Pasadena City Council Agrees to Move Forward Quickly With Consideration of Local Minimum Wage Raise Ordinance

Published : Tuesday, July 28, 2015 | 5:41 AM

Demonstrator outside Pasadena City Hall shortly before the City Council took its first steps to consider a local minimum wage ordinance that raise the minimum to $15 per hour. Photo: Rachel Young

The Pasadena City Council took the first active step toward a possible minimum wage hike in Pasadena on Monday.

In contrast to ways ordinances were passed recently in Los Angeles and the County, the Council agreed to consider an ordinance the “Pasadena way” by simultaneously engaging a citizen panel made up of business leaders and workers while also assigning the issue to its Economic Development & Technology Committee.

Mayor Tornek said he would work with the City Manager to “identify a citizen panel that will provide us with industry specific points of view.” The panel will likely consist of a balance of workers, residents and business owners from each part of the city.

“This inclusive process need not take months and months; our objective is to move this down the field not precipitously but actively,” Tornek said about the timeline of the ordinance.

All the Council members agreed that the issue must be addressed with urgency.

“We definitely need to do this,” Councilmember Steve Madison said, “The committee should be just about how, not whether we do this.”

Councilmember Gene Masuda expressed concerns about when Glendale and other neighboring cities will take up a similar ordinance quickly and the impact that could have on Pasadena businesses.

Councilmember Tyron Hampton echoed the concerns of Masuda, suggesting the slower process involving both the committee of the council and a citizen advisory group.

“I believe this is an issue ripe for an action for our city irrespective of what the county is recommending we do. There needs to be appropriate process where we could engage the community, the residents and business folks,” Councilmember John Kennedy said.

Saying that the business leaders could read the tea leaves, Councilmember Margaret McAustin wanted to involve those parts of the community who would be impacted the most with living out the policy.

“This is not an issue I ever thought a city would take up, I never dreamed Pasadena would be discussing its own livable wage,” Councilmember Margaret McAustin said, “Cities have been forced to step in and do things because our Federal government has failed us.”

McAustin said she would like to see the business community represented in the form of a panel or committee that allowed them to conduct a study and pitch creative approaches to make the ordinance work for their business.

“I think some of the city council members need to decide whether they are on the City Council or they represent the Chamber of Commerce,” Peter Dreier, a professor of politics at Occidental College, said in an interview after the meeting.

Of the 14 persons who spoke during public comment on this issue, all spoke in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2020.

Prior to the meeting, advocates for livable wages demonstrated outside City Hall. The activists made up of clergy, unions, minimum wage workers and coalitions marched from All Saints Church to the Robinson Brothers Memorial where workers and families spoke about the difficulty to live in Pasadena on “poverty wages.”

“Who is going to represent the voice of the low income people who are mired in poverty in Pasadena?” Rabbi Marvin Gross, CEO of Union Station said after hearing about the decision of the Council process.

Pasadena Unified School Board of Education president Elizabeth Pomeroy urged the council to consider the wage increase to help students and their families, saying that studies show that children living in poverty are at risk for academic and behavioral problems.

“Do not forget our public schools and our students,” Pomeroy said.
Bringing up the minimum wage would be a step toward putting a more stable floor under these young lives so they can succeed with the education that PUSD is committed to giving them.”

During his public comments, Peter Dreier quoted a Los Angeles Times article published May of 1997 when the Council adopted a “living wage” ordinance at that time for city contractors to pay employees $7.25 an hour.

Paul Little, current Chamber of Commerce President, who was a councilmember at the time of the 1997 article said, ‘There is moral stand to take on paying people a wage on which they can feed their family and live. Cities need to lead by example.”

Dreie called the words immortal.

“I assume that Paul still believes what he said in 1997 and that the Pasadena Chamber of Commerce will support our proposal,” Dreier said.

Councilmember Andy Wilson suggested that action should take place as quickly as possible.

“We should and must tackle this. There is a movement that we must take this on, the sooner the better,” Wilson said.