• Mayor Terry Tornek at the 2016 State of City address (Photo - W.K. ⒸColoradoBlvd.net).

      Mayor Terry Tornek at the 2016 State of City address (Photo – W.K. ⒸColoradoBlvd.net).

      In his first State of the City address, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek laid out the basics of the city’s finances. Coming a little over a year since the $5.9 million embezzlement revelation, Mr. Tornek sought to highlight the coming financial opportunities and challenges for Pasadena in 2016.

      By Christophe LaBelle

      The McKinley School of the Arts—the setting for this year’s event—carried its own symbolism, with the newly completed multipurpose gymnasium, a product of collaboration between the City of Pasadena and Pasadena Unified School District. The hope is that the renovated campus facilities will serve Pasadena residents who wish to exercise and take advantage of new park space in an area that previously lacked adequate resources.

      Former Mayor Bogaard and current Mayor Tornek at the 2016 Pasadena State of the City Address (Photo - Emmanuel Krauletz ⒸColoradoBlvd.net).

      Former Mayor Bogaard and current Mayor Tornek at the 2016 Pasadena State of the City Address (Photo – Emmanuel Krauletz ⒸColoradoBlvd.net).

      Notable among the dignitaries present at the State of the City was Bill Bogaard—the beloved mayor of Pasadena for sixteen years and Terry Tornek’s predecessor. Bogaard received a warm round of applause, and others—like Pasadena City College President and Superintendent Rajen Vurdien—also were recognized.

      Mayor Terry Tornek at the 2016 Pasadena State of the City Address (Photo - Christophe LaBelle ⒸColoradoBlvd.net).

      Mayor Terry Tornek at the 2016 Pasadena State of the City Address (Photo – Christophe LaBelle ⒸColoradoBlvd.net).

      State of the City address

      The State of the City address itself was relatively brief, coming in at fifteen minutes in length. Rather than put forward a policy agenda for the coming year, Mr. Tornek described city finances through a series of graphs, citing the City Charter’s obligation for the mayor to present fiscal priorities to the public.

      In a presentation titled “Pasadena: 101”, the mayor broke down items such as operating expenses by department and city revenues by source. Revenue for the city totals $224 million, with development and rising property values continuing to serve as primary funding sources. Public safety—the police and fire departments—costs over $100 million combined to the City of Pasadena, and the Department of Public Works and city libraries possess the third and fourth largest departmental budgets, respectively. When city operating expenses are viewed on a per-person per-month basis, it costs $130 to each individual for municipal services.

      While the city’s finances overall are in good shape, residents may be asked to provide more revenue, and some city services could be reduced or eliminated. Various elements such as employee pension contributions and ongoing debt and capital improvement obligations will require serious consideration in the near future. In his first State of the City, the mayor focused on the fundamentals of governing, as a way to refresh the agenda for the rest of his term.

      A slide from "Pasadena 101" presentation (Photo - Mike Pashistoran ⒸColoradoBlvd.net)

      A slide from “Pasadena 101” presentation (Photo – Mike Pashistoran ⒸColoradoBlvd.net)

      Question-and-answer session

      The other purpose of the 2016 State of the City was to engage and hear from city residents. In the question-and-answer session after the mayor’s address, the audience broached a range of issues, from the proposed 710 freeway extension to a citywide minimum wage increase. In response to a question about affordable housing, the Mayor responded:

      Pasadena has probably done more than any city its size in California…The resources are scarce, the need is great.

      In a hint to future potential budgetary modifications, Mr. Tornek explained:

      I would love to find some ways to…develop whole new revenue sources for the city because we have very little control over what happens to us in some of the expenses side of the ledger.

      The annual budget process will get underway in the coming months, and there will likely be tough decisions to make—particularly on budgeting for police officers. While City Councilmember Victor Gordo indicated his desire at a January 6th Community Violence meeting to allocate more funding to hire Police Department staff, Mayor Tornek suggested in his State of the City that the current public safety budget may represent too large of a portion of the city’s expenditures. At the end of his presentation, the mayor stated:

      I know it’s a lot to absorb, but now we have a common information base to begin the budget discussions that will take place in April and May. It’s my hope that you will now feel motivated and equipped—prepared—to join in actively in those discussions.

      2016 State of the City address (Photo - W.K. ⒸColoradoBlvd.net).

      2016 State of the City address (Photo – W.K. ⒸColoradoBlvd.net).

      > The 2016 Pasadena State of the City Address can be viewed in its entirety online. To review the “Pasadena: 101” presentation slides, visit the Mayor’s home page (interactive).

      Christophe LaBelle is a Pasadena native. After completing his B.A. in Political Science at UC Berkeley, he has returned to his hometown, immersing himself in the local political scene and covering the issues that matter to you.  You can follow Christophe on Twitter at @pured131.

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