Adult Leadership in Irvine for the Nation to Follow
Mayor Kang Works to Put Others Back To Work
I witnessed firsthand on August 30 an amazing display of calm, deliberative and ultimately decisive leadership by Irvine Mayor Sukhee Kang. The only agenda item was a major development project—Great Park Neighborhoods by FivePoint Communities. At stake, nearly 5,000 homes surrounding the Great Park, transportation improvements, bringing 16,500 jobs to the City and contributing more than $865 million in local infrastructure investment.
Three people testified in support: business leader Tom Nielsen, former State Senator Marian Bergeson, and yours truly on behalf of OCBC. Not one person appeared in opposition, yet the public hearing lasted for more than six hours with two council members out of the five taking the majority of time peppering staff with questions about the plan.
Questions they already knew the answers to. Questions they would have already asked in personal council briefings. Questions that, to this ear, seemed to be “gotcha” questions. But they were questions well-answered, I might add, by a well-prepared city staff and development team. City staff had done its homework and represented the residents of Irvine very well, assuring the public of the significant public benefits of the project.
Mayor Kang heard it all. He skillfully led his fellow council members into a thoughtful motion to approve the project, subject to conditions to satisfy most of the questions asked, and called for a vote. Amazingly, the council voted three to two to support the project, with two Republicans—Steven Choi and Jeffrey Lalloway—supporting Democrat Mayor Sukhee Kang!
I suspect that is the first time bi-partisan support occurred in Irvine over the Great Park. An historic vote and none too soon.
The project deserved unanimous council approval.
California’s economy is suffering, and so are its people. We have the second highest unemployment rate in the nation at 12.4%. And it is no secret that Irvine is the heart of Orange County’s economy. As Orange County leads Southern California out of the recession, a lot of credit goes to Irvine, a jobs magnet, a housing innovator.
Nationally recognized investment advisors PIMCO (Pacific Investment Management Company) visited OCBC recently and shared a dire prediction: there is a 30-35% chance of re-entering the recession. They emphasized that recovery of the housing market is critical to the nation’s recovery. Irvine, of course, is ground zero for housing: not only has The Irvine Company started successfully building and selling new homes again, but FivePoint Communities’ project furthers the objective, and these companies then give confidence to other communities to begin to dust off the plans and start building again—a major boost to any economy.
Equally as important, said PIMCO: politicians need to stop bickering and start working together on practical solutions to the country’s economic problems. We need to replace the “teenagers leading our country with adults,” they said.
The back-and-forth political carryings-on are still daily fodder for the press in Sacramento and Washington. Fortunately, here in Orange County, we have an example of an elected official who understands what it means to lead in tough times. He and his council brethren know that in this economy, with so many folks out of work, those who have the ability to create a job have a duty to do so.
Kudos to Mayor Kang. And thank you.