Irvine residents from a variety of activist groups are coming together today to protest outside city hall today criticizing their city council members for failure to act on what they see as the city’s most pressing issues.
The rally was organized by residents from Stop Toxic Asphalt Pollutants, an Irvine based group protesting the city’s handling of the All American Asphalt facility just a mile away from homes, who say this council has gone out of its way to avoid hearing from residents.
“We’re all feeling censored, we’re not seeing any action taken by our city leaders who made all these campaign promises and failed to deliver,” said Kim Konte, one of the leaders of the asphalt protestors. “We want a non-partisan rally to demand better from our city leaders.”
Councilman Larry Agran, who has publicly argued in favor of all the points laid out by the protestors, said he agreed with their analysis of the council’s work. He took aim at the council’s rule requiring council members receive a second to place any item on the agenda that was made permanent earlier this year.
“The city council has let them down in a big way, the most fundamental responsibility we have as city council members is to represent the interests of our citizens,” Agran said.“This rule of two that has been in place…was designed to try and silence me, but in fact, it’s really hurting the residents and voters of the city who want to be heard through me and other council members.”
Councilwoman Tammy Kim, the newest addition to the dais, fired back, pointing to the council’s work on adopting “hero pay,” for grocery workers and the city’s ongoing COVID testing and vaccination work.
“As far as I’m concerned I’m really proud of the work I’ve done as a newly elected person on the council,” Kim said. “I come from the community. That’s where I come from, and so to now paint the city council as something different and me part of that I don’t really appreciate it.”
She also took aim at Agran, saying if he wanted more council members to discuss the issues important to him he needed to communicate better.
“He has never once reached out to me. I thought we were on the same team here, but I don’t know.”
Councilman Anthony Kuo said some of the resident’s concerns were outside the city’s wheelhouse and that many of the issues were caught in current or potential litigation, limiting how much the council could say on the dais.
“The public wants to have all this discussion in public, which is their right to request that, but the Brown Act also provides for these discussions to be held in closed session with our attorney,” Kuo said.
Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilman Mike Carroll did not respond to requests for comment Monday afternoon.
Asphalt protestors will be joined by the Great Park Residents Association, a group that has grown louder in city politics following a Voice of OC investigation last year that found residents have almost no voice in how the additional property tax dollars on their homes are spent to develop the Great Park.
Despite promises on the campaign trail, five months into the new year there has been no agendized discussion on a Great Park resident’s advisory committee. Agran announced in March that he was seeking a second from one of his colleagues to get the item on the agenda, and confirmed in a press release last week he was still looking.
Activists calling for a veterans cemetery in Irvine will also be at the rally. The city has been split over what site to pick for years, caught between two locations at the old El Toro base.
When the council adopted a ballot measure stating the cemetery would be put in at the Great Park near homes last year, many activists thought that was the end of the debate. But the council now says they won’t move forward until they see a cost study of both sites from the state, which is supposed to be released in the next few weeks.
Regardless what site the city picks, they’re almost certainly in for a heated legal battle. Residents surrounding the proposed site don’t want it close to an elementary school, and proponents of the site have questioned how the city could both approve the initiative and refuse to implement it.
Konte also said the groups will be calling for a council discussion on potentially moving to district elections, which surfaced after attorney Kevin Shenkman served the city with a letter calling for a shift away from their current at-large method. The city has refused to comply, and has said it’s prepared to fight the action in court.
The protest begins at 3 p.m. in front of city hall, but with city hall still closed, residents will not be able to enter the building or speak in person for the council’s meeting.
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