As 2019 came to an end and 2020 began, many people thought 2020 would be the year of perfect vision. In some ways, what we got was more like what many people anticipated we would get at the turn of the millennium — remember Y2K?! But instead, disaster happened 20 years later.
In all the years of our lives before 2020, there were ups and downs –additions to our families, the loss of loved ones — different highs and lows. For many of us, 2020 did not turn out to be the year of perfect vision. Or, at least not the perfect vision we expected. Reflecting back, 2020 was a year of reset. We found ourselves with time on our hands — some of us had more, some of us had less — that we didn’t necessarily have before to consider events in our lives more deeply and to reprioritize what is most important to us. For some of us, this considering and reprioritizing involved the decision to protest for civil rights, political rights, the right to work, the right to education, and to protest against social injustice. The version of 2020 vision we got, though unexpected, brought many things into greater focus because most of us spent a lot more time at home as we quarantined to protect one another from this deadly virus. Masks may have covered our mouths, but our voices were louder than ever.
As a representative on the City Council, I can tell you from first-hand experience that the increase in communication and civic engagement from our neighbors was amazing. All year long, my district liaison and I have heard from new voices, and of course, we heard from the voices we have come to know well. This increased level of participation, though at times intense, in many ways makes it easier for me to represent you to the best of my ability. Because through engaging with one another, whether over email, by phone/text, social media, etc., I am able to get a strong sense of where members of the community stand on various issues.
In the wake of a heightened national dialogue on the topic of police reform throughout our nation, here in Pasadena in 2020, it became abundantly clear that this was an issue that we as a community needed to address. A young man, Anthony McClain, was shot in the back twice and was fatally wounded and died at the hands of a public employee. This did not happen in Minneapolis. It happened here, in Pasadena, which highlighted that reforms to law enforcement are needed right here at home. It’s encouraging and exciting that the Council voted to support a civilian oversight commission to look at the policies we have in place and to make recommendations to the Council about what we can do better. There are many things that our police department does well. And, I think it became clearer in 2020 that room for improvement exists. There is an important role for members of our community to undertake in the quest to do better for and do right by every resident of our city.
At the present time, crime is up across our city. Although the First District continues to be the safest district in the city, we are not immune to issues of violence. Violent crimes in our district have increased just like they have across the city, the state, and throughout the nation. Perhaps this increase in crime is due to more people being at home and having idle time or being isolated. No matter what the reasons for the increase are, it is important that we as community members come together to figure out the root causes and work on them. Because crime is up, our police department needs our support. One of the most effective ways we can offer support is communicating with the department about what happens in our neighborhoods. I’m proud of every neighborhood that during the COVID-19 pandemic decided to come together and form neighborhood watches/neighborhood block associations and ways to increase communication with one another. If you’re thinking about forming a neighborhood watch, it’s not too late. Please contact Lt. Javier Aguilar of our Community Services Section. Lt. Aguilar’s direct office number is (626) 744-6485. There is additional information regarding the PPD’s Community Services Section available here: PPD Community Services
Under the Safer at Home health order, we had to be home more and because of that, many of us had to find different ways of staying physically active. Our Public Works team has worked tirelessly during this time and has been dedicated to making sure that when we take to the sidewalks and streets to get in some physical activity, there were smooth surfaces for us to walk/run/ride on. In 2020 alone, more than 1.5 million dollars was spent on repairing sidewalks in our neighborhoods. There is still work to do, but I did want to acknowledge the work that has been done. Additionally, and of note to the First District, Public Works recently improved and increased the budget for planned renovations at La Pintoresca Park. For more information, the 12/14/20 agenda report for the project is available here: Contract Award for La Pintoresca Park
Changes in employment situations are something that many of us didn’t see coming in 2020. Some people have worked their jobs for 20+ years, and then the month of April arrived bringing unanticipated layoffs. All of the sudden, people didn’t know what they were going to do or how they were going to pay the mortgage or the rent. Some people still do not know what they’re going to do. I had a number of interesting conversations with people who decided to better themselves by taking online courses or learning new skills, including new languages. Some people I spoke with decided to take that leap of faith and open up the business they always wanted to open. As we navigate 2021, we are going to have our work cut out for us, but there are local, well-established organizations that exist that are ready and willing to help us make the adjustments we may need to make. The Foothill Workforce Development Board and the Housing Rights Center are two examples of existing resources that you may want to familiarize yourself with and/or share with your neighbors. It is going to take all of us to survive from the unanticipated outcomes and the eventual aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. I believe our country and our city will bounce back because we have recovered from adversity before. I am confident that we can, and will, do it again.
If you, like my wife and me, are parents of school-age children, wow. I think we all figured out or gained a deeper understanding of just how important teachers are. Although having our children do school from home, the way they have for most of 2020, may not be what those of us who are accustomed to sending our children to school would consider an ideal circumstance, there are some positive aspects of the situation that we can consider. Many of us, whether we were supporting our children with learning basic math concepts or more complex algebraic ones, have strengthened our math skills. Most importantly, we’ve had the opportunity to learn more about the human beings that we are raising. Hopefully, we’ve been able to get to know them in greater depth and we’ve been able to share more stories and spend more quality time with them. Although it is very important that we get our kids back to school as soon as we responsibly can, the time we were able to share with them will be forever cherished and not soon forgotten.
Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the lives we lost were those of our matriarchs and patriarchs, our seniors. Whether they were living in senior care facilities or isolated and quarantining, those losses were extremely sad and difficult. I recognized the challenges in senior care facilities and fought for better conditions in these locations. Some facilities were shut down, and the fight did not go unnoticed. The City Council will keep this issue on its agenda as the County implements its senior care facilities czar. With everything that has happened with our senior care facilities, it reminds us that our senior neighbors may also need our help. I know neighbors that have banned together to pick up supplies and put them on the porches of seniors who live alone in their neighborhoods. Some have started weekly shopping lists for their senior neighbors or helped them to learn to shop online. I have had conversations with many seniors who have told me that they love and appreciate these kind gestures. They appreciate the food, the help from the city, and from their neighbors. At the same time, there are senior neighbors who appreciate the ability to maintain a level of independence and autonomy. They want to be able to go out and pick up things. Several months ago, my office reached out to local markets to see if they would give priority shopping to seniors and they did. This was a win for all of us.
2020 has also served as a reminder that some of our neighbors are only a few paychecks away from needing assistance. In the spring, I suggested that we support our local food pantries and supply meals to seniors and others in need. The council agreed. For our neighbors who are living with uncertainty this winter season, my council colleagues and I sought to be mindful of their needs. To demonstrate care, compassion, and concern to our neighbors, no one in need of a hotel/motel voucher will be denied one. It is important to me that we extend to our neighbors, and their families, the dignity and respect they deserve as human beings. Information about local food banks and meal programs is available here: Food Banks & Meal Programs
At the beginning of 2020, before all of our regular activity came to a halt, my family and I had an opportunity to travel to Uganda. Oddly, while we were on that trip, my wife was kicked by an animal in the wild. As my wife shared on our annual holiday card…
It seemed like a singular and isolated event when a gorilla kicked me when we vacationed in Uganda. But alas, just weeks after we came home, we all felt the collective kick of the pandemic, social distancing, homeschooling, business closures, working from home, Zoom, riots, city curfews – and the things we lost, all of the opportunities we lost. This year we all got kicked! Yet somehow, we’re still standing – even if it’s shaky, even if it’s with all but one little toe still rooted to Earth. We are here. Not only are we here, But we’ve proven we are adaptable. We are more flexible than we thought our limbs could stretch. We have more patience than the room for air we thought our lungs had left. We are here, and collectively, we pray that our Christmas card recipient list will not shrink in the coming year as the pandemic rages on, but that we will all persevere. We are here. And somewhere deep within, it must be because collectively we believe that there is better to come.
Although 2020 may not have resulted in perfect vision, as a community of people I believe our vision is clearer now than ever. 2021 will be a tough year. It will have its valleys and peaks like any other year. The difference will be that because of our 2020 vision and experiences, we will be able to see and chart a brighter path forward. Thank you for all that you have done, and have yet to do, in your sphere of influence to help us continue to see our way through this unique moment in time.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you!