On August 15th, 2020 I attended a candidate’s forum hosted by the South Coast Chinese Cultural Association. This was my first appearance as a candidate, and for many people, their introduction to my campaign! The forum is recorded, and you can see my appearance at this link on Facebook (alternatively on YouTube). Due to the large number of candidates, each candidate was only able to answer one question, which was assigned to them at random. In the effort for full transparency and honesty, I provide here full and detailed responses to every question, including the one I answered in person:
What special character traits, training, preparation, or skills do you possess that make you especially qualified for City Council?
My entire life I have lived in Irvine. I have taken leadership roles when presented me and have never failed. But above this I understand the needs of Irvine because I’ve grown up here! People who know me, like that I am fair and just, that every decision, every conversation I’ve had has been rooted in facts and has always strove to give the most to everyone.
I also lead by example. If I say I’ll be transparent, I have been. Every policy position, everything I have said, is documented here for public viewing. If I say I’m honest, that means I have made and will continue to make every possible attempt to do so to the best of my knowledge. That’s what a civil servant should do.
What are the top 2 challenges facing the City of Irvine and what is your plan to face these challenges?
Our biggest two issues facing Irvine are the lack of a master plan moving forward, and a complete lack of transparency on the part of not only our city council, but also our school board and water board.
The first is two pronged, without a plan we have been left floundering for a budget. We approve construction year after year after year with no foresight to its impact on the local economy, on local business, on traffic. How does more construction hurt local businesses? Well if we do not have a plan in place to deal with the traffic, how will people get to your business? If it’s going to take them twenty minutes instead of ten, will they even go?
This plan has affected our budget. If we are clogging up streets we need more police officers, if we need more police officers the police need more money. Education runs a deficit because we’re one of the lowest funded school districts by the state.
We need to hold up on the construction. Continue existing projects, sure, but before any new ones are commissioned we need to know the real impact. On traffic, on the people who live here. How many office buildings sit vacant in Irvine? I’ll tell you, it’s a lot. New construction needs to be focused on affordable housing, fixing traffic, and general quality of life improvements until we know we’ve got everything under control.
The second issue is more complex, but did you know that the city council has started to refuse to read all online comments into the record? In person all comments are heard, even if the meeting goes until midnight. Our city council has refused to do so now that COVID has forced us to enter comments online. This is a small microcosm of a larger issue. That none of our elected officials are held accountable and we need to. I’ve started to hold myself accountable by doing everything in my power not to obfuscate anything about my campaign. I link to my filings whenever it’s relevant. I encourage you to search for everybody else’s filings. If someone says they’re anti-business, make sure they haven’t accepted donations from pro-business corporations. Hold people accountable.
This all to say, we need to make things like this more accessible. It shouldn’t be locked behind an obscure google search for “Irvine filing disclosure” and then if you go to the FPPC website it doesn’t even take you to the right portal for Irvine! Seriously, try it! Put it out there, blast it on social media, invite every single citizen to comment and if they comment on social media make those thoughts known at council meetings! Discuss!
Irvine has been the safest city in the US for many years. If elected, how will you respond to requests for cutting police budgets and reducing police influence in the community?
[Answer updated 08/25/20 for clarity purposes]
Except for situations of excess or flippant spending, I would not be in favor of cutting police budgets in Irvine. We need to make sure that any money we have is spent intelligently and accurately, and as long as police budget is being spent efficiently, cutting that budget is not necessary.
For example, Irvine’s patrol division expected the population of Irvine to hit 279k only in 2035 but already in 2020 the Census predicts the population has exceeded that value, at 287k. Given this information, my priority for improving and maintaining community safety would not be to cut the budget. I would, however, be a proponent of making sure that given our increasing population that we make sure that this money is being allocated in the most efficient and equitable way possible.
Currently Irvine has decreased year over year crime per 1,000 residents, even as the city has grown in population. We should strive to maintain this pattern.
What is your position on California Proposition 16?
While I have a nuanced position on prop 16, in general I do not support prop 16.
For those who want some details on why, I will explain. Above all else I recognize the inequalities and injustices that are in many ways inherent to our system in California and the United States as whole. And I would like to live in a world where programs like affirmative action are not necessary. I do, however, think that prop 16 is vague enough in its wording to be abused. It provides an open door for things like affirmative action while also forgiving a wide range of policies and injustices that would be considered racist. Fixing inequality and introducing equity need to be done in the right way.
The population of Irvine has increased a lot in the last few years which has led to more traffic and street congestion. Do you have any plans to improve this problem?
This question I was able to answer in the forum, but I will reiterate my answer here, of course. I have witnessed the traffic in Irvine become a problem over the last few years. I’ve lived here for 16 years, I got my driver’s license learning on these streets (imagine that experience). Our best bet is to halt new construction and actually implement traffic suggestions now. We can no longer afford to be reactionary to new development. Put the traffic improvements in place first, and then after that build the development you anticipated.
If you’ve driven past University and Culver you know that they started work there this past year. That was proposed a couple years ago. We cannot wait like that any longer, that intersection reached capacity long before we started building there, and we knew it would be.
Irvine is one of the fastest growing cities in America. What challenges do you see as a result of this growth?
As I’ve outlined above, one of our most difficult problems facing us moving forward is the increasing traffic problem, but also the space problem. So much of development right now is new office buildings, new store fronts, new malls. But don’t we want the people who work in these places to live and spend their money in Irvine too? Let’s build affordable housing too, let’s give people a place to live if they work in Irvine for a cost that they can easily get set up in. That way the money stays in our local economy, supports local businesses, and lifts all of us up.