Full Field of Irvine Mayoral Candidates – Orange County Register

In the race for Irvine’s next mayor, five candidates from diverse professional backgrounds are vying for the seat to represent the city for the next two years.

Incumbent Farrah Khan, who was serving a first term on city council when she was elected mayor in 2020, is running for a second term. Her challengers include Branda Lin, a legal assistant who started the local blog Irvine Watchdog; Simon Moon, pastor at Irvine Onnuri Church and reserve officer and army chaplain; Tom Chomyn, a senior account manager; and Katherine Daigle, an author and former president of a legal consulting firm who ran for several elected positions over the years, including mayor and Irvine City Council.

The mayor of the city is elected every two years and is considered the president of the city council. The mayor and council members are limited to two consecutive terms.

Irvine is one of the most populous towns in Orange County and one of the few major towns that still hold elections as a whole, which means the mayor and all other candidates run to represent the entire town. and that the best voters win the opening. seats.

In recent years, many municipalities and special districts up and down the state have moved to district elections, some in response to legal challenges over their voting methods.

But Irvine leaders earlier this year decided not to put a measure on the November ballot that would have asked residents whether the city should move on to ward elections and whether the council should increase its seat count from five to seven.

Most mayoral candidates have said they favor the move to district elections when asked in recent forums, with some citing the potential for better representation of issues from specific communities.

At a forum, Lin argued that holding a general election “actually makes it very difficult to run a viable campaign”, saying “the cost is prohibitive for people who lack major funding, perhaps from corporations, political action committees or trade unions”. as a whole, partly because of the cost of direct mail and advertisements that have to be distributed throughout the city.

Khan at the same forum, organized by the Chinese Cultural Association of the South Coast, said it was a change she would support if the district elections were conducted “in the right way”, but added that she was suspicious whether switching from the general format would lead to fewer Asian American and Pacific Islander contestants now on the dais.

In addition to the election issue – which is sure to resurface – Irvine’s next mayor will take office amid a host of issues at play in the city, including ongoing calls to shut down the plant. All American Asphalt, development plans to build the Great Park, Irvine’s involvement with the fledgling, but controversial, Orange County Power Authority, and – like many other cities – concerns over housing affordability, development and inflation.

Among a list of needs that Chomyn sees as the most pressing currently facing Irvine include closing the OCPA, moving to district elections, closing the asphalt plant, and creating an alumni park. fighters at Great Park,” he wrote in response to a questionnaire sent to all candidates in the November election.

Khan said “housing, transportation and environmental sustainability” were the city’s greatest needs, while Moon said the “decline in our Irvine quality of life in many of our villages and in the city in general.

“As the new mayor, I will strengthen public safety and maintain lower taxes and a balanced municipal budget,” he added. “I will protect our residents from pollution and ensure shopping malls are built in Great Park.”

Daigle cited the high cost of living in Irvine as a significant issue, as well as what she said is the core race theory taught in the Irvine Unified School District. Daigle at candidate forums and on her website has proclaimed that she is against critical race theory, an academic framework that examines how race plays a role in society and how racism has become entrenched in institutions and legal policies. Orange County school officials said the typical college field of study is not taught in K-12 schools, but opponents say the ideas have seeped into the teachings.

As mayor, Daigle said she would advocate for school choice and “challenge” any critical teaching of race theory.

Lin, who is a former community services commissioner for Irvine, said affordable housing for Irvine’s growing workforce is a major need in the city right now, and if elected mayor, she would “would launch a program to establish partnerships that would result in housing for the workforce”. close to jobs. »

“Developing mixed-use neighborhoods in the Irvine Business Complex and Spectrum areas for different income levels with reliable commutes to business centers would reduce traffic and workforce housing needs works in these denser parts of the city,” Lin said.

Over the next few years, Irvine faces a state mandate to plan nearly 24,000 additional housing units to help meet the needs of the area – more than any other city in Orange County. Candidates made various suggestions on how to meet this state planning requirement and meet local demand for housing, while balancing the preservation of existing neighborhoods.

Khan said she worked with city staff and developers to plan the units near the Irvine Shopping Complex, Great Park and Irvine Spectrum Center, “thus keeping our communities planned while creating opportunities for dense/mixed-use housing with access to public transit.”

Daigle and Lin also suggested adding more housing units near transportation and retail hubs and workplaces. “This will preserve existing villages in central Irvine while meeting housing needs,” Lin said.

Chomyn said the city could build a range of options, including multi-purpose housing and single-family spaces. But Moon noted that he would first look at the city’s existing housing inventory “to provide more affordable labor-saving housing for residents, instead of looking to larger development.” .

On why he thinks he would make a good leader for Irvine, Moon, who has served as a pastor at Irvine Onnuri Church since 2013, said he would make it his “first duty” to “serve and protect the people of Irvine”.

Lin said that while many residents don’t feel heard by city leaders, her experience leading the nonprofit Irvine Watchdog means she’s “advocated alongside many groups communities, provided a platform to share questions and concerns, and helped residents navigate our municipal government, regardless of my personal stance on the issues.

“I exemplify problem-focused leadership and shared community values ​​in a non-partisan way – as it should be in city government,” she said.

Khan touted her involvement in community events and her willingness to listen and be accessible to residents as reasons why she would make a good leader and representative of Irvine’s diverse communities.

“From resisting hate against our API, members of the Jewish and Black community to celebrating our diversity through Pride, Juneteenth, the Mid-Autumn Festival and Hispanic Heritage, all inaugural events – I have worked to uplift our diverse community to provide an inclusive and safe environment for all,” she said.

As mayor, Daigle said she would “bring together highly respected team leaders to bring order to this city,” and said her experience as an executive for a midsize company for 20 years makes her a capable leader.

Chomyn said part of what would make him a good mayor is that he would advocate for a site supporting veterans at Grand Park, honoring a 2020 citizens’ initiative to designate land in the park to this end. It would also work to increase attendance at city council meetings, he said, suggesting ‘local town hall meetings on a quarterly basis to share issues with residents and bring them up to date on important issues of the city like the veterans park. , OCPA, how the district elections will benefit their section of the city.

Election Day is Nov. 8, and ballots have been sent to all registered voters in the city that can be mailed out that day. Voting centers begin opening Saturday for in-person voting and secure ballot drop boxes are available throughout the region. Find locations and other information on ocvote.com.

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