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Collective Wisdom

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Remarks of Mayor Bill Bogaard
January 20, 2005


Thank you for being here. I learn every day that the strength and vitality of this great City is gained from the collective wisdom of its people—from you and others who cannot be here tonight—and I thank you for the contributions that you make.

I am proud of Pasadena and confident about its future, and I consider it a great honor to serve as Mayor.

We are grateful to Pasadena City College for allowing us to hold tonight’s program here in the Lillian Vosloh Forum. PCC is one of the outstanding community colleges in the country, and reflects Pasadena’s commitment to learning and to excellence in education. As part of a major capital program, the College has just completed a parking structure that significantly reduces parking demand in the neighborhood, and is making plans for the new Industrial Technology Building.

May I take a moment to acknowledge the tremendous loss of life that has occurred in south Asia—and the extensive damage and injury—from the tsunami that struck several countries. Pasadena is home to many south Asians, and our prayers are with them and their families. The City has compiled a list of qualified organizations providing relief to the hundreds of thousands who are injured and homeless, and this list is on our website for the convenience of those who wish to make contributions.

The City of Pasadena, of course, does not operate in isolation, but as part of a dynamic and changing world. The “new economy” has shifted from manufacturing to information. Technology continues to fulfill its outstanding, but sometimes challenging promise, and the new global society—political, economic, social, and cultural – compels us to recognize an increasing variety of values and perspectives.

Even in the face of these challenging times, I can report that Pasadena’s economy is strong and performing well. It is diversified and dynamic, with more than 100,000 jobs and a record of steady growth. Recent news reports indicate that our unemployment rate is 4.8%, among the lowest in the region.

This fiscal year, the general fund budget is in the range of $180 million and the total operating budget, including the operations involved in electric and water services, as well as the Rose Bowl and the Conference Center, is approaching one-half billion dollars.

Pasadena’s current financial stability is a tribute to steps the City Manager recommended in recent years, and the City Council approved, to prepare for troubled times. These recommendations include creating special reserves, delaying hiring and certain projects, and consistently seeking greater efficiencies in ongoing operations.

The City continues to make significant investment in infrastructure, including master plan improvements to our electrical system, water system, and sewer system.

As the City invests, it is reassuring to see others also investing in Pasadena’s future. For example, Caltech is completing plans to build new facilities dedicated to astrophysics, chemistry, chemical engineering, and information sciences. Art Center is creating student housing for more than 300 of its students at the South Campus. Similar kinds of efforts involving either master planning or implementation are underway at Fuller, Westridge, Polytechnic, Mayfield Senior, and LaSalle.

These educational institutions are obviously confident about our future and helping to create it.

The City’s financial picture this year relies on Proposition 1A, approved by the voters last November. It prevents the state legislature from retaining for its purposes tax revenues that are intended for local government. Since the early 1990’s, the City of Pasadena lost nearly $70 million to the state. Today, Proposition 1A provides a significant measure of protection for Pasadena and other localities, even in the face of uncertainty over the state budget.

Governor Schwarzenegger announced his proposed budget last week, which intends to address the shortfall of over $8 billion. His proposal calls for taking $2.3 billion from public education K-12; $1.3 billion from transportation; $1.2 billion from health and human services; and one-half billion dollars from the State Teachers’ Retirement System. A $1.7 billion borrowing would complete his proposal. These reductions are going to be very difficult to accept.

What concerns the Governor is that under current law, including various voter-approved mandates, state spending would increase this year by 12%, while revenues are projected to grow by less than 7%. He is strongly committed to reforming the current fiscal structure.

Those who are hit by these dramatic cuts are preparing for a long and difficult battle. I hope that reform can be achieved in the legislature, because if it is not, the Governor intends to go to the voters to amend once and for all what he calls “auto pilot” spending. He is also pursuing reform of the redistricting process.

Since the Governor’s approval rating is more than 60%, which is double that of the legislature, he is in a strong position to get what he wants from a special election.

These issues—which clearly create uncertainty about Pasadena’s fiscal situation—are important to us all. But I remain optimistic that with the protection of Proposition 1A, and with the City’s record of disciplined budget management, the City’s delivering of excellent services to residents and businesses will not be hindered in the coming year.

This is not to say we do not have serious fiscal challenges. Next week, for example, the City Council will consider a recommendation from the City Manager to address an extra cost of $24 million for the City Hall project. As you may know, six weeks ago the lowest bid came in well above prior estimates. Increases in cost of steel, cement, lumber, and other materials used in construction—increases being experienced worldwide—are creating a huge increase.

Consideration has been given to reducing the scope of the project and to delaying portions that do not relate to life safety. But our analysis indicates that if we delay, the ultimate cost for achieving a safe, efficient and workable headquarters for City operations will increase significantly. The staff has worked hard to formulate a financing plan for City Hall, and I believe that the Council, after careful review, will find it workable and sound, and approve it.

The Pasadena Conference Center is preparing an expansion that will allow our facility to be competitive in an increasingly competitive field. Conventions contribute importantly to Pasadena’s economy, and our hospitality industry—hotels and restaurants—as well as our arts and culture institutions, benefit from large meetings held here.

Pasadena’s hotels made a major commitment two years ago when they agreed to a higher level of hotel room tax to support the funding needed to go forward with the expansion. We are fortunate that hotel occupancy in Pasadena has performed extremely well over several years, even in the wake of the tragic events of September 11.

But these are challenging times. The headline from a just released Brookings Institution report is that American cities are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build convention halls, while the convention industry is slowing and attendance is falling. According to the report, the amount of exhibit space in the United States has jumped 51% since 1990, and about 40 cities are today planning to add up to 7 million square feet of meeting space. This is occurring, according to the report, while attendance at trade shows has been falling since 1996.

Unlike City Hall, the City has a choice about the Conference Center expansion, or at least its timing, and we intend to be thoughtful about these recent national trends as future action is considered.

This year is likely to see resolution of the City’s exploration of bringing an NFL team to the Rose Bowl. The NFL indicates that at an owners meeting this May a decision might be made, although the matter could take longer.

This initiative was launched three years ago, following a study that raised concerns about the Rose Bowl’s future. There are long term financial challenges at the Rose Bowl, a historic structure more than 80 years old.

At the outset, the City Council approved a set of 15 terms and conditions upon which it is prepared to negotiate with the NFL. Since that action, there are indications the NFL will find it difficult to agree with several of those terms. But the NFL possibility is still being actively pursued.

If the City Council reaches the conclusion that an NFL franchise is not achievable or not in the City’s best interest, we will then consider alternate means to assure the Rose Bowl’s future—what some have called “Plan B”. This great stadium, which accommodates the Tournament of Roses, UCLA and other tenants, is an icon of Pasadena, an important factor in our reputation as an exciting and dynamic city. I remain committed, and I know the Council does as well, to achieving a secure financial future for the Rose Bowl.

In 2003 when the 13.7 mile light rail system—the Metro Gold Line—began operations, the six stations located in Pasadena gave safe, rapid access within our community, to Los Angeles, and to points in between.
From the beginning, it was contemplated that this system would extend to the San Bernardino County boundary, providing the San Gabriel Valley, a growing population base of more than 2 million, with the benefits of a modern light rail system, relieving freeways and other streets and highways of traffic congestion. The City has been, and will continue to be, committed to the completion of the Gold Line to Montclair.

Councilmember Paul Little has served on the Board of the Gold Line since its formation six years ago, and has provided strong and steady leadership. He indicates a desire to step down upon completion of the project that brought the Gold Line to Pasadena, which is expected during the next few months. I want to pay tribute to Paul for his accomplishments and to express gratitude and admiration for achieving what many thought was unachievable.

The most significant achievement last year for Pasadena’s future—at least in my mind—was the completion of major new planning policies, including the revised Zoning Code, the Mobility Element and the Land Use Element, and the Central District Specific Plan. The work leading to these decisions was controversial, involving hundreds of meetings to consider public comment received from participating residents, business owners and community leaders. In the end, Council approval of these policies was unanimous.

The approval validated the vision for the City that framed our 1994 General Plan, and at the same time, it incorporated refinements for planning and zoning rules. The General Plan calls for protecting neighborhoods; targeting growth in areas where growth can best be accommodated; preserving Pasadena’s historic character; promoting transit and streets and sidewalks that allow people to circulate without cars; and promoting Pasadena as a cultural, scientific, corporate, entertainment, and education center.

The new guidelines will allow the City to pursue this vision more effectively during coming years, but the process of building Pasadena is on-going. We know from the debate last year that there is lots of concern in our community about the amount, the pace, the design, and appearance of new construction. Moreover, there is great concern about traffic.

I hope and urge that the debate about development continues in the coming year. We need the on-going involvement of concerned citizens in this process.
With respect to the pace of development, City staff has recently provided a report of residential construction during the last 10 years. Starting in 1994, with an existing base of about 52,000 residential units in the City, another 2,000 units were added during the 10 years ending December 31. This is an average of about 200 units per year, but two points should be kept in mind.

First, during the last 5 years, the pace of development has been rapid, and it is likely that 300 to 400 units will be constructed this year. Second, 80% of the new housing units were constructed in the Central Business District. While this is consistent with the General Plan directive to protect single family neighborhoods, the pace and amount of development are disconcerting. During the coming year, the City will be pursuing a number of areas that will respond to this public concern.

The new Mobility Element offers a framework for addressing traffic and traffic congestion, and improving mobility around the City. A significant effort is beginning to implement these plans.

As you know from recent Council discussions, the City is committed to providing clean, safe and stimulating parks throughout the City, and to maintaining a high level of parks as our population increases. We have initiated a planning process relating to parks and open space with the intention of developing an Open Space Element and a master plan for parks.

The funding needed to fulfill this commitment to parks will come from several sources, including an increased park fee—paid by developers—which applies to each new residential unit. During the last three years, the so called Residential Impact Fee has been increased from $750 a unit to about $11,000 per unit, and it will go to $19,700 in December. As the park and open space planning proceeds, a bond financing for parks may be formulated for possible consideration by the voters in 2007.

In the course of our work last year, the need to consider new rules in two areas became evident. During 2005, City staff is expected to assist the Council in considering so called “green” building design and construction requirements that will increase the sustainability—the environmental soundness—of new construction. Moreover, we intend to take a fresh look at our procedures to achieve thoughtful and aesthetic building design and quality architecture.

There is still another initiative that will be of interest. This spring, a planning effort that started a year ago—called Cultural Nexus—will conclude and present a series of recommendations for strengthening Pasadena’s participation in arts and culture. We know the arts currently provide about 3,200 jobs in Pasadena, generate $80 million in household income, and create an economic impact in this community of $100 million per year. These economic factors don’t cover the many ways in which arts and culture contribute to our enjoyment, our education—our collective wisdom—and so the Council will give the findings of Cultural Nexus careful study when they become available.

Every city should balance its ongoing agenda with new priorities that, combined, will shape a positive future. In my experience, sometimes the issues choose a city, but at other times, a city can choose the issues it wants to advance. I hope that this review of new initiatives for 2005 demonstrates our City’s commitment to choosing important and relevant issues to assure a great future.

The Pasadena Unified School District celebrated on January 1—a celebration which I joined—when the PUSD All-Star Band participated in the Rose Parade for the first time in 27 years. The 200 band members who worked hard for many months, and the many contributors to the band, were part of this celebration.

Last fall, the Pasadena Star News published an editorial reporting on important progress at PUSD, noting that parents who have for too long automatically sent their children to private school, are now asking themselves a new question. That question is: private school or public school?

“The PUSD’s road toward credibility with middle and upper middle class families is growing wider,” said the Star News.

At this point, according to School Board President Ed Honowitz’s State of the Schools report, demand for full time kindergarten is greater than the supply. The District has a goal of providing full time kindergarten for every family that wants it.

Today there are several schools in the District that are highly attractive, and more parents are choosing public schools. There has been a steady and impressive rise in test scores at several of Pasadena’s public schools, and this is important incentive for parents who add their children to the ranks of the PUSD’s successful students.

There is other evidence of solid progress. The School District is focusing on its teacher qualifications, on parent participation, on facilities, and on curriculum, and appears to be making good headway.

The City continues to work closely with the School District to use available resources effectively, to facilitate the needs of the schools over which the City has some influence or control, and to help the schools achieve their goal of an excellent education for all students.

Before closing, I want to highlight a few events that have special significance to Pasadena and which underscore the kind of talent and tradition that make up this community’s collective wisdom.

First, as we sit here tonight, Libby Evans Wright has been named president of the Tournament of Roses. She is the first woman to serve in this important leadership position. Libby invited me to use this occasion to announce her theme for the 2006 Rose Parade, which is “It’s Magical”.

Second, Police Chief Bernard Melekian will receive the prestigious Lewis Hine Award on January 31 in New York City. He is being honored for helping transform Pasadena’s Police Department into a law enforcement vehicle that also serves as a support system for young people. What Barney learned early in his career, and passes on to all his staff, is that there is more to police work than enforcing the law. He understands that many teenagers and young adults—given poverty and family dysfunction—are badly in need of extra support.

The Chief is one of ten men and women, volunteers and professionals, selected from hundreds of nominations across the nation. The winners are chosen for the extraordinary work they do to provide our children with the tools they need to become successful adults.

Third, in a national contest, Pasadena has just received the Accessible America Award, for the City’s focus on disability issues and our innovative programs, services and facilities that are accessible to disabled persons.

The National Organization on Disability, which grants this award to one community each year, indicated that Pasadena was given special credit for its attention to accessible transportation. Our ARTS bus system is designed to accommodate people with disabilities, and the Gold Line has incorporated Pasadena’s suggestions for accessibility features.

The nomination for this award was prepared by the City’s Accessibility and Disability Commission and the volunteer-based Mayor’s Committee for Employment of Persons with Disabilities.

Formal announcement of the award will take place on January 31 at the City Council meeting, when a City proclamation will also be issued recognizing the 15th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Fourth, this year’s One City, One Story, the program that celebrates the joys and benefits of literary reading, The Kite Runner has been chosen, a national best selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, set in Afghanistan and California. This is the third community reading campaign in what has become an eagerly awaited tradition, and as in the past, it gives us the chance to meet the author. This will occur on Friday, March 18.

The book tells the story of the bond that develops—around their love of kite flying—between Amir, a privileged boy in Kabul, and Hassan, the son of the family’s servant. The relationship is ruptured when Hassan is set upon by thugs during a kite-flying tournament and Amir does nothing to stop it. Years later, amid the wreckage of the Taliban regime, Amir earns a chance to redeem himself through certain dramatic events. Dream Works is currently developing a film of The Kite Runner.

On Saturday, March 12, at the Rose Bowl, th young people of Pasadena and their families will participate in a kite-flying contest, and I
hope that large numbers of people attend this and other One City, One Story events.

For several minutes, I have updated you on the present and the future. Please allow me to take a momentary step back in time.

The year 1905—a centennial ago—was a milestone for a young patent clerk named Albert Einstein, who issued five remarkable papers that year in which he proved the existence of atoms, which was a source of controversy at the time; he presented his special theory of relativity; and he put quantum theory on its feet. When he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921, it was for one of these papers.

These studies were just the beginning for Einstein, who went on to create the general theory of relativity and to pioneer quantum mechanics. Albert Einstein is considered the most significant person in the Twentieth Century, and one of the most brilliant minds in history.

In the early 1930’s, Dr. Einstein spent three winters in Pasadena, residing at Caltech, and giving prominence to that institution and others in Pasadena. On February 26, 1931, Dr. Einstein came here to Pasadena City College to dedicate a new observatory. But he did not limit his interest to matters of technology and science.

In January, 1933, Einstein and Pasadena stood together on the world stage as he made a national radio address from the Civic Auditorium advocating for peaceful relations with Germany. An answer came back only a few days later when Adolph Hitler became Chancellor. The Nazi party made it clear that Einstein—a German and a Jew—would not be welcomed by the Third Reich, and Einstein never again set foot in his native land.

Among many events coming up that celebrate Einstein’s life and career, Caltech is presenting a lecture series, the first of which occurs on March 17.

Albert Einstein believed that imagination was actually more important than knowledge. “Knowledge is limited,” he said. “Imagination circles the world.”

So tonight, imagine all that we can accomplish if the efforts that I have mentioned—and others that are underway—achieve the intended results.

The ideas and resources we need to achieve our goals are right here in Pasadena. Let us all join together—commit ourselves—to offer our ideas and our work—our collective wisdom—to build a greater Pasadena! 
 

Posted: 1/20/2005 02:35:00 PM