At half a dozen strategic locations along the parade route, volunteers manned card tables, urging residents to vote for candidates for the Town Council. The turnout was, as usual, disappointing. "Not too many people seem to know that the council exists or even what it stands for," groused Lewis.
In fact, the council has no legal standing at all. Frank Bridal calls it "a mirror of public opinion," whose influence rests on "the combined weight of the voters."
"The voters squawk and the politicians listen," he said. "It's the principle of, 'They hear, they fear, they do.' The County (Board of Supervisors) has been very reasonable in listening to us."
This year, the voters, 525 of them, chose Duane Merrill, Arlne Moncrief, Ed Turley, Virginia Bailey, Jim Crowley and Dwight Baker, the last three running unopposed. There were no candidates for Tract 4611, the downtown area west of Lake Avenue, leaving it to the remaining board members to select somebody to represent the area.
Role of Council
According to Ollie Blanning, deputy to Supervisor Michael Antonovich, her boss uses the council as the principal medium of communication with Altadena.
"It provides a really fine format for him to say things to the community and for him to hear from the community," she said. In recent years, she added, Antonovich has supported most of the positions that the council has taken.
"Of course, the supervisor has a responsibility for the county budget, which the council doesn't have," she said.
That feeling of small-town intimacy is there at the council's monthly meetings, on the third Tuesday of every month in the community room of the public library on Mariposa Street.
Council members, two from each of the seven census tracts like to compare what they do there to the classic New England town meeting.
"I wouldn't say we're all buddy-buddy boozin' friends," said Bridal, president of the council for the past three years. "There's no particular clique running things. We're disparate people, but we've gotten to know each other. It's grass-roots democracy."
Last month, there was a discussion of the sheriff's plans for manning Altadena, the presentation of a certificate of appreciation to a sheriff's deputy who had assisted the town's Black History Parade, and then committee reports.
Somebody up on Canyon Crest Road was letting his horses graze untethered on his front lawn, a member of the traffic and roads committee reported. "People were afraid that the horses could get spooked and run out into the street," said Camille Dudley, who is an alternate on the council and chairwoman of the committee.
Cue McKenzie's report on the parks and recreation committee was refreshingly short. "There were 110 children for the Easter egg hunt and over 300 people for the sunrise service," she said without embellishment. "That's my report for the evening."
'Two More Years'
The declared council candidates were offered an opportunity to introduce themselves. Most declined. Incumbent Turley raised both hands in the V-sign and, in a foghorn-like voice, demanded, "Two more years!" Half of the 14 council members, all of them unpaid volunteers, face reelection every year.
Someone passed the hat for funds to keep the council in stamps, supplies and secretarial services. "As everybody knows, this is our only means of support," said Bridal. Council funds that day amounted to $259.51, reported Lewis, the treasurer.
Some Altadenans have been talking for years about turning the town into an incorporated city, if only for self-protection. Conventional wisdom says that the town doesn't have the tax base to support its own government. "It seems too expensive, too unwieldy," said Bridal.
Others think it's inevitable. "Five or 10 years down the road, we'll have to incorporate," contended Turley, who counsels youth gangs.
In the meantime, the town will stay just the way it is, if its present leadership has any say on the subject.
Last year, civic leaders completed a brand new general plan for the town. It's a status quo plan, said Blanning. "Basically, the plan says, 'We want to maintain Altadena as single-family, owner-occupied homes, with a semi-rural atmosphere,' " she said.
"It doesn't exclude business or redevelopment. But it says that the town doesn't want to be a hub for other communities. The town just wants to be Altadena."