Opinion: Idea Theft Highlights Discord on City Council

The agenda for the February 8, 2022, City Council meeting has an item that was presented by Councilmember Larry Agran back in April of 2021. However, this item needed the support of a second Councilmember in order to be placed on the agenda. No one seconded Councilmember Agran’s item. Two previous items that Councilmember Agran introduced faced the same fate. But subsequently, these items were appropriated three times by Councilmember Tammy Kim, and twice by Councilmember Mike Carroll — the very issues that they refused to support when introduced by Councilmember Agran.

Here are the three items of note, starting with the most recent:

  1. Irvine Office of Public Health
  2. Botanical Gardens at the Irvine Great Park
  3. Great Park Special Tax Inquiry

Irvine Office of Public Health

On April 15, 2021, the City received a Memo from Councilmember Agran recommending the city to use a portion of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds — COVID-19 relief funds are given to cities to respond to pandemic losses — to establish a City Hall Office of Public Health, similar to what Pasadena and Long Beach have. His idea for an Office of Public Health never made it on the City’s proposed plan for the ARPA funds because it was denied a “second”.

However, on January 25, 2022, Councilmembers Tammy Kim and Mike Carroll submitted their own Memo to place a nearly identical item on the agenda, for the upcoming February 8, 2022, Council meeting (Item 3.2).

The entire Memos can be read here:

 

Botanical Gardens at the Irvine Great Park

Approximately 3 months earlier, on October 26, 2021, during a contentious City Council meeting, Councilmember Agran offered a substitute resolution to the veterans cemetery at the ARDA site. The substitute resolution was for a Veterans Memorial Park at the same location complete with a long-awaited botanical garden, a memorial redwood forest, and a perimeter park and trails. He spoke at length in detail about the plan and offered a presentation, which included cost analysis, size and usage specifications, and timelines.

Mayor Farrah Khan asked the Council for a second to Councilmember Agran’s Memorial Park item, but nobody seconded it. Mayor Khan then invited Councilmember Agran to offer it in a memo to which Agran asked, “if I actually agendize it, put it in a memo to agendize it, will you see to it that it’s back on the agenda?” Mayor Khan replied, “I’ll take a look at it.”

It was not agendized due to a lack of a second. The meeting discussion can be watched here.

Second Attempt

On November 2, 2021, the City received Councilmember Agran’s Memo to agendize his Veterans Memorial Park presentation for the November 9th meeting. No other Councilmember seconded his memo. This was yet another moment when Councilmember Agran’s idea died on a vine for lack of support.

Item Agendized by Other Councilmembers

Almost two months later, Mayor Khan and Councilmember Kim agendized the item for the January 25, 2022 Great Park Board meeting to study the ARDA site for the Botanical Garden and Veterans Memorial Park — what Councilmember Agran had been trying to do months prior.

The entire memos can be read here:

Background

There has been widespread support for a Botanical Garden and Memorial Park. This item could have proceeded six months earlier if not for the lack of a second when Councilmember Agran presented it. However, the idea originated over 15 years ago, when the then-Master Plan for the Great Park was conducting “public outreach and stakeholder involvement to refine the Preliminary Master Plan and its detailed technical appendices.” Below were some of the original ideas from over a decade ago which included a botanical garden. Taking credit, Councilmember Kim celebrated on her Facebook page, “I am so excited to announce that the Great Park Board voted unanimously in support of my agenda item directing city staff to examine the ARDA site for the building of a truly world-class Botanical Garden.” This was the second time Councilmember Kim repackaged an idea originally presented by Councilmember Agran and shamelessly took credit for it.

Great Park Special Tax Inquiry

The third item concerns the Great Park Special Tax inquiry, which Councilmember Agran submitted to be placed on the agenda on June 15, 2021. The memo was in response to concerns by Great Park homeowners regarding their special tax and how the money is being spent. The memo contained language requesting a second so it may be placed on the agenda.

Nobody seconded it.

Then on June 29, 2021, just two weeks after Councilmember Agran presented his idea, Councilmembers Kim and Carroll repackaged Agran’s item and submitted it as their own. The content and purpose of this memo is nearly identical to the one Councilmember Agran initially proposed.

The entire memos can be read here:

 

Why does all of this matter?

For reasons unknown, four members of the Irvine City Council have denied Councilmember Agran the ability to agendize nearly every city business item he has presented. These same four voted to change our city’s agenda-setting policy by requiring a second Councilmember to support an item before it can be agendized. In fact, the agenda-setting policy change was requested before any of the Councilmembers-elect were sworn in. Mayor-Elect Farrah Khan and Councilmember Anthony Kuo requested the policy change before their very first Council meeting.

The vote for the “Rule of 2” agenda policy took place at the very first City Council meeting upon being sworn in. The Mayor is exempt from this rule, meaning she is free to agendize anything without the need of a second.

The vote on December 8th made the policy a permanent fixture in Irvine when she proposed to extend it, along with Councilman Anthony Kuo. The Council voted in favor, four to one, with Agran dissenting.

When the “rule of two” became permanent, Mayor Khan said, “I really feel this council does better when it’s able to work together”.

Whether intended or not, with the enactment of this policy, four of our Councilmembers have worked together to deny nearly every idea for the city initiated by Councilmember Agran, only to repackage a few as their own. It’s time to repeal the “Rule of 2” agenda-setting policy so each and every elected Councilmember can agendize items once again.


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