Candidates Seek Irvine City Council Seats
In order to allow Irvine residents to see and hear from the candidates running for mayor and city council seats, the American Association of Retired Persons Local Chapter 1489 hosted a candidates’ forum at the Lakeview Senior Center on Oct. 14. This forum allowed the candidates to discuss their platforms and answer questions from the audience.
There are currently four candidates for mayor and seven for two open seats on city council.
Although the offices are officially nonpartisan, current Irvine Mayor Larry Agran, along with three other Democrats, are unofficially running together and urging residents to vote for their ‘Great Park Team,’ for which Beth Krom is the mayoral candidate. Sukhee Kang and Debbie Coven are also running alongside Agran for a city council seat.
Former Irvine mayor and current city council member Mike Ward is running for mayor under the unofficial Republican slate known as ‘Irvine First.’ His three running mates for city council include Greg Smith, Mike House and Steven Choi.
Other candidates for mayor include Earle Zucht and Ronald Allen as well as Mohsen Alinaghian for a city council seat.
In his opening remarks, Agran lightened up the mood by joking about his age.
‘I think I’m already an AARP,’ Agran said. ‘We get plenty of mail back home. I want to forewarn everybody that if I lose this election, I’m running for the senior council.’
When the discussion turned to the election, Agran reminded residents about some of the city’s achievements during his four years as mayor.
‘During the past four years, a time of historic progress in the city, we fashioned a strategy and implemented it to defeat the proposed El Toro International Airport and to replace it with a plan for a great metropolitan park,’ Agran said. ‘We have balanced our budgets even while the state and federal government have been bleeding red ink … we have added to our reserves.’
Kang, another member of the ‘Great Park Team,’ began his address with a bow to the audience and explained that it is traditional for him to bow before his respected elders. Kang explained how being an immigrant has shaped his view on local government.
‘I really appreciate this country for giving me this opportunity [to be] a good citizen,’ Kang said. ‘My running for city council is truly my giving back to the community.’
When it was House’s turn to speak, he told audience members about his commitment to lower taxes for the community.
‘I understand that 50 percent of the revenue that we generate in our city comes from sales tax and that we should do everything to promote business in Irvine … and I fight to reduce taxes,’ House said.
When interviewed by the New University, Agran, speaking on behalf of the ‘Great Park Team,’ summarized some of his team’s priorities.
‘What we favor is within the restraints of the existing budget,’ Agran said. ‘We favor putting more money into the public schools. We do keep the focus on public safety, building out our community parks, a balanced budget [and] ample reserves.’
Agran also explained how he plans to make UCI a vital part of the larger Irvine community and attempt to remedy the university’s housing issues.
‘When there’s some major development on the campus, by the way of research or otherwise, if we can incorporate it as part of city policy, we will absolutely do that,’ Agran stated. ‘I’ve been a strong advocate for affordable housing in the city in Irvine. Lets face it. Young people, students, faculty [and] staff need places to live.’
Agran also voiced strong opposition against the ‘Irvine First’ candidates, especially Ward and Smith, whom he claimed wanted to expand Musick Jail, located near the former El Toro military base where the Great Park will be located.
‘Mike Ward and Greg Smith, the two principal candidates of the so-called ‘Irvine First’ team … voted to pull the plug on the Great Park,’ Agran said. ‘We don’t believe the Great Park ought to be the site for a mega jail, or for a racetrack with para-mutual betting.’
Ward, in an interview with the New University on behalf of the ‘Irvine First’ team, rejected claims that he wanted to enlarge Musick Jail.
‘For lack of a better word, that’s a lie,’ Ward said. ‘Basically, what we did, along with our friends in Lake Forest, we went and negotiated an agreement with the county that said that they would move Musick Jail. We found a site for them to move it to. The agreement would allow them to expand the size of Musick Jail until they did move it, but they could never have any prisoner there above minimum security. When Larry and his crowd came in, they did not like that agreement, and they killed it.’
He explained some of the issues he will focus on if he is elected as mayor.
‘We know that the citizens of Irvine want a Great Park there and we’re well on our way to developing that park,’ Ward said. ‘But we don’t want to lose sight of the fact that we have a city to run. We have problems in Irvine that need to be addressed.’
As for helping UCI students with housing issues, Ward insisted that although it would be difficult, he would try to make off-campus housing more affordable.
‘Controlling rents in the private sector has never worked,’ Ward said. ‘So what I will try to do is to lower the fees for builders to build more units, so they can pass those savings onto students at UCI.’