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)