Irvine is a City with a proud history of protecting — and extending — freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
Irvine’s founders, and successive generations of Irvine leaders, have understood that freedom of speech and freedom of the press are not just slogans, but are cherished American values essential to the strength and character of our City.
That’s why, in addition to the free speech and free press protections afforded under our Federal and State Constitutions, the Irvine City Council was in the forefront of cities in enacting a municipal Free Speech Rights Ordinance in 1990. The ordinance protects free speech rights and political activity in parks and other public places, as well as in Irvine’s many shopping centers. To their credit, the Irvine Company and business owners across the City have respected and even facilitated free speech and freedom of the press.
For more than a quarter century, Irvine’s shopping centers and public spaces have been the modern equivalent of traditional town squares, where free speech is exercised, respected, and valued.
Irvine, We Have A Problem!
Now comes Councilmember Christina Shea. Although she’s been on the City Council dating back to 1992, Shea has apparently forgotten this history, preferring to set herself up as Irvine’s Censor-in-Chief, telling people what they should and shouldn’t read, and interfering with store owners and business advertisers.
Here’s what’s happening. As Irvine Community News & Views continues to grow, more and more businesses — now over 100 — carry our free community newspaper, making it available to customers who seem to be happy to pick up ICNV and read about what’s going on in the City. Well, Christina Shea doesn’t like that. She doesn’t like our newspaper. So she has enlisted a few vigilantes — putting herself at the forefront — to try to intimidate business owners and advertisers. In fact, Shea bragged on her blog and Facebook that she complained to a store manager and got him to remove Irvine Community News and Views from his store.
Shea isn’t alone. She apparently has enlisted her chief minion, a fellow named Steve Greenberg, to come to City Council meetings and tell the world that he’s going to visit every business that carries our paper…and tell them not to. I’m pleased to report that Shea and Greenberg are failing — more and more business owners are asking for ICNV, and more of their customers are too. These proud business owners and managers tell us that Shea or anyone else who tries to intimidate them should knock it off right now.
But there is more. It appears that Shea has gone even further. In an anonymous phone call received by one of our advertisers, the caller left a voice-mail message telling lies about our publication while urging our advertiser to stop doing business with Irvine Community News & Views. The caller sure sounded like Christina Shea to me. If it is, we need to ask ourselves: Is this the way a public official should behave?
We’re a community newspaper, plain and simple. We’re working hard to serve the Irvine community. If you like ICNV, great. If you don’t, that’s OK too. But interfering with our business relationships is wrong, and it may be illegal as well.
The Censorship Contagion hits City Hall
Christina SheaThe Shea censorship contagion seems to be present at City Hall as well. For years, many free publications have been available to the public in the lobby at City Hall. Included among these have been the Register’s Irvine World News, a rival publication, and even OC Weekly, an apparent favorite of Shea and Mayor Steven Choi, even though it’s recognized to be one of Orange County’s leading purveyors of pornography.
So, imagine my surprise when a simple request to put our community newspaper alongside the Irvine World News in the City Hall lobby was met with an idiotic response from City Manager Sean Joyce and City Attorney Todd Litfin. They said Irvine Community News & Views was banned from City Hall because of its “political nature.” Huh? Anybody who has read the Register’s Irvine World News or OC Weekly knows that these publications — like all newspapers — have some political content. Are the City Manager and City Attorney that ignorant about free speech, free press and the City’s very own Free Speech Rights Ordinance? Or are they just taking orders from Shea and other bullies on the Council?
Violators of Irvine’s Free Speech Rights Ordinance may be cited by the police for their interference with freedom of speech and freedom of the press — paying a fine of up to $500. Am I going to have to call Irvine’s police to enforce the law against the City, City Council and City Attorney?