Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pasadena Star News: Pasadena mayoral race not quite what founding fathers had in mind

(Mod: I am now a freelance columnist for the Pasadena Star News. I will be writing a few of them every month, most of which will run on Sundays. This one is in today's paper. You can link to it on the PSN site here.) 

Pasadena mayoral race not quite what founding fathers had in mind 
I am not certain this is how the Founding Fathers saw things turning out. I believe they felt that the opportunity to actively participate in the workings of your own government would be so compelling that everyone would be clambering to take part. And judging by the tally from the most recent round of elections, a full 15% of Pasadena's registered voters agree.

Today there are two individuals in the runoff for Mayor on April 21, and both served on the Pasadena City Council during a significant portion of the years that alleged embezzler Danny Wooten was robbing the Home of the Dome blind. And, as we now know, nobody on that City Council was alert enough to figure it out.

We are talking about an 11 year period during which $6.4 million dollars was stolen right out from under the noses of Pasadena's not very vigilant elected watchdogs. With two them, Terry Tornek and Jacque Robinson, actually having the hubris to run for Mayor.

Some might believe that voters of a city that had just experienced a huge embezzlement scandal, and over so considerable a period of time, would have some doubts about the ability of their elected leaders to keep an eye on things. And that a serious "throw the bums out" consensus could have risen from the cold hard streets of an increasingly thorny Rose City.

But sadly, that is not the case. Out of the mere 12,977 votes for Mayor, those two Councilmembers, who both snoozed their way through a significant portion of that 11 year embezzlement binge, received 8,745 of the ballots cast. Or nearly 70% of the total.

During the first round of campaigning these two candidates, possibly fearing a negative political reaction to the Wooten scandal, pointed fingers at the City Manager and at least appeared to demand his head on a plate. But only in the most metaphorical sense since Michael Beck still has his gig, and his head. He will likely keep both long after Tornek or Robinson is elected.

And why not? Mr. Beck, ever the proper city employee, dutifully took the blame for things that were not entirely his fault. Which, I guess, is behavior expected of a City Hall hire. Taking the fall for the failures of elected officials being a form of job security. Especially when politicking Mayoral candidates are claiming they want to remove you.

My understanding has always been that in order for a democracy to function as the Founding Fathers envisioned, the people would need to participate in a vigorous and informed way. Otherwise something different would emerge. Rule by dueling campaign managers perhaps. Or a bureaucracy that, while actually calling the shots, also works to prop up the elected class. For decorative and entertainment purposes mostly.

Every show needs an emcee, and a Mayor who can both smile and wave at the same time. Especially on New Year's Day.

But I am being overly critical here. Maybe the 85% of those who stayed home were voting for something. At least by inference. And had any of the candidates running in this race actually said something that appealed to them, and in a way that was both reality based and worthy, the voters would have showed up.

Which might be another one of those things the Founding Fathers had assumed. Politicians who do more than mail out postcards and squabble over lawn signs.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

40 comments:

  1. There's not much difference between Pasadena and Sierra Madre except size.

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  2. Platitudes and post cards is all it takes I guess. What a sorry state of affairs.

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  3. There is a rather windy comment on the Star News site from Peter Dreier. He uses an alias, of course. This is the same Occidental College professor who advocates a $15 minimum wage, yet pays his student researchers $10 an hour.

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    1. $15 an hour is something only capitalists should have to pay. Peter pays $10 because that is the current liberation rate.

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  4. I read the article today in the Star News and was was pleasantly surprised when I saw that John Crawford was the author. As always, a very astute analysis and well-written. Apathy can kill a democracy but as you point out, that apathy may be do less to the voters and more to the selection of unispirational candidates and career politicians.

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  5. Controversy sells. Go Tattler!!

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    1. I wish you were in every paper in California Crawford...you're a real journalist.....

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    2. Politicians hate real journalism.

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    3. True. They're much more interested in adoration, apple polishing and selfies.

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  6. About time you take the "Sierra Madre" out of your blog name.

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    1. The New York Times doesn't just limit itself to New York. The Wall Street Journal is not just found on Wall Street. So why shouldn't the Tattler use the town Sierra Madre as its home. After all, it is the most read news source there.

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  7. JC can't quit the 'Dre!

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    1. When you compare Sierra Madre to Arcadia or Pasadena, it becomes quickly obvious that of the three the Dre has the best government right now. It is an interesting comparison, and the focus of The Tattler these days.

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  8. Its coming!

    all Sierra Madre Residents will have the opportunity to vote & repeal not only
    > uUT - utility User Taxes but
    >. the Franchise Taxes as well

    The city of Sierra Madre has $20 million dollars in "CASH" in the General Fund & Investment Account (refer to city's financial page)

    Our city is swimming in cash & "all" city council members need to remember their commitment when running for office "WE will reduce city spending" ... so lets get on it... this is the time to do it!

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    1. It looks like Sierra Madre will have three choices. Raise utility taxes to 8%, keep them at 6%, or get rid of them altogether. Interesting times!

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    2. I thought we were supposed to keep spending in line with revenues. So we should spend more than we take in?

      I hope there will be an option to have a tax that sunsets in 2020 when all the bonds are paid off. We have a temporary 4 year problem here. I'll have a hard time voting for a tax above 6% if it won't sunset.

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    3. The 1998 water bonds are paid off in 2020. The Bart Doyle sponsored 2003 interest only bonds don't stay paying down principal until 2020. Then you pay thru the nose until 2033.

      PS: The UUT doesn't go to the water dept. it goes to the General Fund to pay for those Platinum Pensions.

      Oh boy.

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    4. It takes a big shovel to clean up after all that Bart.

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  9. 10:13 Jenny, was that your post!
    Your right on,
    the city staff needs to reduce it employees salaries & health benefits and city spending as well!
    you have my vote for both repeals!!!!

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  10. Great article Mod. So glad you'll reach a wider audience! Congratulations.

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  11. John, congratulations on your continued expansion. I've always felt the Sierra Madre Tattler was too brilliant to only focus on our small community but we were and are so lucky to have you to open up the issues and advocate for all of us ordinary residents and tax payers. It has been a fun several years! Thanks for all you do for all of us.

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    1. Agree 10:49, but please don't make it sound like it's a good-by!

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  12. You and Drier really ought to take it outside.

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    1. I think they have. What is more outside than this?

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  13. Low voter turnout for local elections, certainly due in part to apathy, in large part is by design.

    Historically, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November was chosen as election day because by then most of the family farm harvest and chores were complete, and the rains and snows of late Fall and Winter had not yet arrived, allowing for travel to the polling place.

    Annual November elections are entrenched in the National Psyche.

    Not so for sporadically held Spring elections, the time of year when you're focused on bringing the kids to school in the morning and hurrying to work so you can come back home in the afternoon to get junior and missy to soccer practice, get homework done, and then maybe have a nice family dinner on the patio in the early evening Spring air.

    Was today election day? Whoops! Completely, forgot about it.

    It's well known that Spring elections have a low voter turnout. And when you're in power, you want that low turnout because you know it's mostly the party faithful who will turn out for you.

    Entrenched incumbency by design.

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    1. Over in Pasadena they apparently have a system where elected officials don't have to take any responsibility for anything. It is called the Sgt Schultz City Council.

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    2. I recall a passage in Paine's Common Sense that talks about how important it is for representatives to regularly return to the villages they represent, so that they don't lose touch.

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    3. Pasadena has a Wizard of Oz City Council. The real business goes on behind the curtain.

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    4. 11:52 You are sso right. Our Oz is named Aguilar. Read the agenda and her city report. Raise taxes or do without services. Not one mention of cutting salaries and perks. Take a look at police salaries. For that money, they should be doing a better job.I never realized they were supposed to be walking around. I must be blind cuz I've not seen that. Congrats Mr. Mod. You are a breath of fresh air. I am proud to call you a friend.

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    5. Officer Ford does a great job of neighborhood policing. I like him.

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  14. Nice new banner, Mod!

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  15. Excellent blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers? I'm planning to start my own website soon but I'm a little lost on everything. Would you recommend starting with a free platform like Wordpress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I'm completely overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Kudos!

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    1. My advice would be to try raising tropical fish first. If that doesn't work out for you, then blogging could be a good second option.

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    2. If you are really looking for excitement, there are two spots open on the EENER Commission.

      Join the Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Commission -
      We have two vacancies! The Sierra Madre City Council encourages citizen participation in its decision-making process through the use of citizen commissions. These advisory bodies are able to study a variety of issues and problems in detail. After gathering all pertinent information, hearing arguments, and weighing values, they recommend to the Council what they consider the best action to take. Public notice on all commissions are prepared in compliance of the Maddy Act.

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    3. What? Another committee that is directed by the city manager? Do you really think anyone sitting on that commission that wants to do the right thing will ever be able to do it?

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    4. When the city's tax rake-in drops off, they could give mercy to EENER and disband it.

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    5. Neener neeners to the EENERs. That's what I say.

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  16. In case you need lessons on how to walk across the street.
    http://www.eventbrite.com/e/pasadena-pedestrian-safety-workshop-tickets-16456923100

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  17. As Pasadena residents we get what we deserve. In this case it is the lesser of two evils. ....if either of them get elected it will still be the same old same old....as they both have been in office for the last several years...and have done nothing.

    It's the Pasadena way....

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