Opinion: In The Hands Of The Few – Once Again City Council Votes To Deny Full Council Representation.
Each City Council member should be equally able to participate in the City Council’s decision making process. Council members should also be equally responsible for representing the interest of the City of Irvine and Irvine residents, not only during City Council meetings, but also on the various city and outside agency boards, committees and task forces they are appointed to sit on.
The various committees make decisions and recommendations on issues, such as city services, infrastructure and financial obligations, which may then be presented to commissions for input before presentation to the City Council for approval. Council member appointments not only should be divided equally, but they should also be varied in focus and purpose.
In December 2020 the City Council voted to deny Council members equal ability to participate in City Council’s decision making process.
Irvine’s policy in the past almost 50 years gave City Council members and the Mayor equal responsibility for, and ability to, participate in Irvine’s decision making process. In December of 2020 the Irvine City Council approved making permanent the “Rule of 2” policy, which “limits individual council members’ abilities to set the agenda, requiring at least two members’ support on an item before it can be discussed by the panel.
The mayor is not restrained by this policy and can agendize items at will. This rule has served to prevent Council members from representing the interest and concerns of Irvine residents on meeting agendas. Read Voice of OC’s coverage of this decision.
Then on January 11, 2022 the City Council voted for unequal distribution of Council member appointments to City boards, committees and task forces, and to outside agencies.
Council member appointments for designated and alternate representative positions give 3 out of the 5 City Council members the majority of the City’s representative responsibilities.
To give City Council members equal ability to fulfill their responsibility to represent the City of Irvine and Irvine community interests, the appointments should have been relatively equally distributed between Council members. However, the unequal distribution of appointments could not have been more obvious. See the appointments which were approved here.
The approved distribution of appointments serves to give a few Council members a greater voice in making decisions, thereby creating unequal ability of City Council members to represent the City’s interests and the interests of Irvine residents. It should be noted that a few appointments require the appointment of the Mayor (Farrah Khan) and Vice Mayor (Anthony Kuo). However, these appointments do not justify giving the Mayor and Vice Mayor a substantially greater number of appointments.
City policy should require an equal distribution of appointments. City representation is the duty and responsibility of each Council member; it is not an option.
The Council Member Appointment Process
According to Irvine’s City Clerk, the established appointment process is for the mayor to make the appointment recommendations and to have the City Council approve them. The City Council has the power to change nominations when the recommendations are presented during the City Council meeting.
Risk of Special Interest Influence
Placing decision making in the hands of the few not only provides inadequate City Council representation, it also places the City’s decision making process at increased risk of special interest influence. A small group of people having control of a government entity’s decision making responsibilities is an oligarchy system of government, not a representative democracy.
Where’s the Oversight to Ensure That Appointments are Appropriately Distributed?
According to Irvine’s City Clerk, the oversight role is performed by the City Council when they approve the Mayor’s recommendations.
Residents Can Take Action and Become Engaged in Establishing a More Representative Government
- Submit e-Comments or make a public comment:
E-comments can be made on the meeting agenda website and by in-person or remote public comment during City Council meetings.
- Use the power of your vote to create change:
Residents can demand that incumbent and non-incumbent candidates promise to act to revoke the “rule of 2” and accept equally divided appointed positions on City and outside board, committees and taskforces. Also, residents, if they believe that candidates running for re-election failed to appropriately carry out their duties and responsibilities during their term of office, can ignore the abundance of campaign literature and street signage and refuse to vote for their re-election or their election to other political offices.
- Communicate concerns to Irvine’s City Manager, Oliver Chi:
Demand that City Council appointments be equally distributed and varied in focus and purpose. According to the Irvine City website, one of Irvine’s City Manager’s roles is to “assist the City Council with the development and formation of policies, goals and objectives and to keep the City Council informed of important community issues”. Irvine’s City Manager does not appear to have the ability to prevent the adoption of representative appointments approved by the City Council, but he might be able to influence the representative appointment policy if he becomes aware of substantial community concern.
Public Participation is an Important Ingredient of a Representative Democracy
Robust public participation by Irvine residents is important to inspire the creation of a truly representative decision making process in Irvine that is responsive to their needs, interests and concerns. If we work together, we can make a difference and create change.
TammyKimJanuary 21, 2022 at 10:39 am
This is Councilmember Tammy Kim. This article has created a false narrative and is sensational, at best. I would like to state that Councilmember Agran is not a victim here – he has been Interim Mayor for the past two terms. He did not want to take on any other appointments, except for Land Trust, which by the way, I wanted as well. His not wanting to take any appointments, increased the load for the rest of the council. As for the suggestion of “equal distribution” – this is a very simplistic solution. This posted chart is just a numerical count with no other context. It is under the assumption that all appointments are equal. The reality is that some committees and boards require a lot more time than others – some meet only quarterly for one hour while others may be monthly and last for hours, and some, not at all. For example, one of my listed appointments isn’t actually an appointment, but rather a “conditional” appointment, should a vacancy be open (which there isn’t). So with that said, how do you then determine who gets what position? How do you distribute? Do you give ten committees that meet for an hour on a quarterly basis or one committee that meets several times for several hours at a time? For example, on OC Vector control, not only am I on the Board that meets monthly, but I’m also two different subcommittees that meet regularly. Using that example, would that still be counted as one, or should it be counted as three? Another appointment requires monthly in-person which are held in Downtown Los Angeles – that’s an entire workday. But yet, it’s counted as one appointment based on this chart. What happens if someone doesn’t want to be appointed? City Council is only supposed to be part-time and there are no rules mandating members to serve on any committees. The real question that should be asked is: Why is one member of the council unwilling to take on additional committees, therefore leaving the rest of us to pick up the slack?
It’s clear that every article written on this site has the intent of uplifting one council member while attempting to bring down the rest. During my campaign when I had tens of thousands of dollars spent against me by dark money, developers, and special interests, I was a “clean candidate.” The moment I was perceived to disagree with Councilmember Agran – I was in the pocket of developers and special interest, with absolutely no basis of fact or truth whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I have been unrelenting in when it comes to affordable housing – for example, insisting the Irvine Company put 649 affordable units where the affordability is set to expire by 2024 and making them affordable in perpetuity. There’s a lot of noble talk about “transparency” but the fact is that Watchdog completely ignores and outright censors any views that oppose their own. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the elephant in room: The co-founder of this Watchdog site is now a paid member of Councilmember Agran’s staff. While she’s technically not an admin in the Facebook group anymore, I’ll let the readers decide for themselves as to whether or not there’s any bias. As for this reader, I personally think it’s time for Irvine Watchdog to have a watchdog.
Branda LinJanuary 21, 2022 at 11:11 pm
Councilmember Kim, try reading the article in its entirety and show us one sentence that claims what you purport it to claim. It appears you didn’t even take time to actually read the article before passing judgment.
Why are you spinning this article and making it about Agran? Larry Agran has 1 appointment. Mike Carroll only has 5 appointments. Farrah Khan has 22. The unequal distribution is fact.
I don’t think Susan could’ve made it more clear, but since you obviously missed the main point, here it is (which is also the intro paragraph):
“Each City Council member should be equally able to participate in the City Council’s decision making process. Council members should also be equally responsible for representing the interest of the City of Irvine and Irvine residents, not only during City Council meetings, but also on the various city and outside agency boards, committees and task forces they are appointed to sit on.”
Do you disagree with Susan on her main point? Where was she “sensationalizing” or “creating a false narrative”?
And you seem to be confusing the 2021 appointments with the one the author wrote about from January 11, 2022. While I appreciate the additional information provided further complicating the appointment issue, your tone and accusations are troublesome and false. I will address them here:
Kim: “It’s clear that every article written on this site has the intent of uplifting one council member while attempting to bring down the rest.” – FALSE
“Every article”? That’s quite the generalization.
I went back to look at the previous at least 24 articles, opinion and non-opinion articles, and none of them were about “uplifting one council member”. I welcome readers to check for themselves.
Kim: “There’s a lot of noble talk about “transparency” but the fact is that Watchdog completely ignores and outright censors any views that oppose their own.” – FALSE
We seek transparency, and to be clear, there have only been a two individuals that I can recall, other than fake accounts or non-Irvine residents, who have been removed from our FB group, due to violating our group rules. The decision to remove these two was a collaborative, group decision, but their comments were left up for people to assess for themselves. We also removed one of the two, who used fake accounts to comment here on our website.
Disagreement on the issues is welcome. Ad hominem attacks are not. (Rule #2)
Additionally, Irvine Watchdog should be judged based on its articles on the website. What happens on social media and in this group is open to any Irvine resident. If there is an article that is inaccurate or needs correction, the Board will be happy to ask the author for a correction as needed.
Kim: “I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the elephant in room: The co-founder of this Watchdog site is now a paid member of Councilmember Agran’s staff. While she’s technically not an admin in the Facebook group anymore, I’ll let the readers decide for themselves as to whether or not there’s any bias.:”
Jeanne Baran was a co-founder and currently works for Councilmember Larry Agran. That is true. However, she no longer writes for or influences any of the decisions being made by the Watchdog Board. And we stand by that.
We have a great group of volunteers who keep each other in line and are committed to holding each other to the same standards we seek in our local government.
Interestingly, you run the “Irvine Democratic Progressive Neighbors” FB group and are an admin for the “Asian Americans in Action” FB group. That is noteworthy.
One of the moderators in the AAA group is “Center for Asian Americans in Action” which you recently allocated $3,000 in Community Partnership Fund Grants to.
Do you help run the Center for AAA? If so, do you not find it a problem you funded so much of our tax dollars for an organization you help run privately?
Kim ends with, “As for this reader, I personally think it’s time for Irvine Watchdog to have a watchdog.”
We welcome more Watchdogs committed to keeping watch over our local government and elected officials! You can’t watchdog a watchdog without watching the meetings and following the issues, and we believe the more resident engagement the better!
Transparency, honesty, and accountability is what we seek in our local elected officials and local government. There is power in numbers and the more that people see for themselves how decisions are made, the better!
Dee FoxJanuary 25, 2022 at 7:48 pm
Branda … Great response to Tammy Kim!!!! Seems she forgot about her hate and bullying Resolution. Or perhaps she thinks she is special and it doesn’t apply to her. Well, NEWSFLASH Tammy Kim, publicly ridiculing a fellow colleague, especially sitting on the City Council (where you should act as a model) is very disturbing. Not to mention the fact that it only makes YOU look bad, or haven’t you realized that yet?
Tammy Kim didn’t even stay on topic and appears to be venting about her own petty issues…what about the “rule of 2” TAMMY? You owe an apology to Irvine Watchdog.
(FYI – If anyone needs a Watchdog it’s our Council members who refuse to listen to the public and go off on their own agenda’s)
Dee FoxJanuary 29, 2022 at 1:45 pm
TAMMY KIM, as far as the Land Trust, I don’t remember you stating interest in serving on the board. Larry Agran did and Anthony Kuo stated that when he “allowed” Farrah Khan to serve on it, it was under the “condition” that after she was done, he would get it back. You know, one of those backroom deals. And, YOU, Tammy Kim, was probably made aware of that fact and didn’t want to ruffle any feathers. It is wrong for this council not to give others a chance to serve on the Land Trust, especially since FivePoint Contractor, Patrick Strader (StarPointe Ventures) is on the board. Obviously, only council members that are beholden to developer FivePoint are pre-selected to serve. Again, Tammy Kim, you seem to bully your fellow colleague at every opportunity, or at least spin it that way. Why don’t you adhere to the City’s Resolution about bullying and causing division in the workplace? You consistently create racial division between communities and your public display of insulting a fellow colleague is against city rules and is very concerning. You are not above your own rules, but in fact, are suppose to be above reproach. You are NOT qualified to serve on the Irvine City Council and need to step down. Being biased on issues and voting on your biases is NOT how you represent the residents!
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