Jaffe, Baran, Heath and Kwon: Transparency and Accountability Prevail for Irvine Watchdogs

The June 5th Special Election in Irvine allowed 54% of voters to loudly shoot down Mayor Wagner’s Measure D, a City Charter amendment “to prohibit voter approval requirements on development projects.” He was misguided in the belief that it would be ok to only allow Irvine residents to exercise their voting power for city council representation, but not ok to vote on future growth and buildout of our City. Thankfully, Irvine residents saw the error in this logic and voted to retain their democratic rights.

Money, as usual, played a big part in this local election. Developer supported PAC’s used the Irvine Police and Fire associations to endorse the Measure to try and sway the voters.  The Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce and the Orange County Business Council also waged a serious campaign in an effort to silence the citizens of Irvine. It was disheartening to see the powerful and respected business associations of the city take a stance on a vague promise of increased profits and taxes, without regard for democratic process or likely resulting infrastructure issues.

What should we take away from this election result?  Ultimately, it’s that despite a professionally waged and highly financed campaign by the developer community, residents did their research and made their decision based on facts.  The “No on D” victory was won with only a handful of resident volunteers, 100 lawn signs, a few email blasts, and word of mouth on social media – Facebook, Next-Door and a couple online news sources.  Just Irvine residents engaging with the community.  No laminated flyers.  No endorsements from any organizations.  Irvine saw through all the noise and outside influences and understood the real issue. Clearly Mayor Wagner was disconnected from his constituency if he thought that we would simply relinquish our constitutional right to vote.

The arguments FOR the measure claimed that this measure would ensure that the “developers pay their fair share”. We ask – how come the planning commission and City Council aren’t ensuring this today? Why do we need a Charter Amendment – the first in almost 30 years – to ensure that our elected officials are providing the necessary fiduciary oversight in our city? There is nothing in the plain language of Measure D that required infrastructure assessment as claimed by many of the professional produced social media videos. We recognized that we are being barred from questioning any development decision the Council makes- regardless of any resulting shortfalls in infrastructure, safety, or environmental impacts.

Irvine residents are NOT beige and boring. We are NOT all retirees, NIMBYs, or cranky anti-change, “get off my lawn” types. We are NOT minions that follow blindly. The defeat of Measure D signaled to our elected leaders and business groups that Irvine citizens are paying attention, we have concerns about the remaining build-out plans, and we will be participating in the development process –  whatever that process may be. We will be looking into the issues that matter to us.  These are exciting times for Irvine, and the future is up to all of us.

Let’s keep working together to build it.

Karen Jaffe, Jeanne Baran, Chuck Heath, Tom Kwon, authors of the Argument Against Measure D and members of the IrvineWatchDog citizens group which can be found at www.irvinewatchdog.org or Facebook @irvinewatchdog

Opinions expressed in editorials belong to the authors and not Voice of OC.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue or others please contact Voice of OC Involvement Editor Theresa Sears at TSears@voiceofoc.org