Team Player

Rose Queen Drew Washington takes pride in her family, school and Royal Court

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 12/29/2011

Having watched the Rose Parade pass near her home all her life, Drew Washington always dreamed of being part of such an important event. Little did she know as a girl that, by the age of 16, she would be selected as not only the youngest member of the 2012 Royal Court, but Rose Queen.  
Washington’s journey to the center of the Tournament of Roses world — a trip that required ambition, intelligence and leadership — has produced an “exciting and electric feeling,” the now 17-year-old Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy senior said during a recent interview.
Washington is currently preparing to apply to some 18 colleges after tackling an impressive array of activities at her high school. Besides being the captain of her varsity volleyball and track and field teams, she’s a member of the Multicultural Club, the Latin Club, the National Honors Society, the California Scholarship Federation, the Student Ambassador Club and Students Against Destructive Decisions, to name a few. Through her participation in these and other programs, Washington says she has learned how to work as a member of a team.
“I’ve learned that it’s OK to step up and lead, but that it’s also OK to follow,” the poised and polished youngster told the Weekly during a talk in the President’s Room of Tournament House, headquarters of the Tournament of Roses Association. “I think what makes a captain of a team or a leader of a group is someone who can show both of those aspects: someone who’s able to lead and to follow. When I came together with these seven girls, I realized that we had to work together, because being on the Royal Court for three months can’t work if you’re falling apart. That’s really been my core concept — making sure we stay together and that nothing comes between us.”
Once in college, Washington is hoping to major in communications, with an emphasis on marketing and public relations. When she gets older, she wants to make movie trailers. While her experience throughout the Royal Court process has enhanced her public speaking skills, Washington’s interest in marketing developed when she was a little girl. Her father, Craig Washington, who has been a Tournament member for 12 years, would take her to see two or three movies a week. She always wanted to get to the theater early to see the previews, which were her favorite part.
“I’ve always been interested in how someone can put together an intricate montage of different pieces of a movie combined with loud music and big dramatic scenes that entice viewers to want to see a movie without giving away the end and without giving away too much of what the movie’s about, but still telling them what the plot is generally about,” she said. “That’s really what sparked my interest. And being on the Tournament of Roses, I’ve also learned a lot about the media, working with people and presenting yourself in public, and that’s also further driven my interest into doing what I want to do.”
The queen’s family has lived in Pasadena since 1955, and some family members have lived in Los Angeles since 1883. So Washington’s sense of community was instilled in her at a very young age. She is the second African-American Rose Queen in the history of the parade, the first being Kristina Smith in 1985 — 10 years before Washington was born. The importance of this fact is not lost on the young queen.
“I think it’s a big step and it’s also a smaller step,” Washington said in response to a comment by Pasadena NAACP President Joe Brown, who called the selection of an African American as Rose Queen a strong message. “The Royal Court has always been very diverse, and they’ve always picked girls who represent each type of background and each member of the community. We’re ambassadors of the city of Pasadena, and we want to communicate that to each and every individual in the community. So I feel as though it’s not necessarily a huge step, but it is definitely a statement, and it’s what has really impacted me the most, because I’ve realized I’m not only an ambassador for the Tournament of Roses and the Pasadena community, but also the African-American community as well. I am completely honored to be picked to represent the community in that way.” 

A model approach

Long-time death penalty opponent John Van de Kamp honored for pioneering forensics work

By Justin Chapman Pasadena Weekly, 12/29/2011

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye recently echoed the findings of a panel headed by former state Attorney General John Van de Kamp of Pasadena, which found that implementation of capital punishment was costly and ineffective.
“It’s not working,” the judge, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, said in an interview with reporter Maura Dolan of the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not effective. We know that.”
Van de Kamp told the Weekly that Cantil-Sakauye, whom he described as a moderate to conservative chief justice, has raised major doubts about whether capital punishment should be continued. He went even further, calling the practice immoral.
“I personally have been opposed to the death penalty on a whole series of grounds,” he said, adding he supports recent efforts to put the issue before voters. “Beyond morality, what the chief justice is saying is what the previous chief justice said, that the death penalty today is dysfunctional and the cost has been enormous.”
In 2004, Van de Kamp headed the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice, which found that abolishment of capital punishment would save the state more than $1 billion over five years.
Van de Kamp, who served as Los Angeles County District Attorney before being elected state attorney general in 1982, was recently inducted into the California Forensic Science Institute’s Hall of Fame for his work in “advancing forensic sciences as tools [such as the DNA database] to assist criminal prosecutions and exonerate the innocent throughout California,” LA County DA Steve Cooley said in a prepared statement.
Van de Kamp said his role in the area of forensics was as an administrator, not a scientist. “When I became attorney general, I put great stock and energy into trying to improve our law enforcement, crime labs, etc.  “My own work in this field is probably secondary in a sense, but I was a cheerleader and a proponent for these changes. Just as you need the scientists, you need people in high offices like I was to give support.”
When it comes to capital punishment, “I think even people who support the death penalty are recognizing that it’s not working as a deterrent in the way it’s been administered and that there are better ways to deal with this,” said Van de Kamp.

Rose-Colored Ambitions

Officials want to keep Rose Parade free of political posturing

By Andre Coleman and Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 12/29/2011

In years past, the Rose Parade has been a straightforward and politically uncomplicated celebration of the New Year, featuring celebrities riding vintage cars, carriages or beautifully decorated floats down Colorado Boulevard. 
But, since the early 1990s, local and national groups have used the parade as a stage from which to protest against such volatile issues as the inhumane treatment of animals, human rights abuses in China, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the selection of a descendant of Christopher Columbus to serve as grand marshal of the 1992 parade. In the early 1990s, community activists derided the tournament for the lack of female, African-American and Latino representation on the Tournament of Roses Association board of directors.
“I think the reality is the parade, from time to time, has dealt with serious issues. There is always an environment of that potentiality,” Pasadena Police Chief Phil Sanchez told the Weekly. “But what the parade represents acts as a great governor and establishes a clear expectation for parade-goers. People use a lot of resources to get here and many of us who live nearby forget that sometimes. … The parade shouldn’t be used as a platform for political statements and divisiveness.” 
This year, members of the Occupy movement, who camped out in front of Los Angeles City Hall for seven weeks in a demonstration against social and economic inequities in American society, will be walking behind the parade.
Pete Thottam, spokesman and organizer of Occupy the Rose Parade, told the Weekly the group has planned four protest phases, including two "floats" to display at the end of the parade, one being a giant octopus made of recycled bags, and a 250-foot replica of the Constitution called “We Are the 99% Float.” 
A “Human Float” will be led by Cindy Sheehan, who has been chosen as the Occupiers’ “NON-Grand Marshal.” Picketers also plan to carry banners bearing slogans such as "Corporate Money Out of Politics" and later hold a press conference at City Hall called “Occupy 2.0 People’s Summit on Economic and Social Justice Issues” to talk about their plans going forward.
Sanchez said the department is more concerned about a “fringe element” that is not part of any particular group attempting to make a name for him or herself during the parade. 
“We don’t want some disenfranchised individual to disrupt the parade and act inappropriately on behalf of Occupy, even though Occupy may not support that individual of the message,” Sanchez said. 

No one will say exactly how many officers will be on the 5.5-mile parade’s path, although there will be hundreds of Pasadena officers, Sheriff’s deputies and Highway Patrol officers — in and out of uniform — patrolling pre-parade activities and the event itself. Police will also be all over the Rose Bowl Game later in the day.
 “We don’t get into the numbers or what our plan is, but we will have federal, state and local law enforcement officials in town,” said Pasadena Police Lt. Phlunte Riddle. “Once the parade is complete, we will have the four police cars that patrol the parade drive by, and then anyone who wants to get a message out or fall in behind the police can do so,” Riddle told the Weekly. “But the Occupy movement is not part of the parade.”
Neither is the right-wing Tea Party, which has opted to scrap ideas to respond to the Occupy movement’s plans with a walk of their own behind the parade.
“We really believe America is entitled to one day without politics, and that includes a day without the Tea Party,” said Michael Alexander, head of the Pasadena Patriots, the local Tea Party affiliate.
“The Rose Parade is iconic, because it is one of those days on which people of every faith, color, nationality and economic background come together to celebrate the New Year and have a good time,” Alexander said.
Thottam said he thinks the real reason the Tea Party canceled its counter-demonstration plans is because they don’t have the numbers that the Occupiers do.
“The Rose Parade has already become politicized, that’s for sure, by virtue of its increasing corporatization and militarization,” said Thottam. “But we consider the Tea Party as brothers in arms, not our enemies. We welcome them and think they have a lot of legitimate concerns about the big banks and how Wall Street influence has spun out of control. We have more in common than we both realize, so we welcome them to join us in marching on Jan. 2.”
Police officials said there was one trend they hoped continued this year — over the past several years, arrests have steadily dropped between 5 p.m. New Year’s Eve and 5 p.m. New Year’s Day. Last year, just 45 people were arrested for public intoxication.


City’s expensive and unenforceable red-light camera program to end in June

By Justin Chapman and Andre Coleman, Pasadena Weekly, 12/15/2011

Citing the lack of legal consequences resulting from red-light camera tickets and the rising costs associated with running the program, the chair of the Pasadena City Council’s Public Safety Committee told the Weekly on Monday that the city will discontinue using the cameras in June.
At the Dec. 5 committee meeting, Pasadena Police Chief Philip Sanchez and Transportation Department staff jointly recommended the city allow its contract with Arizona-based American Traffic Systems (ATS) — the company that runs and operates the city’s Automated Red Light Cameras — to expire on June 30. ATS will be responsible for removing the cameras from intersections at Foothill and San Gabriel boulevards, Lake Avenue and Union Street and Union Street and Marengo Avenue. The cameras were installed in 2003 and 2005.
The cameras take pictures of supposed traffic infractions, along with the driver and the vehicle’s license plate. However, the tickets are unenforceable, because drivers do not sign a promise to appear in court. Without the signature, the tickets cannot go to warrant and instead are sent to GC Services, an LA County collection agency.
“The [Department of Transportation] staff does not intend to renew the contract,” said Public Safety Chair Steve Madison, a private attorney and former federal prosecutor. “I don’t believe it will come before the City Council. It will die a natural death. I am of two minds about it: On the one hand, I like the deterrent ability that it has. On the other hand, there is a Big Brother aspect I don’t like.
From a pragmatic standpoint, it is riddled with problems. Nothing happens if you ignore it; it does not go on your DMV record, no one comes looking for you and the police have to look at each picture to make sure that they are sending the ticket to the right person.”
Committee members Margaret McAustin, Gene Masuda and Jacque Robinson did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.
The camera program will be replaced by stronger police enforcement at those intersections.
“More and more people are figuring out that they will not be punished if they refuse to pay the violation fine, let alone have to show up in court at all,” said Pasadena Police Officer Brian Bozarth, who runs the camera program and will return to field work after the program is dismantled. “Because the driver who was caught by a camera running a red light did not sign anything promising to appear in court, we have no legal recourse to issue a warrant for their arrest. The citation then gets handed over to a collection agency, but even then after they mail a couple letters and make a couple annoying phone calls, they cannot force the violator to pay the fine.”
Bozarth said that ignoring the initial ticket — which costs about $500 — and the collection agency will not affect the violator’s credit rating or DMV record.
The amount of time Bozarth had to spend in court addressing contested tickets was one determining reason for ending the program, according to Department of Transportation Director Fred Dock.
“The use of police resources is the biggest factor,” Dock told the Weekly. “The time commitments for sworn personnel have grown exponentially. The citations issued have diminished, and there has been a large uptick in the amount of challenges due to the large amount of information about fighting the tickets. We now have an officer that is spending more time answering challenges to the tickets and is spending less time in the field. The recommendation is to get the police personnel back in the field instead of in court.”
The city’s contract with ATS was slated to expire June 30, 2011, but the City Council voted to extend the contract one more year so staff could prepare a thorough report detailing its pros and cons.
“I am very supportive of staff’s recommendation to not renew 
the red-light program contract,” 
said Sanchez, who added that he thinks the camera enforcement 
is impersonal.
There are also other problems with the system, according to a joint staff report issued by the Police Department and the DOT that cited a loss of revenue due to rising costs connected to the program. 
The city pays ATS $274,100 each year, and although the city made $344,013 in fiscal year 2010-11, that income has rapidly decreased while electricity and personnel costs for both the Police and Transportation departments run at least $74,000, creating an annual deficit of at least $4,487 that comes directly out of the city’s General Fund.
“There doesn’t seem to be any way to enforce it,” said Councilman Terry Tornek. “It is too bad, but as I recall [the cameras] were reasonably effective at eliminating broadside collisions. Presumably, they have some other techniques. I still think that if people see the camera, they pay attention to it.”
But despite Tornek’s assertion, the report stated it could not be determined if the cameras served as a deterrent, as opposed to other traffic safety measures established at the intersections when the cameras were installed. At that time, city staff also set the yellow light timing at 0.3 to 0.4 seconds above the required minimum, making it impossible to attribute the decline of  broadside collisions to the presence of either the cameras or the lengthened yellow light times.
In the meantime, according to the staff report, the city “has many existing safety programs, including but not limited to selective traffic enforcement, ongoing signal synchronization to provide more regular traffic flow, implementation of longer yellows and ‘all-red’ clearance intervals that will maintain our level of continuing efforts to improve traffic safety throughout the city.”
While the Police and Transportation departments recognize that the red-light camera program is an important tool, the city has many more safety initiatives designed to continue and maintain improvement of traffic safety at signaled intersections. The city also plans to update and extend the yellow light timing at all signaled intersections throughout the next 18 to 24 months. 

Hurricane Rose

Cleanup continues — much of it in the dark — following last week’s hurricane-force winds

By Andre Coleman and Justin Chapman Pasadena Weekly, 12/8/2011

Some residents of Altadena entered their sixth day without power Monday as local officials continued cleaning up fallen limbs, downed power lines and other damage caused by powerful Santa Ana winds of up to 97 mph that ravaged Altadena, Pasadena, Arcadia and other communities around the San Gabriel Valley.
In Glendale, high winds caused 10 broken power poles, leaving about 200 people without power as of Monday afternoon, according to published reports, and in Eagle Rock, which is part of the city of Los Angeles, only a few blocks were still without power, according to the LA Department of Water and Power. DWP officials estimated Monday that less than 200 homes still did not have service. Electricity was expected to be completely restored by Tuesday afternoon.
In San Gabriel, “It’s ridiculous,” said resident Steven Diorio, whose power went out early Thursday morning. Diorio maintained water and gas heating in his apartment. “I’ve lived in the Northeast [United States] for 27 years, and anytime there’s heavy snow or a power outage, it ranges from three hours to two days. And this is now day five. [Southern California] Edison is incompetent.” Diorio’s power was restored at about 5 p.m. Monday.
“There seems to be the feeling that Edison was ill prepared” when it came to providing emergency service to Altadena, Altadenablog author Tim Rutt told the Weekly Monday morning. 
“Right now, they are saying everyone’s power should be on by Monday night. If that does not happen, that will be our sixth night without power for certain sections of Altadena,” Rutt said.
According to Rutt’s blog, local clean-up crews plan this week to remove debris that had fallen on residential property in the unincorporated mountainside community. The LA County work crews will not remove toppled trees that were originally planted on private property. Some Altadena businesses remained closed Monday.
In Arcadia, the LA County Arboretum and Botanical Garden will be closed until further notice, according to the latest update on its Web site. Arcadia County Park and two other county parks in La Cañada Flintridge were also closed as of Monday, with county crews repairing damage to trees, plants and structures.
Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge reopened Monday after being closed for four days due to power outages and damages caused by the high winds.
About 26,000 residents scattered throughout LA County were still without power as of Monday afternoon, including some residents of Pasadena, Arcadia and Monrovia.
Southern California Edison — which provides electricity to Altadena, Arcadia and Monrovia — reported Monday that power had been restored to 99 percent of the homes in its service area.  
According to Pasadena Public Information Officer Ann Erdman, some local residents went as far as opening utility boxes on telephone poles in an attempt to run wires from the poles to their homes to restore electricity.
The winds knocked down 47 power lines and seriously damaged 42 buildings, leaving them uninhabitable, Erdman said. Another 200 structures sustained minor damages. The destruction forced LA County Mayor Michael Antonovich to declare a state of emergency in Los Angeles County. The city of Pasadena declared a state of emergency early Thursday morning, with the city of Arcadia quickly following suit.
East Pasadena, it appears, took the brunt of the wind damage in the city, with fallen trees damaging homes and destroying one gas station on Colorado and San Gabriel boulevards.
Pasadena resident Robyn Robinson said she called the city and a number of news agencies several times to help her unwrap live, downed power lines near her home, but with no luck.
“Nobody’s even come out to look at the live wires wrapped around the pine tree that is 125 feet long,” Robinson said last Thursday afternoon, shortly after the wind had died down.  “They’re live wires, so they can ignite the tree in moments, and it will catch every single tree and then this neighborhood is gone. It will be instantaneous.” The tree was eventually cut up and the power lines secured. 
“Basically, it just looks like a bomb went off here,” said Pasadena resident and former Santa Monica police Officer Kim Santell, who lives in Lower Hastings Ranch. “Somebody just dropped a nuke, and this is the result. This is not going to go away real soon. I hope that we can get some disaster relief, because this is a disaster zone. I’ve never seen it like this, and I’ve lived through some pretty nasty hurricanes in Florida.”
Around 3 a.m. last Thursday, a tree in front of Santell’s home fell over and took a potentially live overhead power cable with it, snapping the wire in half and leaving the split wires resting near the middle of the street. 
“I had to get in there and try to hacksaw the branches, and my saw broke,” said Santell. “I don’t know if the line in the street is alive or not, but I’m not going to touch it and find out. I’m hoping it’s dead.”
Pasadena city officials released a statement Thursday night assuring residents that the debris had been removed from major streets and that secondary streets would be next. Still, there were no city vehicles in Hastings Ranch Friday morning and residents had started removing the debris on their own.
While Robinson was speaking, an employee with Department of Water and Power arrived in his city truck, stood in the middle of the street and looked at the tree but did not place cones or caution tape by the dangerous wire before leaving. The man, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Weekly at the time that no one was responding because similar and even worse situations were occurring elsewhere.
“It’s all over the city,” he said. “We have streets blocked with wires down all over. This is not the only location with this situation. I’ve been going around putting caution tape around certain areas and cones on everything I see that looks dangerous.”
Meanwhile, Pasadena City Manager Michael Beck and NAACP Pasadena Branch President Joe Brown teamed up to put 40 local people to work on the cleanup soon after the disaster.
“With a few small tweets, and in less than one hour, the process had taken shape, and Michael fine tuned it with a local agency that had the capacity to get it done,” Brown said in a prepared statement. “Michael could have sat on the idea with the ‘what ifs’ and gum it up with bureaucratic red tape. Instead, he listened, he explored and he pushed it through. Yes, in less than one hour.” 

Reporters Carl Kozlowski and Aaron Harris contributed to this story.

Financial Wings

The Pasadena Angels invest money and provide critical advice to emerging local companies and nonprofits

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 12/8/2011

Despite the fact that stores and companies are shutting down left and right amid tough economic times, options still exist for entrepreneurs with good ideas, even if they don’t have a lot of money. The Business Technology Center (BTC) on Lincoln Avenue in Altadena, for example, has been helping small businesses and start-up ventures get on their feet since 1998.
It provides subsidized rent, flexible office space in a professional setting, a team of advisers, conference rooms and other resources to businesses across Southern California. At a Tech Week event held at BTC in October, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who was instrumental in helping launch the business incubator, praised BTC for the help it has provided local businesses, as well as the regional and national economy.
“Delegations from more than 40 countries have come [to BTCS] to see what we have,” said Antonovich. “It has received several national and state awards for its impact in start-up, seed stage and emerging growth companies. Its success was a collaboration between risk-taking entrepreneurs, private investors and other resources, creating an engine for economic growth in LA County that has attracted over $170 million in equity and created over 1,700 jobs so far.”

Angels who gamble 
BTC is also home to the Pasadena Angels, a group of about 100 private investors who provide consultation and financing to local, early stage start-up ventures as well as emerging growth companies. It is one of the largest seed money investor networks in the nation. Every month, the group receives 20 to 40 applications from small businesses seeking its services. Individual Angels are assigned an application and serve as the lead pre-screener. 
The pre-screeners investigate and meet with the organization or company, visit their facility and see if they have a good management team and a solid idea with growth potential that will eventually help the Angels earn their money back, should they choose to invest in the business.
All of the Angels then meet with their committee members and go over various proposals. They narrow the list down to about six and hold pre-screening meetings at BTC, where representatives from the businesses give brief presentations. The Angels ask questions and give them feedback. Over the course of a month, a business will have gone through three or four meetings before they can give a longer presentation to the entire Angels congregation at monthly breakfast meetings, formal events held at Annandale Golf Club. 
Those meetings begin at 7:30 a.m. sharp. Angels who bring guests introduce them to the group. After the chairman makes a few announcements about upcoming events, he yields the floor to the lead pre-screener of the first presenting business. A representative from the business has about 30 minutes to deliver his or her pitch to the room of investors. This is a chance to convince the Angels that the company is worth investing in. When they finish, they are asked to step outside the room while the Angels discuss the pros and cons — and ultimately the profitability — of investing in the business. 
“It could be something an investor really likes, but we need to consider whether or not it will make us money in the end,” Pasadena Angel Stan Tomsic explained.
The Angels fill out forms indicating their level of interest in the business, which they then submit to the Angels administration, as the representative comes back into the room and gets feedback from the chairman. This process is repeated with the second presenting business. At the end of the breakfast meeting, the Angels receive updates on prior investments.
“There are a number of positive and negative criteria that trigger interest or disinterest,” said Tomsic. “We tend to veer away from lifestyle companies and look more at growth potential.”
Barry Paulk, the head of marketing who sits on the Angels’ board of directors, explained that there are certain qualifications one must have for membership, including being an accredited investor, which means having a certain amount of disposable income and net worth. While there are no hard and fast rules, Angels are generally expected to invest about $50,000 a year.
“We’re really pushing to get more female members,” said Paulk, noting that the majority of the members are male. “We’ve added two or three very sharp ladies, but we’re looking to add more.”
Most of the companies applying to the Angels come from Southern California’s five-county metro area, according to chairman Al Schneider. “Last year they invested the most money in a company from Caltech called Rockoco, which deals with new technologies in the diamond-etching field,” said Schneider.

Other Angel ventures
During the November meeting, Schneider reiterated the group’s mantra, “It’s more than the money,” and spoke of the importance of supporting nonprofit organizations just as much as up-and-coming businesses. He asked the more than 100 attendees at the meeting to raise their hands if they have or currently sit on a nonprofit’s board of directors. Almost every hand was raised.
“I’m preaching to the choir here,” said Schneider. “We’ve all been in this line of work. Clearly, these nonprofits we work with need our financial support as well as our good counsel, as these countless solicitations we get all year-round but particularly this time of year, remind us. But even with such organizations, I think it’s fair to say that they need more than the money, and we can help them in many ways other than writing checks,” Schneider said.
He specifically mentioned two local nonprofits working on altruistic products. A former USC architecture student is working on a product called Cardborigami, a $30 foldable, treated cardboard overnight shelter that can be used by the homeless or disaster victims. 

It provides a very portable, private space that can be folded up and carried around to provide some degree of instantaneous overnight protection from the elements. The second one, called Get on the Bus, helps as many as 1,300 kids stay in touch with parents in prison by providing bus transportation to families of the incarcerated.

Angel Terry Kay updated the group about A Noise Within, the classical theater company that just completed its move from Glendale to east Pasadena with a $13.5-million capital campaign. 
The nonprofit organization opened its new 283-seat, 33,000-square-foot performing arts complex on Oct. 29.
“One of the cool things they do is they use about 30 percent of the budget for school outreach, where kids from inner city schools get bused in and see live theater for the first time ever, which really is a life-changing event for them,” said Kay, who has been on the board for 10 years and served as president for seven. “About 20,000 students visit each year.”
Each year, the Pasadena Angels invest about $3 million in 12 to 15 emerging growth and seed stage companies and nonprofits. It’s one of the last remaining options in a recession-era economy for local entrepreneurs to turn to for funding to help them get their business and products off the ground.

To learn how to apply to the Angels and for more information, visit