Election 2016: A virtual townhall with Irvine’s city council candidates
Below are responses from nine of the candidates. We could not contact/did not receive responses from candidates Hyunjoung “Genii” Ahn or Shiva Farivar by press time.
To hear from the candidates for mayor and city council in person, plan to attend the 2016 Irvine Candidates Forum Sept. 29, at 5:30 p.m. at UCI. The forum is sponsored by the Irvine Chamber of Commerce and the Irvine Chamber Educational Political Action Committee.
Why are you running for Irvine City Council? Serving as your Councilmember and former Mayor, I bring vital historical and institutional knowledge, to preserve Irvine. I raised my three children here, volunteered in our schools, worked for the local PTA and served as a Community Services Commissioner building out our parks, open space, senior services and child care projects. My support for a strong, safe, vibrant and healthy educational system, along with my efforts to make our Irvine community one of the most livable, healthy and safest in America, is why I want to continue to serve my community as your Councilwoman.
What’s the most important issue Irvine faces? Preserving our outstanding way of life. To me, that means to reduce and control traffic congestion, to protect our neighborhoods from redevelopment, and over-development. To ensure our schools are the best in the nation. To maintain our parks, open space, streets and roadways to the highest city standards. Most importantly, to ensure you and your family are safe, in the years ahead.
If re-elected, what is the first thing you’ll do on the council? As my top priority, I will focus on improving and fixing our congested traffic. I will reconstitute our Transportation Commission, providing for more over sight of our traffic circulation and to implement tougher reviews of development projects. The mayor and I proposed this action, but the other members of city council denied it. I will ensure our traffic moves faster, and we have more review at Council level, rather than at the lower level non-elected commissions.
Describe how you’d like to see Irvine in 20 years? We are a vibrant suburban community and I plan to keep it that way. Irvine is a well-planned community with a village concept, an award winning Master Plan, unlike most U.S. cities. We are a community of growing diversity and peace that is envied nationwide. We are building our Great Park with a myriad amenities such as: an amphitheater, water park, sports fields, museums, attractive and colorful walk ways, cycling and running paths. We are a city of harmony, safety and fiscal strength, with a highly educated population of young people leading us forward to years of exciting new ideas and innovation. All this I plan to preserve for our future generations.
Why are you running for City Council? I love Irvine! I am so grateful my parents chose to make Irvine their home nearly four decades ago. I was raised here, benefiting from remarkable schools and safe neighborhoods. I’ve been blessed to learn from and serve alongside my neighbors in local nonprofits. We deserve leadership at city hall dedicated to Irvine. That’s why I will continue to roll up my sleeves to serve Irvine with common sense solutions and an absolute commitment to our community.
What’s the most important issue Irvine faces? Irvine is on top in terms of keeping our families safe, ensuring our schools are providing our youth a stellar education, and protecting and supporting a healthy local economy. Staying at the top takes hard work, detailed planning, and dedicated leadership. Having served Irvine in our schools, homeowners’ associations, nonprofits, city hall, and among regional leaders, I have the history, experience, and know-how to protect our city’s quality of life.
If elected, what is the first thing you’ll do on the council? I will push to reinstate the city’s Transportation and Infrastructure Commission that was disbanded more than 10 years ago. The management of our streets and roadways needs public oversight today, more than ever. We need to empower the Transportation Commission to review how transportation dollars are spent, to ensure those taxpayer dollars are spent in the most efficient and effective way, and to explore the transportation improvements that will benefit our city the most.
Describe how you’d like to see Irvine in 20 years? Imagine the possibilities! Irvine will continue to be the economic engine of the region as home to leading employers and job creators. We’ll be celebrating anniversaries of sports fields, our outdoor amphitheater and water park at the Great Park. Homeowners will enjoy the strongest property values in the region because of our commitment to parks and roads, and because of our unprecedented record as America’s Safest City. Most importantly, families will continue to love calling Irvine home.
Why are you running? Joining Irvine’s community 20 years ago with my family has been the best decision we could have made. Irvine provides security, world-class education, and lifelong friendships. I became a “community builder” and founded two nonprofit organizations where there were voids, building Irvine’s multicultural community. Now, I want to make Irvine a “smarter” city for all of us.
What’s the most important issue Irvine faces? People move to Irvine for safety! Irvine is proud to be one of the safest cities in America. I am the only candidate uniquely positioned with close networks to local and national law enforcement and interfaith leaders. I have founded organizations to build community trust. We must keep Irvine safe.
If elected, what is the first thing you’ll do on the council? My portfolio includes making Irvine a smarter city, from a technological perspective, with planning and strategic partnerships. Each aspect of the issues we face, including traffic management and development, require study and resolution. I will work with the council and residents to prioritize issues and bring resolution to important issues.
Describe how you’d like to see Irvine in 20 years? I imagine our city with hyper connectivity. We will service the revolution of Internet, leveraging data to both tangible items and human interaction, business, parks, schools, and our retail experience. Our city government will be a major player in the digital revolution! I see our brilliant UCI collaborating with private corporations in research and innovation, making major advances to community, biomedicine and medicine. Finally, I imagine walking the pristine landscapes that define Irvine with my future grandchildren, appreciating all that Irvine has given me and my family.
Why are you running? I have lived and run a business in Irvine for over 30 years. I have become increasingly concerned about a number of issues in our town that have been getting more challenging over the past few years. Those issues include the effects of continued development on existing neighborhoods and traffic, which is affecting not just the commercial areas but our residential neighborhoods as well. I have concerns regarding the lack of cooperation between current council members to get things done. With my 30 plus years as a business owner in Irvine I spend most of my day solving problems and bringing people together. I can use my skills to help lead the council and get Irvine back on the right track.
What’s the most important issue Irvine faces? I believe there are several issues that Irvine faces that are of extreme importance. Keeping Irvine the safest city in America, with the best police department in the region is of major importance. Working with new construction developers, and OCTA to help mitigate traffic congestion in our city is of importance. We also need to watch our tax dollars and keep from raising fees or taxes, as well as keep our fiscal house in order. With a cooperative city council we can work on several major challenges at a time to help Irvine to become a better city.
If elected, what is the first thing you’ll do on the council? Review and update the city’s strategic plan to get the council in one accord moving in the same direction to get things done and put Irvine first. I will help to solve any issues that will come up during that process to get the city council working together. The second thing would be to work through our city staff, OCTA and the development community to work on solving our traffic issues. We also need to be more transparent to the public in regards to the city budget and any fiscal expenditure.
Describe how you’d like to see Irvine in 20 years? I would like to have Irvine still be the greatest place in the country to live and raise a family. I have a passion for this city and will work hard to preserve it for our children and grandchildren. We want to leave a legacy we can be proud of with a community that functions well, with easy ways to get around town, in a safe environment with great schools.
Why are you running? I would like to lead and embrace the duty of a responsible global citizen in a local community, to realize a vision of a sustainable future for all of us. I want to build foundations in Irvine to invite in a better future, not only for current generations, but also for our future children that will inherit this land.
What’s the most important Irvine faces today? We need to prepare the city for growth now through innovative solutions while we are still in an advantageous position to minimize its impact and rally leaders in both public/private sectors toward a common goal, instead of losing time to the clashing of personal agendas. If Irvine rests on its laurels of safety and green parks, then we will miss a grand opportunity to lead in a pivotal social movement toward sustainability.
If elected, what is the first thing you’ll do on the council? The first thing I will do as council member is to breathe new life into the council itself. The council’s collective agenda must be motivated by work done for the greater good, instead of the pursuit of personal accolades or recognition. Without solidarity in a body of leadership, nothing can be accomplished no matter how visionary the ideas from its constituents.
Describe how you’d like to see Irvine in 20 years? I envision Irvine as a leader in sustainable and renewable energy; masters of water conservation through innovation and public engagement; vastly healthier food options in our public schools which builds the foundation of vitality for our children; a thriving arts district that distinguishes Irvine in culture and diversity; prospering local businesses; a model city of active and sustainable transportation with optimized traffic flows, reduced carbon footprint, and healthy, vigorous residents.
Why are you running? Though there are many reasons why I am running for Irvine City Council, there’s none greater than my desire to truly serve the residents of Irvine. I will always lend an ear and voice a change when necessary. Having lived all over Southern California, I have never felt more safe or more at home than here in Irvine. Given that, I want Irvine to continue in its success of economic and social growth while responsibly managing the city we all love.
What’s the most important issue Irvine faces? I believe the most important issue facing the city of Irvine would be the heavy traffic, and the city’s lack of a central core. All the residents, along with those in office, need to work more diligently and effectively in resolving this issue. There needs to be an action plan and that plan needs to be enforced as soon as possible.
If elected, what is the first thing you’ll do on the council? I’ll release my personal contact information as I have been doing, and release the times of each day I will be in my office, always with an open door. Of course there are many tasks I want to work on like: fix the traffic; bringing a stronger sense of community; work on making Irvine run 100% off of renewable energy; but most importantly, I want the residents to know that I am here for them.
Describe how you’d like to see Irvine in 20 years? Being a strong believer in leaving something better than the way you found it, how I see Irvine in 20 years is: for one, being by far the best city in the U.S. to raise a family; excelling beyond belief economically, while still putting the residents of Irvine first; becoming more diverse and inclusive. I would like to also see the residents of Irvine respond to the many citywide events that are held resulting in a stronger community.
Why are you running? As a businesswoman, attorney and city commissioner, I understand the relationship between strong pro-planning, pro-resident leadership and our quality of life. As your representative, I will: ensure smart growth, not the explosion of housing tracts and apartments causing traffic congestion and overcrowded schools; promote Irvine businesses; safeguard public funds, using my skills as an attorney specializing in fighting fraud. You can count on me to be a strong pro-planning, pro-resident advocate on the city council.
What’s the most important issue Irvine faces today? Irvine’s biggest challenge is making sure our roads and schools keep up with the city’s explosive housing growth. Growth is good, when there is proper planning and infrastructure. But in Irvine we have seen runaway development, causing snarled traffic and overcrowded schools. Growth must be properly planned to preserve and improve our quality of life. I will fight for development decisions based on proper planning and concern for the quality of life of Irvine’s residents.
If elected, what is the first thing you’ll do on the council? 1. Fight for measured growth that ensures that our roads and schools are not overcrowded; 2. Expand active transportation and public transportation options, as the first step toward addressing our traffic challenges; 3. Increase affordable, safe childcare opportunities in Irvine; 4. Establish an Irvine Veterans Commission to give veterans a voice of their own in city government.
Describe how you’d like to see Irvine in 20 years? I see Irvine resolving our traffic problems and becoming an even more prosperous, innovative, diverse and people-friendly city. I see Irvine increasing its lead in educational excellence, expanding its biomedical and technology-based industries, and ready to support new technologies and industries that do not even exist today. I see Irvine continuing to provide a wonderful environment for families by preserving our open space and putting our people first.
Farrah N. Khan
Why are you running? It’s time our leadership reflected our city. I intend to bring respect, cooperation and integrity to decisions being made on behalf of the residents and businesses for a sustainable future. Irvine has been lead by some amazing people who have worked hard to make this city a desired community to live and work in. However, having leaders in positions for several decades has created personal tensions that have led to a divisive atmosphere. I’m dedicated to bring bipartisan support to issues and find common sense solutions while proactively looking for ways to make Irvine a monumental city.
What’s the most important issue Irvine faces? I believe the lack of “servant leadership” is the most important issue facing Irvine. City council is a non-partisan position and we need people who are able to work together to move Irvine forward, not focus on their personal or political interests. We must work to better control our growth; provide housing for our growing senior population, young families and students; build up our infrastructure; lead in innovative ways to be cleaner and safe; build bridges with our community partners (UCI, IUSD, Irvine Chamber, local nonprofits, etc.) and help our business community, especially small businesses, thrive.
If elected, what is the first thing you’ll do on the council? To build collaborative working relationships with my colleagues and community partners. A strong city council is crucial to our city’s future. I will provide transparency in our decision making, by holding forums in our villages and on campus to connect with all our residents. It’s time we listened to one another and made decisions based on our communities’ common needs: keeping public safety a top priority, working on strategic infrastructure projects and reduction of traffic congestion.
Describe how you’d like to see Irvine in 20 years? In the next two decades, I would like to see Irvine become a distinguished, national destination city, known for our arts culture, veteran’s cemetery and Orange County Great Park. A leading municipality in being a safe, inclusive, innovative, green and business-friendly city, that thrives for all of our residents. We will operate on 100 percent clean, renewable energy. We’ll be a place where I can retire and my children can raise their families because of the smart decisions we make today.
Why are you running? I bring a fresh perspective to citywide issues due to my commitment to economic freedom and civil liberties and my unique background. Ten years of work experience at UCI has taught me to thoughtfully research and innovate around challenges, manage resources effectively, and be accountable to my community. I’ve also been renting and using public transit in Irvine and have insights about improving traffic flow and quality of life for residents and workers.
What’s the most important issue Irvine faces? County wide, our housing shortage is approximately 50,000 units. Current affordable housing legislation requiring developers to set aside units (or pay in-lieu fees) is not effective; years-long waiting lists and record-setting rents demonstrate that supply is not meeting demand. Studies indicate that a majority of millennials are renters and demand will remain high. Encouraging development is not popular, but when cities restrict construction of new market-rate housing, we get fewer units (mostly luxury units) and higher prices–and low-income and young people suffer.
If elected, what is the first thing you’ll do on the council? I plan to build on Irvine’s strong record of public safety and community policing efforts, continue to improve police-citizen relationships, and be inclusive of vulnerable minorities. To that end, I would propose to my fellow council members that we mandate body cameras and establish a citizen police oversight board. I’d also like to legalize medical marijuana delivery to patients and improve care for our homeless.
Describe how you’d like to see Irvine in 20 years? I’m optimistic about Irvine’s future. I believe we will remain a major regional employment and education center, the safest city for our size, and renowned for beautiful parks and nature preserves. I’d like to see us plan effectively for growth, with denser, more walkable neighborhoods and better connectivity to transit and bike trails. I see opportunities for Irvine to use cutting-edge technology to manage traffic and self-driving cars and also combat drought and climate change.
Why are you running for Irvine City Council?
I have been an Irvine resident for over twenty-two years. My family has been fortunate to have benefitted from the high quality of life the City offers. Both my children attended the excellent public schools of the District. As a former Executive Assistant to the Mayor of Irvine, and a Community Services Commissioner for almost eight years, five as Chair, I have gained hands-on experience and extensive knowledge about how City Hall works and operates. I had the opportunity to establish close working relationships with the Irvine Police Department, IUSD, UCI, and numerous non-profit organizations. I understand the needs of residents, young and old.
Irvine is a model city in the nation. We have been the safest city for the past eleven years. We are recognized for our excellent Master-Planning, Open Space and park system, and our outstanding schools, and we are one of the most culturally diverse and ethnically integrated cities.
I want to bring a fresh perspective and a non-partisan view to the Council. I want to promote a platform where ideas can be exchanged in a civil and respectful way, and continue to plan the future of the City on the strong foundation it was built on.
What is the most important issue you believe Irvine faces?
A divided City Council, poised by partisanship, ideology and intolerance has overshadowed the best interests of the residents. There is work to be done to address the future growth, the traffic congestions and our schools which requires a dais that is willing to listen, collaborate and compromise for the good of the community. Otherwise, we run the risk of losing the City’s trademark as one of the best cities to live, a Master-planned community where residents feel safe, enjoy clean and well-maintained streets and roads, and where we integrate and proudly celebrate our cultural diversity.
What is the first thing you will do on the Council, if elected?
While there are many issues facing us as a city, such as being able to meet the demands and needs of residents as we grow, create proper and measured planning principles, manage traffic problems, and maintain our high quality of life in general, nothing can be achieved if we do not work together to achieve these common goals. We need to be able to exchange ideas in a meaningful and creative way, tolerate and respect opposing views, and maintain civility. Until we cooperate as a team, we cannot address these problems in a constructive way or find common-ground and commonsense solutions.
Describe how you’d like to see Irvine in 20 years?
In 2010, Irvine was selected as one of the “100 Best Communities for Young People” by America’s Promise Alliance. The City has been recognized as one of the “Most Livable” Cities in America (United States Conference of Mayors 2015), where families want to raise their children in a safe and healthy environment, and benefit from the excellence in Education. The City enjoys a vibrant and energetic job market, making it a destination for Businesses to establish their headquarters in Irvine.
Looking forward, we have to ensure that we meet the evolving demands of future generations by implementing agile, thoughtful planning and the most up-to-date advancements in Technology and Innovation. We should work closely with our Community Partners in the educational and business fields to utilize their expertise. We have to maintain our traits as one the best cities to live and work while embracing the generational changes that are ahead of us, so that in twenty years, Irvine remains not only as one of the best but also one of the most advanced cities in the United States.