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Friday, May 29, 2015
Neighbors Building a Better Altadena Host Altadena Town Council Debate Thursday
Story and Photography by LAURA B. MONTEROS
[Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article inadvertently erred by identifying altadenaelection.org as the “official election site.” In fact, the official site is the Altadena Town Council site, altadenatowncouncil.org. We apologize for this error.]
All politics is local, and it doesn’t get much more local than the Altadena Town Council, a non-legislative advisory council to the District 5 county supervisor. In a forum sponsored by Neighbors Building a Better Altadena (NBBA) on Thursday night, seven of the 12 candidates for eight seats presented their views on Altadena and what they will bring to ATC. One of the recurring themes was that many Altadenans do not know that there is a town council, so increasing visibility of the body is crucial to its effectiveness in advising the Board of Supervisors.
Candidates who attended the forum were incumbents Billy Malone (CT4602), Damon Hobdy (CT4603.01), and Brent Musson (CT4610) and new candidates Anne Chomyn (CT4601), Dean Cooper (CT4603.02), Justin Robertson (CT4611), and Anne Lansing (CT4612). Opponents in contested tracts 4601, 4602, 4611 and neither candidate for 4613 came. [Editor’s note: Specifically, James Walker, Jr. (4601), Ruben Balter (4602), Amy Cienfuegos (4611), and Vahe Atchabahian and Sylvia Vega (4613) did not attend]
Moderator Marge Nichols posed a series of questions to each candidate, reflecting questions they had previously answered on a survey sent by NBBA. The surveys will be posted on the NBBA website, buildingabetteraltadena.org. After the formal questions, candidates gathered with constituents by census tract to discuss particular concerns.
Facilitating communication between the council and constituents is a top concern for the candidates, “letting people know there is a town council,” as Hobdy put it. Electronic media, such as websites, Facebook, and email, were cited by all, but west side candidates noted that many of their constituents do not use electronic media, so personal contact is important.
All agreed that community input on issues and attendance at ATC meetings are vital to being able to present requests to the Board of Supervisors. Cooper said the council needs to do a better job hearing from the community, so issues can be addressed and presented to the supervisors. Robertson said that in addition to the usual channels, he would have office hours to meet people at local hangouts.
Business and economic development is a major issue for the candidates. Chomyn cited the steepness of north-south streets and suggested focusing on developing major intersections by extending businesses to the east-west streets, which would make Altadena more pedestrian-friendly. Hobdy is pushing for sidewalks on Altadena Drive between Fair Oaks and Lincoln to make the street safer as well.
Musson, whose tract includes the southern part of the Lincoln and Fair Oaks corridors, responded that his number one priority is revitalizing those corridors, which will create local jobs and improve the aesthetics of the neighborhoods. Lack of parking for the existing storefronts discourages new small businesses, he said, and urged that parking ordinances be amended.
Many Altadena businesses are home-grown, Malone noted and Pasadenans will not come up the hill to shop, so encouraging and promoting local business is a way to fill empty storefronts. Though acknowledging that it is not her area of expertise, Lansing suggested that a mix of local businesses and “responsibly-run chains” employing a range of ages, offering full-time employment, and paying a living wage would benefit Altadena. Hobdy has taken a personal approach to improving business in the northwest corner of the town. He encouraged the owner the liquor store at Altadena and Lincoln to change to a market, for example.
Though a relative newcomer to Altadena, Justin Robertson mobilized 60 people to do walkability studies of Lincoln and Lake avenues for his urban planning master’s. He would like to see locally-owned businesses that serve the neighborhood but he also thinks that it’s important to examine strategies that won’t displace current residents.
The election will be held on Saturday, June 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at various locations which can be found on the ATC official site at altadenatowncouncil.org or at altadenaelection.org. Early voting is on Tuesday, June 2 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Altadena Library on Santa Rosa and Mariposa. Representatives to ATC are elected by census tract to two-year terms, and each tract has two members who are elected in alternating years.
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