The Irvine City Council may opt to let voters decide if the city should allow the council to appoint the city’s mayor. Currently, Irvine holds direct-elect for its mayoral proceedings, and plans to have a public discussion about the issue, according to a memo addressed to Irvine City Manager Oliver Chi. 

The memo, placed on the agenda at the request of Councilmember Mike Carroll and seconded by Tammy Kim, brings forward the idea of transitioning between Elected-Mayor to Council Appointed Mayor. 

“We propose that the City Council submit to the voters the question of whether to amend the Charter to eliminate the elective office of mayor and thereby reestablish the procedure of selection of the mayor by the City Council, to correspondingly increase the number of elected city council members from four (4) to five (5), and to adjust to the number of terms that a member of the City Council may serve,” the memo reads. 

The move is something Councilmember Tammy Kim said would create more transparency and help curb special interests in elections, and would also be on trend with other cities in Orange County.

During a phone call with Irvine Weekly, Kim explained that with an appointed mayor, the City Council would decide who the mayor is.  

“The thought process with that is that the mayor for the city of Irvine is largely a ceremonial role. Rhey have equal vote — they preside over the meetings as all mayors do. But really what it comes down to, when you talk about special interests, it’s really just a reaction from Anaheim. When you have a direct-elect mayor it’s open to elements that you don’t want – paying for elections, independent expenditures, etc. With only $500 contribution limits in the city of Irvine, special interests can feed into elections,” she said. 

Kim added that Newport Beach and other cities are opting into this strategy. 

“Newport Beach had an initiative just this in a past election, wanting to get rid of the rotational mayor for a direct-elect mayor, and the residents overwhelmingly chose not to do that, because they felt the rotational system was a better system,” she said. “I’m open to having an open discussion, to discuss the merits of whether or not this would be a way to curb special interest influence in our elections.”

The only cities in Orange County with directly elected mayors are Anaheim and Santa Ana, the rest are rotational. 

However, Kim emphasized that this transition would be up to the voters. 

“What we’re doing is having a discussion and we are voting to put it on the ballot,” she said. “Voters will ultimately decide if that is something that they want. This is for discussion purposes. It seems to have some merit but I’m not really sure yet.”

The current mayor of Irvine, Mayor Farrah Khan, was elected in 2020, after receiving the most votes in the history of Irvine elections. It is unclear if Mayor Khan will seek re-election 

Khan did not respond to Irvine Weekly’s request for comment. 

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