Pasadena Council Recap: City Will Seek Public’s Input Regarding Election Cycle

Mayor Terry Tornek chose to err on the side of caution, opting to seek voter assistance on an issue he described as “fraught with implications and potential … pitfalls.” – Photo by Terry Miller / Beacon Media News

By Gus Herrera

The Pasadena City Council has decided to seek the public’s input regarding the specifics of how the city will comply with the California Voters Participation Rights Act (CVPRA), aka Senate Bill 415.

The CVPRA, signed by Governor Jerry Brown in September 2015, is intended to increase voter participation throughout the state by eliminating off-year elections and forcing all local elections to be consolidated with state elections on even years.

Proponents of the bill argue that consolidated elections will allow tax dollars to be spent more efficiently and that higher voter turnout will ensure constituents are more well-represented via local government.

Despite some arguments that the CVPRA does not apply to charter cities such as Pasadena, an informal “straw poll” held by council on Oct. 16 determined that the city will indeed comply with the CVPRA, by a vote of 5-3.

Pasadena currently holds elections in a primary/general format on odd years for both mayor and city council. Successful candidates under the current system must receive a 50-percent-plus-one majority – if no majority is achieved in the March primary, then a general run-off is held in April.

In order to comply with the CVPRA, Pasadena must either consolidate its election cycle with the statewide primary/general format, which is held in March and November, or utilize plurality voting (i.e. successful candidates must receive the highest number of votes – no majority required).

City Clerk Mark Jomsky presented council with three potential options at their latest regular meeting, but discussions proved unfruitful as the various permutations simply raised more and more questions.

One of the biggest concerns stemmed from the idea that the current terms for mayor and some council members would have to be extended by up to 20 months in order to synchronize with the statewide cycle. Furthermore, if a candidate were to be successfully elected in March, then that candidate would have to wait several months, until December, to be sworn into office – possibly even more if an incumbent chooses to step down from his/her position early.

Council Member Steve Madison warned that the down time could create the potential for “mischief” to be made. He also considered the consequences of consolidating local elections with statewide/nationwide races, fearing that oversaturation might in fact have the opposite desired effect by diluting the community’s focus on local issues.

With no clear consensus in sight, Mayor Terry Tornek stepped in and reminded council that the city is not necessarily “under the gun” to make a decision – in order to achieve compliance, Pasadena must adopt a plan by March 9, 2018 for voters to then make a decision in June 2018.

Thus, the mayor recommended that the complicated issue, which he described as “fraught with implications and potential … pitfalls,” be outsourced to the people of Pasadena for further examination.

City Clerk Mark Jomsky will now be tasked with reaching out to the populace for their input. Jomsky will also strategize with local non-partisan organizations, including the League of Women Voters, to involve and inform residents.

In other news, council approved a $1 million contract with the South Bay Workforce Investment Board to provide vocational training to job seekers who reside in, or were laid off from employers within the following cities: Pasadena, Arcadia, Duarte, Monrovia, Sierra Madre, and South Pasadena.

According to city staff’s report, local schools offering training will include: Accounting Annex in Arcadia (accounting), Pasadena City College (office occupations), Dotson Trucking in Arcadia (truck driving), Monrovia Adult School (accounting, medical assisting, nursing assistant, office occupations), Employed Security Services in Pasadena (security), and Northwest College in Pasadena (medical, legal, dental, IT).

The contract will run from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, 2018.

Rendering of what it might look like to reclaim the 710 “stub.” – Courtesy photo / West Pasadena Residents Association

Council also heard a presentation by Fred Dock, director of transportation, on the possible re-purposing of the 710 “stub” – aka the dirt crater next to where the 210 exits to California Boulevard.

Dock revealed various concepts to repurpose or “reclaim” the land from Caltrans, which included creating a “grand boulevard and park” or extending Old Town.

As enticing as it may sound, the early-stage concepts, which were developed by a citizen-driven effort known as Connecting Pasadena, are at this point purely hypothetical and are contingent upon the 710 North Project’s pending response to comments and environmental impact report.

Although council appreciated the homegrown concepts to reclaim the land, some questioned whether any of the ideas would help mitigate the current bottleneck traffic the area currently struggles with.

The city is expecting a response from Caltrans on how they will proceed in early 2018, according to Dock.

November 1, 2017

About Author

Gus Gus Herrera was born in Los Angeles and raised in Pasadena. He attended Flintridge Prep in La Canada for high school and then spent four years on the East Coast at Boston University where he graduated with a bachelor's in philosophy. He first began covering the City of Pasadena for the Pasadena Independent in February 2016.

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