We asked the candidates running for Irvine City Council about their vision of Irvine and how they would ensure the city’s business climate continues to grow and thrive. These were their responses:
Vision of Irvine: The Master Plan is the essence of Irvine. Many people have moved to Irvine to enjoy the many benefits of living in our world-renowned master planned community. The open spaces, parks, trails and recreational amenities are key. I will fight to preserve and protect the Master Plan of Irvine, open spaces, parks, villages and neighborhoods. My vision also is to keep Irvine as the Safest City of its size nationwide. We have retained this Safest City designation for 15 consecutive years. I also envision Irvine staying at the cutting edge in educational opportunities, innovation in learning, promoting a thriving business community, and being a city that leads, thrives and succeeds in all aspects. I envision Irvine with an Ethics Commission that I plan to initiate when I am on the City Council. The Ethics Commission will be key in vetting issues that arise and will ensure transparency and accountability in government. When I am on the City Council, I will ensure that we retain the amazing quality of life that Irvine is known for. I will represent ALL Irvine residents with inclusivity, kindness and respect.
Business Climate: I look forward to working with our local businesses and the Chamber of Commerce when I am on the City Council.
In order to ensure that the business climate continues to grow and thrive, especially as they recover from the Covid-induced economic hardship, I would initiate the following plans when I am on the City Council:
- I will initiate a Small Business Advisory Committee to communicate directly with businesses to share ideas as to how to get our businesses back on track and thriving.
- SBA loans and grants and other local relief measures — assist with making business aware of these and helping them with the application process.
- Making sure there are no extra fees or taxes levied on small businesses. Making sure our council is business friendly and working to help bolster our businesses. We can also defer financial burdens placed on small businesses.
- Actively communicating with business leaders and continuing to make services and information available to our businesses. I have an open door policy, and I am highly reachable and active in assisting with issues.
- Incentivizing and encouraging our consumers to utilize and patronize our local businesses. This can be done through getting the word out and encouraging residents to patronize our local businesses and by making sure our businesses get exposure throughout our city.
Vision of Irvine: My vision is for us to reopen and thrive again and that entails rebuilding our economy after Covid, a dedication and commitment towards the Master Plan, and making sure our public safety is fully supported. I want the city to be an ideal place to live, work and play for students, young professionals, families and seniors.
Business Climate: I am a pro business candidate and I have been a business owner for 17 years. I will continue to work with our business community to make Irvine grow and prosper in this area. Post Covid, we also need to actively support our small businesses. This is especially true for our retail businesses who bring in revenue via sales tax. I will launch a big “Buy Irvine” program and convince my council colleagues to invest in promoting a more aggressive buy within the city program. This program should also include vendors who do business with the city. We will truly need our business community at our side working together to reopen and thrive as a city.
Vision of Irvine: Irvine is one of the most desirable places in the U.S. I want to be part of keeping it that way. To continue to remain one of the best-run cities in the United States. We will accomplish this feat by having a fiscally responsible budget, low unemployment, low crime, and increased investments in education for our youth and sustainability for the environment. I will be introducing this beautiful city to even more people, perhaps in increasing Irvine’s recognition as a tourist destination.
Business Climate: Think global shop local. I would put together campaigns to encourage people to eat at local restaurants, hire local services and buy locally made products where possible. I would also look for ways to increase Irvine’s appeal as a tourist destination center where people would be likely to stay for two or three days, not just a day trip from L.A. The city can also help local businesses by assisting with COVID relief programs and not raising taxes.
Vision of Irvine: First, we must recover! Re-opening our economy safely will be a complicated and difficult process. But it is the only way we can begin to rebuild our city finances and restore our city services. It will be our most immediate challenge.
We should also view this process as an opportunity, an opportunity to take a fresh look at the way we perform city services and see if there are ways to be more efficient and cost effective as we rebuild. Maybe we should consolidate functions; contract for routine services and procure technology to simplify operations and better control personnel costs.
Next, we should assess what we have learned and how we can apply it to our future. Many things have changed for good. More people will work from home. That changes transportation needs. It reduces the demand for commercial space. Is there another, better use, for that space? What will happen to brick and mortar retail and the space it used to occupy? Will people travel less and use city amenities more? Will we have enough space for that? We will have to adapt to the behavior changes that this pandemic has produced.
We need to adapt to these changes in a smart way that preserves the qualities that brought us all here to Irvine in the first place. We have beautiful neighborhoods, amazing families, great recreational and cultural facilities, very desirable employment centers and high-quality commercial areas. We are the envy of many cities. Our overarching goal should be to keep Irvine as one of America’s safest cities and a “first choice” location to live, work and raise a family.
Finally, we need to communicate better with our residents. We are a large city with only a few people setting policy and making decisions. As a technology expert I believe there are many things we could be doing to make it easier for our residents to monitor and participate in the operations of our city. Simple apps could allow our residents to access the data and status of projects in our city. I would like to bring my skills to City Hall to use technology to develop a more open and transparent government.
Business Climate: Irvine is home to an estimated 15,000 businesses. Businesses create jobs and generate revenue for the city. Irvine is a technology and advanced education hub fed by upwardly mobile, trained graduates from University of California Irvine, Concordia University and Irvine Valley College. I believe the city should team with innovation and research centers in our universities and existing technology companies to advocate for “Silicon Orange” in Irvine. It will create more good-paying job opportunities, bring in more revenue to the city, and provide more community service programs for our residents. A positive cycle!
We need to focus on helping our businesses who are struggling due to the pandemic. Government assistance can be difficult to navigate by those applying for the first time. The city should help guide businesses to the available federal and state relief programs, and also help them to apply. Some business sectors will no longer be in demand. During and after recovery, the city can sponsor workshops highlighting emerging job sectors and best practices for adapting to new realities and act as a resource for job training opportunities.
Vision of Irvine: Both the city and I will turn 50 next year. It helps me appreciate the lifecycle of our planning horizon. Vision helped us become a global city recognized for our master planning, our natural assets, our educational resources, our business and economic success and our extraordinary cultural diversity, but we must stop resting on our laurels. My vision for Irvine is a city where planning is based on the most innovative and sustainable models for community design and where we produce housing for all income levels. We must strengthen our civic core. Better communication and community engagement in every aspect of civic life will build a positive culture of respect for the people, businesses, organizations and institutions that make up our city. I’m proud of our reputation as America’s Safest City, but that is not enough. We must address the complex health and safety needs of our residents with the kind of services and resources a city of 300,000 people requires. Relying on the county should not be our default position for public health, mental health, homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse and other social service needs. Vision must come from our leaders and grow with our population.
Business Climate: I am the only candidate for Irvine City Council who serves on the Finance Commission, has worked in the private sector leading large scale enterprises as a vice president of a Fortune 500 company, and who built a successful local nonprofit to serve and support immigrants, many of whom are part of our workforce. I understand the importance of a robust business environment from every angle. I am the only candidate who has worked directly with our Irvine Chamber of Commerce on programs to attract mulit-national companies into Irvine.
Irvine is the business hub of Orange County. Our business community has been significantly impacted during this pandemic. We rely on sales tax for a significant part of our budget. As we confront our own municipal impacts, we must continue focusing on those elements of our community that are attractive to businesses for operations and attracting/retaining employees.
Public safety, well planned and well maintained roads, parks and neighborhoods and quality education will always be key factors in building back even stronger.
My vision for Irvine is to be a leader in the Fourth Industrial Revolution by taking advantage of the resources that already exist with UCI, coupled with our highly educated workforce. I am committed to ensuring that Irvine is the hub of the Green Technology industry, biotechnology, robotics and artificial intelligence.
Vision of Irvine: I want an Irvine that is at the forefront of green technology, where everyone is able to flourish. I want our schools to be the best in the world, the city internationally recognized for the happiness of our citizens and quality of life.
Business Climate: I don’t see supporting the businesses of Irvine recovering from COVID-induced hardship, supporting the citizens who are also recovering, and promoting, investing, and creating a green space and environment as isolated issues. I think we all tend to see issues in the lens of a vacuum as opposed to interconnected issues. For example, alleviating the congestion that plagues our city via green public transit will save not only citizens the cost of transport but it will save businesses the cost of time that is wasted in traffic. This investment in a green public transit system will put money back in the pockets of the citizens who can then spend it at local businesses. These local businesses that serve our communities should have had assistance from the city in filing for PPP grants from the federal government. The city leaders failed to provide any apparatus to help small business owners navigate the complicated federal forms and government. When elected, I would want to create an initiative that recruits lawyers in training from UCI Law School to provide legal guidance and advice to the local businesses pro-bono. In addition, I would like to see if we can offer some kind of tax relief and temporary grant for businesses struggling to stay afloat due to COVID-related expenses.
Vision of Irvine: My vision of Irvine is a vibrant, diverse, innovative community where people love where they live, work, go to school and play. It’s a place that people are proud to call home. A place where people feel safe in their homes, in their parks, and on their streets. It’s a place where people come together for the common good and respect each other with human dignity. It’s a place with award-winning schools and top-notch public safety. It’s a place that, with over 287,000 people, is literally the economic backbone of the sixth-largest county in the United States.
Business Climate: As vice mayor, I’ve been working hard to protect Irvine small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. We established the City of Irvine Small Business Relief Program, where we aided 506 local small businesses with monetary grants to help them safely re-open. I would work closely with our Chamber of Commerce to form a “business roundtable” to hear what our businesses need from us to thrive in this challenging environment.
Vision of Irvine: My vision of Irvine has not substantially changed since I was first elected to the Irvine City Council in 1978. I want Irvine to be a pioneer and leader in providing Irvine residents the highest quality of life by taking advantage of the incredible talent at our local world-class university and businesses.
For example, plans and policies adopted during my prior years of service as mayor and city councilmember were instrumental in making Irvine the greenest city in America. In the early 1980s, I led Irvine in adopting its curbside recycling program. A few years later, after consulting with Nobel Prize-winning UCI scientists Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina, I led Irvine in becoming the first American city to ban chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), industrial chemicals that destroy the Earth’s ozone layer. Irvine’s ban on CFCs jump-started municipal, state, national and international efforts to craft legislation banning CFCs.
As a result of Irvine’s leadership on that issue, local government officials representing 200 cities from 43 nations gathered at the UN the following year to create the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). Today, ICLEI is a 2,000-member organization and the largest environmental city network on the planet.
If I am returned to the council, I will be working to restore Irvine’s proud history as a leader in innovation and public policies.
Business Climate: More than six months into this pandemic, the city has done little to protect and support our local businesses. The only assistance provided to the Irvine business community has come from the federal program, which the city simply administers.
I have prepared a plan — written in the form of an official Irvine City Council Resolution — to address the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 in Irvine. (The full text of the plan is available on my website, LarryAgran.com, under the “Priorities” heading.) Under my plan, Irvine would use $10 million of the City’s $53 million Rainy Day Contingency Fund to establish three new offices, including the Office of Small Business Assistance.
The Office of Small Business Assistance would provide financial assistance, protective equipment and instruction in achieving the highest standards of health and safety in the workplace and in all areas open to the public.
Vision of Irvine: People in Irvine do NOT want drastic change. We need to simply maintain our best practices and make small adjustments based on the feedback from residents for quality of life issues. I have heard countless residents tell me when I get elected, don’t change anything! With the exception of working on the traffic problem.
Business Climate: In many ways, Irvine is the economic hub of Orange County. How would you ensure the business climate continues to grow and thrive? How do you see the city supporting local businesses especially as they recover from the Covid-induced economic hardship?
The economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has left every city with budget troubles and cities are looking at how to bring in more revenue.
Raising taxes is NOT the answer!
We need to reopen business safely. That is the priority to raise revenue, attract new businesses and maintain/improve current business. We need to cut red tape for small and big businesses so they can open safely, properly function and generate more income/revenue.
Vision of Irvine: Irvine is a special city, defined by both its brilliant master planning and its diversity of cultures. As we move into the future, we can model a serious and effective COVID-19 response, a strong economic climate that supports education and innovation, and the protection of open spaces and our environment. We can lead the region and the country as a city of the future that embraces diversity and inclusion as well as transparency and efficient government.
Business Climate: The city must take a strong leadership role in this time of crisis and make sure every small business has the equipment and supplies to reopen safely. There are few more important things elected officials could be doing right now. I stand with our small businesses and our workforce in protecting their physical and economic health. I will advocate for a greater share of CARES Act and, potentially, HEROES Act funds to bring them back to Irvine and provide this money as grants to our small businesses and struggling workforce. The city can do more to assist and advise small businesses as the pandemic and economic crisis continues.
Vision of Irvine: My vision for Irvine is providing for the residents of Irvine; that local government is keeping their needs in mind when voting on issues. Also, as a City Council member we need to make sure we’re providing our residents with transparent communication on any question asked. I want Irvine to have clean air again where our children can walk to school or to the store with no hesitation.
Business Climate: The city of Irvine can support local businesses by providing them with resources and nonprofit organizations that will help in these trying times. We should help educate and implement programs that will help businesses stay open.
Vision of Irvine: For my vision for the future of Irvine, I believe Irvine can become a major leader in terms of transparency, honesty, climate change, quality of life, and many many more categories. We have the absolute potential to do all of these things, we just need to commit. For example, our leaders need to commit to transparency, honesty and accountability, and need to be willing to take penalties when found in violation of law and regulation. Irvine needs to be a leader for renewable energy, especially when we have some of the brightest minds of our and future generations right here at UCI, a school that is consistently awarded and recognized for its sustainability. I’m also a strong advocate for working closer with UCI, not just for this but also for things like traffic, where we have some of the brightest minds in the world in social sciences who I have no doubt would be greatly willing to work with us. I’ve met dozens of people here in my time as a student of UCI that want to help and improve this city.
In terms of where I see Irvine right now, I see it doing very well in these fields, with huge room for improvement. I hope that we can move forward to meet these goals, but we have a huge transparency problem, a traffic problem, a COVID response problem, a development problem, and so much more. And these are the kind of things that I think are holding this city back from being its best self, so to speak. I have proposals to sort out all of these problems, because Irvine is near and dear to my heart and I love it. But we have to admit we have a problem before we can fix it.
Business Climate: The business climate needs a lot of things to continue to grow right now. First and foremost, we need a workforce in Irvine that can work at these businesses. This means we need to focus on building affordable housing units for people who want to move to Irvine. In order to help businesses grow and thrive in the current climate we need to be doing everything in our power to help them reopen under the current COVID restrictions and hardships. This means that we should be providing PPE to essential businesses that are reopening first, and from there expand this PPE program to provide for all businesses as they reopen. This will help businesses feel confident to reopen, and will help keep the community safe. Some, if not all, small businesses do not have the finances or access to be able to open with the full PPE requirements we must work under, which is why I think that this is the perfect place for the city to step in and help out. The city has the resources and access to PPE supply chains that small businesses might not, and Irvine is built on the back of small business so it’s time we gave back.
Vision of Irvine: Irvine is one of the safest cities and known for its education standards – these are going to be my first priority to maintain, in the current pandemic we are going through. This effort will include how to keep up the safe environment for everyone, enough and reasonably priced supply of masks and other preventive gear we need for our front-line warriors, seniors and the rest of the people.
In addition, Irvine is attracting a lot of people and we need to make sure that everyone is safe. This is an opportunity for us to grow the economy of the city, and have a safe and secure environment for everyone, by supporting and expanding our IPD staff.
Next comes the support to the small businesses, which have closed down their doors because of financial hardship in this pandemic. As I indicated, small businesses are the backbone of every city and this is the time they need help. I will be working tirelessly to let the small businesses back on their feet.
Last but not least – I will be working with the residents to use renewable energy, stop using plastic and find new ways to recycle waste – which is really going to help us keep our environment safe and clean for us all and the generations to come!
Business Climate: Business grows when customers feel safe, secure and in a reasonable environment. The current pandemic has affected it all – people cannot go freely to anywhere they want. We have to work on making sure and enforcing laws to modify the strategies towards the “New Normal.” This will need the support from federal, state and city because this needs funding for the modifications needed to be done for the business. There are many businesses which are not affected much but are making profits because of the pandemic, where a big number of people can “work from home” and save on everyday business expenses. We will identify and reach out to other small businesses which cannot operate “from home” and will help them the way we can.
This is going to be a continuous and parallel process, while we are working to make the Irvine city greater.
As Indicated, we need to identify the issues and requirements of every small business that has been affected because of COVID-19. While not all the problems are the same, the resolutions for each need to be derived very carefully. There are many agencies already working with the affected one like the SBA and EDD and we will do our part to get the help reached in a timely manner. Currently, we are seeing delays in responses because these agencies are getting a lot of cases, but this cannot be a reason for a business to close down because of delay in the financial aid.
We must continue to protect each other and cannot cut the corners in this pandemic. As we are adopting the “new normal,” I will make sure that people know where they need to go when they need help.
One of my main agenda items is to support small businesses in every way we can. I am a firm believer that “small businesses are the economic backbone of every city.”
Christine Dillard did not submit responses to our candidate questionnaire.