In an online debate of City Council candidates Thursday, District 3 incumbent John Kennedy set himself apart from the other candidates when he took a position against rent control in Pasadena, which he labeled a “well-intentioned bad idea.”
The Zoom debate, which was streamed live over YouTube, was sponsored jointly by The Pasadena Community Coalition, Pasadena Media and the Pasadena Star-News, and moderated by community activist Martin Gordon, along with journalists Justin Chapman and Brennon Dixson.
Election Day is June 7 for City Council Districts 3, 5 and 7.
Six candidates are running for the three City Council districts on the ballot in June: Brandon D. Lamar is challenging incumbent Councilmember John J. Kennedy for District 3; Councilmember Jess Rivas is running unopposed in District 5; and businessman Allen Shay, urban planner and City Commissioner Ciran Hadjian, and Pasadena Planning Commissioner and attorney Jason Lyon are running for the District 7 seat currently held by Councilmember Andy Wilson, who has decided not to run for reelection.
Hadjian was not present at the debate.
In a response to Lamar’s discussion of gentrification and housing affordability, Kennedy said, “Rent control is a well-intentioned bad idea. The explosive increases in rent is worrisome for all of us, and a destructive life-altering event for those priced out of the market. It creates tremendous pressure to intervene in a direct way, to control and limit further increases.”
“State law imposes a ceiling, right now, on annual increases, but that is not restrictive enough for proponents of more rigorous local rent control,” said.
“However,” Kennedy emphasized, “virtually every academic review of rent control as a technique to increase housing conditions has concluded that it is a well-intentioned bad idea.”
Moderator Chapman asked how the candidates would create more jobs in Pasadena.
Lamar emphasized a common theme in his responses—expunging criminal records for those convicted of drug crimes.
“You can’t get a job that pays good money, until you get your record expunged,” he explained. “We have people who are dealing with that right now, and I believe in second chances, I believe in a hundred chances, if you turn your life around.”
“This is such an important question,” said Rivas, “because it’s not just about a job, it’s about a good job.”
Rivas pointed out that many are working multiple low-paying jobs and a “gig economy, with people just trying to scrape by. What we all need is a good, decent paying job with benefits and one where you’re treated with dignity and respect.”
Asked about police accountability and oversight, Shay offered, “It’s imperative for the community to have the ability to hold the police accountable when police are required to have such actions asserted against them.” Shay also stressed the importance of the community supporting the idea of police oversight.
Lyons, for his part, said he was hesitant to make structural changes to the Police Oversight Committee.
“I think it’s too early, for this commission. They only had their first meeting last October. We’re only seven months into it.”
He also noted that the commission lost its independent police auditor last December and only just hired a replacement.
“Their work is just getting started,” he said.
All of the candidates agreed in principle on the issues, of supporting social equity, the need for climate change action, housing priority for displaced African-Americans and Latino community members in rehousing the 710 stub, the need to support the Rose Bowl as well as the seismic rehab of the Central Library, and building affordable housing on unused church properties.
Vote-by-mail ballots will be mailed to voters beginning May 9. Early in-person voting centers will open on May 28 and polling will close on June 7 at 8 p.m. More election information is available at www.cityofpasadena.net/city-