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Author: Roger Bloom

Battle Lines Drawn at Latest Irvine City Council Meeting

For eight hours on July 26th, the Irvine City Council sparred over several critical issues that likely will dominate the November City elections. The battle lines were clearly drawn.

Councilmember Larry Agran championed aggressive City action on four key issues: the Veterans Memorial Park; the Orange County Power Authority (OCPA); the All American Asphalt plant; and letting Irvine voters decide on whether to transition to district elections for City Council.

Each agenda item gave rise to passionate public comments (the vast majority in favor of Agran’s positions), sharp exchanges on the dais, and some squirming by City staff members caught in the crossfire.

Agran is running for re-election in November, as is Councilmember Anthony Kuo, who sided with others at the dais to vote against each of Agran’s proposals.

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Irvine City Council Hears Three Hours of Public Testimony from North Irvine Residents Regarding the All American Asphalt Plant

North Irvine residents turned out in force on July 12th, pleading with the City Council through nearly three hours of public comments to take action against the All American Asphalt plant that for years has been blanketing their neighborhoods with foul odors and insidious airborne carcinogens. They were rewarded with a four-pronged measure introduced by Councilmember Larry Agran and passed 5-0 after much discussion.

Saying he wants to “build a fire under everybody” to get action, Agran’s measure aims to get the plant either closed by the end of the year or its operations restricted pending relocation as soon as possible.

“It’s an urgent situation,” said Agran, who has repeatedly over the past 18 months tried to get the Council to take up the issue in public but to no avail because none of the other four Councilmembers would support his requests until now. “I regard AAA as a bad actor … behaving in a way that endangers our community. This plant is emitting huge quantities of benzene, formaldehyde, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), you name it.”

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The Latest Developments at OCPA

The Orange County Power Authority (OCPA) was created by a vote of the previous Irvine City Council at the urging of then-Councilmember and now-Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilmember Mike Carroll. Irvine agreed to loan the new public agency $7.7 million in City funds to pay for start-up costs and to underwrite a line of credit from Union Bank for another $35 million to cover operations until OCPA could begin providing electricity to Irvine customers and collecting revenue. (No other member-City was asked to contribute.)

At the time, the new agency was promoted by Khan, Carroll and others as an alternative to Southern California Edison (SCE) that would provide electricity from “cleaner” renewable sources at a lower cost than SCE.

In January 2022, OCPA released the rates it would be charging when it rolled out power service this year. Contrary to earlier promises, those rates were equal to or higher than SCE’s. At its June 29th meeting, the OCPA board approved a 2022-23 budget that includes even higher electricity rates for businesses and residents in January 2023.

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Irvine City Council Votes to Audit the OCPA

During a special meeting on Tuesday (June 14th), the Irvine City Council voted to initiate an audit of the embattled Orange County Power Authority (OCPA), as pressure mounted from other cities in the Power Authority for a housecleaning of OCPA’s executive management.

The vote was 4-0, with Councilmember Mike Carroll absent. (Carroll is the chairman of OCPA’s board of directors.)

“There are questions that need answering right away,” said Councilmember Larry Agran in making the motion for the audit. Agran continued: “We need to determine what’s happening with OCPA and whether it’s even viable.”

Four hours after Irvine’s action, the City Council of OCPA-member Huntington Beach voted to support Irvine’s audit and also passed a motion of no-confidence in the Power Authority’s CEO, Brian Probolsky. Those votes were 5-0 and 4-1, respectively, with two members absent.

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Political Consultant Tied to Irvine Mayor Khan and Councilmember Kim is the Focus of an FBI Probe

Melahat Rafiei, a prominent Democratic Party official and political consultant who is a close confidante of Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan, was arrested in 2019 for allegedly trying to bribe two Irvine City Councilmembers, court documents recently revealed.

The news set off a wave of demands from Democrats throughout the County that Rafiei step down from her Party posts and her position on the Orange County Fair Board. However, Mayor Khan tweeted a defense of her close friend, mentor and 2020 campaign manager.

Rafiei owns and operates the Democratic campaign firm Progressive Solutions Consulting and WeCann, a cannabis consulting firm.

Mayor Khan’s re-election campaign this year is being run by Progressive Solutions, and Rafiei’s colleague in the firm, Cory Allen, is Khan’s 2022 campaign manager. Allen was also hired by Khan in September to be her Chief Executive Assistant, a City-paid position, raising ethical concerns.

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