Irvine Candidate Forum: Mostly Civil, Some Fireworks

Irvine is either a city where the sun does nothing but shine, the streets are lined with gold and bad stuff never ever ever ever ever ever ever happens, or it's a swirling cesspool of cronyism, backroom deals and looming Muslim threats. That was the message voters were given as a busload of people running for Irvine City Council gathered in the council chambers tonight for a candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, whose Sharon Holdt served as moderator.

Current council members Christina Shea and Sukhee Kang are seeking the two-year mayor's seat. Two, four-year council seats are being sought by outgoing Mayor Beth Krom, councilmen Larry Agran and Steven Choi and upstarts Eric Johnson, Bea Foster, Ruby Young, Margaret Wakeham, Patrick Rodgers, Paris Merriam and Todd Gallinger. Since either Shea or Kang would be abandoning his or her council seat, the third-highest vote getter in the council race gets it.

So it is quite possible the same five council members will remain in office, only someone different will wield the mayor's gavel. Whoopdee-freaking-doo!

It was a mostly civil forum, although there were sparks here and there. Shea and Kang got to go first, and the candidate among those two who does not have a penis said the city needs to slow down the planning process, especially when it comes to the Great Park, where $120 million has been spent the past three years, $90 million remains in the budget, there's not much to show for having spent that much other than glossy brochures telling everyone how great it will be, the economy's headed toward the shitter and, oh yeah, the city is now talking about letting fiscally wracked developer Lennar out of its earlier agreement to tear out the old El Toro runways. She also said Lennar will be allowed to build three times more the 3,200 homes it was originally going to plop there.

Kang defended the slow pace of Great Park development, saying it needs to be done right so it won't have to be "repaired" later.

Shea applauded the city giving $1 million to help local schools but is chagrined that money is setting in the coffers of the nonprofit Irvine Schools Foundation. She demanded the money go to the schools as intended. The foundation had been planning to spend some of its money propping up the candidacies of Kang, Agran and Krom before it got caught a few months ago.

Kang said as mayor he'll continue funding the schools, which likely means the foundation. Hmm, wonder why?

Shea, a Republican, actually advocated slow growth, complaining, "We have proposals that look as if we are going to cover every square inch of the city with houses and residential." Don't put away those checkbooks just yet, developers: she also said developer fees are too high, preventing affordable houses from being affordable in the city.

She also advocated a "divorce" for the contentious city council, which she said needs new blood and independent thinkers.

Kang said he's tried his best to keep the warring sides together. He's also for city Measure R, which would allow voters to say the council is doing a good job on the park, and S, an "ethical" initiative that sprang out of Shea having used email addresses the city collected to send out a message. Backers are saying S is necessary to preserve people's privacy.

Shea is against R because she says "The Great Park is being fiscally mismanaged, is $400 million over budget, $120 million has been spent over three years, there have been no big contracts," staff size has bloated, Lennar is being let off the hook and being allowed three times the 3,200 homes the plan originally called for and all the park has really produced are "glossy PR manuals."

She ran out of time before she could say how she felt about Measure S.

A blow-by-blow of the council candidates follows in the next post.

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