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District 2 Race Heats Up as Cole’s Past Takes Center Stage

Published on Monday, February 5, 2024 | 6:04 am

The District 2 City Council race heated up on Friday after incumbent Felicia Williams released a mailer detailing media reports covering a controversy between opposing candidate Rick Cole and the Tournament of Roses in the 1990s.

The mailer, titled “Bad Old Days,” cites Star News and The Los Angeles Times articles from the 1990s containing quotes and comments critical of Cole.

On Sunday, Williams spoke to Pasadena Now.

“Rick and his supporters have been attacking me for months; trying to bully me into extreme political votes instead of listening to different points of view,” Williams said. “They thought a woman wouldn’t fight back. My record is public, and I stand by it. Now that his record is becoming public, does Rick stand by his?”

Cole served 12 years on the Pasadena City Council from 1983 to 1995, including a stint as Deputy Mayor from 1990 to 1992 and as Mayor of Pasadena from 1992 to 1994.

In 1991 a clash erupted between the Tournament of Roses and local activists, including Cole, after the Tournament selected Cristóbal Colón, a Spanish nobleman and the 20th in a line of dukes descended from Christopher Columbus, as Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade.

Cole lambasted the choice and criticized Columbus as a symbol of rape and greed.

Cole wore a shirt that said “Tournament of Racism” under his button-down Oxford shirt when his time came to ride in the parade as Mayor a year later.

Cole recounted the incident in a 2022 Pasadena Now guest opinion piece.

In that story, Cole claimed he only showed a reporter the shirt after the reporter told Cole he had bet someone $10 that Cole would wear the shirt.

The Los Angeles Times claimed otherwise in its reporting.

“…Cole flashed the T-shirt occasionally along the parade route,” a Times story said.

Cole later apologized for his attire.

However, criticism of the Tournament continued.

Activists at that time pointed out the Tournament’s lack of diversity excluding minorities and women.

Cole and then-Vice Mayor Katie Nack negotiated a deal to increase diversity and the size of the Tournament’s executive committee after Jesse Jackson, and others, threatened to boycott the parade.

Five new members were added to the Tournament’s Executive Committee, including two African Americans, one Asian American, and one Latino member.

The change came on the heels of a vote by the Los Angeles City Council to withdraw the city’s float from the Tournament of Roses Parade if the organization did not add minorities and women to its top ranks.

The Tournament also committed to give minorities and women contractors more of its business and more responsibilities. The Tournament also formed the Executive Policy Council to involve minorities and women in policy decisions.

On Friday night, several Councilmembers — Jess Rivas, Jason Lyon, and Vice Mayor Steve Madison — issued statements criticizing Williams’ flier for attacking Cole and not focusing on the issues.

“Even though I endorsed Ms. Williams four years ago, I am strongly endorsing Rick Cole to unseat her; like so many other groups and electeds who have withdrawn their support for her, I’ve been deeply disappointed over the last four years by Ms. Williams’ lack of integrity and values which are contrary to the ‘Pasadena Way,'” Madison said.

On Sunday, Mayor Victor Gordo came to Williams’ defense.

“I’m reminded of the quote in Hamlet. In this case, I would say the ‘gentlemen’ protest too much methinks,” Gordo told Pasadena Now. “Councilmember Williams is intelligent, prepared, and has done a tremendous job of representing her constituents and our city, and I am proud to endorse her in her re-election.”

“In fact, Felicia Williams is the person and councilmember I have counted on most to represent me most as Mayor when I am unable to attend meetings and events.”

District 2 voters will decide who will represent the district in the coming March 5 election.

“From the beginning, I’ve stressed I would run a positive, issues-focused grassroots campaign,” Cole told Pasadena Now on Sunday. “I’ve kept my word and win or lose, I think that’s what the voters of District 2 deserve.”

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