Pasadena is at a crossroads. After years of general—albeit tepid—support for transit, pedestrian, and bicycle improvements, transportation has become controversial in the City’s municipal elections. Complete streets, bus lanes, and bike share have been brandished as bogeymen in some areas of the city by activists who decry a road diet installed to improve safety on Sierra Madre Villa Blvd. The City’s current lone woman-identified councilmember, District 2 Councilmember Margaret McAustin, is also stepping down, creating even more awareness about the importance of this year’s election. With five Council Members needed to provide a majority for action on an eight person voting body, the tide could shift if the four challenged seats currently up for election are won by candidates who support making streets safer for all who use them.
Bike The Vote L.A. assembled a committee led by local Pasadena safe streets and mobility justice advocates to engage candidates running for Pasadena Mayor and City Council. Bike The Vote L.A. is proud to announce two endorsements: Tricia Keane for Pasadena City Council District 2, and Ryan Bell for Pasadena City Council District 6. In addition, Bike The Vote has graded all mayoral candidates, but provided no endorsement in the Pasadena mayoral race. In addition, no endorsement is made for Pasadena City Council District 4.
Voting Period: Saturday, February 22 – Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Pasadena election information: https://www.cityofpasadena.net/city-clerk/elections-2020/
Find a voting center: http://lavote.net/locator
Pasadena Mayoral Race
Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek is running for reelection as an incumbent after his first term as Mayor. Mayor Tornek is being challenged by long-time District 5 Councilmember Victor Gordo, Senior Commissioner Jason Hardin, and second-time mayoral candidate Major Williams. See below for grades and summaries of each candidate:
Pasadena Mayor Candidate: Jason Hardin
Jason Hardin is a long-time Pasadena resident who grew up using the bus as a primary mode of transportation. In his response to Bike The Vote L.A., he expresses his support for a Vision Zero initiative within Pasadena, protected micro-mobility lanes, student transit passes, and safer, more walkable neighborhoods. While we would like to see a stronger commitment and strategy from Hardin to take action to make Pasadena streets safer with roadway design rather than relying on costly and inequitable police enforcement, it is clear Hardin’s heart is in the right place with regards to safe streets, and that has an authentic understanding of the challenges people in Pasadena face using public transit and walking in Pasadena.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2020 Primary Grade: B
Pasadena Mayor Candidate: Terry Tornek
Over the past six years as Mayor and as a City Councilmember before that, Terry Tornek supported the development of a stronger Bicycle Master Plan that included the City’s first physically-separated bike/rollways, the implementation of the Union Avenue protected bike/rollway, the completion of Class II lanes on Cordova Avenue, and the Playhouse District’s long-proposed pedestrian makeover of Colorado Blvd. More recently, however, Tornek has made efforts to eliminate bus-only lanes within Pasadena for Metro’s Pasadena-NoHo BRT project.
Bike The Vote L.A. endorsed then-candidate Terry Tornek during his first campaign for mayor in 2015, after he provided a well-informed and encouraging response to the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition’s 2015 candidate questionnaire. His response to Bike The Vote for the 2020 campaign shows that Tornek still understands the value of protected bike lanes, how transportation is a primary factor in greenhouse gas emissions, and the role that vehicle speed plays in roadway safety. Unfortunately, Tornek’s commitment to take bold action on these issues appears to have waned and Tornek declined to communicate support in his response for a Pasadena Vision Zero policy. Of protected bike lanes, he says, “I don’t believe that we can many built in the near term.” Should Tornek be reelected, Bike The Vote L.A. is hopeful that he will use his position and knowledge on safe streets to convene more productive community conversations that are rooted in goals for livability and equity, rather than a fear of change.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2020 Primary Grade: B-
Pasadena Mayor Candidate: Victor Gordo
City Council District 5 Councilmember, Victor Gordo, has a track record of saying the right things on street safety, but not following through with support when it comes to implementation. Gordo has regularly stated that, “Traffic flows like water,” when citing why evidence-based roadway redesigns and traffic calming measures are not feasible for some of the most dangerous streets in his district. Over the past year he has actively courted the support of wealthy anti-safe streets zealots in East Pasadena and Redondo Beach who successfully killed the proposed safety reconfiguration of Orange Grove Blvd, and have gone on to oppose bus-only lanes, Bus Rapid Transit, and planned bike lanes on Cordova and Union Ave. While his response to Bike The Vote L.A. (and his 2015 response to the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition) shows a willingness to engage on the issues, Gordo’s track record to date underscores that the safety of vulnerable road users has not been a priority for him when it comes time to lead.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2020 Primary Grade: C+
Pasadena Mayor Candidate: Major Williams
Major Williams is a lone registered Republican within the non-partisan Pasadena mayoral race, a city where Democratic registrations outnumber Republicans by more than 2:1. Williams was kind enough to respond to Bike The Vote’s questionnaire, but his aggressive response in opposition to safe routes for people on bikes makes it clear that he is not a candidate that Bike The Vote L.A. can support at this time.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2020 Primary Grade: C-
Endorsement: Tricia Keane for Pasadena City Council District 2
Tricia Keane is the Deputy Director of the Los Angeles Department of City Planning and a former Deputy Chief of Staff for Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin. As Pasadena stands at a crossroads between looking forward towards a more people-oriented and equitable city and one paralyzed by fear of change; Keane has decidedly focused her campaign with an optimistic vision of moving the city forward on housing, economic and social justice, and sustainability.
Another District 2 candidate, Felicia Williams, has experience as a long-time bike commuter and a track record of support for safe streets, including as a champion for the Orange Grove Blvd. road diet. We are disappointed that Williams declined to respond to Bike The Vote L.A.’s questionnaire, but recognize her important work to make Pasadena streets safer. Should Williams progress to a run-off election, we hope that she will continue to engage with safe streets advocates and work to improve transportation options within Pasadena.
In Tricia Keane’s response to Bike The Vote L.A., she demonstrated a strong understanding of sustainable mobility issues in the City, underlined the need to accelerate the implementation of adopted City plans, improve local bus service, and develop a robust network of protected bike lanes. She also recognized the power of utilizing low-cost tools such as plastic bollards and paint to efficiently improve safety for all road users in the short-term.
We appreciate Keane’s bold vision for a Pasadena that leads the way to solve the difficult challenges that the city shares with its neighbors across Los Angeles County. Bike The Vote L.A. is honored to endorse Tricia Keane for Pasadena City Council District 2.
Endorsement: Ryan Bell for Pasadena City Council District 6
Ryan Bell is an educator and tenants rights advocate who serves on the steering committee for the Pasadena Tenants Justice Coalition. In his campaign for City Council District 6, Bell is calling for a Green New Deal for Pasadena, better civilian oversight of the Pasadena Police Department, and significant action to address housing affordability and homelessness.
Ryan Bell’s response to Bike The Vote L.A. shows a familiarity with the challenges of using forms of public and active transportation in Pasadena. He expressed support for a Pasadena Vision Zero policy, and communicated a range of suggestions to improve the safety of pedestrians including bike lanes, road diets to address areas of dangerous speeding, pedestrian-friendly signal design, reduced speed limits in school zones, and greater use of flashing beacons at uncontrolled crosswalks.
Bell has a visionary but practical approach to addressing transportation’s outsized role in climate change. While recognizing that transitioning toward electric vehicles is helpful, he notes that electric car ownership is out of reach for many and cannot be the only action the City takes. He calls for efforts to improve travel by bike and on foot and an end to the ban on electric scooters. Bell also sees quality public transit as a critical investment towards a greener transportation system, and calls for significant improvements to public transit in the form of convenient, fare-free, and more frequent local service.
With his bold vision of a more equitable and sustainable transportation system, Bell offers an exciting opportunity to reorient Pasadena towards a city that works for everyone. Bike The Vote L.A. is proud to endorse Ryan Bell for Pasadena City Council District 6.