A fresh approach, someone with new skill sets are qualities Alan Ehrlich maintains he brings as he hopes to win the District 3 seat in the November South Pasadena City Council election.
Its his service to the city and involvement in community organizations, coupled with a mentality of being a problem solver, that Ehrlich believes will put him over the top against fellow candidates Jon Primuth, a longtime member of the South Pasadena Board of Education, and Michelle Hammond, the former owner of the Munch Company restaurant with an executive producer background, in seeking to replace Dr. Richard Schneider, who is not seeking reelection.
“I’ve been actively involved in our local government politics for the past ten years through council and commissions presentations, public comments, and as a public safety commissioner, both in terms of specific city issues and in championing transparency and accountability at City Hall,” Ehrlich said. “Because of coronavirus, the city is facing challenging financial times now and in the foreseeable future. The type of expertise I have in financial management and corporate governance can be a tremendous asset to the city.”
He proudly was appointed by Councilmember City Councilmember Dr. Marina Khubresian to serve on the Public Safety Commission, has been a past president of the Oneonta Club, a WISPPA member, supporter of Families on Fremont Avenue, an AYSO coach, Marengo Elementary School drop-off safety valet, a Tiger Bingo parent, is a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) graduate, member of the La France Neighborhood Block Association and was a South Pasadena Little League softball manager, among his volunteer endeavors.
Ehrlich now wants to put himself in a position to help make key decisions when it comes to the future of the city. “In my career, I’ve been the manager/director/VP of finance and planning for companies ranging from $20 million to $250 million in revenue,” said the longtime resident, noting he’s helped a number companies successfully navigate through bankruptcy turnarounds. “The council has never had a member with this skill set before. What I’ve learned is you have to know how to work well with people to get things done. It is just as important to ask the right questions and know where to look in order to solve budget and spending problems. To make informed decisions, you need to see the complete picture, not snippets of doom and gloom. This is the time for me to step up and work alongside the other council members to help the city navigate through these critical times and into the future.”
It’s little secret that almost all businesses in the country have been affected by COVID-19 but for the small and midsize firms like those found in South Pasadena, Ehrlich recognizes the impact can be more acute.
“One of my greatest fears for the city is that a number of our local merchants may not be able to survive this,” he said. “Already Cookies and Cream has closed its doors and I expect others will unfortunately follow. People’s habits have changed and they will not be rushing back to dine-in restaurants. We’re living in a new normal. This will be a longer and slower recovery than many people expect.”
He’d like to work with the local Chamber of Commerce “to attract new businesses and diversify our economy,” added Ehrlich. “The city can’t rely on just restaurants and galleries. This takes on even more importance now.”
Ehrlich would also like to create a culture of transparency and openness at the municipality level, something he says get’s lost seemingly every time someone joins the council. “It seems that in every election, the candidates talk about transparency, but once they are on the council, something happens and they forget all about it,” he said. “One of my favorite political quotes comes from Lord Acton: ‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ ”
South Pasadenans, noted Ehrlich, pride themselves on what many call its small town charm,” adding, “It only works when we trust our city leaders to provide us with the facts and information to make informed decisions. Like democracy, transparency has to be defended and protected or we’ll lose it.”
He has a lot of respect for the man he’d like to replace, saying current Councilman Schneider has “been a tremendous resource for the community, advocating with city staff for myself and other residents in the district in helping us to get things done. Now he’s chosen to let someone else take on the burden, I’m that person.”
South Pasadena’s uniqueness enjoyed by approximately 26,000 is difficult to ignore, reminding Ehrlich of the size and vibe of a small town he grew up in New Jersey. “Anytime I’m at the farmer’s market, grocery store or a restaurant, there’s always someone there I know,” he said. “I’ve never been to Shaker’s, Fiesta Grande or Tokoro without knowing at least one or two other families eating there. The Polaroid [picture] of my kids taken 15 years ago is still posted on the wall at Tokoro.”
Getting his share of exercise, Ehrlich traverses the city on foot for most of needs, saying hello to those along the way. “I walk almost everywhere,” he said. “Pavilions is a block away, the library three blocks, farmer’s market and Videotheque four blocks. I almost always walk to Fair Oaks Pharmacy and Ben’s [for a haircut]. I like being able to ride the Gold Line to downtown and Dodger Stadium. I’m a huge Dodger’s fan.”
While there’s plenty good about the city he speaks so highly of, congestion in his mind is one of the city’s most daunting concerns. “We also need to stop talking and do something about traffic in the downtown core on Fair Oaks and along Meridian, where a cyclist was recently hit by a car,” he said.
He recognizes everyday life and politics as usual won’t be the same until the pandemic is in the rearview mirror and major events around the globe and closer to home in South Pasadena return. Like millions, Ehrlich is looking forward to the day when the coronavirus is just a memory. “It’s still hard to believe we had to cancel the Festival of Balloons because of coronavirus,” he said. “We need an event where we can celebrate and appreciate our police, fire, and other city workers. We need to thank all the pop-up community groups and individuals who sprung into action making masks, donating PPE, doing grocery shopping, delivering meals and checking in on our seniors. We need to thank and appreciate all the essential stock clerks and checkers at our local markets who just a few months ago the current councilmembers did not think deserved a living wage of $15 per hour. When it’s safe again for people to congregate, I’d like to celebrate a new Independence Day.”
In the meantime, the single dad who has raised two children in South Pasadena is concentrating on winning votes for a place on the City Council. “Going into this next year the city will be facing serious financial challenges,” he warned, “but we still need to maintain our sewers, fix our roads and help our businesses get back on their feet. This requires a fresh approach, new skill sets and new focus to achieve. That’s why I’m the best candidate for District 3 and the city.”