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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / Pasadena Mayoral Election Results in ‘Unofficial’ Tornek Victory

Pasadena Mayoral Election Results in ‘Unofficial’ Tornek Victory

by Terry Miller
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Terry Tornek, celebrating with his family election night, is the presumptive Mayor of Pasadena - Photo by Terry Miller

Terry Tornek, celebrating with his family election night, is the presumptive Mayor of Pasadena – Photo by Terry Miller

By Nick Kipley

This past Tuesday night, the Pasadena City Council Chambers were full of citizens and members of the news media who had turned up hear the official reading of results for prior ballots cast by mail, or at voting centers earlier that day.
The event was an historic one, for by the end of the night a solid number of votes were cast for candidates running to occupy the District 1 City Councilmember seat, and as the first elected Mayor of Pasadena in sixteen years.
Pasadena Public Information Officer William Boyer informed the Independent that mail-in ballots would still be considered up until close-of-business on Thursday the 23rd, provided all submissions were postmarked April 21st.
Even though this figure ultimately represents a small number of votes compared to those received by mail by City Hall on the 21st, the Pasadena Independent would not like to risk pulling a “Dewey Defeats Truman,” and thus, even though the race for District 1 City Councilmember went to local business owner Tyron Hampton by a small but generous margin, we would prefer to await the official results before announcing that seat. With the Mayoral Election, however, the Independent feels comfortable announcing who the winner should be come close-of-business April 23rd.
After the first round of ballots were counted, this reporter was able to flag down longtime Pasadena community leader and District 7 Councilmember Terry Tornek with a brief inquiry regarding how accessible the coveted “Middle Chair” of the council dais looked from his comfy lead over District 1 Councilmember Jacque Robinson.

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“It looks pretty good,” he said, nodding, looking at the Mayor’s seat. “It looks accessible.”
As the night went on and the votes were tallied, Tornek was able to hang on to the early lead given by mail-in ballots. And, with his family in attendance for the final read-out of the ballots cast that day and received by mail, congratulatory applause and pats-on-the-back were issued when City Clerk Mark Jomsky read out the results. It appears that Terry Tornek shall be sworn in as Mayor of Pasadena at an official ceremony in City Hall early next month.
A longtime veteran of Pasadena politics, Tornek has expressed to the Independent his vision for a less car-dependent Pasadena where citizens feel that theirs is a city that can truly accomplish anything. Hoping to draw talent from Cal Arts and Cal Tech, Tornek said in a phone interview last month that what he would like to accomplish as Mayor involves preserving the elements that makes Pasadena such a desirable city to live today, while looking towards the future. His views on city planning, water conservation, transportation, and renewable energy—if effectively put in place and utilized—promise to transform Pasadena into a regional green jobs/high-tech/bike-friendly mecca. Mr. Tornek’s policies, longtime expertise, and holistic vision for the city are optimistic without drifting into the grandiose. He seems to want big change that implements more car-free mobility policies with housing programs designed to strengthen a sense of community. He wants these, one would imagine, to occur organically—not at a breakneck pace. If his vision is adopted, Mayor Tornek seems like he might be the kind of leader eager to support policies in support of big changes seeking to transform Pasadena the kind of city which would be viewed not only as a regional example, but as a 21st century model for cities nationwide.

However, Tornek, in past interviews with the Independent, has seldom said anything without at least having three or four different factual avenues to back up a statement. To a reporter, this can be either incredibly resourceful or slightly irritating depending upon the story in question. When the embezzlement scandal first unfolded in early January, Tornek was more than willing to accommodate the Independent with a thorough and incredibly factual account of how what went wrong and how and in recent debates has stuck to the official story issued by the City that the embezzlement was executed due to a “culture of complacency” in City Hall that one individual with criminal intentions was able to exploit.
This came much to the chagrin of District 6 Councilmember Steve Madison, who told the Independent in a January interview regarding the embezzlement to “take everything Terry says with a grain of salt; he’s the head of the finance committee and he’s running for Mayor.”
For instance, when asked in a March phone interview how Mr. Tornek viewed the role of Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck in regards to the issue of funds expended in sweep votes placed on the City Council’s “Consent Calendar,” he said, “We have a City Manager form of government. … There’s a kind of a grey area where the council should lay off and where the manager should pick up,” yet, “As elected representatives of the people we have a responsibility to make sure the staff doesn’t take so much power themselves that they begin to usurp the elected officials.”
But to be fair to the entire ruling administration, the City of Pasadena is so large that having to take everything on the consent calendar to a vote would prevent very little from getting done. Knowing this, Tornek claimed in the same interview that, if elected, he would make sure to monitor the things placed on the Consent Calendar so that unneeded spending did not occur.
And in regards to the embezzlement, not only Tornek but other high-ranking city officials claimed that the money stolen came as a result of a series of bureaucratic loopholes that arose from city legislature passed by the City Council in the late 1980s. Such loopholes and bureaucratic technicalities that allow a single individual to exploit government funds have been the bane of not only citizens but, elected officials for centuries so, if Tornek and other city officials are to believed, everything is being done by the city to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The word, “audit,” comes to mind.
Needless to say, despite his promises for the future, the way Mayor Tornek goes about implementing changes in City Hall will undoubtedly be scrutinized heavily during the first few months he is in office. And if he is successful in steering the city through the repercussions of the scandal, his vision for Pasadena’s future looks very interesting.

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