So far, five candidates have announced intentions to challenge incumbents in Pasadena City Council Districts 1, 2, 4 and 6.
Meanwhile, three candidates say they will challenge Mayor Terry Tornek, including longtime District 5 Councilman Victor Gordo. Former marketing executive Major Williams and local business owner Jason Hardin say they also plan to run against Tornek, who was first elected mayor in 2015.
“I have begun the process of speaking to residents all across the city about the things they value about Pasadena,” said Tornek in his re-election announcement. “I will always place the quality of life in our neighborhoods first.”
Under Tornek, a former council member and the city’s onetime planning director, the council passed a $15 minimum wage ordinance crafted by the council’s Education and Technology (EDTECH) Committee, which is chaired by Gordo.
Tornek also backed legislation that ended the 710 Freeway extension project, which, if approved, could have decimated portions of West Pasadena.
Tornek also successfully pushed for a three-quarter cent sales tax increase to help stave off a pending deficit at City Hall and help save the beleaguered school district from a county takeover.
Some local restaurant owners claim Tornek reneged on a promised seat at the table during the minimum wage discussion. Local officials are now meeting with restaurant owners after eight eateries shuttered since August. Chamber of Commerce CEO Paul Little blamed the closures on the minimum wage law, rising rents and the higher sales tax, all issues that could impact the race.
Local calls for rent control so far have not been addressed by the City Council, which instead has strengthened the city’s existing tenant protection ordinance.
Skyrocketing housing costs have forced many residents to move east where property is cheaper. That exodus has depleted local schools of children and forced the school board to close three elementary schools. School district officials are also discussing closing middle schools and high schools.
Candidates seeking to run for elected office in the March elections can pull nominating papers at City Hall on Nov. 12. Mayoral candidates must get 50 signatures from registered voters in Pasadena and pay a $25 fee in order to run for office. Perspective council candidates must pay the same fee and turn in 25 signatures. All papers must be turned in by 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6. Mayoral candidates must live in Pasadena. Council candidates must reside in the district in which they are running. Both sets of candidates must be registered voters.
“Unfortunately, for the last few years, big outside developers have gained the upper hand over every day Pasadena families. They are working harder than ever to rapidly change Pasadena for the benefit of only a tiny few,” Gordo said in the statement announcing his candidacy. “It’s displacing our families and seniors, and making housing unaffordable.”
Gordo is endorsed by former Mayor Bill Bogaard.
According to Williams, current issues cannot be fixed with the current mindset.
“The defining issue of this race is leadership,” said Williams, who came to Pasadena in 2011. “We need someone with a new skillset. Everyone is going to talk homelessness and budget, but there needs to be an evolution of the thought process.”
When asked to point out flaws in the current leadership, Williams said his campaign is not about someone doing something wrong.
“We just need to add something. What worked in 2015 does not work in 2019,” he said.
“This race needs a candidate who doesn’t just care about people during an election year,” Hardin said.
Hardin ran against Tornek in 2016 and finished with less than one percent of the votes cast.
In the City Council races, District 1 Councilman Tyron Hampton so far is running unopposed for a second four-year term.
“I never stopped running. I am very connected to my community,” said Hampton. “Everything I have done has been based on what people in my community have asked me to do. I never stopped walking and knocking on doors. I’ll continue to listen and make myself available.”
In District 2, Councilwoman Margaret McAustin has announced she will not seek re-election due to her husband’s battle with cancer. McAustin is currently the only woman on the council.
District 2 includes central and eastern portions of the city, including East Colorado Boulevard between Wilson and Oak avenues, an area buzzing with residential development that has a strong Latino community and a burgeoning Armenian-American population. Over the past few years, the district has become a prime target for developers.
Felicia Williams, no relation to Major, has a history of community service, serving on the Pasadena Educational Foundation and the Pasadena Police Foundation boards. In 2007 she was appointed to Pasadena’s Transportation Commission and has served on the Planning Commission, the Environmental Advisory Commission, and the board of directors of both the Pasadena Center Operating Co. and the Rose Bowl Operating Co. Williams is hoping to replace McAustin in the District 2 seat.
In District 4, located in East Pasadena and presently represented by two-term Councilman Gene Masuda, residents have been fighting mansionization, an increase in residential burglaries and new developments.
“Homelessness is on the rise,” District 4 candidate Joe Baghdadlian said. “Our district faces environmental issues. Our schools are in danger of being shut down. The city is victim to poor planning that has led to traffic nightmares, and City Hall isn’t doing enough to support the small businesses that are the backbone of our community.”
Masuda is also being challenged by Charlotte Bland, chair of the Pasadena Commission on the Status of Women. “I am running for City Council to hold City Hall accountable to our neighborhoods,” Bland said. “I will protect the character of our city. I will ensure that new developments are safe and smart, and I will work to find solutions for homelessness.”
District 4 residents unsuccessfully fought against a mixed-use project scheduled to include 550 apartments, 69 of them available at affordable pricing, and 9,800 square feet of space for retail businesses and restaurants on the 8.53-acre former naval weapons test site that now houses the Space Bank storage facility. Critics claim the current cleanup plan for the site will not remove all the toxic chemicals.
District 6, representing much of the city’s west end, has its own issues, including the preservation of the Arroyo Seco and noise and air pollution from the county’s Big Dig project, which is removing sediment from Devil’s Gate Dam.
Opponents of longtime District 6 Councilman Steve Madison, who announced his re-election bid earlier this month, mentioned several issues of concern to local residents, including the Caltrans homes that were seized by the state more than 50 years ago to make way for an extension of the 710 Freeway to the 210 Freeway.
“There are currently no tenants on the Pasadena City Council, yet over 56 percent of Pasadena residents rent their homes,” said District 6 candidate Ryan Bell. “District 6, in particular, has a serious problem with its Caltrans landlord along the 710 corridor. Very little has been done to ensure that these tenants are protected from the continual abuses of their landlord.”
Attorney Tamerlin Godley, another District 6 candidate, said it was time to shake up the leadership in the district.
“People are concerned about homelessness, development, public education and infrastructure and financial stability,” said Godley, past president of Armory Center for the Arts. “I love Pasadena and I am deeply committed to the things that make Pasadena great. I have done lots of walking. I think the district needs someone with real focus, commitment and energy. The district has been run by the same person since 1999. We need new energy.”