Candidates Agree on Problems, But Not Their Solutions, in First 2020 Campaign Forum

Mayoral, Council candidates at PCC event agree that homelessness, state housing control, are major issues; vary on solutions

Published : Thursday, January 9, 2020 | 6:22 AM

Three Mayoral, six City Council and four PCC Board of Trustees candidates took the dais Wednesday in PCC’s Creveling Lounge at a political forum sponsored by ACT and the Arroyo Democratic Club ahead of March’s elections.

Most candidates agreed homelessness and affordable housing are among the City’s most pressing issues.

The event was a precursor to ACT’s endorsements announcement expected this week.

Responding to criticisms that not all candidates were asked to participate, ACT organizer John Fuhrman said candidates facing opposition were notified and those who completed the event’s “orientation” were invited to take the stage.

But District 2 candidate Kevin Litwin told Pasadena Now he had not been contacted and neither had fellow candidate Bo Patatian.

Mayoral candidate Jason Hardin was in attendance, but according to event organizers, was not seeking ACT’s endorsement, so he watched from the audience.

Council candidate Tyron Hampton was not asked because he is unopposed.

“Everyone in this city deserves to have the opportunities that I had,” said Mayoral candidate Councilmember Victor Gordo when he spoke during the mayoral candidates’ turn at the dais with Mayor Terry Tornek and newcomer Major Williams.

Gordo stressed his longtime association with Pasadena, having grown up in Pasadena and attending local schools.

“The City should work for everyone as it did for me,” he said, “and that means building consensus on the City Council, building consensus so that the Council is in sync with the staff in providing those opportunities with everyone in this city. I believe I have the best record in building that consensus.”

Mayor Tornek, meanwhile, touted his accomplishments as Mayor for the last four years, citing the end of the 710 Freeway extension project as an example.

Tornek pointed to significant progress towards five goals he set when he took the office in 2016: the City’s financial stability, strengthening PUSD, working on the environment, improving the city’s quality of life, and lowering crime.

“I believe I have made considerable progress toward those goals,” he said. Tornek.

Referring to homelessness and new state laws that affect local zoning in Pasadena Tornek said he believes he has “best experience to deal with these issues.”

Major Williams described himself as a “hybrid,” and said, “we need someone in office with a new style of leadership, and a different skill set.”

Williams, who is from Dallas, Texas, said he came from “similar neighborhoods” and was successful in “my version of success, which is empowering people.”

He also spoke about criticism he has received online for his lack of formal policies and his support of President Trump, but referred to himself as “a great soldier and a great leader” and said that the “City can go in a new direction” with him.

Only half of the District Two candidates spoke. Patricia Keane and Felicia Williams participated in the forum for the seat to be vacated by Margaret McAustin, who chose not to rerun out of concern for her husband’s health issues.

Keane cited her experience working with the homelessness issue.

“Pasadena has been a leader and a home of innovation,” she said, “and we’re home to Caltech. We’ve sent a Rover to Mars, and yet we have lost that sense of innovation and progress at City Hall.”

“I will bring innovation back to Pasadena in the way that we govern,” Keane said.

Pasadena native Felicia Williams said she will draw on her public policy and finance background specializing in “advising cities on how to finance very large, complex projects.”

“This is the experience we need in City Council,” said Williams.

Williams also cited her experience in a number of commissions and organizations in the Pasadena area.

“I’ve been very very deeply involved in the community, not just because I care, but also because I find it interesting, and I find it great to solve problems for my neighbors,” Williams added.

Candidate Charlotte Bland was the only participant of four running for District Four. Incumbent Gene Masuda did not attend the event.

Bland noted her longtime association with the City of Pasadena as a member of several commissions including the Pasadena Commission for Women.

“I’m running for City Council to hold City Hall accountable to our neighborhoods,” said Bland. “I plan to protect the character of our city, and I’ll ensure that new developments are safe and smart, and work to find solutions for homelessness.”

Ryan Bell and Tamerlin Godley are running against incumbent Steve Madison for the District Six seat. All spoke at the forum.

Bell is a former pastor and longtime non-profit activist. He also worked for PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) in Los Angeles and earned a doctorate degree at Fuller Theological Seminary.

“I’ve been the one out there, on the microphone, at City Council meetings,” noted Bell, “advocating to City Councils to do their jobs, to end poverty and homelessness, and injustice in our cities. To be frank, it feels a little weird to be on this side, a little sobering, but I feel like we need leadership in City Council to do the things that sometimes it takes a little extra courage to do.”

“These are challenging times,” Godley said.

A practicing attorney, Godley continued, “The policies and solutions of the past twenty years will not be the solutions for the next decade. We have to think differently and creatively.”

Incumbent Councilmember Steve Madison said “There are six candidates here, and I am the only incumbent. I’m the only one who has had any actual experience getting things done on the City Council. Talk is easy, but getting results is difficult, especially on an eight-member council.”

“This is no place for dabblers, or on-the-job training,” he said.

Madison also cited his work with ending the 710 Freeway extension, as an example of his successes.

Appearing for the office of PCC Trustee were Tamara Silver, Hoyt Hilsman, James Osterling, and Kenny Rotter.

PCC trustee candidate Silver staked out her position by noting that Santa Monica College transferred 1269 students to the UC system in 2018, while PCC transferred only 783.

Silver also claimed that Glendale College had three times more computer science classes than PCC.

Candidate Hilsman, however, challenged those numbers, saying that PCC actually had more computer science classes than Glendale, and that PCC was the leading community college for 4-year college transfers in the state of California.

Incumbent trustee James Osterling pointed out that, while he has been a trustee, PCC has improved in financial and educational performance and was named an Aspen Top Ten College two years in a row.

“This is performance based,” said Osterling. “It’s not a subjective award.”

Candidate Rotter took note of the cost of college, and while PCC is a low-cost school, said that students still have costs–books, fees, and what he called “opportunity costs,”  hours that  students are  working, specifically in reference to single parent students.

Rotter also said he has more in common with the average PCC student than other candidates. Rotter added that he would work towards having better communication between the Board and PCC students.

Both Silver and Rotter also agreed that PCC has hired too many adjunct or “part-time” teachers, who are unable to give students the attention they may need.

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