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O.C. REGISTER: Shea and Kuo for Irvine City Council

By Editorial Board

Irvine is one of the finest places to live in the world. It’s safe; it has tremendous schools; it has picturesque greenery and park space; and a vibrant business community that in many ways is the epicenter of economic activity in Orange County. As such, the council needs strong leaders that understand both what makes the city so special and what it needs to get even better.

When looking at the type of leadership necessary for the city, there is no candidate more deserving of an endorsement than Councilwoman Christina Shea.

Shea understands the residents and the community and she has been a consistent, prudent voice on a council often times divided by unnecessary politics. In fact, Councilwoman Shea has demonstrated her unquestionable leadership as an advocate for the city and its residents.

On some of the most sensitive issues the city faced over the last several years Shea has been a deciding factor in successes for the city — most notably holding the city accountable and keeping its promise to ensure the Great Park would begin to be built, and built well. Not only that, she has been a strong advocate for driving economic activity for the city.

There are two open seats on the Irvine council this year as longtime Irvine Councilwoman Beth Krom is retiring from the council. To fill the second seat on the Irvine City Council we recommend Planning Commissioner Anthony Kuo. There are numerous smart and vibrant candidates running this year, but Kuo embodies many of the admirable characteristics of Councilwoman Shea. And it says a lot about him that Shea is supporting his candidacy.

Having served on the Irvine Planning Commission, Kuo also keenly understands the issues of growth and community development, and how to responsibly manage those while at the same time steward the city’s resources.

Irvine deserves thoughtful leaders who understand the community. Vote for Christina Shea and Anthony Kuo for Irvine City Council.

Read more at the Orange County Register…

Following Scandal, Irvine City Council Shows How To Run, and Fix Government

By Katy Grimes

Conservatives on the Irvine City Council have abolished a million dollar business license tax, to reduce the taxes levied on local businesses. This move followed the council’s recent vote overturning the city’s mandated “living wage” ordinance. Mayor Pro-Tem Jeffrey Lalloway authored the issue, with votes in support from council members Christina Shea and Lynn Schott, all Republicans.

While the business tax amounted to only $51 per business, these changes are exactly what every city and town in the State of California should be doing – whittling away at business-killing regulations, policy, taxes and fees.

In an interview with Irvine City Council member Christina Shea, she explained the City of Irvine now has large reserves and a growing economy, thanks to the fiscal conservatives on the city council, whose goal is giving back the community their own money, while remaking the city to be business-friendly. Shea describes Irvine as an island unto itself, in the business unfriendly state of California.

Irvine Then and Now: Corruption vs. Prosperity

Former Democrat Mayor Larry Agran was an Irvine councilman or mayor for all but eight years since 1978. Agran and his council clan spent more than $200 million earmarked for the development of the Orange County Great Park — but not on the park. “The ugly reality includes Agran’s penchant for secrecy, cronyism, narcissism and mismanagement, especially at the Great Park, a noble idea the career politician slyly converted into a biennial election tool to keep his council alliance in power, a circumstance that allowed him to give $167,000 per month in no-bid, public-relations contracts to his own political operatives,” the Voice of OC reported.

The Irvine Great Park land, formerly the El Toro military base, was given to the city of Irvine by the U.S. Navy following base decommission, along with $200 million provided by The Lennar Corp. Lennar made a winning bid of $649.5 million for El Toro. Immediately after escrow closed on July 12, 2005, Lennar agreed to transfer 1,347 acres to Irvine for a park and to pay $200 million in development fees for park construction.

However, over the course of seven years, Agran authorized spending the park money on numerous large unrelated contracts, which had little to do with development of the Great Park. Lennar also pledged to spend another $201 million for joint infrastructure and facilities such as roads and utility connections. The $201 million would come from a Community Facilities District bond sale secured by the property. Homeowners in a CFD (also known as a Mello-Roos district) pay a special tax, in addition to their customary county property tax, for infrastructure and other improvements, according to a Grand Jury report.

Continue reading at the Flash Report…

Irvine Eliminates Business License Fee of $51

By Sarah de Crescenzo

IRVINE – In a move proponents said may attract more businesses to Irvine and will bolster the city’s conservative credentials, companies no longer will have to pay for business licenses.

The City Council on Tuesday voted to cut the $51 annual business license fee, but it could cost the city nearly $1 million in revenue.

“We are taxed out,” said Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Lalloway, who was joined in the vote by council members Christina Shea and Lynn Schott. “This is a very important statement that we’re making.”

Lalloway said the decision will show that city government is watching out for businesses and residents when it comes to fees – even when the amount would only cover the cost of dinner for two. Lalloway began pushing to do away with the license fee earlier this year.

Irvine, one of the county’s key business hubs, was for years led by a Democratic-majority council. Today, Republican officials control the city.

While local businesses can add $51 to the bottom of the annual ledger, the fee’s elimination means the city’s operating budget will likely take a nearly $1million hit. In the 2013-14 fiscal year, Irvine took in more than $970,000 through the license program. Out of the $51 fee, $50 goes to the city and $1 to the state.

Operating the program that year cost about $600,000. Schott said Irvine needs to keep issuing licenses because the program collects data about local businesses. Lalloway originally proposed cutting it altogether because of privacy concerns.

Continue reading at the Orange County Register…

Could The Great Park Be Built ‘Ahead of Schedule’?

By Adam Elmahrek

If all goes according to plan, an Irvine developer this summer will begin early construction phases to build hundreds of acres of the Orange County Great Park, a timeline that city leaders and a representative of the builder say is more than a year ahead of schedule.

“It’s gonna be exciting,” said Councilwoman Christina Shea. “Within a year we’re going to be out here and look at close to 500 acres of the park developed.”

However, not everyone is happy about the news. Members of the City Council faction that previously controlled the park say the development represents the commercialization of what was to be a purely public vision.

Construction of the 1,300-acre park project – or lack thereof – has been the most hotly debated issue in the city since the political battle 15 years ago over whether to turn the shuttered El Toro Marine Air Base into an international airport.

The Democratic council majority that previously controlled the park was sharply criticized for being too slow to develop the project, while spending large sums on costs like public relations and no-bid contracts. The Democrats have countered that they activated the park with special events and that stalled construction was caused primarily by the housing bust and Great Recession.

The frustration came to a head in 2012, when Republican candidates flipped a seat on the council and gained a three-member majority. The next year, they signed off on a deal with FivePoint Communities, which is building thousands of homes around the project, to construct 688 acres of the park in exchange for approval to build more homes.

Construction phases slated for this Summer are beginning earlier than promised in the deal, a PowerPoint presentation made by representative Patrick Strader at a council study session in April.

Among the plans is a 175-acre sports park that includes dozens of soccer fields and baseball, volleyball and tennis courts. There will also be a 40-acre bosque, a wooded recreational area with trails; a 36-acre “upper bee” canyon, which is a more modest version of the man-made canyon in the master plan; and a 178-acre wildlife corridor. The man-made canyon previously in the master plan would be replaced with a 188-acre golf course.

Shea says the sports park could be completed by the fall of 2016.

Those amenities would be in addition to the 88 acres of public space now available at the park, including soccer fields and a palm court complex, among other things.

Councilman Jeffrey Lalloway said the construction fulfills a promise made to the voters to “finally build out the Great Park.”

“To accelerate [construction] faster than origninally anticipated shows we are dedicated to providing these amendiites and fulfilling these promises when we make them,” Lalloway said.

Currently, most of the development is focused on underground infrastructure, officials say. FivePoint has also removed at least four million square feet of the runways, according to Strader.

That presentation also claims grading for the upper bee canyon and bosque was supposed to start June 1 and that grading for the sports park would begin July 15. Whether those dates are still accurate is unclear. The developer did not respond to questions submitted by Voice of OC.

Councilwoman Beth Krom, the only Democrat remaining on the council, says the developments come with significant caveats, mainly allowing the developer to alter a public metropolitan park to make it a more profitable venture.

For one, the sports park would be “pay-to-play” whereby leagues would pay for access to the fields and occupy them often for tournaments, she said. The previous vision for the park was to have free access to the public, according to Krom.

Continue reading at the Voice of O.C.