts.

Our city has adopted the South Korean city of Seocho-gu as one of Irvine’s four “Sister Cities.

Irvine is also the home of the King Sejong Institute and the Korean American Center of Orange County, dedicated to promoting Korean language and culture.

As the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran and proud recipient of the Republic of Korea Ambassador for Peace Medal, the cousin of a United States Marine who was killed in action in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir fighting for freedom for the Korean people, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans have made to our city, our state, and our country.

I am proud to live and serve on the City Council in a city that celebrates and treasures our Korean American community and I join my many Korean American friends and neighbors in celebrating Korean American contributions to our shared American heritage and way of life.

Happy Korean American Day!

Join Me at Irvine’s Korean Cultural Festival on Sat., May 12!

Join me at the Irvine Korean Cultural Festival on Saturday, May 13th, at the Irvine Civic Center.

2018 marks the 9th anniversary of the Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, an event designed to celebrate and share Korean cultural heritage and artistic traditions with the broader Irvine community and Orange County.

The Festival is a culture-filled extravaganza full of fine Korean food, games, art, music and entertainment.

The Irvine Korean Cultural Festival is committed to making the festival an educational opportunity for children and the community of Irvine. Enjoy dynamic cultural performances while sampling delicious cuisine from Irvine’s premier restaurants.

As the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran, the cousin of a United States Marine who was killed in action in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep connection to Korea and a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans have made to our city, our state, and our nation.

I am proud to live and serve on the City Council in a city that celebrates and treasures our Korean American community and I join my Korean American friends and neighbors in celebrating Korean American contributions to our shared American heritage and way of life.

Along with the Irvine Korean Festival founders, sponsors, and dedicated volunteers, I strongly believe that the festival experience will help bring about mutual understanding and appreciation of different cultures, which will result in the promotion of peace and harmony among all people in the Irvine community and beyond.

Please join me!

What: Irvine Korean Cultural Festival

When: Sat., May 12, 2018. 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

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

Free Admission. Free On-site parking and Off-Site parking with Shuttle.

Shuttle info: 3377 Michelson Drive, Irvine, CA 92612.  Ride the shuttle and get a Free Raffle Ticket!

For more information, visit the Irvine Korean Festival website here.

Happy Korean American Day!

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

At our City Council meeting on Tuesday, January 9, we issued a Korean-American Day Proclamation, celebrating “the long and prosperous journey of Korean Americans in the United States” due to their “strong family ties, community support, and hard work.”  Accepting the proclamation on behalf of the Korean American community were a number of Irvine Korean American civic leaders, including my friend and appointee to the Irvine Senior Council, Juneu Kim.

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

Irvine has had two Korean American mayors — Sukhee Kang and Dr. Steven Choi (who now represents part of Irvine in the California Assembly).

Our city has adopted the South Korean city of Seocho-gu as one of Irvine’s four “Sister Cities.

Irvine is proud to celebrate our thriving Korean American community each year in our annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, designed to share Korean culture with the entire community by showcasing its customs, heritage, arts and cuisine.

As the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran, the cousin of a United States Marine who was killed in action in the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep connection to Korea and a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans have made to our city, our state, and our nation.

I am proud to live and serve on the City Council in a city that celebrates and treasures our Korean American community and I join my Korean American friends and neighbors in celebrating Korean American contributions to our shared American heritage and way of life.

Happy Korean American Day!

Councilmember Melissa Fox with her father, Korean War veteran Stan Kay, and other Korean War veterans.

 

Join Me at the Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, Sat. May 13th!

Join me at the Irvine Korean Cultural Festival on Saturday, May 13th, at the Irvine Civic Center.

2017 marks the 8th anniversary of the Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, an event designed to celebrate and share Korean cultural heritage and artistic traditions with the broader Irvine community and Orange County.

The Festival is a culture-filled extravaganza full of fine Korean food, games, art, music and entertainment.

The Irvine Korean Cultural Festival is committed to making the festival an educational opportunity for children and the community of Irvine. Enjoy dynamic cultural performances while sampling delicious cuisine from Irvine’s premier restaurants.

Along with the Irvine Korean Festival founders, sponsors, and dedicated volunteers, I strongly believe that the festival experience will help bring about mutual understanding and appreciation of different cultures, which will result in the promotion of peace and harmony among all people in the Irvine community and beyond.

Please join me!

What:  Irvine Korean Cultural Festival

When: Sat., May 13, 2017. 10:00 am – 5:00 pm.

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

Free Admission. Free On-site parking and Off-Site parking with Shuttle.

Shuttle info: 3377 Michelson Drive, Irvine, CA 92612. Ride the shuttle and get a Free Raffle Ticket!

For more information, visit the Irvine Korean Festival website here.

 

 

 

Celebrating Korean American Day!

korea-us-flag

Today, January 13, has been designated by the City of Irvine as Korean American Day.

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

Korean American Youth Performing Artists mix colorful fans and clothing with graceful dance during the Korean Cultural Festival at Irvine City Hall on Sunday. ///ADDITIONAL INFO: - Photo by MINDY SCHAUER, THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER - shot: 051416 i.0514.koreanfestival Thousands attend the seventh annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, which commemorates Korean immigration to the United States since Jan. 13, 1903.

Korean American youth performing during the Korean Cultural Festival at Irvine City Hall. Photo: Mindy Schauer, OC Register

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

Irvine is proud to celebrate our thriving Korean American community each year in our annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, designed to share Korean culture with the entire community by showcasing its customs, heritage, arts and cuisine.

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

As the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran, and as a resident of Irvine, I feel a deep appreciation for the vital contributions that Korean Americans have made to our city (including two Korea-born mayors), our state, and our country.

I am proud to live and serve on the City Council in a city that celebrates and treasures our Korean American community and I join my Korean American friends and neighbors in celebrating Korean American contributions to our shared American heritage and way of life.

Irvine Should Ban E-Cigarettes and Vaping in Our City Parks

teen-electronic-cigarette

Today’s New York Times has more bad news about teenagers and electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes).

The Times reports a “sharp rise in the use of e-cigarettes among teenagers.”  E-cigarette use among middle- and high school students “tripled from 2013 to 2014 . . bringing the share of high school students who use them to 13 percent — more than smoke traditional cigarettes. The sharp rise, together with a substantial increase in the use of hookah pipes, led to 400,000 additional young people using a tobacco product in 2014, the first increase in years . . .”

Last year, the Times cited a similar report of the Center for Disease Control of a sharp rise in e-cigarette use among previously nicotine-free youth.

And who are the major marketers and lobbyists for e-cigarettes?  The very same big tobacco companies that still sell cigarettes and that told us for years that there was no harm in cigarette smoking.

Last March, the Irvine City Council rejected a resolution to prohibit electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) in city parks and recreational facilities.  Mayor Steven Choi and Council Members Jeffrey Lalloway and Christina Shea voted against the ban.

Evidence is mounting that e-cigarettes are detrimental to one’s health. Their use is opposed by the American Lung Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. UC Irvine and the entire University of California system bans their use in all indoor and outdoor areas of a UC campus.

The American Lung Association says they are “very concerned about the potential health consequences of electronic cigarettes, as well as the unproven claims that they can be used to help smokers quit. There is presently no government oversight of these products and absent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulation, there is no way for the public health, medical community or consumers to know what chemicals are contained in e-cigarettes or what the short and long term health implications might be. . . Also unknown is what the potential harm may be to people exposed to secondhand emissions from e-cigarettes. Two initial studies have found formaldehyde, benzene and tobacco-specific nitrosamines (a carcinogen) coming from those secondhand emissions. Other studies have shown that chemicals exhaled by users also contain formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and other potential irritants. While there is a great deal more to learn about these products, it is clear that there is much to be concerned about, especially in the absence of FDA oversight.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that recent scientific data “confirms pediatricians’ concerns about e-cigarettes and their liquid nicotine refills: they are poisoning children at an alarming rate. . . These new statistics should compel our nation’s leaders to act now to protect children from these dangerous products.”

The conservative editorial page of the San Diego Union Tribune has called for the regulation of e-cigarettes just like tobacco, “prohibiting their use in restaurants, bars and other public places where smoking is barred,” calling such regulations  “common sense for all of California.”

Council Member Lalloway celebrated the Council’s decision in favor of e-cigarettes by saying he had confidence in “individuals and their ability to make their own [health] choices.”

For me, what’s at issue is our freedom  to enjoy Irvine’s parks and recreational facilities without breathing air polluted with second-hand e-cigarette chemicals.

I have no problem with adults smoking e-cigarettes in their own homes or on their own property or on the property of people who say it’s okay with them.

But I don’t want members of my family or yours — especially children — to be forced to inhale second-hand e-cigarette chemicals when they come to enjoy Irvine’s beautiful public parks and recreational facilities.

That’s where we should draw the line.

Help Irvine Win the Wyland Foundation’s National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation

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Help Irvine win the Fourth Annual National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation, sponsored by the Wyland Foundation.

My Water Pledge is a friendly competition between cities across the US to see who can be the most “water-wise.”  Mayors nationwide challenge their residents to conserve water, energy and other natural resources on behalf of their city through a series of informative, easy-to-use pledges online.  Cities with the highest percentage of residents who take the challenge in their population category win.  Participants in the winning cities are eligible to win hundreds of prizes.

“Whether it’s drought conditions in the West or the high costs of energy related to water use in the East, saving water has become one of the most talked about issues facing the nation today,” said the artist Wyland, president and founder of the Wyland Foundation. “This contest gives city leaders a way to supplement their awareness efforts in a friendly, spirited way.”

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Your own city’s mayor does not have to participate for your city to win.

Unfortunately, Irvine Mayor Steven Choi has decided not to be a participating mayor – but you and I can still make a difference!

Last year, the challenge awarded more than $50,000 in prizes to nearly 1,000 residents in U.S. cities.

Last year, residents from over 3,600 cities in all 50 U.S. states pledged to reduce their annual consumption of freshwater by 1.4 billion gallons, reduce waste sent to landfills by 36 million pounds, prevent more than 179,000 pounds of hazardous waste from entering our watersheds, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 5.3 billion pounds. Participants have included mayors from Seattle, Dallas, Houston, Denver, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Honolulu, San Diego, San Francisco, Long Beach and Miami.

Currently, Irvine is not in the top 10 cities in our population size in water-saving pledges.  We can fix that – and save water.

And maybe win some prizes, too.

Take the Water Conservation Challenge pledge here.

Planning Commission Decision Dooms Irvine University Center Farmers’ Market

We were excited to report last June that Irvine, which has long has two certified farmers’ markets, was getting two more.

Now it appears that soon there may be one less.

The farmers’ market at University Town Center, which has been serving the University area and all of Irvine for nearly 20 years, is scrambling to find a new location.

The reason?

In January 2014, the Irvine Planning Commission, by a close vote of 3-2, approved the development of another drive-through fast-food restaurant at the University Town Center, including the removal of 58 parking spaces.

Voting in favor of the fast-food drive-through restaurant development and the removal of the parking spaces was Jeffrey Lalloway appointee Lynn Schott, now seeking her own seat on the City Council.

The loss of these parking spaces is what is now causing the University Town Center farmers’ market to struggle to find another location.

I certainly hope that the farmers’ market at University Town Center finds a new location in time for a 20th anniversary celebration and continues to serve Irvine for another 20 years.

Fast-food and too fast growth.

Bad planning has bad consequences.

Listen to Melissa Fox’s Interview on KUCI’s ‘Ask a Leader’

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Here is the interview I did on October 14 with Claudia Shambaugh on the program Ask a Leader on KUCI-FM about my campaign for Irvine City Council and the future of the City of Irvine.

We discussed development and over-development, traffic congestion, infrastructure, protecting Irvine’s villages and local businesses, the Irvine Barclay Theatre, improving our bikeways and the iShuttle,  environmental issues, losing one of farmers’ markets, my Irvine Food Tours, the OCTA’s irresponsible toll road decision, and more.

I hope you’ll listen and let me know what you think!

 

Traffic Congestion Causes Irvine to Drop to 14th Place in America’s Best Places to Live

Irvine’s national standing as one of America’s best places to live has declined sharply in the last few years, from 4th place in 2008, to 6th place in 2012, and now a precipitous drop out of the Top Ten to 14th place in Money Magazine’s recent “Best Places to Live 2014.”

The problem: while Irvine still receives raves for its “more than 54 miles of bike paths and 20,000 acres of parks and preserves” as well as for our master plan, “median home prices top $650,000, and traffic can be a brute during rush hour.”

What this means is that Irvine’s terrible – and increasing – traffic congestion problem is no longer our own little secret.

The rest of the country has noticed, and is re-evaluating the desirability of living in Irvine accordingly.

In the short run, Irvine’s drop to 14th best place to live – slotted between Centennial, Colorado, and Newton, Massachusetts – will primarily impact our civic pride.

But in the middle and longer run, the decline in Irvine’s reputation because of traffic congestion – and the serious underlying problem of over-development without adequate planning – could have far more dire, and costly, consequences.

Our real estate market could be adversely affected, as well as our ability to attract companies and business that are looking for the best quality of life for their executives and employees.

Most important, Irvine’s fall to 14th place in Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” is the canary in the coal mine, warning us of worse to come, as the rest of the world notices our rapid over-development without proper planning or infrastructure and our increasingly over-crowded schools.

We should take heed now, while we still can, and return to the principles of planning and measured , smart growth that not very long ago made Irvine Number One.

We want Irvine to be America’s “Best Place to Live” now and in the future, not just in the past.

Saving the Irvine Barclay Theatre is Up to You

One of the first things that Mayor Steven Choi and Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway did when they captured the majority on the Irvine City Council was attempt to slash the City’s funding for the Irvine Barclay Theatre.

Choi and Lalloway asserted that the City’s contribution to the Irvine Barclay Theatre is “wasteful spending” and proposed to cut it by more than half, from $925,000 to $425,000.

Doug Rankin, president of the Irvine Barclay, warned that if the City’s contribution to the Barclay was cut as Choi and Lalloway wanted, the impact on the Barclay would be  “Somewhere between completely adverse and catastrophic.

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World Famous Diavolo Dance Theatre performing at the Irvine Barclay Theatre

Founded in 1990, the Irvine Barclay Theatre is a unique collaboration among the City of Irvine, the University of California, Irvine, and the private sector.  The Barclay has earned “a reputation for wide-ranging programming in the fields of contemporary dance, music, and theater arts . . .  The Barclay’s 750-seat Cheng Hall is now virtually in constant use.  The Irvine Barclay Theatre has gained a national reputation for its great acoustics, intimate feel, and the high quality of its production facilities. Among artists, it is a venue of choice when performing in southern California.”

Choi’s and Lalloway’s attempt to impose “catastrophic” cuts in the Barclay’s funding failed when dozens of citizens – from across the political spectrum – including former Irvine Mayor Sally Anne Sheridan, UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts Dean Joseph Lewis, Bluestone Communities President Michael Kerr, Arts Orange County Executive Director Richard Stein, and Philharmonic Society of Orange County President Dean Corey – showed up at the City Council chambers to protest.

Republican Councilmember Christina Shea then voted with Democratic Councilmembers Beth Krom and Larry Agran to restore the Barclay’s funding – to much audience applause.

Angry over losing the vote and undeterred by the overwhelming popular sentiment in favor of restoring the Barclay’s funding, Lalloway responded by publicly insulting Councilmember Christina Shea, saying she had deceived the voters when she claimed to be ‘fiscally responsible.

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China National Opera and Dance Company performing this month at the Irvine Barclay Theatre

Now, the Barclay is again in danger.

If Choi and Lalloway are re-elected this November, they will again try to inflict catastrophic cuts in the City’s funding for the Barclay Theatre.

The result would be, in Doug Rankin’s words, “catastrophic” for the Barclay, as well as many other City of Irvine programs.

In contrast, if I am elected to the Irvine City Council, I will ensure that the City continues to support the Irvine Barclay Theatre – where I have seen numerous wonderful performances from both UC Irvine students and touring professionals from around the globe, most recently last week’s performance of the China National Opera and Dance Drama Company – so that it continues to be Irvine’s most treasured cultural center for at least another 25 years.

The fate of the Irvine Barclay Theatre depends on who the voters elect this coming November.

Whether the Barclay survives for another 25 wonderful years – and more – is up to you.

Irvine Needs a Permanent Veterans Advisory Committee Comprised Solely of Veterans

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Irvine is home to thousands of military veterans and members of the active military returning from deployment overseas. These veterans should be represented within Irvine’s city government by a Veterans Advisory Committee expressly dedicated to the unique needs and interests of the men and women who have served and are currently serving in our nation’s armed forces.

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

One of the key lessons of the fight for the Irvine City Council’s approval of a Veterans Cemetery and Memorial in the Great Park is that Irvine needs a permanent Veterans Committee, composed solely of Irvine veterans, to advocate for veterans and advise the City and the Council on veterans’ issues.

The Ad Hoc (temporary) Veterans Cemetery Committee established by the current Council majority of Mayor Steven Choi and Councilmembers Jeffrey Lalloway and Christina Shea during the fight for approval of the Veterans Cemetery was anything but an advocate for veterans.

It all began in March, when Councilmember Larry Agran, himself a veteran, having served in the U.S. Army Reserve, introduced a resolution supporting AB 1453 (creating a state Veterans Cemetery in Orange County) and, more importantly, expressing the City Council’s strong interest in locating the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park (formerly the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro).

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox urging the City Council to set aside land in the Great Park as a final resting place for Orange County veterans in March 2014.

The resolution passed, over the objection of Mayor Choi, who made clear his opposition to a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park because a big developer – FivePoint Communities – thought it might affect the prices of the homes it plans to sell in the area.

The Council then set up an Ad Hoc Committee, supposedly to identify a specific site for a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park.

However, it soon became apparent the real purpose of the Ad Hoc Committee created by the Council majority was to delay and obstruct the search for a site in the Great Park, and at the same time to try to find a site somewhere else – anywhere else – in Orange County, in order to please the developer.

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox with veterans’ advocate, USMC veteran and VFW Chaplain Bill Cook

The Council majority appointed Mayor Choi as the Ad Hoc Committee vice chair – despite his publically announced opposition to a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park because of FivePoint’s objections.

They appointed Councilmember Jeffrey Lalloway as the Committee Chair, who then insisted on placing nearly every one of his local political cronies on the Ad Hoc Committee, not one of whom is a veteran.

The only U.S. military veteran on the Irvine City Council – Councilmember Larry Agran, who was also the author of the resolution and a strong advocate for locating the Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park – was deliberately not placed on the Ad Hoc Committee.

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox speaking to the City Council on behalf of a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park in April 2014

After excluding the only U.S. military veteran on the Council from the Ad Hoc committee, Choi, Lalloway and Shea insisted that a Five Point representative be included on the committee.

Only one Orange County veteran (USMC veteran and VFW Chaplain Bill Cook) and one long time veterans advocate (Isabelle Krasney) were made part of the Ad Hoc committee.

By late April, the Ad Hoc Committee created by the Irvine City Council majority had not met and had not conducted any business.  Veterans groups were becoming increasingly concerned that the Ad Hoc Committee was not interested in finding a location for a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park, and that the Committee was a sham, set up only for show, not to take action.

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox with USMC veteran and veterans’ adocate Bill Sandlin

In response to the Ad Hoc Committee’s inaction, Orange County Veterans Memorial Park group (OCVMP), along with many leaders of Orange County veterans’ groups, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, and the Disabled American Veterans, issued a “Call to Action” to attend the next Irvine City Council meeting, where I, among others, called on the Council to fulfill its promise to create an Orange County Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park without delay.

In mid-May, we learned that the Ad Hoc Committee still had not met because, supposedly, many of the politicians who were added by Jeff Lalloway as Ad Hoc Committee members, including Irvine Mayor Steven Choi, could not find the time for a Committee meeting in their schedules. In addition, the Ad Hoc committee refused to provide a progress report (or, rather, a lack-of-progress report).

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox speaks to City Council on behalf of OC veterans, urging the City Council to set aside land in the Great Park as a final resting place for Orange County veterans

I spoke to the City Council, saying that “the addition of so many players [to the ad hoc committee] seemed to me a way to hamstring the committee, to actually prevent it from reaching its stated goal, which was to find a suitable location for a Veterans Cemetery in Irvine.  This concern is exacerbated by the rancor I’ve witnessed here this evening at the mere mention of a request for a progress report. I hope that my fears are not realized and that this isn’t a way to ground the ball and run out the clock. When I last addressed the Council, I was here with my father, and when the veterans were asked to stand, he could barely stand because he had just had chemotherapy.  His passion was to come here and talk to you.  He isn’t physically able to do that for himself, so I am his voice . . . Please don’t ground the ball.  Don’t let time run out.”

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, melissafoxblog, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council,votemelissafox, votemelissafox.com, veterans, Orange County veteransMy comments, as well as the comments and questions raised by numerous veterans about the seriousness of Irvine’s commitment to an Orange County Veterans Cemetery, were met with stone cold silence from the Irvine City Council majority of Choi, Lalloway and Shea.

By late July, AB1453 has sailed through the Assembly and was going through the final phases of the legislative process. Senator Lou Correa’s Senate Veterans Affairs Committee had passed the bill on June 24th and sent it to Senate Appropriations Committee with the recommendation to approve it.  The only thing missing to make an Orange County Veterans Cemetery a reality was a decision by the Irvine City Council to make a portion of the Great Park available as its location.

Yet the developer-beholden Ad Hoc Committee had done nothing since its inception in March except delay, obstruct, and attempt to prevent the cemetery from being located in the Great Park

Here is what the only two real veterans’ advocates on the Committee (Bill Cook and Isabelle Krasney) had to say in a message from the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park group:

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“We on the committee have reason to believe that our concerns as a group may be tied up in a mishmash of parliamentary procedures and legal manipulation by some members on the Ad Hoc Committee who have expressed no interest in seeing their charge through to completion. . . Unfortunately, [some] members of the Ad Hoc Committee seem to be doing their utmost to drag the process out until a target date of August 1 has come and passed. OCVMP Committee Chair Bill Cook had put a motion on the floor to present both viable site options to the Irvine City Council. Bill’s motion was ruled out of order as it was Ad Hoc Chairman Jeff Lalloway’s opinion that we had moved on to discussing the agenda items for the next Ad Hoc meeting. This undue action took the audience by surprise and resulted in a great deal of disappointment and distrust in the Ad Hoc Committee’s leadership (bear in mind that the Ad Hoc Committee Chairman is Irvine City Councilman Jeff Lalloway, the Vice-Chairman is Irvine City Mayor Steven Choi, and a third member is a representative from the Five Points Communities).  There has been too much work done and too much time spent to let the whole concept get hijacked by those who were predisposed to prevent a cemetery from being built at the outset.”

The message from the OCVMP led to the Council chamber being packed with veterans and their supporters.  Councilmember Agran then proposed a resolution designating a specific 125-acre parcel of the Great Park for future conveyance to the State of California for “purposes of establishing a Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery”

When speaker after speaker after speaker, including Bill Cook, the only veteran on the Ad Hoc Committee, then spoke in favor of the resolution, the Council majority was forced to concede that they had been licked, that their strategy of using the Ad Hoc Committee as a means of delay and obstruction had failed.  They then voted in favor of the resolution.

What this experience teaches me is that Irvine’s veterans need a strong, permanent voice of their own in city government, not adulterated by developers or by politicians whose interests may well conflict with those of the veterans they supposedly serve.

It’s the right thing to do.

Save Woodbridge

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Woodbridge residents are gravely concerned that new development will soon add unwanted housing and traffic congestion to Woodbridge and forever change the character of their beautiful community – without their input or consent.

Here is what the group Friends of WVC (Woodbridge Village Center) recently said in an email: “Big changes are in the works for the Woodbridge Village Center. The Irvine Company is presently evaluating options to replace the Village Center with either a residential development (most likely condominiums), or with a standard shopping center. Regardless of the option selected, the current Village Center will most likely be destroyed.”

Melissa and her son, Max, bicycling in Woodbridge.

Bicycling with my son, Max, in Woodbridge.

When Woodbridge opened on Father’s Day in 1975, it was Irvine’s premier master planned community, showcasing Irvine’s commitment to creating villages of single family homes and townhouses, with parks, greenbelts, bicycle trails, interconnecting pathways, open space, and neighborhood shopping.

By any measure, Woodbridge has been a fantastic success.

Community spirit has been,and continues to be tremendously high. Sure, there are a few problems and some things that people would like to see changed or improved.  For example, many people would like to see a new anchor store in the Village Center and new coffee houses and restaurants.

And, like most of Irvine, the WVC could use more ample and more secure bicycle parking, especially since Woodbridge has some of the most used and beautiful bikeways in the City.

But these few problems and suggested minor changes are very small in comparison to the great sense of community belonging and community pride shared by the residents of Woodbridge. Woodbridge remains one of Irvine’s most walkable, bikeable, and beautiful communities.

And, as someone wrote in OC Housing News, “the Woodbridge Center is an integral part of Irvine, connected to both lakes, Woodbridge high school and walking trails, literally in the center of Irvine.”

With Woodbridge Village Center business owner Bob Bibee at Pedego Electric Bikes Irvine.

After 40 years of success, the people of Woodbridge love their community, and they love their Woodbridge Village Center.

That’s why people are so upset by the prospect that their Village Center will be destroyed and replaced with high density apartments and condos or office buildings

What people may not realize is that the City Council has the full legal power to tell the developer that it can’t do whatever it wants to the Woodbridge Village Center, and specifically that it can’t unilaterally change the fundamental character of the community.

In fact, I believe it is the obligation of the City Council to ensure that the public interest – in preventing over-crowding, increased crime and congestion, and in preserving the character of our communities – comes before the private interests of developers, no matter how big and powerful those developers may be.

As another Woodbridge resident put it in OC Housing News, “The great recession is behind us. Time to dial back to measured growth and masterful planning such as the community was built on.”

I could not agree more.

Questions and Answers with Irvine City Council Candidate Melissa Fox

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox

Irvine Community Services Commissioner and City Council candidate Melissa Fox

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Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

 

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

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

Q. What kind of law do you practice?

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

Q. Why do you choose to live in Irvine?

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

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

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

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Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox welcoming OC Blues FC to Irvine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q. Why are you running for Irvine City Council?

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Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

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

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

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

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

Call for Action: Support Our Veterans at the July 22 Irvine City Council Meeting and Urge the Irvine City Council to Designate a Portion of the Great Park for the Orange County Veterans Cemetery

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If you agree that our Orange County veterans deserve a final resting place close to their families and loved ones, and that a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, would be an altogether fitting and proper location for this Orange County Veterans Cemetery, as well as a lasting memorial to the Great Park’s military heritage, please attend the Irvine City Council meeting on Tuesday, July 22, beginning at 5:00 PM, make your voices heard!

This may be our last, best chance to create a veterans cemetery in a portion of the Great Park that was formerly the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro.

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

Yet Orange County veterans do not have their own official military cemetery and those in Orange County who want to visit a veteran’s grave in a national cemetery must travel to Riverside, San Diego or Los Angeles counties. We are the state’s largest county with no dedicated burial ground for its combat veterans and other servicemen and women.

Last January, California Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silver introduced a bill (AB 1453) to right this wrong and create a state-owned and state-operated veterans’ cemetery in Orange County.

For several years, a group of Orange County veterans has urged that a veterans cemetery be located in the Great Park, on land which from 1942 to 1999 served as Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, and where an estimated 2 million men and women served this nation in peace and war.

When Assembly Member Quirk-Silva’s Orange County veterans cemetery bill was introduced, the Great Park in Irvine seemed to them – and to many others –  to be the perfect and most appropriate location.

The question was, would the City of Irvine – which owns and controls this land – make it available for a veterans cemetery?  This is still the question now.

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Melissa Fox in March 2014 addressing the Irvine City Council in support of locating an Orange County veterans cemetery in the Great Park (the former MCAS El Toro).

When the matter of the location of the veterans cemetery first come before the Irvine City Council in March, I wrote that “as the daughter of an Orange County Korean War combat veteran, I strongly support this bill [to create an Orange County veterans cemetery]. It is time that Orange County offered its veterans – who have sacrificed so much for us – a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.”

I also wrote that “as an Irvine resident, I believe that a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, would be an altogether fitting and proper location for this Orange County Veterans Cemetery, as well as a lasting memorial to the Great Park’s military heritage.”

In addition, I personally addressed the Irvine City Council and urged them to support AB 1453. I was also tremendously proud that my father joined with many other Orange County veterans and spoke to the Irvine City Council, urging them to support a veterans cemetery in a portion of the Great Park.

The Irvine City Council then narrowly voted 3-2 to support AB 1453 and call for the establishment of the Southern California Veterans Cemetery in Orange County, to express the City’s strong interest in providing at least 100 acres of land at the Orange County Great Park (formerly MCAS El Toro), and to form an ad hoc committee to see if a suitable location is feasible in and around the Great Park.

However, instead of creating a committee composed of council members and a few interested parties, at Council Member Jeff Lalloway’s insistence the committee was composed of numerous politicians, including Irvine Mayor Choi, who had opposed establishing a veterans cemetery at the Great Park because it might make it more difficult for a developer, FivePoint Communities, to sell homes in the area.  Council Member Larry Agran, who had proposed that Irvine make at least 100 acres of the Great Park available for an Orange County veterans cemetery, was left off the committee.

By April, it appeared that the committee created by the Irvine City Council was not actually interested in finding a location for a veterans cemetery in the Great Park. The veterans of the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park group, along with many leaders of Orange County veterans’ groups, issued a “Call to Action” to attend the Irvine City Council meeting.

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Melissa Fox in April 2014 addressing the Irvine City Council in support of locating an Orange County veterans cemetery in the Great Park (the former MCAS El Toro).

I again addressed the Irvine City Council, again urging them to provide Orange County veterans with a final resting place close to their families and loved ones, and to designate a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, as an altogether fitting and proper location for this Orange County Veterans Cemetery, as well as a lasting memorial to the Great Park’s military heritage.

In May, on learning that ad hoc committee set up by the Irvine City Council to establish an Orange County Veterans Cemetery had not even had its first meeting because some politicians who were added as committee members could not find the time in their schedules, I wrote that the Irvine City Council should fulfill its promise to create an Orange County veterans cemetery without any further delay.

I noted that there is now profound concern in the veteran community that the unnecessarily large committee formed by the Irvine City Council, based on Council Member Jeffrey Lalloway’s insistence on including numerous politicians, is a sham, set only up for show and delay, not to take action.

Speaking again to the City Council, I said that “the addition of so many players seemed to me a way to hamstring the committee, to actually prevent it from reaching its stated goal, which was to find a suitable location for a veterans cemetery in Irvine. This concern is exacerbated by the rancor I’ve witnessed here this evening at the mere mention of a request for a progress report. I hope that my fears are not realized and that this isn’t a way to ground the ball and run out the clock. When I last addressed the Council, I was here with my father, and when the veterans were asked to stand, he could barely stand because he had just had chemotherapy. His passion was to come here and talk to you. He isn’t physically able to do that for himself, so I am his voice . . . Please don’t ground the ball. Don’t let time run out.”

My comments, as well as the comments and questions raised by numerous veterans, about the seriousness of Irvine’s commitment to an Orange County veterans cemetery, were met with stone cold silence from the Irvine City Council.

We have now arrived at another crossroads.

AB1453 has sailed through the Assembly and is now going through the final phases of the legislative process. Senator Lou Correa’s Senate Veterans Affairs Committee passed the bill on June 24th and sent it to Senate Appropriations Committee with the recommendation to approve it. To date, there have been zero “no” votes on this bill.

Now, the only thing missing to make an Orange County veterans cemetery a reality is a decision by the Irvine City Council to make a portion of the Great Park  – the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro  – available as its location.

This Tuesday, July 22, Irvine City Council Member Larry Agran intends to propose a resolution designating a specific 125-acre parcel at the Great Park the Orange County veterans cemetery.  He has also prepared a Memorandum in support of this proposal and map of the proposed veterans cemetery site within the Great Park.

Once this resolution is adopted by the Irvine City Council, AB 1453 will likely pass through the Senate Appropriations Committee on August 4th with an appropriation of funds. Then, it’s on to the Governor’s desk for signature. The Orange County Veterans Cemetery — appropriately located in a portion of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro — would be a done deal.

But we have serious concerns that the same group of developer-beholden politicians who have thus far delayed and stymied the process will prevent the Great Park location from being selected — unless large numbers people show up on July 22 and tell the Irvine City Council that they must support the resolution to designating the 125-acre site in the Great Park as the Orange County veterans cemetery.

Here is what a leader of Orange County Veterans Memorial Park group has to say:

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“We need your help! Next Tuesday  – July 22  – the next Irvine City Council meeting will be held. The OCVMP committee is asking for all veterans and all of our supporters to attend this most important meeting as the issue of the Veterans Cemetery at the Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro promises to be the hot topic.

We on the committee have reason to believe that our concerns as a group may be tied up in a mishmash of parliamentary procedures and legal manipulation by some members on the Ad Hoc Committee who have expressed no interest in seeing their charge through to completion. . . Unfortunately, [some] members of the Ad Hoc Committee seem to be doing their utmost to drag the process out until a target date of August 1 has come and passed. OCVMP Committee Chair Bill Cook had put a motion on the floor to present both viable site options to the Irvine City Council. Bill’s motion was ruled out of order as it was Ad Hoc Chairman Jeff Lalloway’s opinion that we had moved on to discussing the agenda items for the next Ad Hoc meeting. This undue action took the audience by surprise and resulted in a great deal of disappointment and distrust in the Ad Hoc Committee’s leadership (bear in mind that the Ad Hoc Committee Chairman is Irvine City Councilman Jeff Lalloway, the Vice-Chairman is Irvine City Mayor Steven Choi, and a third member is a representative from the Five Points Communities). It is our hope and our goal that we can expedite the process and get the issue to the next level in the approval and funding process. Please join us in this worthwhile endeavor. There has been too much work done and too much time spent to let the whole concept get hijacked by those who were predisposed to prevent a cemetery from being built at the outset. We are YOUR veterans, and we need your support.”

This is not  – and should not be  – a partisan issue. I agree completely with blogger Jeff Gallagher that “the only ones who don’t think placing a veterans cemetery at the Great Park is appropriate are those who desperately want the income that would be lost by establishing one [and the politicians who are doing their bidding].”

“We think MCAS El Toro is the most appropriate location to honor our veterans. . . .Surely, the time has come to bring this dream to fruition. Every veterans organization from the Orange County Veterans Advisory Council to The American Legion, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars are actively involved with this project. More than 200 veterans and interested persons showed up to hear Assemblywoman Quirk-Silva’s update on AB1453 and efforts to put this plan together. Importantly, Quirk-Silva said AB1453 is just the beginning. Once the legislative authority has been granted, money still needs to be raised. Hope lies in the Feds who, although they won’t establish a cemetery here, will provide grant money to allow the state to establish and run one. Speaking as a veteran, I don’t really care one way or the other where the money comes from. The important thing is to honor our veterans by giving them a final resting place near their home. By rights, that resting place should be on, what The American Legion 29th District Commander, Bill Cook, called “Sacred Ground.”

The Irvine City Council needs to know that Orange County veterans and their families and supporters are not going to fade away.

Marine Corps veteran Nick Berardino, General Manager of the Orange County Employees’ Association, has has announced that the OCEA will be there with their hot dog cart from about 3:30 PM until the meeting starts around 5:00 PM. The OCEA is providing free hot dogs and condiments to all attendees as long as the hot dogs last.

What: Support an Orange County Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park (the former MCAS El Toro).
Where: The Irvine Civic Center, 1 Civic Center Plaza, Irvine, CA 92606
When: The meeting will start at 5:00 pm. If you want a seat in the Council Chambers you may want to arrive earlier.

Please share this information with your Facebook friends and e-mail contacts.

See you there!

UPDATE 

We just received the following information from American Legion 29th District Chaplain Bill Cook:

• The Irvine City Council meeting starts at 4:00 pm with a closed session;  open session will start at 5:00 pm.  We expect the cemetery vote around 6:00 pm.

• Overflow parking, with shuttle service, will be provided from Creekside High School at Harvard/Barranca.

• Water will be provided in the courtyard to go with the great OCEA hot dogs

• Extra motorcycle parking area will be provided.

• Video connections will be provided in the conference room and lobby for overflow, if the chambers get full.

• Plenty of speaker cards will be available, and all speakers will be accommodated. Wanna speak? Fill out a speaker card!

• Spread the word!

The Irvine City Council Should Fulfill its Promise to Create an Orange County Veterans Memorial Park Without Delay

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As Arlington National Cemetery commemorates its 150th anniversary, here in Irvine we learn that the committee created last month by the Irvine City Council to establish an Orange County Veterans Cemetery has not even had its first meeting because some politicians who were added as committee members cannot find the time in their schedules.

Arlington National Cemetery,  melissafoxblog, melissajoifox, Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine, melissafoxblog.com, Irvine Commissioner Melissa FoxIn fact, there is profound concern that the unnecessarily large committee formed by the Irvine City Council, based on Council Member Jeffrey Lalloway’s insistence on including numerous politicians, is a sham, set only up for show, not to take action.

At a previous meeting, the Council majority of Mayor Steven Choi and Council Members Christina Shea and Jeffrey Lalloway approved Lalloway’s motion to expand the Veterans Cemetery Committee to include numerous Orange County politicians, including Steven Choi, who had already indicated his opposition to the cemetery.  Now it turns out that the committee has not been able to meet – and will not meet until the end of June at the earliest – because Steven Choi has no time in his schedule.  How is it that Mayor Choi has no time at all to meet on this important committee? And if has no time to meet, why did Lalloway insist that Choi he be on the committee – which is charged with implementing a veterans cemetery that Choi opposed?

OCVMP, Orange County Veterans Cemetery,  melissafoxblog, melissajoifox, Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine, melissafoxblog.com, Irvine Commissioner Melissa FoxHere is what the Orange County Veterans Memorial Park posted on their Facebook page:

“If last night’s Irvine City Council behavior was any indication of things to come, we have a long row to hoe. Interesting to note that Chairman Bill Cook’s comments relative to the obvious foot-dragging process remained unanswered by the Council members sitting on the ad hoc committee. The delays present a frustrating obstacle to the legislative process.  The ad hoc committee appointed by the City Council has yet to meet, and the dates provided by Mayor Choi in late June as to his availability are well past a critical May 23 date to move AB 1453 to the next level. When one or two members of a committee can hijack the meeting schedule, we have a unique situation extant in that a minority of members controls the entire process.  Furthermore, it appears that the rancor that exists between City Council factions is an additional obstacle to progress on this most important issue. “

At the City Council meeting, one of the veterans observed that “the general consensus is that the delay is a deliberate and bad faith effort” to kill the veterans cemetery. The veteran members of the committee offered to meet “weekends, evenings, mornings before breakfast” to move the project forward and prevent the veterans cemetery from being the victim of death by delay.

Another veteran –  from the Disabled American Veterans – stressed the urgency of the veterans’ request for an Orange County veterans’ final resting place, pointing out the hardships for veterans’ family members, particularly for the elderly widows of World War Two veterans, who must make a long trek to veterans cemeteries in Riverside and San Diego counties.

Orange County Veterans Cemetery, melissafoxblog, melissajoifox, Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine, melissafoxblog.com, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox

Melissa Fox urging the Irvine City Council to fulfill its promise to create an Orange County Veterans Cemetery without delay.

I also spoke to the Council, stating again that as a resident of Irvine and the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran, I strongly support the veterans cemetery, and that I was concerned, as were others, that when the committee was formed, “the addition of so many players seemed to me a way to hamstring the committee, to actually prevent it from reaching its stated goal, which was to find a suitable location for a veterans cemetery in Irvine. This concern is exacerbated by the rancor I’ve witnessed here this evening at the mere mention of a request for a progress report.  I hope that my fears are not realized and that this isn’t a way to ground the ball and run out the clock.  When I last addressed the Council, I was here with my father, and when the veterans were asked to stand, he could barely stand because he had just had chemotherapy. His passion was to come here and talk to you.  He isn’t physically able to do that for himself, so I am his voice . . . Please don’t ground the ball. Don’t let time run out.”

The veterans’ questions last night, as well as my own, were met with stone cold silence from the Irvine City Council.

I share the veterans’ concern that the unnecessarily large committee formed by the Irvine City Council, based on Jeffrey Lalloway’s insistence on including numerous politicians, including Steven Choi who opposes the veterans cemetery, is a sham, set only up for show, not to take action.

It is important that the committee members and the Irvine City Council know that Orange County veterans are not going to just fade away. Orange County veterans deserve a final resting place close to their families and loved ones.

Celebrating Korean Americans!

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

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

Irvine is proud to celebrate our thriving Korean American community each year in our annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival, designed to share Korean culture with the entire community by showcasing its customs, heritage, arts and cuisine.

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

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

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