Three attorneys, an astrophysicist and a business finance expert have submitted applications to serve-out the final seven weeks of the District 2 South Pasadena city council term left vacant by last month’s resignation of Dr. Marina Khubesrian. The candidates will be publicly interviewed by the City Council during a special teleconferenced meeting starting at 7:29 pm Wednesday, Sept. 2, where each candidate will be given 15 minutes to respond to a set of four identical questions.
In an application, they were each asked to respond to several questions, including what they thought the three top needs of the city are at this time and to identify its “greatest opportunities.” Nearly all cited the need to restore trust in local government. The candidates, with links to their filing papers, are:
Lawrence Allen Abelson
The UCLA law school grad, vice president and senior counsel at Bank of the West, said the top three needs are completing the city’s delayed audit and budget; “restoring faith and trust” in city government; and securing funds to help small businesses cope with COVID-19.
Abelson, a member of the city’s Mobility and Transportation Infrastructure Commission, has also served on the Public Works Commission and the Design Review Board, as well as with the South Pasadena Education Foundation. Abelson said that “with tens of millions of dollars being made available to the City through Measures M and R as a result of the placing of the final nail in the coffin of the 710, the City has a golden opportunity to once and for all address our long outstanding and ignored traffic safety and management issues.”
A lifelong South Pasadena resident and 2018 graduate of the Catholic University of American Columbus School of Law who included a letter of endorsement from Los Angeles Councilmember Gil Cedillo, Holguin said the three greatest needs are maintaining the city’s “small town charm” while reinvigorating the local economy; rebuilding trust in the city and “representing those who feel their voices are not being heard, particularly younger residents, by rebuilding trust in the city; and ensuring the city is fully prepared “by the census” so residents can “enjoy the many benefits of the city that we have all enjoyed.”
Holguin serves on the South Pasadena Animal Commission and as an advisory group member to the South Coast Air Quality Management District. He said the city’s greatest opportunity is to ensure it remains the “preeminent city in the region by respecting our sense of community, heritage, natural resources and local businesses while maintaining our award-winning school system.”
Casey James Law
A Caltech astrophysicist who has lived in South Pasadena just over a year, said the top needs are dealing with effects of COVID-19 on the city services; housing affordability improvements; and improvements in pedestrian and bike safety using the “complete streets” model.
Law was also a scientist at UC Berkeley for a decade, where he worked on “fundamental research in astrophysics, including the study of the transient universe.” He was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Amsterdam and a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He said the city’s greatest opportunity is that its residents are engaged in the commissions and other processes used to make the city work well” and its “amazing set of schools.”
Stephen Edward Rossi
The head of Capital Markets and Special Situations for the boutique investment bank Palm Tree, Rossi is a 13-year South Pasadena resident who filed the most lengthy answers.
He said the city’s top three needs are finances, for which he laid out four goals on reporting and audit completion; supporting businesses and renters during the COVID-19 crisis; and adoption of an inclusionary ordinance as the city works with other agencies to implement its state affordable housing mandate.
Rossi said he has spent 23 years conducting financial and legal diligence and that at Palm Tree, he provides clients “with private debt and equity sourcing, structuring and execution as well as operational turnaround and restructuring services.”
He and his wife Sheila recently took a deep dive into the city’s proposed 2020-21 budget and discovered significant differences in the draft presented to and approved by the Finance Commission and the one presented several days later to City Council. South Pasadena’s greatest opportunities, he wrote, are to “reestablish a sense of trust, transparency and accountability with its residents, and establish regular and accurate financial reporting.”
Timothy James Searight
A graduate of UC Hastings College of Law and the JFK School of Government-Harvard (public finance and budgeting) and an assistant US attorney presently serving as the professional responsibility officer and lead ethics advisor at the Los Angeles office of the US Attorney, Searight said the city needs to restore residents’ sense of integrity and professionalism in city government; present the city’s finances in a clear, transparent manner; and assist small businesses during the COVID-19 shut-down.
Searight said his community experience includes No 710 Committees and meetings, an annual city planning meeting: water facility tours, St. James Episcopal Church and Fremont Center Theatre. He said the city’s greatest opportunity is “to retain our ‘small town,’ livable, culturally-rich community within budget and for the benefit of our responsible and ethnically, racially and economically diverse citizens.”
Do we really need another government attorney on the Council?
I want someone who knows how South Pasadena works from the inside out and outside in. Not just from the outside. Our most pressing issues in the next 60 days will be getting our finances in order, ensuring that an audit is completed and reconciling that mess of an FY 20/21 budget.
As renters, we have spent the last five months worried about losing our homes. This city has no protections on the books. None.
We need someone who is willing to help now and not spend months plowing over biased staff reports.
I know a couple of these guys are up to speed on things but if I have never heard of the others, then I’m not sure that they know what housing and renter issues are on the table.
An endorsement from Gil Cedillo, a long-time supporter of the 710 Freeway is not an endorsement I would ask for when running for office in South Pasadena.