Standing for Reelection, Mayor Tornek Says He's Still Got Work To Do

Tornek launches new reelection campaign this weekend with door-to-door walkabout

Published : Friday, April 12, 2019 | 4:40 AM

For Mayor Terry Tornek, running to renew his arrangement with Pasadena voters for another four years in office is all about unfinished business.

“The issue is making sure that the things that you’ve launched are well founded, well launched and will continue as legacy projects after you’ve gone,” Tornek told Pasadena Now in an April 10 interview.

As such, the Mayor’s priorities are reflected in the contents of two ballot initiatives from November 2018: Measure I, which raised the sales tax in Pasadena and Measure J, which shifted a third of the resulting proceeds of the tax revenue to the Pasadena Unified School District.

Getting the City’s financial house in order is his top priority, said Tornek.

“That’s why we had this whole campaign for Measures I and J,” he continued. “It’s all part of the same narrative, which is what do we want to do as a City and how are we going to pay for it?”

The Mayor said this is the starting point for any discussion about City plans.

“What we’ve done with Measure I is to buy some time,” said Tornek, “but we still have a structural problem in terms of the future. I’m looking at 10 and 15 years from now when we start to run into the same problem again.”

Another term would be occupied with choosing and implementing a shift in the way the City operates to overcome what he considers a significant structural problem that needs to be addressed.

“It’s part of the reason that I decided to run again,” Tornek stated.

In collective bargaining with its unions, the City shifted $5 million from its own ledger to the employees’ books when it comes to pension contributions. It is such measures he’ll be looking for to restructure finances.

The other reason fueling his rerun, Tornek said, is public education: “There were more voters in favor of Measure J than there were for Measure I, with 72 percent saying we should spend that money on public education.”

Now that Measure J has created a pool of public education money, Tornek said he wants to be part of the process, “to help the public schools in the transition in some of the land use planning issues that they’re going to be confronted with in terms of repurposing some of their existing properties.”

Public school enrollment in Pasadena continues to shrink, which will likely lead to facilities consolidations.

A new term, he promised, would see the creation of a new standing committee comprised of City Council and school board members to work jointly on improving Pasadena’s institutions of public learning.

“And we’re going to be giving them $7 million a year, putting our money where our mouth is,” he stated.

The Mayor’s office, Tornek noted, is not charged directly with managing the public schools, though the office is responsible for working closely with the District and supporting the students.

The City, he observed, spends significant sums of money on children through its public health department, libraries, and schools. “I want to make sure that that’s well coordinated and supportive of the public school system,” he said.

Another long-term, “legacy” concern of Tornek’s is proper disposition of the land acquired by the City following the death of the 710 Freeway extension.

“What I’d like to be able to complete in a new term is that there is a well-developed plan for the redevelopment of that area and that there’s a clear path to make that happen long after I’ve left being Mayor,” said Tornek

The Mayor is to begin his retail politicking this weekend, kicking off a door-to-door, meet-the-voters event.

He will be handing out a questionnaire to help him better determine what issues are on peoples’ minds, though his time at the tiller has given him a fairly good idea of what that might be, and it’s homelessness.

“I think it’s the single biggest source of email concerns I get from people and what I’m asked about at virtually every event I go to,” said Tornek. “So I think that’s a high priority and I’m prepared act on it.”

He raised his recent proposal to the City Council, that the currently-vacant Pasadena YWCA building house homeless, as an example of such action.

“My colleagues did not agree with me,” he admitted. “I’m very disappointed in that decision, but I think that homelessness and the need to get people off of our streets is certainly among the highest priorities in the city.”

A less political reason for a reprise of his time in the Mayoralty is that Tornek loves the job.

“It sounds incredibly hokey,” Tornek said, “but when you go out and talk to a group, whether it’s in town or even internationally, when you say that you’re the Mayor of Pasadena, it’s a privilege and that’s the most fun.”

Tornek was first elected to City Council in 2009. He was reelected in 2013. He won the Mayoralty in a 2015 face-off with Councilmember Jacque Robinson.

The next mayoral election is March 3, 2020.

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