At University Club Leadership Luncheon, Mayor Tornek Speaks Candidly on a Wide Range of Topics

Bill Flinn and Kelly WhiteDarryl Garibay, Daniel Stubbs, Mayor Terry Tornek, Howard Raff and David WalkerGina Sanchez and Heather BackstromJames Adamas, Leah Snell, Jonathon Wilson, Howard Raff, and Laura NorrisJohn Pipia of Gateway Metro Center with Richard McDonaldJoseph Lee, Yuchen Vong, Gary Ybarra, and Shannon ForrestallRich Chinnen and Joseph LeeUniversity Club of Pasadena General Manager Cyrus Afshin, Board members--Darryl Garibay, Daniel Stubbs, Mayor Terry Tornek, Howard Raff and David WalkerUniversity Club of Pasadena General Manager Cyrus Afshin with Mayor Terry Tornek

Story and Photography by RACHEL YOUNG

5:54 am | August 15, 2015

Mayor Terry Tornek spoke candidly about a wide range of topics with business and community leaders at a University Club of Pasadena leadership luncheon on Friday.

Coming to grips the demands of his new position, Tornek announced he will leave the real estate development and management business as soon as the building he currently has in escrow closes.

“Frankly, being Mayor here takes a lot of time,” Tornek said. “Pasadena is really a small town that plays big. Because of the fiscal presence, the institutions, the Tournament, the schools, the museums and the most important thing — the horse power, the intellectual capacity and achievements of our populous.”

Contrasting his style with former Mayor Bill Bogaard, Tornek said he will never vote simply to reach a consensus, but will take an advocate role even if it means he gets voted down.

“That’s part of what the role is, to stake out a position that you think is right … even if you’re not successful in the first round,” Tornek said. “Being in the minority is not a bad thing.”

Tornek said the different style is partly a product of the time. Bogaard faced a more divided Council filled with strife so his desire to reach consensus was necessary. Tornek said the council he sits on is “more civilized — almost too civilized.”

The differences between Bogaard’s and Tornek’s styles will be evident, Tornel predicted, at his version of the State of the Union address, which he said will return to the original focus laid out in the charter for the mayor’s focus — financial priorities for the city.

“I started working on my version this week. Less ‘feel good’ and more budget,” Tornek said. “That may not make for as fun an event.”

Tornek appointed himself as the head of the Finance committee so he could be at the center of what he sees as the important issue in the city, the city’s money and budgeting — which are also the topics which worry him most.

“The silver lining in the scandal we recently endured in terms of the embezzlement is that people recognize we can’t keep doing business the way we’ve done business because it doesn’t work, it’s not working. That doesn’t mean we need to throw everybody out or start from ground zero,” Tornek said.

Tornek said he has been meeting with all of the heads of departments within the city to assess the processes and communications to take up “best practices.”

“The Pasadena way, does not mean the way that we have come to do things. The Pasadena way traditionally when [City Manager Don] McIntyre ran the place and earlier has been as an example for other cities of excellence of innovation, of performance, of getting the job done,” Tornek said.

Tornek spoke his mind on a variety of subjects in responding to questions from those in attendance.

Tornek said that change is coming to Pasadena. Development is currently booming in the city of Pasadena, but Tornek said development happens in cycles.

Sidewalks, a major concern to many citizens, will be fixed. The city changed policy away from making the homeowners responsible for sidewalks, a law implemented in the 1940s. The City heard complaints and took responsibility for changing the sidewalks, he said.

Other topics the Mayor addressed included concern for struggling non-profits—the city has 1,100, the 710 freeway, public schools, and consolidating city communications.

Tornek sees that Pasadena has four major areas of growth possible—technology innovation, public health, education, and hospitality.

Since entering his position as Mayor, Tornek said he has been in listening and learning mode.

“I’m educable. I don’t think I know everything because I don’t,” Tornek said.

The University Club has existed as a venue since 1921 as a social club for university graduates, with a history of hosting speakers such as Albert Einstein and Albert Michelson. The club hosts monthly social events and acts as the meeting venue of several community and professional organizations.