‘Recall Madison’ Web sites go online after District 6 councilman votes to clear the way for talks with the NFL
By André Coleman 11/29/2012
Seven years ago, Pasadena City Councilman Steve Madison kept people guessing before casting the deciding vote to lock the NFL out of the Rose Bowl following a lengthy evening meeting that stretched into the early morning hours.
Last Monday night, many thought Madison would once again come down against two motions that would clear the way for a pro football team to play in the historic stadium on a temporary basis.
But after another contentious marathon council session, one in which dozens of people spoke for and against having a team play in the Rose Bowl for up to five years while a pro-standard stadium is built in downtown Los Angeles or City of Industry, Madison reversed field, going along with six of his council colleagues in voting for opening negotiations with the NFL.
Many of the more than 100 residents who showed up at City Hall that night, most of them there to argue against an NFL team playing in the Rose Bowl, were angered by the two 7-1 votes, with only Councilman Terry Tornek voting against both a motion to increase the maximum number of major events at the stadium from 12 to 25 and certify an environmental impact report allowing the city to start talks with the league.
Now residents of Madison’s West Pasadena District 6, upscale neighborhoods that border the historic stadium and share roads that lead in and out of the Rose Bowl’s Brookside Park home in the scenic Arroyo Seco — have launched a recall drive against the four-term councilman.
The Weekly has learned that two of Madison’s constituents have purchased Web sites aimed at aiding efforts to kick the councilman out of office.
Local author Weston DeWalt purchased the domain recallmadison.com. The domain name recallstevemadison.com, which went live Nov. 21, two days after the council’s latest vote, was registered by attorney Mike Vogler.
“Council member Madison’s lack of energy in the early days of the [Long Beach] 710 [Freeway] extension issue prompted me to reserve the domain, in case he did not act in the interest in the community on the 710 Freeway. Given his vote to approve the final EIR [on the NFL proposal], the issue remains open. I think it’s a question that people in District 6 ought to be asking,” DeWalt said.
On the 710, the Los Angeles County Transportation Authority (Metro) and Caltrans proposed plans to connect the freeway with the Foothill (210) Freeway by tunneling underneath portions of the two-lane Avenue 64. The idea was universally opposed by residents and area politicians, including Madison, who was consistently vocal in his opposition to the Metro plan and encouraged public comment by hosting meetings regarding the freeway controversy.
“It’s the same group of people that campaigned against me so negatively in the last election,” Madison told the Weekly. “I heard the recall movement was being talked about before the meeting. I think it has no bearing at all. It is just another attempt to try to damage me politically.”
Nevertheless, Vogler believes Madison has not been truthful with his constituents.
“Year after year, Steve Madison has misled us and lied to his constituents,” Vogler said. “Actions speak louder than words. It is destructive to our neighborhood,” he said of a possible NFL deal. “[Madison] said in the last two elections that he was against the NFL. The writing is on the wall. We don’t have a representative who represents the interests of our neighborhood.”
Organizers have 120 days from the time Madison is served with notice of being recalled to collect signatures from 2,812 qualified voters living in District 6 before the issue can be placed on the ballot, said Pasadena City Clerk Mark Jomsky.
If enough valid signatures are collected, the council would have 14 days from the time the signatures are filed with Jomsky’s office to call a special election.
If approved, the recall election would consist of two questions: 1. Should Madison be recalled? and 2. Who should be his replacement?
Madison’s vote Monday ran contrary to recent polls taken in his district. Three of the most powerful neighborhood associations in Pasadena — the West Pasadena Residents’ Association, the Linda Vista/Annandale Residents’ Association and the San Rafael Neighborhood Association — are located in District 6 and have a collective membership of about 3,800 people. Earlier this year, the boards of all three of those associations voted unanimously against the NFL coming to Pasadena.
“This doesn’t smack of democracy,” said businessman and District 6 resident Robin Salzer, a member of the San Rafael Neighborhood Association. Salzer is owner of Robin’s Woodfire BBQ and Grill. “He did not vote for the people. He voted against them. At what point does the financial gain outweigh the quality of life? We don’t even know what the financial gains or job gains will be. It was a dereliction of his responsibility.”
Madison, a private attorney and a former federal prosecutor, was re-elected to a fourth term two years ago after a tough election battle against businesswoman Carolyn Naber, who staunchly opposed the NFL coming to town.
“During my campaign, I warned District 6 about Madison and his pro-NFL inclinations,” Naber told the Weekly. “He has shown his true colors and sold out his district. Every council member that voted ‘yes’ voted to cover up their incompetence on the Rose Bowl renovation, which is massively over budget. In every district in the city, when we had the NFL [question] come before the voters, they were against it. In District 6, which Madison represents, 86 percent of the people voted against it.”
Over the past two years, costs associated with renovation of the Rose Bowl have ballooned from $152 million to $195 million, sending city officials scrambling for ways to cover costs. Officials are attempting to cut costs by delaying some of the work. The NFL could help close that budget gap by generating between $5 million and $10 million a year, according to staff reports.
The Rose Bowl has been in the running as a temporary home for an NFL team since AEG, formerly owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz, got a green light from the Los Angeles City Council to build Farmers Field in downtown Los Angeles, next to the LA Convention Center and across the street from AEG’s LA Live entertainment complex.
As part of the deal, a team must move to Los Angeles before AEG can break ground on the stadium. According to NFL bylaws, a team must have a home before it can move to Los Angeles. Also still in the running is a plan by Los Angeles real estate magnate Ed Roski to build an NFL stadium in City of Industry.
In order for things to work out for stadium owners and the league, a team would have to play in a temporary home while whichever chosen stadium is being built.
According to Pasadena city spokesman William Boyer, city officials have had “informal” talks with the league, but no deal is currently on the table.
City officials earlier this year paid $400,000 for an environmental impact report, which revealed that there would be more than 25,000 extra car trips in the Arroyo Seco on game days.
In 2005, after the council rejected plans for a pro team to play in the Rose Bowl on a temporary basis, 73 percent of voters citywide shot down a ballot initiative backed by Councilman Chris Holden and then-Council members Joyce Streator and Paul Little, which would have allowed a team to play in the Rose Bowl on a permanent basis.
At that time, the NFL was proposing a deal that would have given the league control over the stadium. In return, the NFL would have spent $500 million on renovating and expanding the historic structure to include retail shops and restaurants around the stadium. The plan alarmed residents and environmentalists alike. The deal also would have given the NFL naming rights to the Rose Bowl field.
In the latest plan, the league would have no authority to build in the Arroyo Seco and no control over the stadium.
“We have to call things the way we see them,” Madison said. “There was a clear majority for this on this council. Are they going to recall Mayor [Bill] Bogaard or Vice Mayor [Margaret] McAustin? All that this [vote] means is, if an NFL owner wants to come here, we can have talks with them and look at the terms. That’s what we did the last time. We had a process.”