Mayor Tornek Focuses on Top Issues of 2020 Mayoral Campaign

“Not a professional politician,’ says Mayor; names fiscal responsibility, homelessness, development, public schools, and Arroyo Seco among his campaign priorities

Published : Monday, October 7, 2019 | 5:06 AM

Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek shown in May, 2015 as he was about to address his first major public audience as Mayor at the 42nd Annual Pasadena Mayor’s Interfaith Prayer Breakfast.

Editor’s Note: So far there are three officially declared Pasadena mayoral candidates for the March 3, 2020 elections — current Mayor Terry Tornek, District 5 Councilmember Victor Gordo, and political unknown Major Williams. Pasadena Now  has reached out to interview each candidate to ask each what he believes are the key issues facing Pasadena today, issues that will drive their campaigns and shape the Mayor’s race. Today we present the first report, focusing on Mayor Tornek’s perspective.


Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek said Friday there are ongoing, pressing issues that have driven his work as the City’s top elected official and which will play roles in the upcoming election.

“There are issues that relate to fiscal responsibility,” he said, “and making sure that we continue to be in a strong financial position. There are issues that relate to supporting the public school system, to make sure that they can improve, and really create a first-rate public education environment in Pasadena.”

There are also environmental issues, said Tornek, including the initiative he has launched to revitalize the Arroyo Seco, as well as “issues that relate to continuing to make progress on homelessness in the city,” he said.

Tornek also acknowledged what he called the “speed and the intensity of new development in the city.”

Finally, Tornek included local efforts to reclaim the property that would once have been the 710 Freeway extension.

“These are all things that I’ve been working on for these years that I think I’ve made some progress on,” said Tornek, “that I want to be sure I can at least move further down the field and get firmly established, in terms of moving into the future.”

Tornek took office in April 2015, after defeating Jacque Robinson, and is only the city’s second city-wide elected mayor in modern times. Previously, the Mayoral position was rotated among Councilmembers.

While confident in the work he has done on behalf of the city, Tornek is reluctant to take too much credit for any of Pasadena’s recent accomplishments.

Said Tornek, “I think we’ve made good progress on these issues and a lot of others. But, the way it works in Pasadena, you can’t — I can’t — take credit for any of them individually, I don’t think. There are a lot of people, staff people, and members of the City Council, that have been deeply engaged in these issues. But I do think that I’ve provided significant leadership on these issues and so I can take some credit for it.”

Tornek is also quick to credit his own preparation in working through the City’s issues over the past four years, however, saying, “I like to be the best-prepared person in the room when these issues are discussed. I always do my homework. I try to read everything. So, preparation is a big part of it.”

Tornek added that he thinks he has “a pretty good feeling” for what the issues are, “Because, God knows, I get enough emails and I’ve talked to enough people day in and day out.”

The Mayor has yet to even hold an official campaign fundraiser, but campaign-wise, he has already begun talking to constituents on specific issues, something he calls “a big part of leadership.”

“It’s taking the information that you’ve gleaned from studying the issue and listening to what the people have to say,” said Tornek, “and then making a decision that serves the best long-term interests of the city.”

Tornek, a former City planner, is also quick to point out that he doesn’t consider himself “a professional politician.”

As he explained, “I have no aspirations beyond being mayor of the city. I’m not angling for moving up to some other office, on a statewide basis or anything like that. All I ever wanted to be was, was Mayor of Pasadena and that’s where I will end my political career.”

Tornek continued, “My job is to continue to work hard on what I think the people care about, and explain why I’ve done what I’ve done, and what I hope to do, and then letting them decide”

But every candidate campaigns, or else they aren’t a candidate for very long.

As Tornek allowed, “I look forward to the campaign and I like the opportunity. I have walked every year even when in non-campaign years, but obviously I’m walking much more intensely now, and so I find that to be both exhausting and exhilarating.”

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