Affordable Housing, Public Schools Crises Dominate First Candidates Forum of Pasadena’s 2020 Election Season

Published : Friday, November 22, 2019 | 6:19 AM

[Updated] Nearly all of the candidates running for mayor of Pasadena and City Council districts 1, 2, 4 and 6 in the March 3 election who appeared during a candidates’ forum last night kicking off Pasadena’s 2020 election season spoke about housing and education issues.

The forum was hosted by Democrats of Pasadena Foothills, which will vote to endorse candidates at its Jan. 16 meeting, though citywide elected offices themselves are nonpartisan.


Note to Readers: Last night’s event, billed as a “candidates forum” and hosted by the Democrats of Pasadena Foothills (DPF), was actually open only to candidates who are registered Democrats, DPF President Tina Fredericks said Friday. To clarify, that is why some candidates did not speak at the forum.


Not all of the candidates who have pulled nomination papers from the city clerk’s office participated in the forum. None of the candidates running for District 1 spoke at the forum, including incumbent Councilmember Tyron Hampton, Anthony Montiel and Darrell Nash.

In District 2, where Councilmember Margaret McAustin is not running for reelection, only Tricia Keane and Felicia Williams spoke at the forum. Alex Heiman, Kevin Litwin and Boghos Patatian did not appear.

In District 4, Joe Baghdadlian and Charlotte Brand spoke at the forum. Kevin Wheeler and incumbent Councilmember Gene Masuda did not.

In District 6, incumbent Councilmember Steve Madison, Tamerlin Godley and Ryan Bell spoke at the forum, while William Declercq and Mark Hannah did not.

For mayor, incumbent Mayor Terry Tornek and current District 5 Councilmember Victor Gordo spoke at the forum, while Jason Hardin, Major Williams and Michael Geragos did not.

According to the city’s clerk office, as of 3:03 p.m. on Nov. 20, no candidate had yet filed their completed nomination papers. The deadline to do so is Dec. 6 at 5 p.m.

During the forum, each candidate spoke to the crowd of about 50 people for five minutes. Common themes included housing, homelessness, overdevelopment, the environment, education, and transportation.

Keane, who serves as the deputy director of the city of LA’s Department of City Planning, said solving homelessness and ensuring Pasadena steps up its commitment on water conservation will be among the main issues she focuses on.

“We are at a critical point in Pasadena,” Keane said. “We are facing very real challenges around housing affordability, homelessness and making sure we are planning for a sustainable and equitable future. We need to and we can solve all of these issues. I’ve spent the last 12 years of my career doing just this kind of work, and I’m particularly qualified to get the work done. Our challenge is to figure out how to preserve the Pasadena we know and love.”

Williams, who consults with cities on financing bonds for big projects and serves on the city’s Planning Commission, said the three issues she’s focusing on are affordable housing, homelessness and the environment.

“We’re getting a lot of new development in Pasadena, but it’s not what we need or want,” she said. “We’re getting luxury hotels and luxury housing. That’s displacing residents and making the city unaffordable. I would like to amend the zoning code to push for more affordable housing. We also need some form of rent stabilization and community benefits agreements. Our high cost of housing is pushing people into homelessness. I am running to use my professional experience and my experience in the community to fight for Democratic values on our City Council.”

Baghdadlian, who immigrated to the United States in 1973, said it’s not right that public schools are closing and small businesses are suffering in Pasadena. He made the case that he brings his experience as a business owner to the table.

“Our existing City Councilman is not doing much,” he said. “I am ready to go on this journey and beat my opponent because I believe in doing everything the right way for our city, not ignoring the residents. I will take every issue seriously. My wife and I love to serve the community. It is in me.”

Bland, who serves on the city’s Commission on the Status of Women, said her main campaign issue is environmental justice. She said she suspected that the Edison wires on an easement near her street in east Pasadena was making people sick and possibly giving them cancer. She said that she asked her City Councilmember for an environmental health study but received no response.

“Twelve people on my street are stricken with cancer,” she said. “I’m here to hold the City of Pasadena responsible and accountable to our neighbors and citizens. As a council person, I’ll make sure that our voices are heard and that we’ll have a clean environment in which to live.”

Bell, a nonprofit executive and member of the Pasadena Tenants’ Union, said Pasadena is not working for everyone and that the desperate needs of residents are falling on deaf ears at City Council meetings.

“We need rent control in Pasadena and more permanently affordable housing,” he said. “Gentrification is pushing families out of the city they’ve lived in for generations, corporate landlords are buying up properties and evicting everyone in the building or jacking up the rent and even so-called affordable housing isn’t affordable. Long-established communities of color are being priced out. Schools are closing because enrollment is down because families can’t afford to live in Pasadena anymore. This city needs leadership. Putting out fires as they emerge and erupt is not good enough.”

Godley, who practices entertainment litigation and served on the South Pasadena school board from 2001 to 2005, said education is one of her main passions.

“I’ve been on the Pasadena Educational Foundation board for the last 10 years, raising money for the schools here,” she said. “I know a lot about the schools and have good relationships with the school board, the administration and the personnel of the district. Twenty years is enough for our sitting council person; it’s time for a woman on our City Council for District 6.”

Madison said he wants to make sure every child in Pasadena has the same opportunity to succeed that he had.

“I’m extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish so far,” he said. “We’ve undergone a renaissance in Pasadena during the time that I’ve been on City Council. We’ve rebuilt City Hall, the Rose Bowl and the Civic Auditorium. We opened a new park at Desiderio and sited nine Habitat for Humanity homes there. But many challenges remain. We have the 710 freeway stump in my district, which presents an opportunity to redevelop 50 acres. I intend to make sure we have a mix of use there, including affordable housing.”

Gordo, the only sitting councilmember to challenge Tornek for mayor, said he intends to focus on housing, education, jobs, fiscal responsibility, public safety and quality of life issues such as overdevelopment and traffic.

“I want to put the people of Pasadena first,” he said. “Pasadena is the center of the universe because of people, because it’s an inclusive city. Its values are consistent with the place that we want to be. But the Pasadena we see evolving today is not the Pasadena I envisioned and experienced as a young kid. I’m going to ensure that Pasadena’s local government is responsive to every part of this city. The mayor needs to have his or her finger on the pulse on every neighborhood of this city, and I intend to do that as your mayor.”

Tornek, who was elected mayor in 2015 and served on City Council and as the city’s planning director before that, said the city is in better financial shape than when he first took office.

“We’ve built our rainy-day fund to pre-recession levels,” he said. “We’ve done a good job in managing workforce without cutting services. People expect a high level of service in Pasadena and they deserve it. I came up with the idea for Measure J to increase our sales tax, which will send an additional $7 million to the school district. But we have a lot more to do. We have some long-term projects that I would really like to continue my work on, including the Arroyo Seco and environmental issues. I hope you will help me in terms of continuing my efforts over the next four years as mayor of Pasadena.”