By Alex Cordero
Pasadena residents gathered at Jackie Robinson Park last week to listen to mayoral and City Council candidates up for election discuss climate policies in the city.
Residents learned about many local organizations that focus on advocating for a greener community as part of the resource fair featured before the forum started.
Organizations such as Alta Pasa Green Circle, Citizens’ Climate Lobby: Pasadena-Foothills Chapter and League of Women Voters were just a few of the organizations that partnered with students for the event.
The forum was moderated by local students. Ozzy Simpson, local environmental advocate from Sequoyah High School, did not hold back on addressing some of the comments he received from Mayor Terry Torneck regarding green policies in the city.
“In January Mayor Torneck said – ‘you cannot understand the difficulties in transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy because of the cost,’ saying to me actually, ‘you don’t pay the electricity bills in your house.’”
Simpson continued to challenge the panel. “However in 2019, a study found that 75 percent of U.S. coal production is more expensive than renewable energy such as wind and solar. Should the financial cost of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy guide our decision? And how can renters voice their opinion if they would like to switch to renewable energy?”
The intensity between Torneck and Simpson was evident. It was even addressed by District 2 candidate Kevin Litwit when the same question was presented.
“I think this is between you and the mayor, I think there is something going on there, I’m pretty sure you [Simpson] got a good grasp about what is going on, I mean you did all this [ Climate Action Forum] and you did a pretty good job.”
Other topics up for debate were free bus and metro fares for students and low-income residents. A majority of the candidates agreed with making public transportation free and more accessible to the public.
There was also a round in which each candidate was presented with a question and could only answer by holding up a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ sign provided.
Mayor Tornek expressed his feelings about this session — calling it unfair and arguing that some of the questions presented could not be answered with a simple yes or no without having the opportunity to explain.
Another hot topic presented was the idea of building more green multi-family housing to make the city more eco-friendly. However, some mayoral candidates said that may not be cost-effective.
During a quick intermission, I spoke to Jill Shook, executive director of Making Housing and Community Happen, and asked her for her thoughts on what mayoral candidates said about green housing not being cost-effective.
“Green housing is affordable. In fact some of the first net-zero housings are affordable housing for multi-families. These types of units are filled with government and state tax credits making it even more affordable. I’m a little disappointed in mayoral candidate Victor Gordo who failed to see that connection tonight.”
The climate action forum was also interactive. There was a live voting application that student organizers encouraged all attendees to use.
“At the forum, we threw in a surprise: a straw-poll asking which candidates had the best vision for a climate-resilient Pasadena. The winners? Jason Hardin beat Gordo and Tornek in the mayoral race, while Keane [Tricia Keane], Bland [Charlotte “Char” Bland], and Bell [Ryan Bell] won their respective council races.” shared Simpson via a press release from Sunrise Sequoyah.
Simpson also mentioned the blueprint for an Earth Day event coming up on April 22.
“We’re not 100 percent sure yet, but it will likely look something like what the youth climate strike coalition has planned.” He continues, “Five of us from Sequoyah are also heading to Washington D.C. this weekend to meet other Sunrise students from across the country and develop plans for Earth Day; so we’ll have a ton more information soon about our Earth Day plans.”
Simpson is also part of organizing Schools For Future at Sequoyah High School and is serving as a primary point of contact for other schools wanting to participate.
“You may have seen on social media (or passing by on Orange Grove Boulevard) that we’ve been striking Friday mornings while Sequoyah students are being dropped off. This has been part of a larger program we’ve been testing out for Fridays For Future (Greta Thunberg’s strike organization) to activate schools. We’ll be testing out more tactics from Schools For Future soon, but if you’re interested in learning more and activating your school (or know someone who would like to activate their school), respond to this email [firstname.lastname@example.org] (or forward it) and we’ll send more information about how you can help! We’re trying to make it as easy as possible to replicate the types of actions we’ve been doing at any school in the world.”