[Updated] City Council and Mayoral candidates talked policing, immigration and housing at a candidates’ forum at Madison High School on Thursday night.
The event was sponsored by POP! (Pasadenans Organizing for Progress), NDLON, NAACP, Adelante Youth Alliance and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance (IMA). POP! Member Juliana Serrano served as moderator.
The forum started with an hour of questions to the City Council candidates followed by a separate hour for candidates running for mayor.
Tricia Keane, Felicia Williams, Kevin Litwin and Bo Patatian represented District 2. Charlotte Bland was the only candidate from District 4 who appeared at the forum and District 6 candidates Tamerlin Godley, incumbent Steve Madison and Ryan Bell also attended.
“There is work that still needs to be done,” said Tricia Keane, when asked about civilian oversight of the Pasadena Police Department.
“What I am hearing is things are getting better. There’s been a focus on de-escalation and community policing. However, this is something we keep discussing and it keeps coming up.”
On the housing issue, Bland said the city was in the midst of a crisis.
“The rent is just too damn high,” Bland said. “I would propose a city-wide commission that would examine the relationship between transition, housing rent and home ownership. And recommend action. We have to come together in all of those areas and have the conversation behind that.”
In the Mayor’s race candidate Victor Gordo said he supported civilian oversight as long as it was performed by elected officials.
“I support civilian oversight of the Pasadena Police Department,” said Gordo. “By people who are accountable to everyone in this room, people who are elected to do the job.”
“I don’t know that people don’t trust the civilian oversight we have in place. If that committee needs to be changed and strengthened than it’s the job of the full City Council to change it.”
Gordo is challenging incumbent Terry Tornek. Jason Hardin and Major Williams are also running in that race.
Hardin slammed the department and said he supported civilian oversight.
“I believe police oversight is necessary in the form of another city commission,” Hardin said. “I believe they should be appointed civilians, not elected officials. I don’t believe just oversight is necessary. I believe complete reformation is necessary. We have a lot of people being brutalized, they are murdered, Christopher Ballew was beaten at a gas station and weeks later these same police officers are patrolling the Black History Parade. If you’re doing your job right, you don’t care who’s looking over your shoulder, you don’t care who’s watching you. There is a lot of corruption in our department.”
Tornek responded to Hardin’s comments.
“I think calling it corrupt is totally outrageous,” Tornek said. “It’s not fair and it’s not accurate. The Pasadena Police Department makes 6,300 arrests a year, about 30 uses of force — less than half of one percent.”
Assembly Bill 392, the California Act to Save Lives, forces officers to rely on de-escalation techniques, such as verbal persuasion and crisis intervention methods, instead of resorting to using lethal force.
“When I was elected to the City Council 10 years ago, I volunteered for certain committees,” Tornek said. “We had council members that were interested in public safety. My wheel house was more towards development and environmental issues, so I chose not to volunteer for that committee. When I became mayor I appointed myself to the Public Safety Committee because its such a critical area for our city, because it does take a big chunk of the budget. It is a sensitive area that people are concerned about. It’s one of the few departments that have life or death issues associated with it. I decided to get educated about it and find out how it works. I’ve watched the department evolve in a significant way. ”
Candidates must receive more than 50 percent of the vote to win the March election. If no candidate crosses that threshold the top two candidates will square off in a runoff election in November.