Opinion: The Good, Bad, and Ugly from the Jan 26th City Council Meeting
It seems our City Council is a 4-1 majority with Councilmember Larry Agran alone in bold advocacy for public health, local COVID-19 relief efforts, and moving forw
ard with plans for the Veterans Cemetery. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly from last Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
The Good – Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Resolution
The Diversity Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Resolution was brought forward by Mayor Farrah Khan. The initiative came out of meetings with the Black community during a roundtable discussion and strives to address inequalities in the City of Irvine related to hiring practices and treatment in the community that have put Black citizens as well as those in the LGBTQ+ community at a disadvantage in the past. This was a great and much needed resolution as Irvine did not previously score well on the latest Municipal Equality Index. Kudos to the new Mayor for organizing this.
The City has come a long way in having more diverse representation on the City Council and in flying the pride flag. It was not so long ago (2019 to be exact) that Councilmember Mike Carroll described the Pride Flag as a “…spectacle of divisiveness.” In the same year, Councilmember Khan had worked to have a picnic in honor of our LGBTQ community. The BLM movement, while repudiated by then Mayor Christina Shea, was also supported publicly by Councilmember Khan. While Irvine may be late to the process, appreciation of diversity is hopefully going mainstream in the previously socially conservative city of Irvine. The resolution was approved unanimously which was great to see.
More Good – Our City’s (Mostly) Balanced Budget
Interim City Manager Marianna Marysheva made a presentation on our 2-year city budget. The City of Irvine had a loss of $16 million due to COVID-19, but the impact was cut down to $8 million. $11 million in reserves from the city will be used, but will be replenished over 5 years by cutting overtime, hiring freezes (in lieu of layoffs) and extending loans taken out by the city.
The City has reserves of close to $50 million. This is a laudable accomplishment of financial management during this pandemic. The city has the reserve level suggested (20% of budget according to the Government Finance Officers Association) to have finances available in case of emergencies. This is especially important now since nobody knows how the pandemic will play out. Another factor brought up during the meeting was the need to be financially ready to repair damage from possible future fires.
The Bad – What’s our city’s COVID-19 plan?
During the budget item, Councilmember Larry Agran proposed the use of $10 million from our $50 million reserve for COVID-19 relief for businesses and residents. He also asked that $2 million be earmarked to hire full-time nurses for each IUSD and TUSD school in Irvine. He received zero support from the other four councilmembers or any mention by anyone on the Council that the financial impact would be looked into. After some pushback from Interim City Manager Marysheva and Mayor Khan, Councilmember Agran added the following,
“I think it’s morally irresponsible to try to maintain a $50 million rainy day contingency reserve without drawing it down or expecting to draw it down through a once in a 100 years pandemic that is so devastating. I take no heart or pride in maintaining our reserves at a $50 million dollar level without deploying them to get through the pain and suffering experienced by so many people now. I think it’s very important to consider that, as a philosophical matter if nothing else.”
IUSD Executive Director of Student Support Services Dr. Tammy Blakely gave an informative presentation explaining the funding for schools in Irvine and how getting funds through the City of Irvine EPF (Educational Partnership Fund) which gives nearly 2 million dollars per year to IUSD has helped the schools to be successful. This additional funding through EPF is necessary in part because under the Local Control Funding Formula, Irvine receives less funding per student than the national, state, or even county average (see chart below).
There are more than 23,000 students on campus and more than 3,000 staff. The EPF has helped to pay for 4 of the 21 current Full Time Equivalent nurses which is great; however, according to Irvine Unified School District’s website data, that would mean there are far more schools than nurses:
“IUSD educates a diverse population of 36,000 TK-12 students in 24 elementary schools, one early childhood learning center, four K-8 schools, six middle schools, five comprehensive high schools and one alternative high school.”
As the cases are currently going down, nurses in schools may not seem that important; however, with new variants on the rise and new vaccines not yet approved for children, it seems that having nurses on staff at each school during this global pandemic should be a priority.
Additionally, according to the CDC, school nurses are an important part of open schools during the pandemic:
“School nurses and other HCP will likely be evaluating children for symptoms or exposures, assisting administrators and teachers in implementing mitigation strategies, assisting with contact tracing, maintaining school-based clinics, assisting in school-based testing strategies, and supporting students, families, and staff.”
The Ugly – Refusal for Council to place veterans cemetery on the agenda
Councilmember Agran presented a resolution to begin construction of the Veterans Cemetery at the ARDA site. The agenda-setting policy, not allowing items to be placed on the agenda unless they receive support from at least two councilmembers or the mayor herself — which means the issue is not even open for e-Comments or discussion during the live meetings — has precluded Councilmember Agran from adding his resolution to begin immediate construction at the site favored by Irvine voters onto the agenda.
It has been almost a decade and residents have shown overwhelming and passionate support for the cemetery at the ARDA site. The new mayor and vice mayor received a lot of support for their elections from Irvine voters who were hoping to finally have the numbers on the city council to get the cemetery built at ARDA — several of whom called during the live meeting last Tuesday to voice their frustration.
More Ugly – Council takes a back seat in advocating for north Irvine residents
Councilmember Agran also presented a Memo on behalf of organized residents in the northern part of Irvine, seeking a City Council-initiated public study session regarding continued operations at All American Asphalt. It was a reasonable request that none of the other councilmembers supported. Mayor Khan stated the city is waiting to hear from South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) on a date, but shouldn’t our representatives on the City Council be taking the lead by picking a date and asking SCAQMD to attend? We need our leaders to stand up against the powers that be and advocate on behalf of Irvine residents. So, where is the second?
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NeoDocFebruary 1, 2021 at 10:47 am
Follow the money!
deefoxFebruary 2, 2021 at 10:10 am
In the first two City Council Meetings with Farrah Khan as Mayor, here are just a few of the items on the Agenda that were approved:
1. Silenced our voice at the very first meeting by not allowing a council member to bring an Agenda item before the Board without the Mayors approval OR another council member.
2. Silenced our voice again at the second meeting by not reading public comments out loud and sharing them with the public.
3. Mayor refused a member of the council to bring forth an Agenda item regarding the Veteran’s Memorial Park and Cemetery.
With hundreds of complaints from Irvine residents about All American Asphalt and the toxic fumes emanating from this company, the Mayor sits quiet without ANY type of response. These residents are pleading with the Mayor to help them to protect themselves and their children from these toxic emissions and Mayor Khan is stone faced! It is really unbelievable how a person can be so heartless!
Mayor Farrah Khan is on the Community Choice Energy (CCE) Board with the thief that got away with stealing over $70,000 of taxpayer funds, Mike Carroll. They initiated this program that automatically removes every Irvine resident from Southern California Edison and enrolls them in their program. They are now in charge of deciding what rates we pay for our electricity. Their sales pitch is that we will receive green energy at a lower rate. We will no longer receive over 30% of green energy from Southern California Edison, instead, we will be hooked up with several companies and the rate we pay will be decided by the chairperson of the CCE, Mike Carroll. Carroll never paid back the total $72,000 that he stole from the city to solicit himself in the last election. Farrah Khan voted to replace less then half of the money by shifting around public funds, basically sweeping it under the carpet so the city financials did show a deficit. And now, these two council members need Irvine Residents to remain enrolled in their program that stands to make them and the companies they select, a lot of money. Their promise of green energy and less cost cannot be guaranteed. They can tell us we will have green energy but we won’t know because Mike Carroll says his program needs no outside committee selected by the community to oversee the selected companies. He says he has hired consultants. Consultants? Consultants are hired to offer advice … they do not make sure that the companies and board members do not benefit from its customers. After all, this program is suppose to be a non-profit. And as for the cost, basically if you want more then what SCE supplied us with, you pay more. And every customer that stays with this energy program will pay an additional monthly charge from SCE for leaving. This charge is to recoup their losses for leaving so they don’t effect their existing customers.
So, I am putting this to the people of Irvine. With these city council members blatantly breaking the law and silencing our voice at every opportunity, do not trust them with our money. Opt out of their program when it starts up. Do not have them benefit at our expense! It’s time we had the upper-hand!
Sharon TojiFebruary 2, 2021 at 2:59 pm
I can no longer refrain from publicly expressing my disappointment in the new city council, with the obvious exception of Larry Agran. Those who have demonized Larry can see, if they bother to look, the Larry Agran that I have known all these years: Just as we all are, an imperfect human being, not someone I agree with on every decision or every person he has supported, but truly an intelligent and thoughtful person who is thinking of his constituents, the citizens of Irvine. His resolution on the ARDA site was expected and supported by those who worked to vote in all three of the Democratic Council winners. His suggestion for a community meeting to discuss the Asphalt Plant is just good government, exactly as we had during the years when Larry, Beth Krom and Sukhee Kang were in the majority and we became an nationally admired example of a well run city. And his suggestion that some money from the Rainy Day Fund should be used to support citizens of Irvine in need is worthy of consideration. I don’t see Larry grandstanding. What I do see is a childish reaction to every suggestion he makes.
I thought we were finally escaping the influence of dark money, the refusal to consider common sense solutions to unexpected events in our economy, the refusal to listen to the clear voices of the people who care enough to participate. This is beginning to seem like some kind of childish game, worthy of the sometimes “nasty girls” some of us may remember as the worst moments from Jr High. It is as if there are city council members who think they need to give a message to Larry and those of us who have always valued his participation: “No, Larry, even though you are now back on the Council, we’re going to make sure you don’t accomplish anything. We are the ones who will shine now. You need to return to your forced retirement as a community servant. We’ll handle things our way and it won’t include you.”
I am glad to see women with power. After all, when I moved to Irvine 54 years ago, TIC could hardly believe that I, a 29 year old “girl,” was going to head up the first Community Association they established in Irvine! Women in Orange County were not supposed to have power. I and others like Lee Sicoli changed that. I celebrated having two strong Democratic women join Larry Agran in what I thought would be an intelligent, diverse and community based majority. Now it seems as if squashing Larry and everything he suggests, no matter if it is something like beginning work on the ARDA site that they supposedly also supported, and is supported by so many citizens.
Enough! All council members should have an equal right to present their ideas. All members of the public should have the right to be heard. The will of the people, as expressed in the election that decided that the ARDA site would be the ONLY approved Veterans Cemetery Site must be respected. The needs of our citizens who are concerned about living near an asphalt plant should allow a free and full discussion, no matter which council member makes the discussion. And Larry’s idea about taking some of the rainy day fund to help businesses and individuals suffering from the COVID 19 pandemic certainly should prompt an intelligent and discussion of the possible pros and cons. What is a rainy day fund for? If COVID is not a rainy day, then when will it ever rain!
3 Brisbane Way
Irvine CA 92612
deefoxFebruary 7, 2021 at 4:49 am
SHARON: Very well stated! And here are some quotes from Farrah Khan prior to the election…this just really shows how much she lied just to be Mayor…
“One of the promises I’m willing to make is to shift the atmosphere at City Council meetings from being adversarial to respectful and cooperative.”
(KHAN OBVIOUSLY DOESN’T KNOW THE MEANING OF RESPECT)
“The second promise is to be transparent. I will hold town halls in our many neighborhood villages to not only bring information to the public, but to listen to each individual community’s unique needs. From walking the various neighborhoods, it is clear that issues vary at each location and we need commonsense solutions by area.”
(WHERE IS HER COMMON SENSE ON HOW TO DEAL WITH TOXIC FUMES?)
Empty meaningless words from someone with no morals.
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