According to the Pasadena City Charter, the mayor shall present a thematic budget message for the upcoming fiscal year to the City Council no later than February.
Mayor Terry Tornek will fulfill that mandate at 7 p.m. tonight, Jan. 16, at John Muir High School, 1905 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena, when he delivers his fifth annual state of the city address.
This year the speech will be more positive than in year’s past due largely to passage of Measure I, a three-quarter cent tax increase supported by Tornek that passed by nearly 68 percent of the vote in 2018.
According to city Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian, a preview of the speech was not available.
“This year, because we have been stabilized because of Measure I, it will be a much broader look,” Derderian said. “We have the luxury of being more comprehensive. It’ll be looking at the next 10 years, and how the city should invest, and its greatest needs.”
Measure I brings about $21 million into the city’s coffers every year. According to election materials, that money will be used to bankroll vital city services.
Through Measure J, a companion measure to Measure I, the city allocates to the Pasadena Unified School District up to $7 million annually from Measure I proceeds.
“The state-of-the-city is the Mayor’s opportunity to highlight updates on Measure I, infrastructure, budgets, housing, public safety and specific accomplishments that set us on a solid path for a strong future,” said Derderian.
“Additionally,” she said, “several committees have been coordinated this year to highlight and educate our community on very important initiatives that will take place this year. The year 2020 is the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote. Throughout 2020, Pasadena will celebrate this hard-fought victory and highlight the positive impact women continue to have in our city and country. Community stakeholders and city staff have also formed a Complete Count Committee for Census 2020. The results will have a major impact on our community for generations to come. It affects our representation in government, how money is invested in local programs, and services supporting our most vulnerable population comprised of the elderly, children and people with disabilities. In March 2020 you can fill out your census on line at 2020census.gov.”
Tornek may also delve into the city’s current affordable housing crisis, and new housing laws taking effect this year which are designed to speed up housing construction by watering down local housing and zoning ordinances.
Lawmakers have passed dozens of bills aimed at boosting funding for affordable housing, easing development restrictions and helping renters facing rising costs.
The bills cap the number of public hearings on new projects, prohibits local governments from increasing fees on projects once an application is submitted and stops urban areas from enacting moratoriums on new construction.
Prior speeches painted a daunting picture of the city’s financial situation. In 2018, Tornek told an audience at that event that police, fire, recreation and every other department in the city would have reduce services in the next few years because the resources were not available to meet the city’s infrastructure needs.
At that speech, Tornek revealed “The Big Ask,” urging voters to approve his sales tax increase plan, from which one quarter of the money would be sent to the ailing Pasadena Unified School District.
At that time, the PUSD was fighting to prevent a takeover of the district by the Los Angeles Office of Education due its budget deficits.
In 2019, Tornek spoke of the generally good financial condition of the city, and in past years, after addressing the city’s budgetary condition, has given updates about other issues impacting the city, such as use of the Arroyo Seco, the homeless crisis, construction projects and the demise of the 710 freeway extension.
This is Tornek’s fifth State of the City speech and the 21st in the city’s history. Former Mayor Bill Bogaard delivered the first 16. Unlike Bogaard, who was the city’s first elected mayor in the modern era, Tornek does not title his speeches.
All of Tornek’s speeches have been delivered at public schools and this year is no different, with the event being held at John Muir High School.
“I always give the speech at a public school,” Tornek said. “I want to get people up to John Muir so they can find out what’s going on with Muir High School and PCC.”
Pasadena City College has operated a satellite campus called PCC Northwest on the Muir campus since 2018.
The speech comes during an election year. Tornek faces a tough challenge from longtime District 5 Councilman Victor Gordo. Former City Commissioner Jason Hardin and businessman Major Williams are also running for the mayor’s seat.
The quartet appeared on stage for the first time last Wednesday at PCC in a political debate sponsored by the political action group known as ACT.
Tornek highlighted the accomplishments of his first term at that event, including the city’s financial stability, the strengthening of PUSD, work done on improving the environment and the city’s quality of life, and lowering crime.
ACT voted to endorse Tornek the next day.
Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. The program starts at 7 p.m. Carpools are encouraged. Childcare, as well as Spanish translation and closed captioning services, will be provided.