Irvine prepares for local elections

Election candidates’ campaign signs

Staff Writer
On Tuesday, November 4, the city of Irvine will hold its General Municipal Elections.  Registered voters will be able to vote for one mayoral and two city council candidates.  For University High School students who are currently or will be 18 by November 4, the election presents an exciting opportunity to exercise their voice in local politics.
Students who are 16 years or older can work at the election polls on election day. They will be able to earn $95 for working on election day and attending mandatory training.  For students who plan to vote in the upcoming election, it is important to be informed on the policies and positions of the candidates.
There are three mayoral candidates on the ballot.  Steven Choi, Irvine’s incumbent mayor, belongs to the Republican Party.  He has previously served on Irvine’s City Council and as a Trustee for Irvine Unified School District (IUSD).
Also running for mayor is small business owner Katherine Daigle.  On her website, Daigle describes herself as a “fiscally conservative candidate,” stressing her desire to instigate economic growth and eliminate unnecessary financial loss in Irvine.
Mary Ann Gaido, Irvine’s current Planning Commissioner, also appears on the ballot.  In an open letter to Irvine residents that was published by Irvine Community News and Views, Gaido says that she is running “for one simple reason – Mayor Steven Choi has allowed developers to take control of our city government.”
The largest issue currently facing Irvine, one that most candidates seem to be addressing, has to do with the continuous influx of new citizens in Irvine.  During his past term as mayor, Choi approved the development of ten thousand new homes near the Great Park.
Some believe that these actions will magnify issues already prevalent in Irvine, such as traffic congestion and the overcrowding of schools.  For others, these potential consequences are negligible, considering the development occurring in and around the Great Park.  Still other candidates and citizens illustrate their desire to maintain the preservation of certain open spaces in Irvine in accordance with Irvine’s 1988 Open-Space Agreement, which effectively protected 16,000 acres of land from potential development.
Regarding the rapid growth of Irvine, current Mayor Steven Choi said, “The ‘rapid growth’ has become a political campaign propaganda issue.”  As for his seemingly pro-growth stance, Choi cited the Irvine Company’s Master Plan, which outlines an “orderly” approach to the development of the Irvine Ranch.  Choi said, “The city has been growing according to the original Master Plan, which was all approved by appropriate agencies such as the Planning Commission and the City Council years ago, much of them in 1980’s. If anyone is to be blamed [for the growth], my opponents were in charge during that era before my time.”
Katherine Daigle, although in agreement with Choi’s plan of growth, explains that her ultimate goal is slightly different. She says one of her top priorities as mayor “will always be to support measured development in our city in order to create a revenue stream.”  Daigle believes that population growth will contribute to a prosperous economy, saying that “the city should increase and champion our corporations, housing, developing future homes for families which will increase additional tax revenue.”
In past years, Mary Ann Gaido has consistently fought for the preservation of Irvine’s open space.  In recent years, as Irvine’s population has increased, Gaido has begun to consider to the effect on overcrowding in schools and the resulting traffic congestion.  According to her campaign website, Gaido pledges to “implement slow growth policies that reduce traffic congestion throughout Irvine, protect open space and preserve the high planning standards that have made Irvine America’s most livable city.”
This year, USA Today’s 24/7 Wall St. named Irvine the “best-run city” in America. Whether this respectable title is due to Irvine’s low crime rate, distinguished schools, relatively affluent economy or the efforts of Mayor Steven Choi in the last two years is completely up to interpretation; nevertheless, all candidates emphasize their plans to strive to maintain the integrity of Irvine and its citizens.