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Mayoral Candidate Victor Gordo Talks About Development, Transparency, Social Justice and Consensus Building

Published on Wednesday, September 9, 2020 | 12:30 pm

Pasadena Now interviewed Mayor Terry Tornek and mayoral candidate and District 5 City Councilman Victor Gordo. The candidate and incumbent were asked one primary question: What are the biggest pre- and post-election issues facing the city?

Additional questions were asked to flush out their answers.

Mayoral candidate and District 5 City Councilman Victor Gordo said the city needs to continue addressing issues such as governmental transparency, public health, overdevelopment, traffic congestion, and improving infrastructure.

Gordo finished first in a field of four candidates in the March primary, winning 18,586 votes, or 46.52 percent, to Mayor Terry Tornek’s 16,607 votes, or 41.57 percent. Gordo and Tornek will square off again on Nov. 3 for the city’s highest elected position.

“More than ever we need to work together as residents of Pasadena to address issues,” Gordo said. “We have to be focused on ensuring that Pasadena tomorrow is a city that works for all of us and is a city we want to live in and we want our family to live in. That means continuing to address issues of overdevelopment, traffic, looking at the infrastructure and ensuring that it’s in a solid condition for the future.”

Gordo led the city’s charge against nuisance liquor stores, businesses that contributed to blight and crime along parts of Orange Grove Boulevard. As a result, several liquor stores closed their doors, and after the businesses were knocked down, affordable housing units were built in their place.

The oldest of five children, Gordo, who was born in Zacatecas, Mexico, moved to Pasadena with his family when he was 5 years old.

“We lived in a two-car garage,” Gordo told the Pasadena Weekly in 2017. “In the corner of that garage was a Folger’s Coffee can. In the can was a written list of friends and family and their phone numbers, some cash and some other documents. If my parents ever didn’t come home, I was to take that can and walk to my neighbor’s house for help.”

After graduating from Pasadena High School, he enrolled in classes at Pasadena City College and eventually attended Azusa Pacific University. He later served as former Councilmember Bill Crowfoot’s field representative before winning the District 5 seat in 2001.

“We need to team up with our education partners,” Gordo said. “We need to think differently as a community, as residents, and work together to address access to education and access to the appropriate technology. The city has a very important role to play there. We have to be better than what has been done to date. And then there’s the issue of housing and homelessness. More people will lose the place they call home after the rent moratorium ends. We have to formulate a strategy now to address those issues on an interim basis and on a long-term basis, and we can’t wait to start those discussions.

“We have a thriving business community. Pasadena residents love that about our city. People in the region also love to visit our city, and we have to address what that looks like going forward both through COVID and post-COVID.”

On the big issues of the election…
“All of the important issues have been highlighted; Pasadena’s preparedness to respond to an emergency, the issue of transparency, and trust in our community. The human approach to making a difference is what we need to address major issues like racial and economic equality, to help our small businesses come back and thrive, and provide housing opportunities for people to work and live in our wonderful city without destroying Pasadena’s character through over-development.

“We have hard-working men and women in our Pasadena Police Department who work every day and protect our students and the residents of our city, but we also have to recognize that there’s a real pain in parts of our community. We have to build trust and bring people together to address the issue.

“The most important responsibility for me as an elected official is the willingness to listen to all vantage points, to be willing to stand before anyone who has a concern, who wants to talk. I use the example of the Black Lives Matter people who came to my home.

“It startled my family, but what I realized at that moment was that I have a responsibility to be prepared to listen to everyone. And it was a split-second decision. When I looked out and saw nearly a hundred people in my front yard, I felt compelled to go talk with them. There were people in the crowd who were very passionate, but we talked like I do with representatives of our police officers. That’s an important point for people to understand.”

On leadership…
“As a council member, I have worked for almost 19 years focusing on quality-of-life issues, including opposing overdevelopment, fighting crime, championing a living wage, increasing government transparency, getting rid of problem liquor stores and replacing them with affordable housing, and taking back our parks. I am very proud to have worked with residents, my council colleagues, and city staff to achieve what had been impossible to do. Together we pressed the city to acquire nuisance liquor stores, and close them. Nonprofits stepped in and built beautiful affordable housing and improved entire neighborhoods. The corner of El Molino [Avenue] and Washington [Boulevard] was known as a magnet for crime and significantly diminished the quality of life of the four surrounding neighborhoods and Washington Park [across the street]. That nuisance liquor store is gone and replaced by the Washington Classics, affordable housing for families. That stretch of our City has been reinvigorated as a result.

“I’m one person. One person can’t fix any of the challenges. My job is listening, whether from the board of directors of the Rose Bowl, whether it’s on my front porch with people expressing concerns about policing in Pasadena, or whether it’s with the police officers who I know work very hard and sacrifice. My job is to listen and be inquisitive, and figure out with the people where the solutions are, where the common ground is. I think it’s the view, opinions and solutions of the people and residents of Pasadena that need to surface. As mayor, I will put the people of Pasadena first. I will work to bring us together as residents of Pasadena to ensure we are working together to address issues throughout Pasadena.”

On Development…
“It seems developers have been allowed to put a ‘for sale’ sign on our city without regard for the people who live in Pasadena. We also need to challenge the state of California and work with neighboring cities to take back control from the state over our land use. Pasadena should evolve as a city based on the input and needs of Pasadena residents, not what some planner or Sacramento politician believes Pasadena should look and feel like.

“Unfortunately, for the last few years big outside developers have gained the upper hand over Pasadena families. They are working harder than ever to rapidly change Pasadena for the benefit of a tiny few. It’s displacing our families and seniors, and making housing unaffordable.

“For decades, I have promoted teamwork and collaboration within the city and with our neighbors. I have spent years representing people and pressing for sensible decisions. Sensible decisions come from a willingness to listen to different perspectives and then set about building consensus on our City Council and in the community. As mayor, I plan to build on that record because now is when we most need to be working together.

“No one member of the City Council can make anything happen without the support of at least five members. There are eight City Councilmembers and they all have to work together to get things done. Any one member of the City Council who takes personal credit for housing homeless people or any other subject is taking credit deserved by all members of the City Council. You should be skeptical of anyone who takes credit for the work of eight people. I support more collaboration as we work to address issues in every neighborhood in Pasadena. I also support working with our neighboring cities in the San Gabriel Valley on big issues like housing and homelessness. Our current mayor pulled us out of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments.

“More than ever we need to work with the 30 cities around us. Unlike Los Angeles, our Mayor is not a full-time executive who can take the “my way or the highway” approach. Pasadena’s mayor does not run the city, but should serve as an ambassador to other cities, work closely with and support council members and their constituents to achieve goals.”

On Housing…
“Pasadena and the region will need to work together to provide affordable housing. City Hall must adjust to the needs of our residents in ways it has never had to previously. I believe my record of representing people, working collaboratively with residents, business owners, my City Council colleagues and our neighboring cities puts me in the strongest position of helping our great city come out stronger as we recover from COVID.

“We were one of the first cities to invest in revitalizing our historic Old Town and build housing in our shopping mall and now every city is doing it. Eight of the last 10 affordable housing projects approved in Pasadena have been approved for or built in my council district. Working with neighbors and residents we have also rehabilitated older buildings, one that had been destroyed by a fire, in exchange for making them affordable senior housing. This was accomplished by working with landlords, colleagues, residents and staff.”

Getting businesses open…
“I am proud of my record of working to solve difficult and complicated issues in a way that builds consensus. I have taken a hands-on approach to solving tough problems – working with many members of the City Council and residents of the city. This experience will be important as the city recovers from COVID. COVID has presented us with a health challenge that is tremendous, but we will also need to focus on Pasadena’s recovery. Economic development and jobs are areas I will ask my council colleagues to prioritize. Because we are in a region, we will need to work with all the cities around us to ensure Pasadena recovers and our residents have jobs. As we recover from COVID, we will also need to think through land use issues, assist our local business community as they struggle to adjust to new ways of operating, ensure consumers and employees feel safe visiting and working in Pasadena.

“Since COVID struck Pasadena, I have been here ensuring Pasadena responded to its residents with PPE, food for students and seniors and that we were doing all we can to support small business owners. The pandemic has made clear that a collaborative approach and transparent process is what we need at City Hall in order to best serve our residents. That is why I am running for mayor.

“I have led the way, championing tenant protections, a relief fund for local businesses, increased testing, safer nursing facilities, PPE for frontline workers, and a meals program for seniors and other vulnerable citizens.

“Years of work in the community, listening to the people, working together, and standing up for Pasadena, that’s what we need in a Pasadena mayor and that’s what I pledge to bring as mayor of our great city.”

Final say…
“I’m proud mostly of the experience that I developed over the course of a lifetime in Pasadena. Growing up here… You know, working in restaurants, being educated here and then having the opportunity to serve on the City Council during some of the most recent significant challenges, the housing crisis, having prepared the city for the recession and seeing the importance of that preparation, contributing to the improvement of neighborhoods, supporting our local public schools and early childhood education opportunities, fighting the fight to protect our city from overdevelopment, fighting for every vote ever taken during my time on the City Council to defeat the 710 Freeway and avoid a concrete canyon to divide our city.”

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