PASADENA — Hoping to capitalize on a recent political uproar, a group of community activists will soon begin circulating petitions to place a far-ranging proposal for reorganization of City Hall on next year's ballot.
"We have incensed people throughout the city who are quite upset with the (current governmental) setup," said Bill Pompey, who with longtime friend Ozro Anderson heads a recently formed group calling itself Citizens for Representative Government. "We feel it's time for a change."
Power Base Shift
Pompey said last week that he hopes to change City Hall by mobilizing the hundreds of angry residents who recently demanded a recall election of the Board of City Directors and the dismissal of City Manager Donald McIntyre. They were upset over a proposed assessment district plan, which was abandoned in June by city officials because of the controversy it generated.
The changes called for by the group would shift the base of political power from the Board of City Directors to an elected mayor who would act as the city's chief executive officer. Other changes include abolishment of the city manager position--currently the most powerful office not on the ballot--and election of a city clerk, city attorney and controller.
Under Pasadena's current City Charter, the mayor's position is largely ceremonial and is rotated among the seven-member board. The city clerk, city attorney and director of finance are appointed.
"We don't feel that the Board of City Directors has done the will of the people," Pompey said. Increasing the number of elected positions in City Hall would make city officials more accountable to voters, he added.
Deadline Is Jan. 20
Anderson and Pompey must gather 5,983 signatures by Jan. 20 in order for their Charter revisions to be placed on the June 3 state primary ballot. A simple majority of Pasadena's estimated 66,000 registered voters must approve for the revisions to become law. The group will begin circulating the petitions on Sept. 10.
The 75-year-old Anderson and Pompey, 83, are political fixtures in Pasadena, known for handing out chocolate candies to politicians and the press while lobbying for local causes. In 1970, the pair launched an unsuccessful recall drive against three city directors. They formed Citizens for Representative Government during the assessment district controversy and have spent the last two months writing a new Charter with the help of about 40 members of the new group.
May Be Successful
City officials said last week that Pompey's and Anderson's effort to use Pasadena's current political unrest as a vehicle for getting Charter revisions on the ballot may succeed.
They added, however, that they doubt the measure would pass and denounced the proposed reorganization as ill-conceived and poorly planned.
Many officials laughed at some of the revisions, including one giving the mayor veto power over proposed ordinances and budget items and a provision for paying the mayor and council members salaries of up to $70,436 a year. City directors are paid $50 a week, with a limit of $250 per month.
"The cost of that thing would add more than half a million dollars (to the city budget) right off the top, " Director Bill Thomson said. Concerning the plan for a full-time, directly elected mayor, Thomson said, "Even the President of the United States doesn't have that much power." Thomson laughed and added, "Although I'm sure that if you were the mayor, it be nice to have all that power."
Thomson also said he was bothered by the provisions for an elected city clerk, city attorney and city controller.
"I have reservations about the wisdom of electing anyone other than your council members and your mayor," he said. "It politicizes the positions of city clerk, city attorney and city controller to an extent that they have not been politicized in Pasadena."
McIntyre, who would lose his job if the Charter revisions were approved, said last week that mayoral power could be abused under the proposed system.
"I would question whether the people of Pasadena want to have a type of government where so much power is concentrated in one position," McIntyre said. "It would certainly be the most powerful mayor's position in the state of California, if not west of the Mississippi. It certainly is without the checks and balances of the Los Angeles system, with all of (its) boards and committees.
"I wonder if that would be what the people in Pasadena want, but I guess the petition would be a way to find out."