Two women left a town hall featuring Mayoral Candidate Major Williams on Saturday after Williams affirmed his support for President Donald Trump.
“I do support Trump,” Williams said. “I am a registered Republican. But Williams also pointed out that the mayoral election “is a nonpartisan race.”
A diverse crowd of people attended the event at the Pasadena Public Library’s main branch on Saturday.
The event marked the first public forum by a candidate in the 2020 mayoral race since candidates pulled papers in November. Williams, a newcomer to local politics, is running against incumbent Terry Tornek, District 5 Councilman Victor Gordo, and former City Commissioner Jason Hardin.
Hardin was in attendance at Williams’s town hall as was Gordo’s field representative Vannia de la Cuba along with more than 40 people. The event ran for almost two hours.
“I thought it was a great opportunity for people to understand who I am,” Williams told Pasadena Now on Sunday night.
Williams said that people came to the event with preconceived ideas and questions designed for a career politician.
Williams got into a back and forth with local pastor Eric Johnson who called Williams out for claiming that City and school officials lied, saying during public meetings that if Measures I and J were not passed, public schools would close.
The measures passed, but schools closed anyway. Johnson asked Williams if he had any proof officials had actually lied. Williams said he didn’t.
“It concerns me that if without documentation, a statement goes out to constituents like myself, it’s not truthful. So why put out something that’s not truthful or that you can’t back up?” Johnson asked.
Williams’s response to that question and several others during the town hall left some people scratching their head.
“I’m a resident, I’m a voter also. So sometimes you can lash out in regards to how you feel as far as your personal experience,” Williams answered. “And so I’m allowed to have my personal experience on how I felt because I was at those particular meetings.”
Afterward, Johnson sounded unready to support Williams.
“Although I appreciated getting a better sense of who he is as a person and his receptiveness to implement the ideas of others in attendance, I still did not hear enough specifics of what he has done locally or will do to give me a clearer idea of the mayor he will be,” the pastor said.
Several attendees said afterward some of Williams’s other responses also seemed to be confusing.
Williams called for penalties on developers using state laws to build bigger projects in Pasadena in spite of City ordinance. But penalizing the developers could be against the law.
“All these developers that are coming in here that go beyond our local ordinance or city ordinance and they’re trying to build based upon state ordinance,” Williams said. “We have to have something in our relationship together structurally, that penalizes them. So if they’re going to go above and beyond our heads … we have to penalize them.”
SB 330 went into effect on Jan. 1. It specifically prohibits the reduction of housing development capacity and prohibits housing moratoriums for a period of five years, while also requiring that new housing development meet certain requirements when replacing existing housing units.
Pasadena — whose previous required target was 1,332 housing units—a goal the City has not yet achieved—will see a requirement of 9,469 units in the coming years, an increase of 611%.
“I anticipated people would attend curious to know more about Williams,” said town hall moderator James Farr, host of a local talk show called The Conversation Live.
“I pulled no punches and asked him hard questions about the issues that matter to Pasadenans. William spoke openly about his political positions and viewpoints.”
Farr opened the event asking Williams about a comment he reportedly made concerning black voters: “It was reported that you said, you ‘could win this election without receiving any black votes.’ Is that truthful?”
Williams called the comment false, but then seemed to acknowledge he actually had said it.
“That’s false,” Williams said. “What I said was, I pulled a statistic, some information that I had found. It basically said that a candidate can win in the election in Pasadena without one actual black vote. This is absolutely true. There was no malice because my campaign is about discovery and learning. It backfired because I wanted to ignite the black community and to get them to understand that their voices [count]. So that was my true genuine intent.”
Sunday night, Williams said he considered the event a step forward. Only six people showed up to an earlier town hall featuring Williams.
“This showed me the work that I have been doing is growing. I knew it was going to be an uphill battle.” Williams said. “I was in a diverse room with a lot of people I didn’t know. Asians, African Americans and Armenians.”
One attendee picked up on Williams’s platform plank of fairness, a theme Williams repeated.
“As a potential ‘City Father,’ Major made it clear that among the standard municipal responsibilities, he would establish leadership, opportunity, and equality as everyone expressed their concerns for a community desperately needing fairness,” said Daniel Shorter.
Responding to a question from District 6 candidate Ryan Bell, Williams explained to the crowd why he dislikes rent control.
“I don’t think rent control is the answer to our problems. So the complexity is this. Rent control doesn’t create fairness for everyone,” Williams said.
Williams also went into great detail about his idea to create a local funding mechanism called the Pasadena Fund to prove backing for Pasadena investors and entrepreneurs.
He described the idea as a combination of a GoFundMe and capital venture fund.
“It’s not a genius idea that I’ve thought of is something that’s already happened time and time again. And I just asked you to put the label on a tag name Pasadena Fund. And so basically what it is, is the ideal model that I use on YouTube, you take 3000 residents in Pasadena and you ask them to participate and contribute over $20 a month for the next 15 months. After 15 months, that fund is worth $900,000.”
According to Williams that fund could be used for local investors and entrepreneurs to draw upon to fund profitable projects which would build the fund and lift up the participating residents.
“Don’t judge me by my political party judge me by what I can do for the city,” Williams said.