Moving On

Moving On

It’s reductive to describe Sara Watkins’ bracing “Young in All the Wrong Ways” as just “a breakup album.” Songs like the title track, the enraged “Move Me” and “Invisible” resonate because of their piercing honesty, and because they inhabit stages of self-discovery — stages familiar to anyone who’s not only buried a long-term relationship, but also walked away wiser.  

“I couldn’t take another hit, the light’s turned off inside of me

So I built a wall around my heart, keep it in and keep it out

But nothing when surrounded survives but fear and doubt” —“Tenderhearted”

A tasteful amalgam of Americana and pop, the entire album testifies that the Nickel Creek/Watkins Family Hour fiddler has stepped up to another level as a singer and songwriter. When she wrote the song “Young in All the Wrong Ways,” Watkins realized she had the album’s foundation.

“That was the first one of the batch,” she recalls, speaking with thoughtful poise from her Echo Park home. “When I finished it I thought, ‘I have something I can dig into here.’ Over the next year and a half was when most of these songs came up.”

Punch Brothers fiddler Gabe Witcher was tapped to produce. They’ve been friends since they were rising teen prodigies in Southern California’s bluegrass community — Witcher with his father’s band the Witcher Brothers, Watkins with Nickel Creek — and she respected his musicianship.

“He’s been a part of my musical life for so long that I wanted to see his perspective of what I could do, maybe challenge me in some ways I hadn’t been challenged yet; I thought he might have a good take on what I do well and maybe see things I didn’t see. That’s what I was wanting from a producer this time. I wanted to work with someone who wasn’t particularly established or stylized, in a way. Gabe has produced a few records but they haven’t been stylized like that. 

“I think the bulk of it was I trust him. He knows me well and I wanted to see where that would go.”

Watkins’ fiddle playing was integral to Nickel Creek’s sound and her self-titled 2009 solo debut and 2012’s “Sun Midnight Sun.” But it’s heard only twice on the new music, which showcases her growing vocal prowess; she sits deeper in her tone, rocks with gutsier confidence in her upper register, and sings in silk-and-smoke harmony with her I’m With Her collaborators, Aoife O’Donovan and Sarah Jarosz. 

“I’ve been working on my singing,” she acknowledges. “I love to collaborate, and singing in different groups brings different things out of you. I’m sometimes singing more acoustic ballady things, which call for a different tonal perspective, and when you’re performing with a bigger band sometimes it calls for different treatment. I’ve been enjoying exploring that variety, and these songs have been really, really fun to sing live.” 

Sara Watkins kicks off her West Coast tour at Levitt Pavilion in Memorial Park, 85 E. Holly St., Pasadena, at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9. Admission’s free. Info: (626) 683-3230.,

Moving on

Moving on
City officials have launched a nationwide search to replace Fire Chief Calvin Wells, who recently announced his retirement. Wells has held nearly every position in the department during his 35-year career.
“I have had a good run, we have been in business 135 years and I have been here for 35 years,” Wells said. “I am grateful that I have been able to fulfill my life’s dream, but it is time to move on to something else. I will still be active in the community.”
Wells began his career in Pasadena in 1979. He was the youngest recruit in the Pasadena Fire Department, which at that time hired 24 African-American firefighters in an effort to integrate the department. He served as firefighter, fire inspector, fire engineer, fire investigator, fire captain, battalion chief, assistant fire chief, fire bureau chief and deputy fire chief over a span of 32 years. 
“I pretty much covered the full gambit by design,” Wells said. “You never want to be in a position where you are overseeing someone in a position if you have never been in their shoes, in my opinion. It was a slow, gradual climb, but a rewarding one.”
Wells has served as Fire Chief for the past seven years. He and his wife Rhanna live in Pasadena and have two children. 
Last week city officials held two public meetings to acquire feedback from local residents. Local residents can leave feedback on the new fire chief until July 31 at 
“Calvin Wells has served the city of Pasadena as an outstanding firefighter for many years,” Mayor Bill Bogaard told the Weekly. “He extended his service at the city manager’s request to assure strong leadership in the department. I wish Calvin Wells the best that the future holds and thank him for his dedicated service.” 

Moving on

Moving on
Following two days of meetings, teach-ins and seminars with their counterparts in Los Angeles, members of Occupy Pasadena are changing tactics to include marches through parts of the city, the Weekly has learned.
On Sunday, the Occupy Pasadena General Assembly, which meets at 3 p.m. Sundays at Memorial Park, announced on the group’s Web site that protests and marches will now take place at 6 p.m. Fridays. Each event will begin at the corner of Lake Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, where protesters will march west to Old Pasadena then turn around and walk east to Paseo Colorado in Midtown Pasadena. A rally there will use a so-called “human microphone,” where one person says something into a microphone and the crowd repeats it to amplify the message.
“We are all part of changing this nation’s story from a ‘me first’ to a ‘we first’ perspective,” said local community activist and organizer Patrick Briggs, who described the Nov. 5 Bank Transfer Day — in which people were urged to withdraw their savings from banks and place them in credit unions — as “inspirational, positive and effective.”
So far, protests in Pasadena have been peaceful events without incident, but not all cities have been as tolerant. Police in Oakland, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Dallas, among other cities, have recently taken drastic measures to remove Occupy members in those communities.
In the announcement about the new strategy, the Occupy Pasadena General Assembly wrote, “In solidarity with the worldwide Occupy Movement and the 99 percent, we march to reclaim our public space so we can re-imagine and reform ourselves together as a human community. Our intent is to spread awareness that we are here and invite community members not only to watch us but join us as well.”
Protesters not affiliated with Occupy Pasadena have said 40,000 peaceful protesters plan on forming a “human float” to “occupy” the Rose Parade. They are denouncing the militarization and corporatization of the parade and calling for the separation of corporate money from the electoral process.

Moving on

Moving on
In 1985, after then 25-year-old Chris Holden lost to 
Loretta Thompson-Glickman in the Pasadena City Council District 3 election, his father, onetime Democratic state Sen. and longtime Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden, and former LA County Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, whom the elder Holden started in politics with as a field deputy, offered some sage advice that still resonates.  
Apparently Holden’s role models had bigger plans for the up-and-comer, designs that at the time could have easily stretched beyond the borders of Pasadena for the sports standout and San Diego State University graduate, because they encouraged him not to get too down on himself.
“Dad and Kenny Hahn both told me after I lost that it is not where you serve, it is how you serve,” Holden said in a recent interview with the Weekly. “Once you understand that, you make life better for people, and that is what ultimately counts.”
Holden decided to run for office again in Pasadena, finally beating Thompson-Glickman in 1989. But today, after serving 22 years on the Pasadena City Council, the now 50-year-old Holden — a former student government leader at Pasadena High School who led the Bulldogs to two state basketball championships — feels it’s time to move on.
The only problem is now — with two more years remaining in his council term and state political boundaries currently being reconfigured by a special board mandated by voters in 2008 — neither Holden nor anyone else is exactly sure which communities he would be serving.
As he begins his campaign for the 44th District Assembly seat currently held by Democrat Anthony Portantino, who terms out of office next year, state and federal political boundaries are being reconfigured. This typically rancorous process, once conducted by partisan state legislators, is required every decade to reflect new population data compiled by the US Census. 
And at this point, no one is quite sure what the local political landscape will look like come mid-August, including Portantino, who will likely be running for Congress against Republican Rep. David Dreier of San Dimas in a newly redrawn 26th Congressional District east of here, as well as Holden and many political experts.
“You need a crystal ball to explain it,” said veteran Pasadena political consultant Fred Register. “The best thing that could happen to Chris is a district that is very heavily Democratic, one very similar to the current district. The worst that can happen is a district that splits up [Democratic strongholds] Pasadena and Altadena and brings in areas where he is less well known and there is an incumbent.”
First time for everyone
Up until now, both of those ideas and proposals to change county and municipal political boundaries have been proposed at various levels of government. At the state and federal levels, this is the first time those lines will not be drawn by lawmakers in Sacramento. This decade, decisions are being made by the bi-partisan California Redistricting Commission, created by state voters in November 2008 as part of Proposition 11. The 14-member commission — comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four members who decline to state their political affiliations — must complete its work by Aug. 15.
Early proposals for the 44th Assembly District, which currently includes Altadena, Pasadena, Duarte, East Pasadena La Cañada Flintridge, Mayflower Village, South Pasadena and portions of Temple City, Arcadia, Monrovia and Los Angeles, have included removing Altadena from the district and linking Pasadena with much more Republican-leaning Burbank and Glendale. 
“The changes have not been incremental,” Register said. “They have tended to go this way or that way. There was one where Altadena was not together. In the last one I saw, they seemed to heed the desire by people to keep the community together. I heard from some people in Sacramento that there is an option on the table that could split Pasadena.”
“I certainly have my eye on it, like everyone else,” Holden told the Weekly. His District 3 council seat will also be up for review and possible boundary changes; but these adjustments would be made by a local task force formed every 10 years to make sure population growth does not exclude any groups from the political process. That recently appointed board, headed by former Councilman Bill Crowfoot, has not yet set a date for its first meeting.
Also for the first time, Pasadena Unified School District elections will be conducted on a district basis, as opposed to at-large elections for all seven seats. Another citizens’ panel is currently working on that.
When it comes to state political lines, “I think [the state redistricting commission] has made it very clear they are an independent group, and it appears they are taking comments seriously,” said Holden. “The last vision statement I saw had Altadena and Pasadena back together again. I don’t know if it will stay that way. What they come up with next week could be radically different, and it could change seven more times by August. But, at some point, they have to make their way to the finishing line. This is the first time for every-body on this one, but I am hopeful.”
Some doors open …
Those lines could cause some politicians to move their homes and families. For instance, Portantino, a former mayor of La Cañada Flintridge, has announced that he is prepared to make his home in Covina if an East San Gabriel-Covina district develops. This news could spell trouble for Republican Dreier, who has represented the once heavily Republican district for nearly three decades. 
So far, Holden said he has surpassed his goal of raising $125,000, taking in nearly $134,000. “At this point, it is not likely that I would move,” Holden said. 
“It was thought that redistricting was going to lead to the election of more moderate candidates from both sides, and that is not necess-arily going to be the outcome,” 
said former congressional candidate and Pasadena Weekly columnist Barry Gordon. “A lot of people may have to move. A politician will go where the district is.” 
The Assembly election will be held in November 2012, four months before city elections in Holden’s District 3. The last time Holden lost an election was in 1999 to Bill Bogaard in the race for the city’s first elected mayor in decades. Bogaard has also held onto his seat since taking office, and some political insiders believe Holden has been waiting for Bogaard to step down before seeking that seat again. That rumor, said Holden, the last council-appointed mayor and its first black male mayor, is not true. 
“I will be 51 this year,” Holden said. “A lot of people are just getting into politics and I am into my 23rd year. In terms of my activity, unelected and elected, I have been around for about 28 years. Hopefully, I still have a lot of time to go. I think Bill has done a great job, but the future is still open. Sometimes in life, certain doors open and others close.”
While Holden said he’s accomplished much during his time on the council, there remains much to do.
“I would say the hardest thing is feeling like you can’t do as much for as many as you would like,” Holden said. “That there are some expectations we have not met. There are occasions when you feel as though you could have done more. I wish we had done more with affordable housing. There are so many people who leave because they cannot afford to live here, and when you see how that affects the diversity in the community and the public schools, it has been disappointing not being able to figure out how to do more,” Holden said.
If he is elected to the Assembly, Holden knows much work lies ahead. “We’re a high-service state with high expectations for the system to provide services at a high level, but the people have very low interest in paying for it in taxes that create the revenue that helps us accomplish some of the goals,” Holden said. “We still have to look at reforms to the system, because people are paying a lot in taxes. We are putting a lot out, but where is it going? We need to think in terms of what is our priority, and we need to make sure we can fully fund the high-priority items, like health care, public education and public safety — young, old and poor need to be taken care of.” 

For proposed state and federal political boundaries, visit
For proposed LA County political boundary changes, visit
For Pasadena redistricting information, visit

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