Long-time Planning Commissioner and former City Councilmember Mary Ann Gaido has publicly announced her candidacy for Mayor of Irvine. In an “Open Letter” — published in this month’s printed newspaper (page 16) and entitled “Why I Am Running for Mayor” — Gaido lays out her rationale for a second run for the City’s top post.
She writes: “Two years ago, I ran for Mayor of Irvine. I challenged Mayor Steven Choi and his fast-growth, pro-developer policies that have been producing horrendous traffic and overcrowding throughout Irvine, posing a real threat to our master-planned City and our quality of life.”
In that 2014 race, Gaido lost to Choi by only 3 percent, just 953 votes.
Gaido maintains that since 2014, “the Mayor and his Council majority have failed to place any controls at all on growth and development,” causing what she calls “a growing nightmare of traffic and stress.”
Her prescription? As she did in her run two years ago, Gaido proposes a “pause for planning” — what others call a “moratorium” on development. Gaido says that this will enable the City Council to place strict controls on growth and development, and reduce the traffic and overcrowding it brings.
In addition to being tough on developers, Gaido has a reputation for using the power of local government to enhance the public realm, whether it’s support for the arts, or transit, or establishing the Irvine Open Space Preservation Plan for the City, beginning as she did by advocating the City’s purchase of Bommer Canyon in the 1970s. Later, Gaido worked with then-Mayor Larry Agran — in the 1980s — to forge an historic open space agreement with the Irvine Company, setting aside thousands of acres of hillsides, canyons, and wilderness areas for permanent preservation.
Gaido says she intends to run a grassroots campaign, but she notes that in 2014, Mayor Choi was “bankrolled” by developers who spent a reported $500,000 to re-elect him and his Council allies. “I can’t match that kind of money. I don’t want to. I certainly won’t be relying on developer money in my race for Mayor. I think if I can raise $100,000 from small donors — and we can enlist hundreds of hard-working volunteers — we can win.”
Gaido’s “Open Letter” includes an appeal for funds, directing people to her website, www.MaryAnnForMayor.com to donate or learn more about her candidacy.
In a wide-ranging interview, Planning Commissioner Gaido spoke up about the Portola High School toxics scandal. She said that the City should play a larger role, a “leadership role,” in identifying and cleaning up hazardous materials and toxic contamination. She recalled that during the 1980s the City had its own Hazardous Materials Control Program, with skilled environmental scientists administering the program. “We need to build that kind of staff capacity again — to assist the schools and our entire City in dealing with issues of toxic contamination.”
Other possible candidates for Mayor in the November election include City Councilmember Jeff Lalloway and Mayor Steven Choi, who could seek an unprecedented third consecutive 2-year term under the quirky provisions of the 2014 voter-approved “term limit” law in Irvine. Choi is running for State Assembly now, but he has indicated that if he does not finish in the “top two” in the June 7th primary election, he’ll likely run for Mayor again.
Gaido is the second candidate to jump into the Mayor’s race. The first was Gang Chen, whose street signs have been in Irvine parkways for many weeks now. Chen’s principal public issue has been his opposition to the Veterans Cemetery at the Great Park. Gaido strongly favors the Veterans Cemetery, noting that the Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery, within the Great Park, would be “an outstanding use of that public land which, after all, was part of the Marine Corps Air Station at El Toro and a storied part of Irvine’s history.”
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