Slow start to Irvine council business after election
“It was pretty much business as usual,” Councilman Larry Agran said of the first Irvine City Council meeting since the Nov. 4 election denied him the seat he has held for 16 years.
From his position, seated at the far left of the dais, farthest from city staff members and facing the audience, the longest-serving council member in Irvine history appeared more marginalized than ever.
“This is not the first time this has happened to me,” said Agran, a Democrat, of his lame-duck status. “In 1990, I lost a close election and left the council then, as it turned out, for eight years before I returned in 1998.”
The 69-year old, five-term mayor has served 28 years on the council since 1978. New voter-approved modifications in Irvine term limits assure Agran’s record will never be broken. Lifetime service will now be capped at 12 years on the council, not counting service time already accrued by current and past council members.
Irvine Planning Commissioner Lynn Schott won the council seat Agran will vacate after the Nov. 25 meeting. The council makeup will move from a 3-2 Republican majority to a 4-1 supermajority for at least the next two years. Councilwoman Beth Krom remains the only Democratic voice on the panel, which is technically nonpartisan.
A week after the election, most of the business in council chambers seemed of little consequence. The one agendized item of any significant discussion concerned the appeal of a Planning Commission approval for a five-story apartment complex at the southwest corner of McGaw and Murphy avenues.
The appeal was raised by Mayor Pro Tem Jeffrey Lalloway and upheld in a special session council meeting Oct. 22. The council voted to investigate if the Planning Commission approval was attained through any potential financial conflict of interest related to campaign contributions.
Supporters of the project implied there was transparent political motivation over the timing of the appeal. In public comments, residents speaking against the project cited a concern for noise pollution and demolition disturbances that have already begun to rumble through the neighborhood.
“Are we talking about policy or politics?” Krom asked. “I just think we should call a spade a spade. The election is over. It was the nastiest election that this city has ever seen. I personally feel that this is not being undertaken because of a concern for process.”
The panel voted unanimously to continue discussion to a future meeting after the report from the appointed special counsel is received.
In further public comments, at least three citizens stepped up to thank Agran for his years of public service.
“I was quite surprised about that,” he said. “Old and new friends came forward, and that was nice.”
Agran said he will not miss the “bureaucratic and interpersonal nonsense and nastiness” that goes with the job and laments that basic respect has eroded in council chambers over his years in office.
Yet he doesn’t see himself completely exiting the arena.
“I look at this as just a great privilege, a great experience to be able to serve my community,” Agran said. “I’m going to find other ways to be involved in public service going forward here in Irvine and perhaps elsewhere.”