During last year’s annual “State of the City” speech, Mayor Terry Tornek announced to the crowd he would be asking voters to approve a 3/4 cent sales tax measure in 2018 to avoid cuts to City services and to help fund then-beleaguered Pasadena Unified.
What a difference a year makes.
This Thursday, when the Mayor delivers the 2019 “State of the City” in Pasadena High School’s sparkling new gymnasium, his focus will be on how to spend the City’s share of the bounty the new tax will start to bring in this year.
“We’re going to have $14 million extra a year,” Tornek said. “My job is to make suggestions to the Council, and to the City Manager, and the public, about how we should consider spending it.”
“That’s a very dramatic change for us that will have a huge impact for years and years to come,” the Mayor said.
Tornek, who devised Measures I and J as a way to help both the City and School District, said that as the result of the passages of both measures “there are a lot of things we need to do.”
“The Pasadena Unified School District has been struggling and has had its financial woes and declining enrollment. But the people, in terms of the question of whether we should be funding them and supporting them, 72% said ‘yes.’ ”
The passage of the tax measures demonstrated that Pasadenans, whether or not their children attend local public schools, recognized that to be a strong community the city must maintain “a great public school system,” said Tornek.
“That’s truly a great city. And so, the people put their money where their mouth is and said, ‘Go ahead and make this happen.’”
Tornek also pointed to the creation of the City’s new Ad Hoc Committee between the Pasadena Unified School District and City Council to discuss spending the new revenue.
“That is going to be a continuing dialogue,” he said, “because we need to get people who are not just public school parents caring about the public school system, and paying attention to what’s happening at the PUSD.”
In addition to the new funds from Measure I, the City will also be benefiting from projects funded by millions in State dollars made available as the result of the cancellation of the 710 Freeway extension project last year.
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors voted in December of last year to reallocate about $550 million to dozens of “Mobility Improvement Projects” in the cities surrounding the former project area, from Alhambra to Pasadena.
Nearly $150 million of those funds are currently earmarked for projects in Pasadena and South Pasadena.
“We’re going to begin the planning effort in earnest about the 710 stub, now that the freeway is abandoned,” said Tornek. “So there’s a task force assembled to work on that to begin to think that through and understand what the implications are. It’s 50 acres in the heart of the city. It’s a big deal.”
On a more somber note, Tornek also discussed the importance of creating a new permanent suicide prevention system on the Colorado Street Bridge.
“We need to make progress on the bridge,” he said, “introducing and designing, and funding some permanent solution to making it as suicide-proof as we possibly can.”
The Mayor’s 2019 Annual State of the City address will take place Thursday, January 17th at 6:30 p.m. at the Pasadena High School Gymnasium, 2925 East Sierra Madre Boulevard. It is open to the public.