Irvine Action Network Questionnaire

The Irvine Action Network recently published their profile of me, so I thought it would be a good time to share the questions they asked as well as my responses in full. I returned these answers to them on September 30, 2020.

Why are you running for city council?

I‘m running for city council to  make a government that works for all of us, and not just the wealthy developers or the well off. In 2016 I went to watch Bernie Sanders speak at the Verizon Amphitheatre, an amphitheater that not only no longer exists, but its replacement was built and funded by FivePoint, a developer company with deep pockets of dark money that have been influencing our election for years. Things like this incense me, and really drove me to finally get my citizenship in order for me to run for city council myself. We should be holding the city council to the highest standard, which means we should not be electing elderly career politicians to the city council for their half a dozenth term after they made term limits non-retroactive. It’s time for a change, and it’s time to get some fresh ideas and honesty into the council.

What makes you the most qualified candidate for city council? What experience, in public service or otherwise, has prepared you for this position? 

I have been entrenched in the Irvine community for over 16 years. In that time I have been a volunteer in numerous organizations in Irvine, including my mother’s where we stage elementary school musicals. Through this forum I have personally met hundreds of parents and students in Irvine, all of whom I thoroughly enjoyed helping. I have also umpiring in Irvine for the last 12 years, and have been the most senior umpire in the age divisions I officiate for nearly 8 of those years. It’s time for a new voice in the city council, one that’s young and optimistic. One that has big ideas for our city, and I’m prepared to take up that mantle.

What are your top priorities for Irvine?

My top priorities in Irvine are expansive, but they boil down to three main categories: stemming development and completing projects that are either in progress or have been approved and have not even been started (like the veteran’s cemetery), bringing honesty, transparency and accountability to the city council, and finally improving and maintaining our high standard of education in the city of Irvine.

On the first topic I have proposed a halt on approving new development projects unless they fulfill one of the two following criteria:

  1. The project has already been approved and has either begun or is yet to begin construction. This is how we will get the veteran’s cemetery built, by stopping any new construction until we have it built.
  2. The project is directly related to traffic flow and improvement, i.e. either a road realignment project or a public/mass transit option.

My second topic (transparency, honesty and accountability) is fulfilled by increasing public participation in city council meetings. During COVID times I am of the opinion that all commission meetings should be broadcast to the public for public attendance (like the Planning Commission, the Finance Commission, and so on). When these meetings are held publicly people could attend them and make comments, whereas now they are not even being live streamed like the city council meeting is! How can you call the city transparent when this is going on? I also would like to facilitate holding our public leaders accountable with a neutral ethics and transparency board. In order to fulfill my campaign promise while running my campaign, I am the only candidate that I know of who has publicly linked and encourages their supporters to verify their campaign disclosure statements. If a candidate says they’re against big development, for example, I encourage you to check where their money is coming from. If you receive mailers for or against a candidate, those filings are public as well. Follow the money.

On the topic of education, having done my entire life’s education in Irvine (from elementary up to grad school) I am heavily steeped in the local education community. I am heavily in favor of using any and all city council powers to increase teacher funding and take care of our teachers. Measure E was in my opinion a huge success, and along those lines I think we should be funding our schools to the best of our abilities. Education is a gateway to success and Irvine should be the torchbearer for this.

Issue-Specific Questions

Moving forward, what are your plans for addressing COVID-19 in Irvine?

I have been a huge proponent for rent forgiveness in the early months of COVID. As we move into the reopening stages (which I personally feel is a little hasty, but is so dictated by the county and state, another talking line I think the council is using to shirk responsibility, but I digress) I think the best course of action at the moment is to continue the rent assistance program and to halt evictions. In order to keep small mom and pop landlords solvent (an issue that voters have contacted me about in regards to halting evictions) I believe that first and foremost we should increase funding to rental assistance programs, as these programs help not only renters stay in a home, but also keeps the landlords solvent where need be. I also advocate that we create a system where landlords, renters, and banks can come to a mutually beneficial agreement with respect to rent, mortgages and loans through a system moderate by the city.

Beyond renters I also think that the City should be providing assistance to business that reopen. This should look like negotiations for land tax, property tax, and mortgages that can help ease the financial strain as we start to get back to business and these companies can start to earn money to pay their fair share. In order to help small business owners return safely to work, I’m in favor of the city helping to subsidize PPE distributions to local businesses and workers so that they may open safely and within state guidelines. Especially so if the cost of PPE is a potentially limiting factor to them getting back to work. All in all I think this is a time when the community needs to come together to tackle this as a group and not alone. The City should be doing everything in its power to prove PPE as well as to help people who have been put out of a job due to COVID.

What are your thoughts (and plans) for protecting renters during COVID and beyond? 

I think I inadvertently answered this in the above question, as I think the COVID response should be comprehensive and respond to all parties involved at once.

What changes, if any, would you like to see in the Irvine Police Department? What is your stance on resource officers in IUSD high schools?

In short I believe that the IPD is operating at at least a serviceable level at the moment. For example, the police chief at a recent city council meeting indicated, I believe, that there were only two officer involved shootings in the past year. Two in a city of 300k is well, well, well below what many cities in the US are experiencing. I’d like that number to be 0, if possible. What I would like to see is some oversight to ensure that police spending is going to the right places. Once we’ve done some oversight I see two courses of action:

  1. IPD money is being spent effectively to cover the city. In this case I would be in favor of increasing the funds to IPD but only for the purpose of increasing police training, including racial sensitivity training. IPD officers already (unless I am mistaken) have to have a bachelor’s degree to become an officer, which is a good step.
  2. If the funding is not being spent effectively we decrease funding and reallocate it elsewhere, to programs to aid and assist the police department such that they can work efficiently. Things like social workers, mental health programs, and so on. I should not that case 1) does not eliminate my proposal to fund these programs, it just would indicate that the funding for those programs would be in addition to rather than a replacement of.

How do you envision the future of housing development in Irvine? What changes would you make to the Irvine master plan, especially in regards to affordable / low-income housing?

Irvine absolutely needs more affordable low-income housing. The biggest and best way to attract local businesses to Irvine, but also to ensure that we have a strong local economy is to give our lower income constituents a place to live that they can afford. While I am proposing a short stay on development as part of my Irvine plan, priority on any new development moving forward that I approve will be given to affordable and low in come housing. And I think this perfectly fits in with the actual original master plan of Irvine, i.e. that of a college town. In fact I would argue that not only does this “fit in” but it was actually THE master plan from the beginning! Fun fact: UCI was built 8 years before the city was built and incorporated. Irvine was at its core originally a place where college students could live, eat, work and play, and generally our college students are some of those lower income citizens we house. So I am beyond in favor of expanding our affordable housing options here in Irvine, and would do so as soon as possible for the benefit of all of us. 

What are your thoughts on making Irvine a more sustainable, climate-friendly city, and do you have plans or policies to make that a reality?

Climate sustainability and going more green is vital to our survival as a human race but also as a city. This is why I support things like the community choice energy plan, which is currently under review in the city council. Under this plan the city would fund alternative energy companies to bring their electricity into Irvine, for purchase by residents. This has the two fold effect of increasing adoption of alternative energy sources but also introducing competition that will both force SCE to innovate but also to reduce their costs, making it more affordable to the local customer. In addition I would be in favor of introducing climate mandates through the city council that would require carbon goals to be met in incremental stages. This is usually focused on at the state and national level but I see no reason not to do it at the local level too. Additionally I would be willing to pledge to try get Irvine City Hall and as many government buildings as possible powered by green energy by the time I leave office.

I also, as stated above, advocate a traffic reduction plan through mass and public transit. This has the double effect of reducing cars on the road and therefore carbon dioxide, but also helping to solve our traffic problem. Things like improving the iShuttle, and an aboveground shuttle between major Irvine locations, like John Wayne, the Great Park, UCI, and City Hall for example.

How will you support minority and low-income communities in Irvine? 

One of the main things we can do for minority and low-income communities is to make sure that the wealthier areas of Irvine pay their fair share. I also am an advocate for an increase in affordable housing in Irvine, as I feel like there is not enough low income available housing. We have acres of space we can use for low income and affordable housing instead of building more and more office buildings. If I had been on the city council, for example, I would have advocate for housing at the 405/73 intersection where we now have the Spectrum Terrace office building… surrounded by housing on two sides, for example.

What steps will you take to ensure your constituents are informed, and keep local politics transparent?

As I said, I try to keep my constituents informed about everything involved in my campaign, and I would continue to do so as a member of the city council. I publicly link my campaign filings, making them much easier for potential voters to find and hold me accountable. I’m also of the personal opinion that we should be holding every city council member accountable. We should know where their money comes from, and their votes should be made easier to find and investigate. This might require rebuilding the Irvine Document Database from scratch, but I think that would be vital to keeping us honest and accountable.

I also live stream weekly on Wednesdays while I bake a pie. It’s a relaxed, somewhat neutral place where I can engage in discussion with my constituents. I try to make it very calm and relaxed, and I accept any and all questions, and especially those that challenge my beliefs of make me defend them. This is the best way to build a discussion, and also in my opinion one of the best ways to keep candidates like me accountable, as voters can directly communicate with me.

Is there anything else you want the Irvine community to know about you?

I love Irvine with all of my heart. I’ve lived here since 2004, I’ve been raised here and I feel like it’s my duty to give back. I want to work for all of us, and not for the big developers. I have never said no when someone asked me for help. Some might say that’s a negative, but I think it means I will do everything in my power to make the council work for us. I also want to say thank you for sending me these questions and giving me the opportunity to elaborate on my platform.