60 by 16 Initiative Hosts Irvine Candidates Forum

Irvine mayoral and city council candidates were brought together last Thursday in the Crystal Cove Auditorium for a forum in which they articulated their election platforms.

The event was a part of ASUCI’s 60 by 16 Initiative and provided the Irvine city council and mayoral candidates to communicate directly to students.

The initiative was created by the Office of the President with the goal of registering 60 percent of UC Irvine students by the 2016 presidential election.

“Part of the intent behind 60 by 16 is to increase political awareness on campus and increase political participation as well,” said Sanaa Khan, the ASUCI executive vice president, whose office helped host the event.

All the candidates, with the exception of council member Jeffrey Lalloway, who was ill and could not attend, answered questions regarding the key issues of their campaigns.

Lynn Schott, city council candidate and current city commissioner, opened the forum with her platform predicated on cutting red tape for entrepreneurs and attracting businesses to Irvine. 

“I find what makes Irvine great is cultural diversity, world class education, public safety, award-winning master planning and business innovation.” Schott said.

Schott is the only candidate in the race who has earned an endorsement from OC Tea Party Blog, a website dedicated to uniting Tea Party groups in Orange County. She has also received the Republican Party of Orange County’s endorsement.

The other Republican candidates with official party endorsements are current council member Jeffrey Lalloway and incumbent Mayor Steven Choi. 

Melissa Fox, current councilmember Larry Agran, and mayoral candidate Mary Ann Gaido, their Democratic counterparts have all received respective endorsements as well.

Mayoral candidate, Katherine Daigle and city council candidate, Even Chemers are running with no official party endorsements.

The issues discussed in the forum included real estate development, transportation infrastructure, the role of UCI in the Irvine community as well as expansion of UCI.

Opinion was deeply divided among candidates on a majority of the issues.

“Clearly the dominant issue facing the city of Irvine is growth and development: the nature of growth and development in the city and its rate,” said Agran.

The current council majority has increased real estate development since being elected in 2012. 

However, the sudden influx of real estate development in recent years has led to a strain on transportation infrastructure. 

Chemers centered his campaign on transportation issues. In particular, he seeks to synchronize all of Irvine’s traffic lights to reduce congestion. 

“The traffic is unsustainable. We have no plan for our future.” Fox said.

“The plan has been to rubber-stamp everything that the big developers want.”

The candidates with Democratic endorsements advocated for a slow growth model to allow the transportation infrastructure to catch up with development.

The Republican candidates, on the other hand, believed that while transit is important, Irvine should not halt development.

This discussion touched briefly on Irvine’s green technology with mayoral candidate, Gaido, advocating to expand and connect bike trails around Irvine, particularly around the university campus. 

Choi echoed Gaido’s opinion, pointing to the last year’s road construction projects.

A significant portion of the debate centered around the expansion of UCI and the role the university in relation to its surrounding city.

“The University of California is really a microcosm of what’s happening around the city and we’re facing a lot of challenges with the swift pace of our growth,” Fox said. 

“Traffic and parking continue to be a problem at UCI, as they were when I was here many years ago.”

Regarding the impact UCI has on its community, though, candidates were hopeful.

“It has been and will continue to be the heart of the city,” Gaido said.