The Irvine Report

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Agran Supermajority in 2010?

Irvine City Councilman Steven Choi has confirmed his candidacy for the 70th Assembly District. According to Irvine GOP Chairman Allan Bartlett, Tim Clark has been hired to manage the campaign.  This is sure to rile up the GOP establishment, who have pretty much lined up behind ultra-con Don Wagner.  Nevertheless, Choi’s name recognition and robust voter base could be leveraged into a victory.  That leads to some questions.  The prospect of an Agranista super-majority grows closer.  Why would Choi abandon the trenches at Irvine City Hall unless some insider agreement was made, especially since I wouldn’t put money on Shea’s chance of victory in the mayor’s race?

(Disclaimer: the author is an independent candidate for Irvine City Council)

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Irvine Watch: Proposed Town Hall Meetings Move Forward

This Tuesday, the Irvine City Council had a fairly interesting meeting.  Originally I tried to get this out on Wednesday, but they take forever uploading the video to the Council website.  I tried to remotely view it live, but the video feed was messed up so I only got audio.  Nevertheless, the highlight was Francine Verbarg’s (of Youtube fame)  proposition for Town Hall style meetings (presumably to get some answers out of our council).

Initially, I thought that it was just going to be another public comment rant, which are usually just ignored by the council.  Needless to say, I was impressed to find out that Christina Shea had agendized the item to facilitate productive discussion.  I know city council meetings probably aren’t as interesting to you as they are me, so I’ll make it brief.  Below is a recap of what went down.

Shea introduced Mrs. Verbarg, who presented her idea for a quarterly town-hall meeting.  It wasn’t anything complicated, just a meeting where Irvine citizens could ask for and receive answers concerning Irvine issues. The council then proceeded to sort of juggle it around.

Sukhee Kang went first, saying he thought the City was already doing enough to reach out to the community via ICTV, Inside Irvine newsletter, and various workshops that they conduct.  He stressed he “doesn’t see a reason to reinvent meetings”, however Kang kept mentioning the Persian and Korean communities as people we need to reach out too.

The city attorney, Phil Kohn, did bring up one of my biggest concerns, The Brown Act.  From my experience as a member of a legislative body governed by the Act, I initially thought that the Act would not facilitate town hall meetings.  A good work-around brought up by Kohn was to have two council-members instead of all 5, so as not to invoke quorum and thus the Brown Act.

Agran and Krom didn’t really have anything significant to say, except that they thought the turnout would be meager.  Agran did mention that the citizens of Irvine should organize the town hall themselves, which I think is something to seriously consider.  Agran was receptive to the idea, but somehow was clueless to why we would need town hall meetings in the first place.  ”We don’t have a system that’s broken”, he claimed.

Choi was next on the dias, never without a grudge against Agran, who claimed that he had been holding town halls and going out on the streets to engage citizens for years.  He then brought up that members of the council became jealous and angry and alleged that he was using city staff to get votes, so he had to cancel his field work.

Finally, Shea brought everything back on focus and directed city staff to pursue a comprehensive outline of the City’s options.  From gauging their dialouge, it seems that town hall meetings may become a reality in Irvine.  Expect an update when they meet again after January 1st.

On a tangent, Larry Agran had the quote of the day:

"This won’t be the first time that my notions of planning and execution as we build out our city- it won’t be the first time that my notions have been overridden by the better ideas that others have had."

(while commenting on the proposed Northwood War Memorial)

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Your Cell Phones are Harmless.

I just read this article in the OC Weekly which cites a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute by the Danish Cancer Society.  Pretty much, there is no link between cell phone waves and cancer.(What a surprise)  Additionally, UCI researchers have been saying the same thing for years.  This is a big deal because some vocal people are genuinely convinced that building cell phone towers is physically harmful to our health.

Back in March of ‘09, I attended an Irvine City Council hearing concerning the moratorium on cell phone towers in the city.  I for one struggle with reception and I have Verizon.  My friends with AT&T simply just don’t get reception.  I was horrified to find out that a lot of people were speaking about how they were afraid of cancer to the extent that one older lady even refused to have her disabled grandchild at her house because she feared radio-waves would kill him.

My argument concerning the Irvine Cell Tower debate is for another post, but I just want to say that no one should even think about claiming that cell towers cause physical ailments.

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Happy Thanksgiving Tommorrow

and good luck shopping on Black Friday.  I personally will not partake in the madness of Black Friday, but for those that do, the IPD will be out in force, deploying teams to shopping centers across Irvine.  Unfortunately, they’ll only be covering the Spectrum, and the Marketplace (which is sort of more in Tustin).  They will be out to be a visible presence and to respond to crimes in progress.  Additionally, they aim to educate shoppers how to protect their cars from theft.  It’s good to know that we haven’t descended into total anarchy.

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More Great Pork

Try 3.5 million dollars worth.

that’s the amount that has been paid out to Forde and Molrich, a PR firm with a no-bid contract.

In 2005, the Register reported that F&M was recieving a $564,000 no bid contract.  It also reported that one of their first printing jobs, costing $75,000, could have been done for $25,000.

After that, F&M went underground, and switched to a subcontractor with Ken Smith’s design studio, to avoid public scrutiny.

Now, a 111 page document detailing F&M’s activities reveals 3.5 million has been paid out, with 2 million more over the next 2 years. Note that they get the money regardless of performance, and are subject to minimal oversight.

Interestingly, two Finance Commission members who revealed the problem were appointed by Agran and Krom themselves.  My fear and expectation is that they will be replaced for biting the hand that feeds them.

Read the original story

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Notorious Contributors to Beth Krom’s Campaign

I’d like to further expose the players in the Krommunist cabal that dominates Irvine politics. 

  • James Ray-$2400- Great Park Board Member/ Developer
  • Mrs. James Ray-$2400
  • Dan Chmielewsky-$2400- Liberal Hack
  • Larry Agran-$1250- Great Park Chairman/ Irvine Councilmember
  • Mrs. Larry Agran-$1250
  • Michael Ray-$1000- Developer
  • CAIR PAC-$1000- AKA Todd Gallinger & Friends
  • Debbie Cook-$1000- Congressional Candidate
  • Michael Pinto-$250- Great Park Board Member
  • Ben Abadi-$250- Shiva Farivar Fundraiser
  • Erwin Chemerinsky-$250- UCI Law Dean

http://query.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/com_detail/C00459735/

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Conflict of Interest Watch:

Irvine City Councilmember Stephen Choi accepted a political contribution from fellow Great Park Board Member Walkie Ray’s wife. (a known Krommunist who has donated $4800 along with her husband to Beth Krom’s congressional campaign)

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No Bid Contracts at the Great Pork

And still, Larry “Boss Hogg” Agran claims a thourough audit is unnessecary. 

From the OC Grand Jury Report:

No-Bid Contracts

Awarding of no-bid contracts by the City has raised the concerns of the Grand Jury. Of many no-bid contracts, the Grand Jury presents these examples.

 Law Firm:

On May 27, 2005, another no-bid contract for legal services was awarded by the GPC, replacing previous counsel at a significantly higher hourly rate.

Recycling:

The most recent no-bid contract was approved April 25, 2006 on a three to two vote, to create a lease agreement to operate a green waste recycling facility on 60 acres of Great Park land.

Public Relations:

On April 28, 2004, a public relations firm received a no-bid contract for public relation services from the City of Irvine, which included a $600,000 retainer and $802,500 in reimbursements for a total of $1.4 million. This contract was renewed in April 2005. Currently the firm holds a contract for approximately $600,000 from the City of Irvine and $600,000 from the GPC.

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Behind the Curtain: Larry Agran and Sandeep Baweja

Larry “Boss Hogg” Agran has a bad habit of surrounding himself with shifty characters.  Now, one by one, they are being revealed as criminals. 

Meet Sandeep Baweja, an Indian lawyer who was deeply connected behind the scenes in Irvine.  He even served on the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, one of the largest education non-profits in California.  Earlier this year, he admitted to burning through 2.7 million dollars that was supposed to be safe in his trust account.  The money was intended to be paid out to the plaintiffs of a class action suit.  How hard is it for one guy to spend $2,700,000???  Actually pretty easy, he blew it all on an online stock trading account.  He claims it was a big mistake, but he shows no remorse.  He just blamed the market crash, like he was some innocent victim. 

The money was stashed in the Union Bank of California, the same branch that I bike past every day.  Baweja told his co-counsel that the interest was not paying enough and that “he could get a better return elsewhere”  Right, like $27,000 per year isn’t enough.  Even if he did get a “better return” from the stock market, I would bet a million dollars that none of the profit was going to be shared with the class action plantiffs(The only ones that actually had a right to the money). 

Here is what our dear Mayor had to say, “He was a pretty nice guy, a good person committed to education and community service. Personally I found him to be a good civic leader”.  Honestly, I don’t know what Sukhee Kang is smoking, but “good civic leaders” don’t blow $2.7 million of other people’s money.  Here’s the killer:  Baweja is registered as the Treasurer for Kang, Krom, and Agran’s pet ballot measure committees(Yes on Measure S, Yes on Measure R). 

Throughout the entire election cycle, Larry Agran shamelessly promoted Measures R and S, and his slate mailers churned out propaganda in support.  All this with Baweja behind the wheel.  However, Todd Gallinger claims that his actions had any impact on their election campaign(For some reason that I still can’t imagine, the Register asked Todd Gallinger what he thought).  He claims that they hired a professional treasurer involved with the ballot committees. However, as Treasurer, it escapes me that they chose Baweja for the job, when their professional treasurer is listed for every one of their other groups.  Don’t the Agranistas realize that a professional treausurer is irrelevant if they aren’t the legal Treasurer?  That means Baweja, as the legal Treasurer, could do as he pleased with the campaign funds, since only his signature is required.  It probably helps that their filings are nowhere to be found on the Secretary of State’s campaign finance records. 

There needs to be an investigation into “Yes on Measure R” and “Yes on Measure S” pronto!

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Discovery Science Center may Expand to Great Park

Coincidentally, right after my profile of “Walkie” Ray, news arrives that the Discovery Science Center is trying to make a 12-acre education garden in the Great Park.  Apparently this is part of the 1,300 acres that were already designated as botanical gardens.  Botanical gardens are nice to have, but here’s the only dilemma: I don’t know if you’ve been to the base recently, but it is hot as hell out there, and I don’t know how they’re going to irrigate 1,300 acres of lush gardens cost-effectively.  Oh yeah, the best part is that “Walkie” Ray, Beth Krom, and Miguel Pulido serve on the Discovery Science Center Board AND The Great Park Corp. Board.  I wonder if that had anything to do with the Science Center’s expansion into the Great Park.