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Pasadena Election Sends Mixed Signals to City Hall

November 06, 1986|EDMUND NEWTON | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — City officials are pondering the results of Tuesday's election like Indian scouts studying the warm ashes of an abandoned campfire, looking for telltale signs.

There's a double message from the voters there in the smoky remains, some officials acknowledge--both an affirmation and a negation of the city's leadership.

On the one hand, the voters appeared to affirm the fiscal course that their city government is pursuing, at last sweeping past a troublesome, longstanding period of distrust about revenue-raising proposals coming from City Hall to approve a $17-million bond issue to pay for a new jail and police station.

A similar bond issue was defeated two years ago, falling short of the required two-thirds vote by about 8%, and a vocal homeowners rebellion last year scuttled a proposed assessment district to pay for capital needs in the city.

Mayor Jubilant

"We've had our problems in the period of the past several years," said a jubilant Mayor John Crowley, who had proclaimed Proposition AA, the general obligation bond initiative, the most important local measure on the ballot. "Now we've re-established our ability to communicate with the public."

On the other hand, though, a majority of the voters broadcast the message that the city government itself should be significantly reshaped, approving an advisory referendum for the direct, citywide election of the Pasadena mayor. For at least the past 65 years, the mayoralty has been rotated among the Board of City Directors.

At the same time, the voters strongly endorsed the so-called "council-manager" form of government, with a non-elected city manager making executive decisions.

"This was not a mandate for radical change," said City Manager Donald McIntyre. "It's clear that the voters don't want a 'strong' mayor."

Machine Politics Feared

A "strong" mayor would run the city without a city manager, making the executive decisions himself or herself. Some city leaders had expressed the fear that voters would, by voting for an elected mayor and rejecting the council-manager form of government, endorse a boss in City Hall, leading to the introduction of Chicago-style political machines in Pasadena.

But Ozro Anderson, co-chairman of Citizens for Representative Government, the property-owners group that championed the City Charter-amendment measures, said the vote indicated a widespread dissatisfaction with the thrust of city government. "In the beginning we were like a voice in the wilderness," he said. "But now more and more people are aware that there's a need for a city leader who's more than just a part-time amateur."

Proposition AA, the jail bond issue that required two-thirds of the votes for approval, eked out a 67% majority, with 22,779 "yes" votes and 11,162 "no" votes.

Proposition DD, the directly elected mayor proposal, got the approval of 18,833 voters; 13,860 voted against it. Proposition CC, the "council-manager" question, got the most clear-cut affirmation, with 22,575 "yes" votes and only 9,130 "no" votes. Both CC and DD were advisory measures, with no binding effect on the charter.

Committee Action Expected

Crowley said the question of how the mayor is elected would probably be sent to a committee to work out the specifics of a possible charter amendment.

The voters also approved a proposal to amend the charter to require only a simple majority of the board to fire or overrule the city manager. The charter had required a majority of five of seven board members for such action. The charter amendment, Proposition BB, passed with 17,630 "yes" votes versus 11,162 "no" votes.

A total of 36,634 voters went to the polls in Pasadena. There are 66,264 registered voters in the city.

The bond issue had been described by city officials and proponents as the linchpin of a master plan to cure Pasadena's fiscal ills. The idea is to sell to private developers the present police station, on valuable property at Arroyo Parkway and Holly Street, putting the proceeds into a burgeoning capital fund.

$4 Million Annual Interest

"The fund works like an endowment fund, generating $4 million to $5 million a year in interest," said John B. Wells, co-chairman of Volunteers for a Safer Pasadena. He said the revenue generated by the fund would be used to finance infrastructure improvements as well as to help pay off the bond obligation.

Even some of the bond measure's most ardent supporters expressed surprise at its passage Tuesday. "I don't think we'd get a two-thirds vote for anything else," said board member Rick Cole.

He ascribed the support as largely a vote of support for the Pasadena police. "The police are highly regarded for their direct approach in breaking up the drug trade," Cole said. "There's tremendous support for our police chief (James Robenson) and the dramatic gains his department has made against crime."

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