Larry Agran

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Larry Agran


Larry Agran, born 1945, is a Democratic Socialists of America affiliated, former mayor of Irvine, California.

Larry Agran is a former mayor of Irvine and the chairman of the Great Park board. As of 2010. Agran serves as Mayor Pro Tem on the City Council. He is one of the most prominent Democrat politicians in a county famous for its conservatism, as well as one of the most powerful city leaders in the county.[1]

Early life

Agran graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 1966. He served as Legal Counsel to the California State Senate Committee on Health and Welfare, and taught legislation and public policy at the UCLA School of Law and the University of California, Irvine Graduate School of Management.[2]

Council career

Between 1979 and 1990 Agran served on the city council, including 6 years as Mayor (Irvine employs a council-manager government).

In 1998, Agran re-entered public service as an Irvine City Council member. Agran was elected to serve as mayor once more on November 7, 2000, and was re-elected on November 5, 2002. The current mayor of Irvine is Beth Krom. Agran continues to serve on Irvine’s City Council and exercise considerable influence over civic matters.[3]

DSOC member

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In 1982, Larry Agran was a member of Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee in Orange County, California.

Nominal DSA member

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In December 2, 1983 report to Democratic Socialists of America head office staffer Leo Casey, Peter Kosenko of the Orange County DSA local, confirming that Irvine mayor Larry Agran was a covert, if nominal member of the organization. Also that Agran had once been a member of Californians for Economic Democracy.

Far left municipal activist

an attorney myself ... I've concluded one of the most important things we can do as attorneys or citizens generally is to take control of local government. Most smaller cities or medium-sized cities can be easily controlled politically with about five lawyers and some of their supporters. It's probably easier if you have only three lawyers and their supporters, and you just decide what kind of a community you want to live in.

Irvine Mayor Larry Agran speaking to the National Lawyers Guild June 18, 1989

By the 1980s, Irvine was one of the fastest growing cities in California, a major center of aerospace, computer, and high-tech manufacturing, and the locale US News and World Report deemed the "best place to live in America." The city itself had long ago chosen "another day in paradise" as its motto, but that was before a serpent slipped into the garden. Today, many of Irvine's 110,000 residents are beginning to wonder whether paradise has been lost.

But an element of the exotic was introduced one day in 1975, when Larry Agran came to town. Raised in California's San Fernando Valley, graduated from Harvard Law School with honors, groomed as a lawyer for the ACLU and a state senate committee, Agran moved to Irvine when his wife, Phyllis, was accepted at the University of California's medical school there. He did some private legal work, then became a house-husband, and finally decided to run for elected office "largely because you look around and see what bumbling representation does exist," he once told the Los Angeles Times .

The decision came rather suddenly for the tame local political establishment. "He registered to vote the same day he filed to run for City Council," recalls Bill Vardoulis, who was Irvine's mayor at the time. "A guy comes on the scene nobody has ever heard of, and spends $9,000 in a race where all you need is 12,000 votes. He had computerized mailings the likes of which we'd never seen."

Two weeks before the election, an article in an obscure newspaper published by Tom Hayden's pro-rent-control Campaign for Economic Democracy and circulated on the UC Irvine campus provided a glimpse of what was to come: the piece listed politicians who were helping spread CED'S tentacles into unsuspecting communities, including, in Irvine, Larry Agran.

In his early years on the council, Agran, was minority of one. Painting himself as a sober, grassroots advocate of slow growth and an environmentalist, he built up his core constituencies by beating up on the Irvine Company, which founded the community originally and still owns about a third of its land. "It was Larry against the big bad developer," says Barbara Wiener, who served with Agran on the council for four years.

Outside of Irvine, Agran began pushing another agenda, through the 1,000-member Local Elected Officials group, which he founded in 1983. The goal was to "promote local responses to non-local matters: world peace, apartheid, nuclear weapons, Central America," Agran explains. In the course of an interview, Agran uses non-threatening, bipartisan terms to describe the movement to get cities to enact foreign-policy measures, expounding on such initiatives as cultural exchanges and trade and investment links with foreign cities. This is quite reminiscent of the fraudulent manner in which he has sold himself to Irvien's electorate, but more about that later.

One need look no further than Agran's Bulletin of Municipal Foreign Policy , which carries articles like "Some tips for Building Nicaraguan Sister Cities" and "Think Globally, Sue Locally," as well as endorsements from the Rev. William Sloane Coffin and Noam Chomsky, to figure out what the effort is all about.

"Just the right sort of organizing effort and a very encouraging development," declaimed Professor Chomsky. In light of the movement's credits, his enthusiasm becomes plainly understood: 900 resolutions passed around the country in favor of a nuclear weapons freeze; 118 laws banning nuclear weapons production in local jurisdictions, an effort that coincided with the failure of the freeze movement; refusals by 120 cities to cooperate in a civil defense program proposed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which forced the scuttling of the plan; more than 100 policies prohibiting cities from links with firms doing business in South Africa; 1,300 sister-city arrangements between American cities and foreign cities, "especially so-called adversary cities," as Agran has phrased it; and 22 local declarations of "sanctuary" for Salvadoran refugees, a political movement designed to foster opposition to US policy in Central America.

In a more candid moment, Agran has been quoted as saying that the ultimate aim of the movement is to "take back foreign policy from the federal government." In appearances everywhere from National League of Cities conferences to meetings at New York's radical Riverside Church, Agran speaks of the "illegal US wars in Vietnam and Grenada," advocates an immediate, unilateral ban on nuclear weapons testing, and describes the US policy of support for the Nicaraguan resistance as "a policy that ultimately had as its objective the killing of Nicaraguan citizens and the violent overthrow of their popular revolution."

Agran's most cherished idea is a unilateral transfer of $30 billion a year, in each of five years, from military outlays (a cut three times the size of the one proposed by liberal Democrats in Congress) to "programs of proven effectiveness in our cities and towns," such as a "comprehensive Social Security system to provide income, health, nutrition and housing security for everyone, not just seniors."

Agran called for the entire budget for the Strategic Defense Initiative to be used to "help cities cope with growing traffic problems." According to a study of four US cities by the US Conference of Mayors, Agran's proposed change in federal budget policies would eliminate 6,920 Orange County jobs and mean a loss of $6.3 million annually from Irvine's economy. Flailing "twisted federal priorities" and "our entrenched warfare state," the mayor invokes the statistics as a sign of his political courage -- usually when he's speaking outside of Irvine, that is.

As the Cold War winds down, a development, by the way, achieved with the very policies Agran has spent years vilifying, he is pushing his plan to gut military spending even harder, on the dubious claim that "economic security" has displaced traditional military preparedness as the linchpin of our national security. Calling him a "liberal Democrat [who! thrives as a maverick in Republican territory," an editorial in the March 22 New York Times praised Agran for his work in the peace dividend field.

As Agran expanded his national reach, the locals back in Irvine, like Babara Wiener, began to think something was fishy. "People would come to City Council meetings to testify on Larry's side of an issue, and half of them wouldn't live in Irvine," she says. "Then we looked at some of his contributor lists, and they were full of things like big labor unions in Los Angeles." Still, their skepticism wasn't enough to stop his council colleagues from giving him his turn at the revolving mayorship in 1986, and they went along again in 1988, when Agran drafted and got passed a provision for the popular election of mayors. Agran ran and won a two-year term.

Since then, Democrat Agran has been portrayed by a fawning press, both national and local, as Super-Liberal, managing to get elected in probably the most conservative area in the country, Orange County, which gave Ronald Reagan 67 percent of the vote 1980, 73 percent in 1984, and George Bush 69 percent in 1988 -- a larger margin of Republican victory than in any other county in the country.

In Irvine, the GOP has a 65-35 percent advantage in voter registraiton, the local congressman is right-wing Republican Chris Cox, and the airport is named after John Wayne. The miracle-maker has been listed in the Los Angeles Times as one of the "people to watch" in the county; hailed by Irvine political scientist Mark Baldassare as the "perfect example of a new fiscal populist leader"; and featured as the crown jewel in a recent article in Orange County magazine titled "Bucking the System: Democrats Challenge the GOP`s Grip."

Agran gets mileage out of this seeming anomaly in appearances outside the community, too, as when he told the Macalester College Mayor's Forum in St. Paul, Minn., last year that "historically and philosophically, Orange County has been home to Richard Nixon and the John Birch Society. ... No wonder it's a pleasure for me to accept out-of-town speaking engagements." This was his on-the-road Mr. Hyde mode, in which he exposes not only his true ideological colors, but also his disdain for the political culture in which he has built his career.

Explaining his political beliefs, the mayor dismisses my suggestion that he is a socialist and even carefully avoids the L-word. Nonetheless, a smoking gun on this question turned up in the January/February issue of the Democratic Left , the magazine of the Democratic Socialists of America. In a short list of "DSAers who hold elective office" is the name Larry Agran.

Confronted on the matter, Agran explains:"Well, I get their magazine, and if you subscribe to the magazine, you are automatically a member. That's the way they work it. So that's how I'm a member." But Sherri Levine of the New York-based DSA says that is not the way it works. By becoming a dues-paying member of DSA, which Agran did, one can get the magazine free of charge; one can also subscribe to the magazine for $8 a year without joining DSA. Thus, contrary to the impression he tried to create, Agran willingly joined the group.

Agran introduced hardball politics to Irvine iwth the Cosgrove Caper. Before the 1988 election, the Irvine City Council had been split between Agran and his ally Ed Dornan, a junior college English professor, and realtor Sally Anne Sheridan and lawyer David Baker; UC Irvine professor Ray Catalano held the swing vote. In 1988, an amendment to the city charter provided for the direct election of the mayor and the elimination of one council seat. Agran spent $50,000 against opponent Barry Hammond's $5,000 to win 57 percent of the vote for mayor. For the two open council seats, Agran ally Paula Werner, a teacher, placed first, and Sheridan second. But Agran's victory opened a third seat to complete his term. Insurance executive Cameron Cosgrove, the other Agran council candidate on the ballot, had come in third in the voting, entitling him, as first runner-up, to the seat.[4]

Presidential attempt

In 1992, Agran unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party nomination for President. Agran was generally ignored by by the media during his candidacy, a topic heavily covered in the 1995 documentary “Spin.”[5]

DSA Elected Representatives, 1990

Democratic Left, Jan./Feb. 1990, page 7

As of January 1990, Democratic Socialists of America members holding elected public office included;[6]

Controversy

Though a majority of Irvine's voters are registered Republicans, they've repeated supported the decidedly liberal political alliance controlled by Larry Agran, a onetime Democratic Party presidential primary candidate.

That fact has had Republican insiders scratching their collective heads for a decade now.

It's become conventional wisdom that Agran--one of Orange County's most unethical, pompous and dictatorial public figures--wins because Irvine's residents are too busy to focus attention on local politics.

Now, a new website has emerged to help educate residents about the Chicago-born Agran and his shady practices.

It's called IrvineVoter.com and it's largely a compilation of news articles detailing Agran's greatest corruption hits.

"It's time for Larry Agran and Sukhee Kang [Agran's political go-fer] to get out of city hall," writes the website's creator, attorney David Winslow, an Irvine resident since 1970. "It never seemed logical that voters would knowingly cast their vote for someone with ethical problems. Why then, does he and his associates get re-elected in Irvine where most of the voters are highly educated people?"

Because Agran dominates a 3-2 city council majority, he appointed himself as chairman of the Great Park board, a move that put him in control of as much as $1.6 billion in public spending.

Every major local news outlet has blasted Agran for his secrecy and the no-bid contracts that routinely land in the hands of his personal friends and campaign contributors. He gave one of his friends a whopping no-bid $100,000-a-month contract to create publicity for a park that doesn't yet exist.[7]

Irvine council timeline

1978-1990 - Agran on City Council, including six years as mayor.

1998 - Agran returns to City Council.

2000 - Agran elected mayor of Irvine. His candicacy was not contested.

2002 - Agran re-elected mayor of Irvine. Agran received 53.4% of votes to Mike House's 46.6 %.

2004 - Termed out as Mayor, Agran ran for City Council and won a seat. Agran received 25,210 votes, or 16.9%, the top-vote getter for three available seats.

2008 - Agran elected to City Council. Agran received 28,157 votes, or 14.9% of votes, the third-vote getter for three available seats. [8]

CAIR 10th Anniversary Banquet

Circa 2004, some 2,100 people turned out for the annual fundraising banquet of the Council on American-Islamic Relations - Southern California (CAIR-LA) office on Saturday. The Washington-based Islamic civil rights and advocacy group said the dinner, which marks a decade of its service, raised $450,000.

At the dinner, held in California's largest banquet facility at the Anaheim Convention Center, speakers congratulated CAIR on ten years of service, and praised CAIR's efforts to combat anti-Muslim prejudice and to promote civil rights for all Americans. The annual report for CAIR-California, which includes the year's financial report, was also distributed at the event.

Speakers and attendees included Professor David Cole from Georgetown University Law Center, Honorable Curt Pringle, Mayor of the City of Anaheim, Bill Lockyer, Attorney General of the State of California, Orange Country Sheriff Michael Corona, Congressman Gary Miller (R-42), Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca, Judge James Gray, Orange County Superior Court, Honorable Judy Chu, Member of the California State Assembly, and Honorable John Chiang, Member of the California Board of Equalization. Representatives from most Southern California Islamic centers and Muslim organizations also attended the dinner. Mayors, city council members and chiefs of police from various cities were also present.

Keeping with the theme of "Restoring the American Dream", Keynote speaker David Cole emphasized the importance of challenging post 9/11 policies which unfairly target American Muslims, including ethnic profiling, preventive detention, the Patriot Act, and maltreatment of foreign nationals.

Attorney General Bill Lockyer, one of the authors of the anti-hate crime legislation AJR 64, assured Muslims that hate crimes against members of any faith community will not be tolerated. He said, "As California's top cop I will not allow it." Gary Miller urged Muslims to reach out and educate other members of the community. Sheriff Baca thanked CAIR for its advertising campaign condemning terrorism. Judge Gray urged that the "the Patriot Act...be repealed by all."

One of the highlights of the event, CAIR presented its annual Civil Rights Leadership Award to Assemblywoman Judy Chu, for her effort and dedication in passing legislation against hate crimes, and especially for sponsoring the historic AJR 64 Hate Crimes Bill condemning hate against Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and Sikhs. Chu commended CAIR for its outstanding support in proposing and garnering support for the bill.

Assemblyman Lou Correa and the office of Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez. presented the Muslim Youth Activism Awards for the positive civic, religious and social contributions made by people in the community The Muslim Activist of the Year award went to Imam Saadiq Saafir for his commitment to building bridges between the Muslim and larger community.

CAIR Chairman Omar Ahmad, CAIR-California Chairman Fouad Khatib, and CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush provided an overview of the civil rights group in its ten years of service, and a vision for an even better future. Commenting on the recent survey which shows that 1 in 4 Americans polled hold an anti-Muslim sentiment, Chairman Ahmad stated the need to present Islam in the correct way to Americans. California Chairman Khatib highlighted CAIR's progress and achievements such its public service announcements on radios, its library project which sends fair and balanced books about Islam to libraries, its activism in support of AJR 64, and many more. Executive Director Ayloush pointed out that through CAIR's efforts, accurate information about Islam was shared with 3.3 million people in Southern California.

List of Attending Guests:

References