In a forum Wednesday night at Pasadena City College which saw more disagreement on campaigning styles and squabbles than on pressing city issues, the final two candidates in the 2017 City Council elections, District 7 incumbent Andy Wilson and challenger Phil Hosp, sparred at what was their last joint public face off before next week’s elections.
Standing before what appeared to be an evenly split audience of more than a hundred voters in the campus’s Vosluh Forum during the Pasadena Star-News-sponsored event, Wilson and Hosp agreed on many city issues, from “Sanctuary City” policy to transportation, over-development in the City, tree protection and support of local natural habitats.
Some of the candidates’ sharpest commentary was reserved for remarks about each other.
Wilson went on the offensive early in his opening remarks, saying that his campaign was “about doing and not just talking,” citing his own experience as the Councilmember for the district as well as his work with Innovate Pasadena and the City’s design and planning commissions, before being appointed to the Councilmember by a vote of the Council in June, 2015.
Hosp countered by saying that the election was about “change versus the status quo,” and telling the audience, “I am running because I love this city. For 50 years, my family, either my grandfather, my father or myself, have either lived, gone to school, or worked here in Pasadena.” Hosp also emphasized the “small town feeling” of Pasadena, and criticized over-development which blocks natural mountain views and creates more traffic.
“Neighborhoods are the heart of this city, but too often their needs are put aside for the needs of people with business ties to the city,” he said, pointedly.
Speaking to the issue of transportation and the recent influx of Measure M funds, both candidates were asked how the new revenue should be spent in Pasadena. Hosp decried the increase in the City’s traffic, and said that he would propose a detailed traffic study that not only measures traffic, but that details the “reason why traffic is so backed up to Glenarm that it takes me fifteen minutes to cross the traffic and drop my daughter off at school. I don’t care what people say, those train tracks are definitely not timed. So it seems like they’re timed for all the wrong situations.”
Wilson said he was excited about the new bike track on Union Street, as well as the new bike sharing program set to open this summer, both of which were funded through Measure M, and that he hoped to expand local bus service, citing the new Metro Bus service to North Hollywood, and said he wanted the line to expand to the Burbank Airport. He also said he would work to improve the Metro Gold Line grade crossings at Del Mar and Glenarm.
Both candidates spoke of concerns about over-development in the City, particularly with regard to new housing, with Wilson saying he was for “modest and measured growth.”
“I am certainly not pro-growth by any means, though I do like having good restaurants and places to go to, so that I can avoid driving my car all over LA,” he said. Wilson noted that the City’s recently modified general plan “pulled the reins back” on over-development in the city, and protected two-thirds of the City’s neighborhoods from over-development.
“I think neighborhoods are our most precious resource,” he said, adding, “and we do have a duty to make sure that others can actually afford to live in this great city.”
Hosp also bemoaned the growth of development in the city, saying that “it’s not typical supply and demand. We have a market overseas that is purchasing units. No one is living there, and they are not taking people off the street,” he said. “They are putting in affordable units, but this is not a traditional supply and demand-type market.”
“The main point of the General Plan is to maintain the small town atmosphere of the City,” continued Hosp, “and that is not happening. It’s not happening, because we are building these buildings that block views of the mountains and that ruin the human scale experience that we have, from the street. What effects the neighborhood is the tremendous amount of traffic (from the new developments).”
Hosp also criticized the recent expansion of the Thatcher Medical Building, as an example of over-development.
Both candidates said they were in favor of increasing penalties for illegal tree removal, although Hosp took Wilson to task with regard to the cutting down of three trees on South Lake Avenue last winter,, intimating that Wilson was not open about the decision to settle with the building owner, and saying that the decision was made in “a closed door meeting.” Wilson disputed that characterization, saying the judge in the case told the City beforehand that it was “about to lose the case” and should settle with the owners, who were eventually ordered to replace the trees the City cut down.
Both Wilson and Hosp were also against the idea of creating a Police Oversight Commission, saying that the City’s Public Safety Committee was enough. Hosp added that he “didn’t think the idea works,” while Wilson noted that the City has called in an independent auditor in previous controversial police cases.
Asked if he would support a formal “sanctuary city” status for Pasadena, Wilson said, “This is an incredibly important issue. Having sat through hours of testimony from people who are terrified by living in our city as undocumented. They are an important part of our city. I’m prepared to protect those people. They should not live in fear in our city.”
Wilson also said, however, that he supports ICE actions against crimes such as human trafficking, in which cooperation with ICE would be necessary. He also said, however, that “sanctuary city” status for the City, might be “disingenuous,” since ICE could simply show up and take residents away.
“If I tell a resident that they are safe because they are in a sanctuary city, and they get taken away, there’s nothing more horrible than that,” he said. ‘I refuse to tell people that they are 100 percent safe in our city when we can’t guarantee that.”
Hosp, whose wife, Vivian, was born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, said, “We are not far apart on this issue.” Hosp decried the name-calling and insults against Mexican-Americans from the Trump campaign during the national elections, and added that “(The undocumented) are residents of this City, we want them to report crimes, and we want them to work with polices and help solve crimes. I do not think that Police should be enforcing immigration laws. Hosp, noted, however, that he also supports immigration efforts against known criminals and criminal organizations.”
Both candidates also spoke in favor of conserving the natural surroundings of the City, particularly the Arroyo Seco, with Hosp deriding the current LA County sediment removal project above Devil’s Gate Dam, and Wilson praising a new long-term plan for the protection and preservation of the Arroyo Seco, recently announced by Mayor Tornek.
Finally, although the Council race is non-partisan race each man was asked about his own national politics. Both are registered as Republicans. Wilson said he voted for Hillary Clinton in the last election, and Hosp said he wrote in John Kasisch in the general election.
The District 7 runoff election will take place Tuesday, April 18.