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New Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan to focus on pandemic economy and environmental issues

Irvine Mayor-elect Farrah Khan will focus on the environment during her term.
Irvine Mayor-elect Farrah Khan will focus on the environment during her term.
(Courtesy of Farrah Khan)

Newly elected Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan will focus on keeping Irvine economically stable through the pandemic and steering the city toward a green future.

Khan, a Democrat, unseated Christina Shea, a Republican who has served in the Irvine City Council for 26 years. She will be sworn in on Dec. 8 along with newly elected council members Larry Agran and Tammy Kim.

“I think one of the biggest issues that our city, along with many other cities are facing, is not only surviving this pandemic but the economic crisis that’s come along with it,” Khan said. “And for that, I developed an economic recovery plan that includes several task forces that I’m working through and getting people on board, and that’ll include a COVID-19 task force, a business task force and a resident advisory task force.”

Khan was elected to the City Council in 2018. She served on the Community Services Commission prior to the council.

Khan received about 47% of the vote while Shea received about 36%.

Khan said the environment has been a particularly big focus for her on the council and will continue to be during her mayoral term.

A major part of her term will be getting a community choice energy program up and running in the city. Khan said she’s been working on getting the program approved for years.

The program enables the city to have local control over its power, giving residents the ability to use more renewable energy.

“You know, we just started our CCE program, which I’m really excited about, and that was one of the boldest steps that we’ve taken towards sustainability,” Khan said. “We’re one of the first cities in Orange County. And now we’ve got other cities looking at us and wanting to join in. So, again, that’s going to be a beacon.

“This is something that is going to help us convert over to renewable energy in a very short amount of time.”

Outgoing Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said she may run again in two years.
Outgoing Irvine Mayor Christina Shea said she may run again in two years.
(City of Irvine)

Khan said she decided to run for mayor after Shea reacted controversially to Black Lives Matter protests that were held outside City Hall following the death of George Floyd during an arrest by Minneapolis police in May.

Shea criticized protesters and blocked Black Lives Matter supporters on her Facebook page, which resulted in a lawsuit.

Shea also reported Khan to the city for “demanding” that Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel take a knee during a Black Lives Matter protest.

“For me, I wasn’t even planning on running for mayor until I just felt that the words coming out of our leadership, out of Shea, was not reflective of our community,” Khan said. "... When you hear a mayor talk about the BLM protests as being violent or twisting facts about me and others that were there, that’s not leadership.”

Khan said she started roundtable discussions with local Black community leaders following the protests, and they’ve been continuing to meet on Zoom.

Khan said she is working on a diversity, equity and inclusion resolution, though she described it as a “work in progress.”

“We are looking at how to incorporate diversity, equity and inclusion into all aspects of city government,” Khan said.

Shea, who’s final council meeting was on Tuesday, said in a phone interview that her loss is likely owed to a rising number of Democrats in the city.

An Irvine community newspaper backed by a former mayor and City Council candidate is drawing criticism from academics and council members who consider it misleading to residents.

“It just is a change in how our city thinks, we’re much more progressive-thinking in many ways,” Shea said. “So, I wasn’t shocked about the outcome.”

Shea said she’s looking forward to restarting her real estate business. She said she will still be involved politically and may start a community group with other residents.

Shea has served on the council for more than half of the city’s 49-year existence.

“So I just love Irvine, I’ve lived here since 1977,” Shea said. “It’s just a city that’s changed dramatically over the many years ... In many ways to the good, in some ways not to the good.”

She said her most proud accomplishment was bringing forward a proposal in 2016 to make Irvine one of the first cities in the county to use only organic pesticides.

She may consider running for council again in the future.

“Certainly I would consider it,” Shea said. “It just depends on where we are in two years. What the dynamic is in our city. If we have a lot of unrest and some of the difficult polarization that I’ve noticed in our city over the last year and a half or so, I don’t think I would want to do that.

But if there’s a reason, and I feel like it would be good for the city for me to come back, then yes I would certainly consider it.”

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