Irvine Weekly Candidate Questionnaire

In early October I received the following questionnaire from Irvine Weekly, which of course I answered and returned. I include for full transparency (of course, you should know me by now!) my responses down below, in full.

1. Why are you running for office?

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. I make no accusation of impropriety, but if you follow the money it does look very suspicious. 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. Further, as I will elaborate, I have plans to fix basically every problem I see in this city, because I love Irvine and when you love something you want it to be as great as possible.

2. If elected to office, what are your top priorities?

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 and/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, filings funding those mailers 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.

3. What is your vision of Irvine?

I’m not sure if this question wants to know my vision for the future of Irvine, or my vision of what I think Irvine is like right now so I will answer both interpretations of the question.

For the former, I believe Irvine can become a major leader in terms of transparency, honesty, climate change, quality of life, and many many more categories. We have the absolute potential to do all of these things, we just need to commit. For example, our leaders need to commit to transparency, honesty and accountability, and need to be willing to take penalties when found in violation of law and regulation. Irvine needs to be a leader for renewable energy, especially when we have some of the brightest minds of our and future generations right here at UCI, a school that is consistently awarded and recognized for its sustainability. I’m also a strong advocate for working closer with UCI, not just for this but also for things like traffic, where we have some of the brightest minds in the world in social sciences who I have no doubt would be greatly willing to work with us. I’ve met dozens of people here in my time as a student of UCI that want to help and improve this city.

In terms of where I see Irvine right now, I see it doing very well in these fields, with huge room for improvement. I hope that we can move forward to meet these goals, but we have a huge transparency problem, a traffic problem, a COVID response problem, a development problem, and so much more. And these are the kind of things that I think are holding this city back from being its best self, so to speak. I have proposals to sort out all of these problems, because Irvine is near and dear to my heart and I love it. But we have to admit we have a problem before we can fix it.

4. Safety and Law Enforcement
Irvine has been named one of America’s safest cities numerous times. Considering the current social climate, how will you navigate the relationships between local law enforcement and local organizations calling to defund the police?

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.

This is my opinion on how to balance the efficacy of the police force with the calls to defund. Make sure the money is being spent well, if it isn’t we reallocate it to improve the efficacy of the police force. If it is, then we fund additional improvement programs, so that in the future we may rely less on the police department. Irvine has an effective police force with well earned trust in the community, we just need to make sure that they’re spending their money as effectively as possible. And there’s always room for improvement, I would be fully in favor of funding social workers and mental health services not only for the purpose of reducing incidents of this type, but also so that they may ride along with officers when responding to call outs that would require these services. This is how we can even further improve our police force.

5. Housing in Irvine
Irvine is thought of as one of the best places to live in the United States. So, naturally, there is a demand for housing here. What is your position and vision for housing in Irvine? How does affordability in terms of housing play into your view?

Affordability of housing is one of my main goals when it comes to houses. If I were to be elected to city council one of my first and foremost goals would be increasing access to affordable housing. Part of this includes stemming development projects that take prime and quality land that could be used for affordable, low-income housing developments. I think the Irvine Master Plan absolutely has space for building these kind of housing developments, and providing for our community at large. Affordable housing actually ties in to my plans for the business climate of Irvine. We currently have half a dozen office buildings that currently lie empty an unrented, and business are constantly moving out of inner city areas like UTC and the woodbridge center because the Irvine Company keeps raising rent, and now there are empty units! We need to start focusing on getting businesses to move in rather than out, to bring more economy and money into the city. This starts at the lowest level, if we want people to work at these buildings, in these shops, or for these companies, we need to make sure that they have access to affordable housing within Irvine. This benefits us two fold, firstly as the workforce will be here for companies that move into Irvine companies will be more enticed to move here, and secondly people that live in Irvine are much more likely to spend their hard earned money back in the local economy, which helps the City in uncountable ways. Affordable housing is absolutely a must.

6. Traffic In Irvine
Traffic is a way of life in Southern California. And, much like any city, some residents in Irvine list it as one of their concerns. What is your viewpoint on the matter?

We absolutely have a traffic problem in Irvine right now. And I see this as a multi step process to fix. First and foremost I would propose we halt new development until we’ve been able to fix the traffic problem, and we actually move forward with a plan. Irvine was founded on a master plan, and we should continue to live up to its legacy by planning what we’re going to be doing moving forward. I believe that most of our traffic problems are being caused by approving and moving forward with construction and development projects without coming up with some sort of plan for mitigating or managing the traffic resulting. So henceforth I would mandate traffic studies for all new development projects that cross my desk. I also would fix the traffic problem by focusing on that first for new development. Road widening and realignment where necessary, as well as restructuring intersections for maximum effectiveness.

I also am a strong advocate for a public/mass transit system that would help mitigate some of the traffic problem. Not only will it benefit the climate action plan for Irvine, it will reduce the traffic problem by taking cars off the road in majorly traveled throughways and byways if the system is well designed. Not only that, it will create hundreds of new jobs for the city, a huge boost in trying to recover from the economic impact that COVID has had on Irvine.

7. Business Climate
In many ways, Irvine is the economic hub of Orange County. How would you ensure the business climate continues to grow and thrive? How do you see the city supporting local businesses especially as they recover from the Covid-induced economic hardship?

The business climate needs a lot of things to continue to grow right now. First and foremost, as I talked about in my answer to affordable housing we need a workforce in Irvine that can work these businesses. This means we need to focus on building affordable housing units for people who want to move to Irvine. In order to help businesses grow and thrive in the current climate we need to be doing everything in our power to help them reopen under the current COVID restrictions and hardships. This means that we should be providing PPE to essential business that are reopening first, and from there expand this PPE program to provide for all businesses as they reopen. This will help businesses feel confident to reopen, and will help keep the community safe. Some, if not all, small businesses do not have the finances or access to be able to open with the full PPE requirements we must work under, which is why I think that this is the perfect place for the city to step in and help out. The city has the resources and access to PPE supply chains that small businesses might not, and Irvine is built on the back of small business so it’s time we gave back.

8. Green Space and Environment
Irvine is known for its open space and greenery. If elected to the council, do you have any ideas on how Irvine can continue this tradition?

Firstly I believe that we should be focusing on restoring as much green space as possible, and preserving the wildlife areas we already have in place. If possible I believe they should be expanded. In terms of improving local green-space, the great park is already a great opportunity for this! The site is currently laying a little barren, with few if any trees. We can start there to restore the hiking and walking trails that have been established through the park and local community to make them even better to visit. From there I propose we expand our walking trail network throughout the city, as there are already many walking trails that are a little lackluster in terms of greenery and these are easy fixes to make!

Further, 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.

9. Veterans Cemetery
What is your position on plans to build a Veterans Cemetery in Irvine? Would you advocate for Irvine to build on a site without state funding?

I am 100% for a Veterans Cemetery, and my primary goal for a VC would be building it at the ARDA site that has been approved multiple times at the city level. As far as I am aware, the state has pledged to manage and take over the site once it’s built, with the understanding that if they do not fund the demolition themselves, they will reimburse the city for the demolition and construction of the site. With that understanding I would move forward with construction as soon as possible. Our veterans deserve full honor and respect with a place to be laid to rest here in Irvine. The VC is one of the subjects that really pushed me to run, first two years ago when I first started to seriously consider running, and then again this year when I realized that I’ve just sat by and continued to watch the VC get stymied at the council level for years without doing anything. So I figured it was time to take matters into my own hands. Again this plays into my hold on new development, as the VC has been approved half a dozen times at least, and yet we continue to give companies like FivePoint alternate contracts that they then focus on instead of building the VC like we should have done 5 years ago.