Defend Democracy. Tell the Irvine City Council: These are the Public’s Meetings!

City Councils are not private clubs. Public meetings in a real democracy should not be stage-managed by the political majority to prevent public discussion of issues that they want to avoid for their own political advantage.

Last July, while I was on a long-planned vacation to visit my son in Alaska, the Irvine City Council adopted a new anti-democratic policy that prohibits an item from being placed on the agenda unless the mayor or two city council members agree to do so.

As the Orange County Register correctly stated in a powerful editorial opposing the Council’s action, “the transparent goal is to shut down the views of the political minority.”

The new policy was in direct response to my proposal in June to fly the Gay Pride Flag from City Hall during Gay Pride Month. Although dozens of residents spoke at the meeting in support of flying the Pride Flag, the Council defeated the proposal and I was the only Councilmember to speak in favor of it.

In opposing this restrictive and anti-democratic agenda policy, the Register observed that “Public-meetings laws have a vital purpose in a free society. The public is supposed to be privy to the inner workings of government so they can witness the sausage-making legislative process in action, ugly and unappetizing as it can be. Unfortunately, many local officials act as if hearings are a show – a way to put their best foot forward before the citizenry.”

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

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

At this Tuesday’s Irvine City Council meeting, the political majority will propose to extend this anti-democratic policy to the Great Park Board (composed of the members of the Irvine City Council) as well as to all City Commissions.

The public should not tolerate this extension of the current majority’s attack on representative democracy.

Please attend the Tuesday, September 10, 2019, Irvine City Council meeting and let them know that your City Council is not a private club. The meetings of the City Council, the Orange County Great Park, and Irvine City Commissions belong to the public and cannot be staged managed for political advantage. 

As the O.C. Register eloquently stated, “These are the public’s meetings and all officials, even minority voices, represent their constituencies. All elected bodies need to encourage wide-ranging discussions so the public can be part of the self-government process – and not just observers of a carefully crafted script. That’s the essence of representative democracy.”

As I stated in July, I have no intention of being silent.

And neither do you.

Happy Women’s Equality Day! Let’s Make the World a Better and More Equal Place for Women Everywhere!

Happy Women’s Equality Day, commemorating the 1920 adoption of the Nineteenth Amendment prohibiting denying the right to vote on the basis of sex.

We’ve come a long way, but much more needs to be done!

While we’ve had historic victories, we still have much to do to make the world a better and more equal place for women and girls everywhere. 

While more women are members of state legislatures than ever before, we still make up only 28.9 percent of all state legislators nationwide.  In fact, women make up 50% or more of the state legislature in only one state (Nevada).  In California, women make up only 30.8% of the state legislature.

Crucially, studies have shown that the more women who serve in legislatures the stronger family-friendly policies are enacted.  Women legislators focus more on passing legislation that lifts women and children out of poverty, ensures fair pay and family-friendly workplaces, and expands quality childcare access. Women legislators are also more likely to strengthen laws that protect the victims of sexual assault.

Sex discrimination and inequity remains serious issues in our workplaces. Lawmakers must work to ensure that women in the workplace get equal pay for equal work, and they must address the racial pay gap between white women and women of color.

So while we celebrate our victories and honor our mothers and sisters whose courage and persistence made these victories possible, we should use this day to recommit to the fight for equality and to make the world a better and more equal place for women and girls everywhere!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can see a video presentation of California GVROs here:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I have no intention of being silent.

And neither do you.

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

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

 

No, We Won’t Back Down

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

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

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

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

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

But I have no intention of being silent.

And neither do you.

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

And throw them out decisively in November 2020.

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

 

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

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

As Governor Newsom beautifully stated in his proclamation:

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

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

“While there has been remarkable progress towards acceptance and equality in recent years, members of the LGBTQ community in the United States and around the world still face an unacceptable level of discrimination and violence. We must remain vigilant and push back against those who seek to roll back our progress, and continue to make the case that each of us as human beings share a fundamental thing in common – all of us want to be loved, and all of us want to love.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your presence can make a very big difference.

Your personal stories are our most powerful and persuasive argument!

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

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

I hope to see you there!

UPDATE:

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

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

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

Below are some photos of the event:

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