Pasadena City Council, Board of Education races take shape
Measure A, designed to draw Latino school board members, may see none in its first test.
Candidate Chris Holden talks with supporters at the Pasadena Museum of California Art where the Pasadena councilman held his primary election campaign party for his bid for California Assembly Distrcit 41 on June 5, 2012. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer)
Three council and four school board seats are up for grabs March 5, with open contests expected to produce at least one new member for each body.
School board seats will be contested within geographic districts for the first time, a change that pits incumbents against one another to make room for a new Northwest Pasadena representative.
Voters in Northwest Pasadena also will choose a replacement for 24-year council veteran Chris Holden, who is running to replace termed-out Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge).
Political prognosticators name several potential candidates for Holden's seat, but only community activist Ishmael Trone, who recently co-chaired a committee overseeing renovations to Robinson Park, has confirmed he will run.
Trone said his campaign would focus on spurring economic development in the district, encouraging construction of affordable housing for seniors and quality-of-life issues.
Los Angeles Urban League Senior Vice President John Kennedy, a former president of the Pasadena NAACP, is rumored to be considering a run but said it would be premature to announce his intentions.
Pasadena City College Trustee Berlinda Brown said she will not run.
In recent years condo and apartment complexes have sprung up in the central city, along the southern edge of Holden's district, adding relatively affluent young adults without families to the mix.
Jonathan Edewards, president of the 18-month-old Downtown Pasadena Neighborhood Assn., said candidates have to speak directly to concerns about development and quality of life at the city center to reach those voters.
Then again, he added, “I don't know that what we're trying to achieve downtown — being able to ride a bike or walk to a grocery store or a post office — is all that different from what people might want north of the 210.”
Councilman Terry Tornek, who represents a southeast district, launched his reelection campaign Sept. 23 and does not appear to have any challengers.
Councilman Victor Gordo, who would be seeking a third term in the district immediately east of Holden's, said he would announce his plans in the coming weeks. Pasadena Marathon Executive Director Israel Estrada, rumored to be considering a run for Gordo's seat, also did not return calls.
Council and school board hopefuls have until Dec. 7 to register for the March ballot, or Dec. 12 if an incumbent is not seeking reelection, according to the Pasadena city clerk's office.
School board races could involve up to five incumbents, but only two — Kim Kenne and Scott Phelps — have confirmed they will run for reelection in districts established under Measure A, which was approved by voters in June.
James Smith, director of the nonprofit Teen Futures mentoring program for area schools and a former city council candidate, said he is interested in the open Northwest district seat but is unsure whether he will run.
“When I ran for council, so much of my platform was around education,” said Smith, 40, who attended John Muir High School and has a son at Blair Middle School.
Roberta Martinez, director of the Pasadena nonprofit Latino Heritage and a member of the volunteer task force that drew the school board district boundaries, said she will not run for the seat.
School officials pursued the switch from at-large to district elections in response to threats of a Voting Rights Act lawsuit because of underrepresentation of Latinos on the board.
But it is possible no Latinos will run in 2013.
Ramon Miramontes, the board's only Latino member, declined to say whether he will seek reelection. He would have to face Kenne, who is white, in a West Altadena district with a majority of African American voters.
“There are relatively few people of any race willing to run for the school board,” said local political organizer John Fuhrman. “It's a difficult, time-consuming, almost oppressive volunteer position with huge responsibilities and no easy answers,” added Fuhrman, whose wife, Susan Kane, served on the school board until unseated by Phelps in 2005.
Former school board candidate Ken Chawkins, who chaired the school board voting district task force, said he will not run against Phelps, who is unopposed in a West Pasadena district.
Board members Ed Honowitz and Elizabeth Pomeroy, who live in the same district, said they have not decided whether to run again.
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