Affordable Housing, Public Schools Crises Dominate First Candidates Forum of Pasadena’s 2020 Election Season

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Now, 11/22/2019

Nearly all of the candidates running for mayor of Pasadena and City Council districts 1, 2, 4 and 6 in the March 3 election spoke about housing and education issues during a candidates’ forum last night kicking off Pasadena’s 2020 election season.

The forum was hosted by Democrats of Pasadena Foothills, which will vote to endorse candidates at its Jan. 16 meeting, though citywide elected offices themselves are nonpartisan.

Note to Readers: Last night’s event, billed as a “candidates forum” and hosted by the Democrats of Pasadena Foothills (DPF), was actually open only to candidates who are registered Democrats, DPF President Tina Fredericks said Friday. To clarify, that is why some candidates did not speak at the forum.

Not all of the candidates who have pulled nomination papers from the city clerk’s office participated in the forum. None of the candidates running for District 1 spoke at the forum, including incumbent Councilmember Tyron Hampton, Anthony Montiel and Darrell Nash.

In District 2, where Councilmember Margaret McAustin is not running for reelection, only Tricia Keane and Felicia Williams spoke at the forum, while Alex Heiman, Kevin Litwin and Boghos Patatian did not.

In District 4, only Joe Baghdadlian and Charlotte Brand spoke at the forum, while Kevin Wheeler and incumbent Councilmember Gene Masuda did not.

In District 6, incumbent Councilmember Steve Madison, Tamerlin Godley and Ryan Bell spoke at the forum, while William Declercq and Mark Hannah did not.

For mayor, incumbent Mayor Terry Tornek and current District 5 Councilmember Victor Gordo spoke at the forum, while Jason Hardin, Major Williams and Michael Geragos did not.

According to the city’s clerk office, as of 3:03 p.m. on Nov. 20, no candidate had yet filed their completed nomination papers. The deadline to do so is Dec. 6 at 5 p.m.

During the forum, each candidate spoke to the crowd of about 50 people for five minutes. Common themes included housing, homelessness, overdevelopment, the environment, education, and transportation.

Keane, who serves as the deputy director of the city of LA’s Department of City Planning, said solving homelessness and ensuring Pasadena steps up its commitment on water conservation will be among the main issues she focuses on.

“We are at a critical point in Pasadena,” Keane said. “We are facing very real challenges around housing affordability, homelessness and making sure we are planning for a sustainable and equitable future. We need to and we can solve all of these issues. I’ve spent the last 12 years of my career doing just this kind of work, and I’m particularly qualified to get the work done. Our challenge is to figure out how to preserve the Pasadena we know and love.”

Williams, who consults with cities on financing bonds for big projects and serves on the city’s Planning Commission, said the three issues she’s focusing on are affordable housing, homelessness and the environment.

“We’re getting a lot of new development in Pasadena, but it’s not what we need or want,” she said. “We’re getting luxury hotels and luxury housing. That’s displacing residents and making the city unaffordable. I would like to amend the zoning code to push for more affordable housing. We also need some form of rent stabilization and community benefits agreements. Our high cost of housing is pushing people into homelessness. I am running to use my professional experience and my experience in the community to fight for Democratic values on our City Council.”

Baghdadlian, who immigrated to the United States in 1973, said it’s not right that public schools are closing and small businesses are suffering in Pasadena. He made the case that he brings his experience as a business owner to the table.

“Our existing City Councilman is not doing much,” he said. “I am ready to go on this journey and beat my opponent because I believe in doing everything the right way for our city, not ignoring the residents. I will take every issue seriously. My wife and I love to serve the community. It is in me.”

Bland, who serves on the city’s Commission on the Status of Women, said her main campaign issue is environmental justice. She said she suspected that the Edison wires on an easement near her street in east Pasadena was making people sick and possibly giving them cancer. She said that she asked her City Councilmember for an environmental health study but received no response.

“Twelve people on my street are stricken with cancer,” she said. “I’m here to hold the City of Pasadena responsible and accountable to our neighbors and citizens. As a council person, I’ll make sure that our voices are heard and that we’ll have a clean environment in which to live.”

Bell, a nonprofit executive and member of the Pasadena Tenants’ Union, said Pasadena is not working for everyone and that the desperate needs of residents are falling on deaf ears at City Council meetings.

“We need rent control in Pasadena and more permanently affordable housing,” he said. “Gentrification is pushing families out of the city they’ve lived in for generations, corporate landlords are buying up properties and evicting everyone in the building or jacking up the rent and even so-called affordable housing isn’t affordable. Long-established communities of color are being priced out. Schools are closing because enrollment is down because families can’t afford to live in Pasadena anymore. This city needs leadership. Putting out fires as they emerge and erupt is not good enough.”

Godley, who practices entertainment litigation and served on the South Pasadena school board from 2001 to 2005, said education is one of her main passions.

“I’ve been on the Pasadena Educational Foundation board for the last 10 years, raising money for the schools here,” she said. “I know a lot about the schools and have good relationships with the school board, the administration and the personnel of the district. Twenty years is enough for our sitting council person; it’s time for a woman on our City Council for District 6.”

Madison said he wants to make sure every child in Pasadena has the same opportunity to succeed that he had.

“I’m extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish so far,” he said. “We’ve undergone a renaissance in Pasadena during the time that I’ve been on City Council. We’ve rebuilt City Hall, the Rose Bowl and the Civic Auditorium. We opened a new park at Desiderio and sited nine Habitat for Humanity homes there. But many challenges remain. We have the 710 freeway stump in my district, which presents an opportunity to redevelop 50 acres. I intend to make sure we have a mix of use there, including affordable housing.”

Gordo, the only sitting councilmember to challenge Tornek for mayor, said he intends to focus on housing, education, jobs, fiscal responsibility, public safety and quality of life issues such as overdevelopment and traffic.

“I want to put the people of Pasadena first,” he said. “Pasadena is the center of the universe because of people, because it’s an inclusive city. Its values are consistent with the place that we want to be. But the Pasadena we see evolving today is not the Pasadena I envisioned and experienced as a young kid. I’m going to ensure that Pasadena’s local government is responsive to every part of this city. The mayor needs to have his or her finger on the pulse on every neighborhood of this city, and I intend to do that as your mayor.”

Tornek, who was elected mayor in 2015 and served on City Council and as the city’s planning director before that, said the city is in better financial shape than when he first took office.

“We’ve built our rainy-day fund to pre-recession levels,” he said. “We’ve done a good job in managing workforce without cutting services. People expect a high level of service in Pasadena and they deserve it. I came up with the idea for Measure J to increase our sales tax, which will send an additional $7 million to the school district. But we have a lot more to do. We have some long-term projects that I would really like to continue my work on, including the Arroyo Seco and environmental issues. I hope you will help me in terms of continuing my efforts over the next four years as mayor of Pasadena.”

A bittersweet homecoming

Former Rose Queen Drew Washington and her father Craig travel to Africa as part of a campaign to reconnect people with their ancestry in the 400th year since the start of slavery in America

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 10/24/2019

August marked the 400th anniversary of the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade with America when, in 1619, a ship carrying 20 slaves landed at Point Comfort in the British colony of Virginia. This year, Nana Akufo-Addo, president of Ghana, a major slave trade hub at the time, declared 2019 the “Year of Return.” The campaign has given African Americans nationwide a chance to reconnect with and reflect on their ancestral beginnings.

Last month, the second African American Rose Queen, Drew Washington, who presided over the 2012 Rose Parade, traveled with her father Craig to West Africa to learn more about their ancestry and culture. After conducting a DNA test from to locate the region their forebears originally came from, they traveled to Ghana, Togo and Benin, three small countries in the Gulf of Guinea on the Atlantic coast.

“I didn’t know what to expect regarding how the dynamics would be, being African American and going back to Africa,” said Drew, 24, who graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law in May and moved to New York a couple weeks ago to begin a job at Winston & Strawn LLP. The firm represents players’ associations of major league sports and the US women’s soccer team in their equal pay lawsuit. “But everyone we met said ‘Welcome home. You are home.’ That felt so good. It’s almost indescribable. I’d never felt like that anywhere else I’ve traveled.”

Correcting Mischaracterizations

When Drew first went to New York University, other African Americans didn’t use the term “African American” as an umbrella term to describe all black people.

“They were able to point to a country in Africa where they were from,” she explained. “They’d ask me, ‘Where are you from?’ I was so frustrated that I couldn’t answer the question, so this trip was about me being able to find those answers. I finally felt connected to a culture. I had heritage, culture and tradition that I could bring back home.”

Craig, 56, who serves as a director-chair of Tournament of Roses committees and regional contract manager at Jacobs Engineering Group, appreciated being able to correct many of the mischaracterizations that Americans have about Africa based on limited and inaccurately negative information. One of those mischaracterizations is about family.

“Family is so important in Africa, so it’s disheartening how African Americans are portrayed as not having strong families,” he said. “Where did this come from? This wasn’t our culture or foundation. Breaking up families, that’s what this whole slave trade did. Now the fabric of this bond of family has just been ripped to pieces. This is a part of African-American history that needs to be more exposed, and exposed truthfully.”

Before the slave trade and before colonial powers imposed modern country names and borders, powerful kingdoms existed in West Africa for hundreds of years, such as the Ashanti Empire and the Dahomey Kingdom. A form of slavery existed, too, among warring African tribes.

“This concept was going on within their own continent, so within the Africans’ mind, it wasn’t farfetched to trade people,” Craig said.

When Europeans first showed up, they didn’t start enslaving people immediately. They first traded goods and indoctrinated Africans into Christianity.

“They did a good job of gaining the trust of the leaders of the kingdoms,” Drew said. “Slavery already existed in Africa, but it was more like indentured servitude. They had no idea what the Europeans had intended.”

‘Its Own Genocide’

After starting their tour in Accra, the capital of Ghana, the Washingtons paid their respects at the Assin Manso Slave River. Inland Africans bound for slavery were marched shackled and barefoot for hundreds of miles over several months to the coast, where they received their “last bath” in African waters at Slave River.

“They would wash all the captured slaves and put shea butter on them to bring out a glow on the skin, prepping the body to make it look its best for the slave trade market,” Craig said.

Once the slaves got to the coast, they were held in slave castles for another few months. That’s all before they were forced onto a crowded ship, where they spent another six months crossing the Atlantic.

“In our history books, we hear about the Middle Passage and the ships being horrible, but you don’t hear about what happened on the ground before they got to the ships or to America, so it was quite the experience to be able to see that,” Drew said.

Historians estimate that between 1525 and 1866, about 12.5 million Africans were forcibly brought to the New World. Of those, only about 10.7 million survived the Middle Passage, and of those, only about 388,000 were shipped directly to North America, with the rest going to the Caribbean and South America.

“Millions of people didn’t make it,” Craig said. “The attrition was unbelievable. It was its own genocide even before they got to the ships, as well as the disease and starvation they endured along the way.”

The Washingtons also visited two slave castles: Cape Coast Castle, built by the Swedish in 1653 and later run by the British, and Elmina Castle, built by the Portuguese in 1482. The castles are about half the size of the Rose Bowl, each with an inner field, guard towers, master quarters for the governor which overlooked the courtyard, a church in the middle, and cramped, non-ventilated dungeons where the slaves were housed.

From there, the Washingtons visited Lomé, the capital of Togo, on their way to a village in Benin called Ouidah, home to the sacred Temple of Pythons.

“I thought that was just a name, but there are real pythons inside this temple,” Drew said. “In Benin, they view the python as sacred, as gods. It’s considered disrespectful to not wear a python around your neck when you visit. You also have to walk into the temple itself where there are pythons roaming around everywhere.”

The Washingtons then traveled to Ganvie, Benin, an entire village built on stilts over Lake Nokoué. Known as the “Venice of West Africa,” the water village of about 30,000 people was built 300 years ago as a defense mechanism during the slave trade.

“They row boats to go anywhere,” Drew said. “A typical family has three boats: one for the father to fish, another for the mother to sell the fish in the market and the third for the children to go to school. They have a hospital, a hotel, a church, a mosque and restaurants, all on stilts. Even their markets are on water. The women gather on boats in the center of the village and sell toiletries, fish, food, whatever you need.”

Sharing the Experience

Part of the reason why Americans have misconceptions about Africa is because of the lack of a meaningful connection. It’s not easy for Americans to travel to Africa and virtually impossible for Africans to travel to the United States.

“I don’t know who has made traveling to those countries difficult, but it is,” Drew said. “It’s not as easy as going to Europe, where you just hop on a plane. You want to go to Africa? Hold on, you need visas, you need shots, it’s a long plane ride, there are no direct flights, the flights are expensive. There aren’t flash sales for plane tickets to Africa. It’s prohibitive for a lot of people to go, coupled with the unknown. What we’re told about it, it doesn’t seem like that’s what you want to spend your vacation time and lots of money doing. But we found that it was just the best way we could have spent our money.”

Craig pointed out that they had virtually no interaction with Americans during their trip, while they saw and met lots of Europeans.

“That’s why no one in America knows about Africa, because no one goes,” he said. “Whatever they’re told, that’s what it is. All we get fed about Africa is that it’s a warzone.”

By sharing their experience on Facebook, the Washingtons have inspired a number of their friends to consider visiting Africa as well.

“It will help take down some of the mystery about Africa,” he said. “That’s what needs to happen: someone they know has gone and done it and they see it as a possibility.”

Pasadena dreamin'

Local author Chip Jacobs launches ‘Arroyo,’ a historical novel about Pasadena and the origins of the Colorado Street Bridge, at Vroman’s

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 10/17/2019

As a lifelong Pasadenan, author Chip Jacobs thought he knew his hometown well. That is, until he started researching the real history of Pasadena and its “concrete queen,” the Colorado Street Bridge, for his debut novel “Arroyo.”

Published Tuesday by Rare Bird Books, Arroyo chronicles a fictional story that is rooted in historical fact. It takes place in 1912-13, when the bridge was being constructed, and 1993, during the bridge’s 80th anniversary celebration. While conducting extensive research on Pasadena’s history for the book, Jacobs discovered many sordid stories that didn’t comport with what he thought he knew about the Crown City.

“I tried to write an alternate version of Pasadena that doesn’t smear Pasadena’s name, but also tells the truth,” he said. “The majority of the information about the city is real. I took real incidents and built a story around them. Pasadena is very different from its coffee table canon. It is a glorious, accomplished city that has more culture, science and creativity than many other cities per capita, but it’s not perfect. I felt the weight of history on me as I wrote this book. I had to get it right. I’m trying to tell a story but also inform.”

Familiar Names

Jacobs, a Pasadena Weekly contributor, is also the author of “Smogtown: The Lung-Burning History of Pollution in Los Angeles”; “The People’s Republic of Chemicals”; “Strange as It Seems: The Impossible Life of Gordon Zahler”; “The Ascension of Jerry: Murder, Hitmen and the Making of L.A. Muckraker Jerry Schneiderman”; “The Vicodin Thieves”: “Biopsying L.A.’s Grifters, Gloryhounds and Goliaths”; and “Black Wednesday Boys.”

“Arroyo” is his first work of fiction.

Jacobs will read from and discuss “Arroyo” at his book launch at 7 p.m. tomorrow (Oct. 18) at Vroman’s Bookstore, 695 E. Colorado Blvd. Former Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard will emcee the event, which will also feature a Pie & Burger truck (a restaurant that plays a role in the book) and wine and beer (an ode to Busch Gardens, an estate owned by Anheuser-Busch founder Adolphus Busch and one of the main stomping grounds of the book’s characters). In fact, Vroman’s Bookstore’s founder, A.C. Vroman, figures into the plot as well.

The book’s characters also interact with historical figures such as Teddy Roosevelt, Rose Parade founder Charles Holder, newspaperman Charles Lummis, aeronaut Thaddeus Lowe, muckraker Upton Sinclair and others. Major scenes take place at Cawston Ostrich Farm, Mount Lowe Railway, Hotel Green (now Castle Green), the Raymond Hotel, Busch Gardens, the Doo Dah Parade and other local landmarks.

Jacobs will also present his book on Nov. 7 at Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Nov. 21 at the Pasadena Museum of History and Jan. 16 at the Pasadena Central Library.

Bridge to the Past

It’s rare for a book to make one laugh out loud, but Arroyo, written in clever, funny prose, does that several times. Th.e book includes fantastical scenes such as the main character, Nick Chance, racing a brand new Ford Model-T while riding an ostrich from South Pasadena’s Cawston Ostrich Farm in an early, offbeat test of machine versus animal. To find out who wins, you’ll have to read the book.

The book includes an origin story for the green parrots that fly over Pasadena to this day. There are several rumors about how the parrots got here, including that a pet store burned down in the 1970s. But in Jacobs’ telling, an excited boy chases Chance riding a Cawston ostrich, which freaks out and runs through the Arroyo, slamming into a cage holding 37 green parrots. The cage crashes open and the parrots escape, much to the chagrin of two shifty characters who intended to sell the exotic birds on the black market to wealthy patrons. In those days, feathers were all the rage in women’s fashion.

“Arroyo” takes place during the Progressive Era, a time when the Raymond Hotel still stands, when Busch Gardens (once dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world”) hadn’t yet been overrun by residential development, and when automobiles hadn’t yet overtaken horses — or in this case, ostriches — as the primary mode of transportation.

Chance starts out as an assistant manager at Cawston Ostrich Farm and then, when he gets fired from there, as a worker on the budding Colorado Street Bridge installing solar lights that he invented. But the bridge and the universe have bigger plans in store for him and his clairvoyant dog, Royo, who saves Chance from an explosion on South Fair Oaks Avenue.

The book also highlights a rarely told story about a fatal collapse of part of the bridge on Aug. 1, 1913, just weeks before its highly anticipated grand opening, albeit a story told by Jacobs himself in an article in the Pasadena Weekly published on Sept. 18, 2003, titled “Bridge to the Past.” In fact, that story was the initial seed of the idea for this book.

“It was my story in the Weekly about the bridge that galvanized this novel,” he said. “Three people got killed in the collapse. It feels like I have to get angry before I start a book, and I was angry when I walked on the bridge for the story and saw a plaque exalting the Pasadena Board of City Directors [now City Council members], the contractor who died in a car accident before the bridge even opened and the designer who wasn’t on speaking terms with the city because he was so infuriated that they added a curve to his bridge design. But they didn’t give even a mention of the three people who died during construction. It was appalling. That fueled me to write this story, and it touched a nerve.”

In that story, Jacobs wrote that the mold for the top of the ninth arch of the bridge “buckled, creat[ing] a thunderous pancaking action that snatched three workers — and almost eight more — in a violent, plunging mass. Hundreds of tons of wet concrete, scaffolding and machinery came crashing onto the floor of the valley, kicking up dust and pandemonium.”

Origin Story

The other catalyst for Jacobs to write this book was the continuing trend of people leaping from the 150-feet high bridge to their deaths in the Arroyo Seco, establishing its unfortunate and tenacious moniker, “Suicide Bridge.”

“It made me feel almost like the bridge itself was getting a bad name,” Jacobs said. “I felt like I needed to defend her. She’s a benevolent force. She’s been trashed and almost destroyed by the wrecking ball numerous times — thank God for our preservationists who value it. Somebody needed to be her biographer. That’s what I’m trying to do, to tell her origin story.”

Well over 100 people have used the bridge to end their lives, going back to the bridge’s earliest days and then the Great Depression. The first actual suicide wasn’t on the bridge itself, but rather a little way down the Arroyo, when a judge who was despondent about the death of his wife intentionally overdosed on laudanum, a Progressive Era opium tincture. One of the first jumpers, Jacobs wrote in his 2003 PW story, was the “ill wife of a Los Angeles tie maker.”

One of the most shocking incidents occurred in 1937, when Myrtle Ward, a young, depressed mother who had just lost her job, threw her baby off the bridge and then jumped herself. The baby landed in a tree and survived; her mother did not.

“I felt a little callous even writing about suicide, because what do I know? Think about somebody who lost a loved one there and they have to drive by that bridge every day,” Jacobs said. “I tried to keep the suicide part only a consequential element of the book, not the driving force.”

The city of Pasadena still struggles to this day with how to prevent suicides while maintaining the historical and aesthetic character of the bridge, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In May, the city hired Donald MacDonald Architects to develop a proposal to address the issue. On Sept. 26, the city held its first community meeting for its Colorado Street Bridge Suicide Mitigation Enhancements Project to present the design of a vertical barrier with end treatments and gather feedback and ideas from the public.

“I don’t know the answer, but I’m sure some kind of barrier can coexist with the original magnificence of the Colorado Street Bridge,” Jacobs said.

Kidney love story

Former Pasadena Mayor Bill Paparian receives a lifesaving kidney from his wife, Sona, even though they have different blood types

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 10/3/2019

Former Pasadena Mayor Bill Paparian is successfully recovering from a lifesaving kidney transplant from his wife of 37 years, Sona, even though they have different blood types.

The rare and relatively new procedure is known as an ABO incompatible transplant, which only a small number of hospitals in the United States are able to perform. It enabled Paparian, 70, who has had kidney disease for 12 years, to receive the healthy organ just 10 months after starting dialysis rather than the many years it usually takes, if at all.

“I’m getting stronger every day,” Paparian told the Pasadena Weekly. “I have to confess it was a real struggle in the beginning. It wasn’t easy post-surgery. I basically was confined at home for weeks, which was pretty difficult for me because I’m normally a very active person. Two of my three sons, my oldest and my youngest, were there to take care of us. We basically had to have someone help us each day. My oldest son returned from Armenia, where he lives and works, for five weeks so he could be with me and my wife and help out.”

The surgery took place on Aug. 6 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. A criminal defense attorney, Paparian is already back to work and back in the gym.

“I went to court for the first time last week,” he said. “I was in court yesterday morning. I’m in my office right now waiting to meet with clients. I’m slowly getting back to where I was physically. I’m not there yet, but I’m slowly getting there.”

Paparian said his wife researched their options after he signed up on the National Kidney Registry and discovered the ABO incompatible transplant procedure. He said in a blog post on Cedars-Sinai’s website that Sona “stepping up like this is a real testament to our very strong relationship.”

He added that when he first went to Cedars-Sinai in 2016 he wasn’t told about the possibility of an ABO incompatible transplant.

“My understanding was that you had to find a donor with the same blood type as your own,” he said. “I’m A positive and Sona is B. So when we found out that that was an option, we went back to Cedars and we both had to go through an intensive screening process. There was a lot to it. It took a long time, about 10 months before we were finally cleared for the procedure.”

Now the Paparians are spreading the word about the procedure, which Cedars-Sinai began performing in 2005, according to a hospital blog. Only about 200 have taken place since then, and success rates are “in line with lower-risk compatible kidney transplants,” according to Dr. Stanley Jordan, medical director of Cedars-Sinai’s Kidney Transplant Program. Jordan “led the development of a process that greatly reduces the risk of the body rejecting a new kidney,” a process that “has been instrumental in the success of ABO incompatible transplants,” according to the blog.

Paparian told Cedars-Sinai that he initially resisted going on dialysis, and instead went on a “strict renal diet and even sought stem cell therapy in Florida. In October, however, he nearly collapsed while attending an event, and his doctor at Huntington Hospital told him he needed to begin dialysis.

Paparian served on the Pasadena City Council from 1987 (when it was known as the Board of City Directors) to 1999, including a term as mayor from 1995 to 1997. While serving as mayor, he visited Cuba and called for an end to the US. trade embargo against the communist-led island nation. In 2006, he ran for Congress on the Green Party ticket against Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, receiving 5.5 percent of the votes cast, or about 6,800 votes.

Bill and Sona met in 1981. Sona’s brother introduced them while she was visiting the United States from her hometown of Aleppo, Syria. According to the Cedars-Sinai blog, Bill and Sona “stayed up all night talking, causing Sona to miss her flight the next day back to Syria. Within two weeks, before Sona got on another flight home, Bill proposed to her, and they were married the next year on Valentine’s Day.”

Photo courtesy of Cedars-Sinai

Fourth time's the charm

Trump taps Pasadena ‘Reagan Republican’ Robert C. O’Brien to take over as National Security Advisor

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 9/30/2019

On Sept. 18, President Trump named Ambassador Robert C. O’Brien, a Pasadena resident, as his fourth National Security Advisor. Trump made the announcement on Twitter while visiting Los Angeles.

“I am pleased to announce that I will name Robert C. O’Brien, currently serving as the very successful Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the State Department, as our new National Security Advisor,” Trump tweeted. “I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!”

O’Brien enters an administration mired in chaos as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the launch of a formal impeachment inquiry against the president on Sept. 24. In August, a whistleblower in the intelligence community filed a complaint against the president for allegedly pressuring incoming Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate Trump’s potential political rival in the 2020 election, former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, and allegedly threatening to withhold hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine if they didn’t comply with Trump’s request.

The move to hire O’Brien came shortly after the departure of Trump’s previous National Security Advisor, Ambassador John Bolton. Trump said he fired Bolton, while Bolton insisted that he offered to resign first. The two disagreed about a number of foreign policy issues, including Afghanistan, Iran and North Korea. O’Brien has similar ideological views as Bolton, though he is much less confrontational and is well-liked by those who know him.

As Trump’s hostage negotiator, O’Brien led the US government’s diplomatic efforts to secure the release of Americans held hostage worldwide while liaising with their families in the United States. A conservative Republican, he has served in both Democratic and Republican administrations in State Department positions and as a representative to the UN General Assembly under Bolton. He was also a major in the US Army Reserve.

O’Brien is the co-founding partner of Larson O’Brien LLP in Los Angeles, a litigation firm that focuses on international arbitration. Before moving to Pasadena, O’Brien lived for many years in La Cañada Flintridge. He had two sons, one of whom tragically drowned in 2015. O’Brien converted from Catholicism to Mormonism in his 20s, and is the author of the 2016 book, “While America Slept: Restoring American Leadership to a World in Crisis.” He has long argued for expanding the U.S. military, particularly the Navy.

In 2016, O’Brien laid out what he thought the incoming 45th president’s foreign policy priorities and national security agenda should be in an article for the Pacific Council on International Policy, an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan organization in Los Angeles dedicated to foreign affairs. He argued that the new president “must commit to a national security policy of ‘peace through strength,’ reassert American leadership, and rebuild our alliances.” He has been a member of the Pacific Council since 2007.

While he was not a “Never Trump” Republican, O’Brien also wasn’t a full-fledged Trump supporter from the beginning. During the 2016 Republican primary season, O’Brien served as foreign policy adviser to the failed presidential bids of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and then Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. O’Brien also served as a senior adviser to then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, and considers himself a traditional Reagan Republican who warns against isolationism.

“Ambassador Robert O’Brien has been a valued member of the Pacific Council for over a decade,” said Dr. Jerrold Green, president and CEO of the Pacific Council. “His long career of public service, as well as recent successes as Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs at the US Department of State, have been characterized by great integrity, commitment, effectiveness and success and the country is lucky to have Robert as its new National Security Advisor.”

Act two

Former TV news anchor Kent Shocknek goes 'from reality to make believe' with new acting career

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 9/26/2019

Kent Shocknek’s post-retirement life has been an unexpected surprise. The longtime news anchor and Pasadena resident has recently turned his newscaster career into a successful acting career.

Born Kent Schoknecht in 1956 in Berkeley, he moved to Pasadena in 1983, where he changed the spelling of his last name to Shocknek. He worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram while attending USC, then at KCAU in Sioux City, Iowa, and then as an anchor and space shuttle reporter for WFTV in Orlando, Florida.

In 1986, he took a morning news anchor job at NBC4 in Los Angeles, where he became a household name. During the magnitude 5.9 Whittier Narrows earthquake in 1987, he took cover under his anchor desk while continuing to cover the story. In 2001, he moved to CBS2 News in LA, where he anchored morning and evening newscasts. In 2013, he moved again to KCAL9, where he anchored the evening and nighttime news.

He has won eight regional Emmy awards, two LA Press Club awards, a Golden Mic award for best daytime newscast and a William Randolph Hearst award for investigative reporting. He has also logged more hours as an anchor than anyone else in Los Angeles. The city of Los Angeles proclaimed Jan. 10, 2014 Kent Shocknek Day to honor his decades of service.

Shocknek retired from anchoring in 2014. His acting credits begin in 2004, but his second career really started picking up after his retirement.

While he mostly plays news anchors in movies and television shows because he has that look and experience, he is also seeing success in portraying other friendly authority figures, the guy next door and the everyman.

His long list of more than 60 credits include such well-known titles as “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” “Manhunt,” “The Purge,” “The West Wing,” “Monk,” “ER,” “Bosch,” “Criminal Minds,” “CSI: NY,” “NCIS,” “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Law and Order,” “The Righteous Gemstones” and many others. Sometimes, he even plays himself.

Shocknek recently sat down with the Pasadena Weekly to discuss his life and career.

Pasadena Weekly: You’ve been at the anchor desk during some major news stories over the years. What was that like to be the trusted source of information for so many people?

Kent Shocknek: First of all, it’s tremendously humbling, because it’s such an honor to be able to be invited into people’s homes and, if lucky, be invited back into their homes on a daily basis. I always liked anchoring because field reporters could look at something up close and see every little detail, while the anchor person had the opportunity to be one step removed and look back at the big picture. I always liked being able to see how this story relates to this story and how what’s happening here connects to what’s happening there. … I enjoyed my relationship with the audience. It was absolutely not a one-way thing. I always felt that what I needed to do was be the person who was telling people what we did know and not speculating about what we didn’t know, and trying to show that they could trust what it was that we were reporting on.

What are some of the more memorable stories you covered over the years?

There were too many to count. Of course the big events stand out: the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, when we were on the air covering the launch itself before the explosion, a number of earthquakes and wildfires and big storms, the Los Angeles riots.

It’s usually the most remembered stories are the big stories, but for me, the happiest stories often were the smallest stories. I remember one little girl who lost her tooth on her way to school and we did a very cute story about her. And the stories that make a difference, like when you see a family being reunited. I always liked the stories that were small and personal because I think we can all relate to them.

How did you turn your anchor career into an acting career?

I think after years of seeing me on the screen every day, producers and casting directors recognized they could have someone who looked like an anchor and knew how to talk into a camera and give a project whatever credibility I might have. When I called it a day anchoring, I thought it would be interesting to see if what I had learned would translate into roles in addition to newscasters and commentators, other friendly authority figures like businessmen, fathers or lawmakers, and so far I’ve had some success and we’re picking up a little steam.

What current and upcoming projects are you working on?

In addition to playing newscasters, I’ve recently played an honest businessman in a crooked company and a widower who was speed dating. I just finished an episode of “The Righteous Gemstones” [an HBO show by Danny McBride that satirizes televangelists], and earlier this month I did three episodes of a show called “Manhunt” in Pittsburgh, a cult thriller called “Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon” in New Orleans which is a movie with Kate Hudson, an episode of “Manifest” on NBC in New York and a commercial in Seattle.

That was all during the summertime, which traditionally is sort of a slow time for a lot of productions, but I think I must have tapped into something and been tremendously lucky because it’s really picked up more than a summer has had a right to do by my estimation.

End of the road

Nonprofits await new homes after lawmakers pull the plug on the 710 tunnel

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 9/19/2019

The state Legislature passed a bill last week that brings nonprofit tenants of Caltrans-owned properties such as Arlington Garden one step closer to purchasing their properties from the state transportation agency.

Recently named Nonprofit of the Year by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, Arlington Garden, Pasadena’s only dedicated regenerative Mediterranean Chaparral climate garden, is holding its annual fundraiser on Sept. 29.

“Instead of a freeway, we built a garden,” said Michelle Matthews, executive director of Arlington Garden. “In that same vein, in addition to purchasing the garden property, we hope to purchase one of the Caltrans homes and turn it into an urban design and ecology library and nonprofit co-working space. That way, we don’t have to build structures that impact the garden and we get to continue our same successful gardening principles, to help everyone understand the value of regenerative landscaping.”

If signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate Bill 7, introduced by Portantino, a former La Cañada Flintridge mayor and council member, also effectively kills the 710 North freeway tunnel as a replacement for an overland connector by removing the planned extension between the 710 and 210 freeways — something that’s been on the books since the 1940s — from the state highway code as of Jan. 1, 2024. SB 7 also includes housing provisions such as a rent hike freeze and an extended deadline for Caltrans tenants in its Affordable Rent Program.

A second bill, Assembly Bill 29, introduced by Democrat Assembly member Chris Holden, a former Pasadena mayor and council member, contains language identical to SB 7 regarding the tunnel, minus the additional housing provisions. If Newsom decides not to support the housing provisions in SB 7, signing AB 29 will still effectively kill the tunnel plan. He has until Oct. 13 to sign the bills. Whichever bill he signs last becomes law.

‘The Final Nail’

For decades, Caltrans has tried to connect the 710 and 210 freeways first by acquiring more than 460 properties in the 710 Corridor — which includes portions of West Pasadena, South Pasadena and the Los Angeles neighborhood of El Sereno — with the intention of razing them to build a surface freeway, and then, when that was defeated, by exploring ways to build a tunnel through portions of West Pasadena to connect the two freeways.

Due to environmental, health and cost concerns, along with local opposition from the cities that would have been most impacted by the project, Caltrans capitulated to political pressure and decided not to move forward with the tunnel project, according to an environmental impact report released by the state agency on Nov. 28.

The department instead chose to pursue transit improvements, increased bus use, traffic signal optimization, intersection improvements and other projects. Cities in the region, including

Pasadena, have been allocated hundreds of millions of dollars from Measure R funds for those and related projects.

“Generations who have been fighting this freeway can rest in peace knowing that they made this day happen and that the freeway will never get completed,” Portantino said in a statement. “Many people worked collaboratively to get us to this place, giving moral support for those of us in office and providing the runway to let this 60-year-old plane land.”

Claire Bogaard, a long-time anti-710 activist and member of the No 710 Action Committee, said she was “extremely grateful to our senator for putting the final nail in the 710 tunnel’s coffin. He has been by our side for two decades. When SB 7 is signed we can all finally sigh in relief.”

However, Caltrans successfully negotiated the removal of language from the original bill that would have compelled the state agency to immediately relinquish control of the freeway “stubs” — areas where the existing freeways end — to the cities of Pasadena and Alhambra. Caltrans now retains control of the stub lands until 2024, which worries some anti-710 activists.

“I’ve long suspected Caltrans is not an honest broker,” William Sherman, a member of South Pasadena’s Freeway and Transportation Commission, told the South Pasadenan newspaper. “This gives them four years to do something. I don’t know what, but I suspect the tunnel is not dead. Caltrans has been strongly opposed to giving back the stubs to the cities and they have said so on multiple occasions. It’s not a shocker but I expected more from our state legislators.”

SB 7 authorizes the California Transportation Commission to relinquish the north stub area near California Boulevard to the city of Pasadena “upon terms and conditions the commission finds to be in the best interests of the state, if the department and the city enter into an agreement providing for that relinquishment,” the bill states. “The city of Pasadena shall ensure the continuity of traffic flow on the relinquished portion of Route 710.”

For several years, a group of Pasadena residents have been working on the Connecting Pasadena Plan, developing a vision for what the stub land could look like if the city of Pasadena were to acquire it. That could include reconnecting east-west streets that were divided by the freeway and building new green space or parkland, a boulevard and new retail, office and residential development.

Garden Party

SB 7 also makes permanent a rent hike freeze for tenants who reside in Caltrans properties in the 710 Corridor and are in the Affordable Rent Program. It also gets rid of the so-called “2012 policy,” an arbitrary rule Caltrans used to prevent tenants who moved in after August 2012 from being eligible for the Affordable Rent Program. The new eligibility deadline is July 1, 2019.

The bill also helps the nonprofit tenants in the 710 Corridor purchase their properties in a fiscally prudent manner,” including Arlington Garden, Ronald McDonald House, Sequoyah School and others. In late 2016, Caltrans announced it would sell the 710 properties in three phases, but so far has only sold a handful. Caltrans has not released a timeline for when the hundreds of remaining properties will be sold. More than 160 houses — including about 50 percent of the houses that Caltrans owns in Pasadena — are vacant and falling into disrepair, according to an investigation by the Pasadena Star-News. Caltrans does not rent out houses again after they become vacant.

Arlington Garden will hold its annual fundraiser, Autumn in the Garden, from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 29. During the event, the garden’s newly completed custom Batchelder tile fountain, designed by local artist Cha-Rie Tang, will be dedicated to the founders of the community-built, climate-appropriate garden, Charles McKenney, who died in 2015, and Betty McKenney, who died last year. Charles McKenney served as a member of the Pasadena Board of City Directors, now called the City Council, from 1972 to 1978.

Tickets are $45 and $65. There will also be a special VIP reception from 3 to 4 p.m. Tickets for that event are $150.

Autumn in the Garden will be “an immersive, sensory experience with music curated by dublab, a listener supported, nonprofit radio station dedicated to the growth of music, arts and culture,” according to a press release from Arlington Garden. There will also be other live music performances.

Matthews said Arlington Garden and the other nonprofit tenants are excited to move forward now that the 710 tunnel is officially dead.

“With the passing of SB 7, Sen. Portantino is helping to ensure that our nonprofits, which provide so many public benefits, can afford the properties that we have made improvements on and have long sought to own,” said Matthews.

For more information about Arlington Garden, visit

Piece by piece

As Pasadena celebrates the centennial of the 19th Amendment, activists say the right to vote was but one of many big victories needed for full gender equality

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 8/22/2019

Monday, Aug. 26, Women’s Equality Day, marks the 99th anniversary of ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. 

In commemoration, two floats in the 2020 Rose Parade will celebrate the 100th anniversary and the history of the women’s suffrage movement: one produced by the city of South Pasadena, the other by a diverse group of Pasadena women and the National Women’s History Alliance, under the auspices of a nonprofit called Pasadena Celebrates 2020.

The theme of Pasadena Celebrates 2020’s float is “Years of Hope, Years of Courage,” with the tagline, “Upon Their Shoulders, We Won the Vote. Upon Our Shoulders, We Protect the Vote. We Celebrate and Build for the Future.” The theme of South Pasadena’s float is “Victory at Last.”

The theme of the 2020 Rose Parade is “The Power of Hope.” This year’s Tournament of Roses president, Laura Farber, is the third woman — and first Latina — to preside over the parade in its 131-year history.

Between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Sunday and Monday, California Pizza Kitchen restaurants in Pasadena, Santa Anita, Glendale, Burbank and Studio City will donate 20 percent of their proceeds toward building the Pasadena Celebrates 2020 float.

“There are still people who have trouble with the vote,” observed Martha Wheelock, who serves on Pasadena Celebrates 2020’s executive committee. “It’s keeping it both historical and how we feel we’re guardians of it. It’s not history; it’s still going on.”

'Unbossed and unbought'

The 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment will be August 2020, but Ellen Snortland — long-time Pasadena Weekly columnist, self-defense advocate, sexual assault survivor, author, playwright and filmmaker — wants to educate people ahead of time. That’s why, in addition to helping the Pasadena Celebrates 2020 float committee, she has curated an exhibit on the women’s suffrage movement in the north lobby of the Pasadena Central Library.

Martha Wheelock and Ellen Snortland

“1920 is the year we actually won the vote,” said Snortland. “People say, ‘Oh, they were given the vote.’ No, we weren’t given shit — yeah, we were given a lot of shit. It’s a big deal that women won the vote without having to kill anybody. Gandhi got his ideas of nonviolent social change from watching the women in the UK and the United States, and hardly anybody knows that. He saw them picketing and chaining themselves to the White House fence. They were just not putting up with the hypocrisy. President [Woodrow] Wilson was fighting a war to promote democracy in Europe and half of his population couldn’t vote.”

Her exhibit runs through Aug. 31 and features her personal collection, decades in the making, of dresses, books, photos, pamphlets, political cartoons, campaign buttons and other artifacts highlighting the major players and moments of the movement in the United States, as well as the UK suffragettes. Wheelock also donated some of her memorabilia with a focus on California. The exhibit will return to the library in December and March.

The exhibit pays tribute to several women and men who played key roles in the fight for women’s suffrage. For instance, one shelf displays a pair of ruby slippers, a nod to L. Frank Baum, who wrote the original “Wizard of Oz” series.

“I have been studying this long enough that I get connections that a lot of people aren’t aware of,” said Snortland. “For instance, this woman, Matilda Joslyn Gage, was one of the most radical of the radicals, and that’s why you’ve never heard of her. She said it’s the patriarchal religions that have the feet on our necks, and that was just not going to fly in her time. However, she influenced her son-in-law, L. Frank Baum, to be not only someone who was interested in having a female protagonist, Dorothy, but to be a suffragist himself who promoted women’s rights and equal rights big time. Perhaps, if it hadn’t been for Matilda Joslyn Gage, we would not have had Dorothy.”

The exhibit also pays homage to famous first political campaigns, including Victoria Woodhull, Shirley Chisholm and Hillary Clinton.

“Woodhull was completely notorious and a brilliant woman,” said Snortland. “She ran on a ticket with Frederick Douglass,” an escaped slave who became a social reformer, abolitionist, orator, statesman and writer who penned numerous autobiographies. “Of course, they didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning that, but she ran and she was important. And we have Shirley Chisholm, who was a serious contender,” Snortland said of Chisolm, the first black woman elected to Congress, who served New York from 1969 to 1983. Her signature campaign slogan was “Unbossed and unbought.” Last year, the Washington Post wrote that her “feminist mantra is still relevant 50 years later.”

'Where are the women?'

Snortland’s exhibit features the women who are considered the mothers of the US suffrage movement, such as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, as well as lesser known but equally important figures, including women of color such as Sojourner Truth.

“The African-American women were thrown under the bus by not only white women but by Frederick Douglass, who was caught between a rock and a hard place,” said Snortland. “He had to make a devil’s decision, which was, ‘Do I get behind the vote for black men, or do I wait for universal suffrage?’ And he decided he needed to get behind black men, but that threw all these African-American women under the wagon, so to speak. And the white women did that, too, because the best way to control people is to have them fight each other and then the dominant class doesn’t have to deal with it.”

An important part of the exhibit features Native American women, who promulgated and practiced democracy and provided early lessons in gender equality.

“Ben Franklin and the early suffragists got their ideas about gender equality from the Haudenosaunee, commonly known as the Iroquois Confederation,” said Snortland. “They are the longest standing practicing democracy on the planet. Ben Franklin invited two leaders from the Haudenosaunee to visit Philadelphia during the Constitutional Convention. They walked in and said, ‘Where are the women? You can’t create a society without women.’ They thought they were nuts.”

The exhibit also features Pasadena resident, suffragist and author Charlotte Perkins Gilman. She wrote the semi-autobiographical short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” after a severe bout of postpartum psychosis, as well as the novel Herland, considered to be the first science fiction book, about a society composed entirely of women who reproduce through parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction). She also wrote a book way ahead of its time called Women and Economics: A Study of the Economic Relation Between Men and Women as a Factor in Social Evolution, which inspired women to start their own businesses.

The exhibit also focuses on the substantial anti-suffrage movement, which Snortland categorized as the foremothers of the ultraconservative Eagle Forum, which was founded by anti-feminist firebrand Phyllis Schlafly in 1972.

“They were determined to keep traditional womanhood and rigid gender roles in place,” said Snortland. “They basically believed the extent of a woman’s life should be to get married and have kids. They were promulgating the idea that if women voted, their ovaries would dry up, and a lot of the women who already had eight children said, ‘Great idea! Sounds good to me.’

Piecemeal struggles and hatchetations

Snortland’s exhibit is one of many exhibits, conferences, parades and other events across the country telling different aspects of the movement’s story, including three major exhibits at the Library of Congress, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Archive Museum in the nation’s capital, all curated by women.

The exhibits, including Snortland’s, bring forward lesser known elements of the story, such as the fact that the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Parade was the first peaceful march on Washington. And that the temperance movement was led by women such as Carrie Nation who went into saloons and used a hatchet to break bottles and chop up bars in acts she called her “hatchetations.”

It also shows how ratification of the 19th Amendment came down to one vote in the Tennessee Legislature, the last state to seal the deal. Assembly member Harry T. Burn, who wore a red rose to represent his opposition to women’s suffrage, cast the deciding vote in favor of the 19th Amendment when, at the last minute of roll call, someone brought him an envelope. He opened it, read it, put it in his pocket and changed to a yellow rose, signifying his newfound support of women’s suffrage.

“It was a letter from his mother saying, ‘Please, let your mother vote,’” said Snortland. “By one vote, we were ratified. Unbelievable. But that’s the existential question, isn’t it: how do you win the vote if you can’t vote for yourself?”

Dr. Robyn Muncy, a historian at the University of Maryland and one of the curators of the National Archives exhibit, told The New York Times that the ratification of the 19th Amendment was not the final “triumphant culmination” of the movement, “but one landmark in a struggle for equal rights for all citizens that isn’t over yet.”

“It’s important to remember how piecemeal a struggle it was,” Muncy said. “Seeing change as coming in one fell swoop undermines us as citizens and gives us a false idea about the way change happens.”

Mourning in America

Pasadenans call for gun control and immigration reform at a Villa Parke vigil for the victims of recent mass shootings

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 8/15/2019

Americans across the country are demanding action on gun violence and white supremacist extremism, which has manifested in a decidedly anti-immigrant flare.

On Wednesday, Aug. 14, activists marched from All Saints Church to the Richard H. Chambers US Court of Appeals in West Pasadena to protest the Trump administration’s arguments to cancel the Temporary Protected Status for immigrants from six countries.

On Aug. 7, about 300 people mourned the victims of the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, during a candlelit vigil at Villa Parke in Northwest Pasadena.

And during an interfaith panel discussion on white supremacy on Aug. 5 at All Saints, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena) said Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton weren’t just the latest mass shootings; they were acts of domestic terrorism. Increasingly, national security experts are concerned about the rise of this far-right extremism in the United States.

“There is no escaping the clear and present danger of white supremacist violence in the United States and the terrible urgency to confront it,” said Schiff. “Simply put, it’s domestic terrorism. Acts of unspeakable violence motivated by a hateful ideology which justifies them as a means to an end. It shouldn’t be hard or controversial to say that. After all, if the shooter in El Paso was Muslim, is there any question how the president would describe him?”

Schiff said the FBI is currently conducting 850 active domestic terrorism investigations.

“People are now feeling free to express themselves in the most hateful of ways because they hear the president doing it and don’t see an outcry,” Schiff added. Some Democratic presidential candidates have called Trump himself a racist and a white supremacist.

The 21-year-old El Paso shooter, who drove 10 hours on Aug. 3 to kill 22 people and injure 24 in a Walmart, told law enforcement officials that he was specifically targeting Mexicans. He also used language in his manifesto that echoed President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric, such as calling immigrants “invaders.”

It was the largest anti-Latino shooting in modern American history. The Latino community across the country feels under attack. Other countries are now issuing travel warnings to their citizens about the United States. Mexico vowed to take legal action against the United States for failing to protect the eight Mexican nationals who were killed in El Paso.

‘Enough is Enough’

“The events of this weekend show how vulnerable we are in Pasadena,” Jennipha-Lauren Nielsen, who organized the Villa Parke vigil, wrote on the event webpage. “We must remain strong in our commitment against white supremacy. That is El Paso’s strength. Nothing will change that. Today, we must reaffirm our commitment to that strength. And we must redouble our commitment to defeat the vile worldview of white supremacy.”

The Villa Parke vigil was sponsored by the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON). Friends In Deed Executive Director Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater and NDLON Executive Director Pablo Alvarado delivered remarks, in addition to Nielsen. Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek and his wife Maria were also in attendance, as were District 5 City Council member Victor Gordo and Police Chief John Perez.

Peter Dreier, an urban and environmental policy professor at Occidental College, wrote on Facebook that people attended the vigil to “protest white supremacy, mistreatment of immigrants, rampant gun violence and Donald Trump. The crowd was wonderfully diverse by race, ethnicity, age and faith traditions. We sang together in Spanish and English, including Leonard Cohen’s inspiring ‘Hallelujah.’ The next steps will include trips to the border, a march to the federal courthouse in Pasadena and vigils at the local detention center. Si se puede!”

The same day as the Pasadena vigil, Aug. 7, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents raided several food processing plants across Mississippi and arrested 680 undocumented workers — but not the managers who hired them — just four days after the El Paso shooter targeted Latinos. It was the largest workplace raid in at least a decade. ICE did not inform Trump about the raid ahead of time, afraid that he would speak publicly about it like he did before other planned raids.

This reporter visited the El Paso/Juárez border in March when the arrival of Central American migrants surged to the point where existing detention and housing facilities became overwhelmed. Under the border bridge between Juárez and El Paso, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) was holding a large number of migrants, including families and children. Despite the hot days and cold nights, they were being forced to sleep in the open air with silver mylar “space” blankets, exposed to the elements. There was also a pair of CBP agents at the middle of the bridge checking documents and turning away asylum seekers before they could reach the physical border where they are allowed to claim asylum.

“The hate-filled speeches that incite violence, the criminalizing of entire families and communities and the scandalous collusion of elected officials with hate groups — enough is enough,” wrote Nielsen.

‘Do Something!’

It has become a familiar refrain: after a mass shooting, calls for action on gun control get largely ignored by elected officials. Research from online public opinion firm Civiqs shows that public support for gun control increases after a high-profile shooting, then peters out after a few weeks. But support is steadily increasing, and the hard-line anti-gun control coalition is starting to show some cracks.

At a rally in Ohio, a crowd mourning the Dayton victims drowned out the remarks of Republican Gov. Mike DeWine with chants of “Do something! Do something!”

Even before the recent shootings, polls showed public support for gun control measures such as universal background checks at about 90 percent. Last week, Trump seemed open to at least exploring background checks and red flag laws, which would authorize law enforcement to take guns away from those a court has deemed a threat to others. Whether he follows through is another matter, as he has changed his position on gun control many times over the past few years. He and other Republicans were quick to blame the violence on video games and mental illness, while other countries also have those but don’t experience routine, horrific shootings as nearly as much as the United States.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), in a rare reversal of his usual stance, said background checks would be “front and center” when the Senate reconvenes in September. He did not, however, call the Senate back into session this month to tackle the issue, which many consider a national emergency. The Democratic-led House of Representatives passed a gun control measure in February, but it has been held up in the Senate by McConnell ever since.

Meanwhile, the National Rifle Association (NRA) is in a tailspin. Its president, Oliver North, was pushed out earlier this year by its long-time CEO Wayne LaPierre, who is being criticized by its board of directors and members for lavish spending and mismanaging finances. Infighting has also recently led to the shuttering of the organization’s controversial NRATV station and the severing of ties with its long-time PR firm Ackerman McQueen and its top lobbyist, Christopher Cox, who was seen as LaPierre’s successor.

The Washington Post reported last week that Trump has been asking aides whether the NRA is as powerful as it used to be and whether it can push back as hard if the White House were to pursue stronger gun control measures. Time will tell if the NRA still has the clout to hold off the public’s growing demands for action against the epidemic of gun violence.

Next Steps

Villa Parke will be the location of another upcoming event, a “Support Immigrant Rights” rally from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 22. The sponsors of this rally include St. Philip’s Church, Lake Avenue Church, Adelante Youth Center, NDLON, Pasadena Jewish Temple and Center’s Social Justice Committee and Day One.

The themes of the rally are “Bridges Not Walls” and “Sanctuary Not Detention,” with the goal of showing “solidarity with immigrants and refugees, including about 50 families now in Pasadena.” Immigration attorneys will be on site and people can either sign up to support immigrant rights or contribute to a legal defense fund for immigrant families.

A Hero's Welcome

World Cup-winning U.S. women’s soccer team kicks off victory tour with a 3-0 win over Ireland at the Rose Bowl

By Justin Chapman, Pasadena Weekly, 8/8/2019

Fresh off their second World Cup win in a row (and fourth total), the U.S. women’s national soccer team defeated Ireland 3-0 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Saturday. The game was the U.S. team’s first since the World Cup Final against the Netherlands on July 7 in Lyon, France, in which the United States beat the Netherlands 2-0.

A fireworks display inside the Rose Bowl welcomed the two teams. Forward Tobin Heath scored the first goal in the 16th minute by heading the ball into the net and midfielder Lindsay Horan scored the second goal in the 31st minute. Forward Carli Lloyd scored another header for the third goal in the 41st minute and received the Budweiser Woman of the Match award. Ireland was able to hold off the U.S. team in the second half.

Several times during the game, the crowd of 37,040 people broke into chants of “Equal pay! Equal pay!” in support of the U.S. women’s team’s “equal pay for equal work” lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, the body that governs the sport in the United States.

The match against Ireland kicked off a five-game victory tour for the U.S. team and was the fifth U.S. women’s game at the Rose Bowl, the first in 17 years and the third since the U.S. team won the groundbreaking 1999 Women’s World Cup. And it was the first time each of the current U.S. players actually played in the Rose Bowl. The remaining four games in the victory tour will see the U.S. team face off against Portugal on Aug. 29 in Philadelphia, PA, and Sept. 3 in St. Paul, MN, and against South Korea on Oct. 3 in Charlotte, NC, and Oct. 6 in Chicago, IL.

‘Full circle’

In the 1999 World Cup Final at the Rose Bowl, the U.S. women’s team tied with China, leading to nail-biting penalty kicks in front of a crowd of 90,185 people, the largest ever for a women’s sporting event. U.S. player Brandi Chastain scored the final goal to put the U.S. team over the top at 5-4, inspiring legions of young girls and boys playing soccer across the country, including the current U.S. team’s players, who were between four and 14 years old at the time. It was a watershed moment for women’s sports.

Playing in the same stadium as the 1999 team 20 years later “is extraordinary, a full circle moment,” midfielder Megan Rapinoe, 34, from Redding, CA, told the Pasadena Weekly before the U.S. team’s Friday practice at the Rose Bowl.

“We’re all in that age that we were inspired by that win,” she added. “To be able to come back here and celebrate a huge win that we had and connect the dots all the way through the program is very special.”

After scoring the winning penalty kick in 1999, Chastain slid onto her knees in triumph and ripped off her shirt, revealing her sports bra. It was a moment seen--and dissected--around the world, and the ensuing controversy highlighted the double standard facing female athletes.

On July 10, the 20th anniversary of that 1999 World Cup Final, the Rose Bowl Legacy Foundation installed a bronze statue of Chastain’s iconic moment, depicting her on her knees clutching her derobed jersey with a look of pure exultation on her face. The statue is located in front of the stadium’s main entrance, Gate A, near where countless youth soccer games take place, ensuring that the moment will continue to inspire new generations of soccer players. Chastain herself attended the statue’s unveiling ceremony.

“[This statue] is not just for one person, it’s for every little soccer player out there,” Chastain said at the unveiling. “I hope every player who puts on cleats has a moment like that.”

Players Lorrie Fair and Saskia Webber from the 1999 team were also at the unveiling and read off the names of their other teammates.

“The impact of the [1999] victory, to sports and to women, cannot be overstated,” Pasadena City Council member Margaret McAustin, who represents District 2, said at the unveiling.

Marla Messinger, who served as president and COO of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup Organizing Committee, said the women of the 1999 team “redefined what it meant to be a female athlete. They were educated, articulate, beautiful and as unafraid to be as tough and competitive on the field as they were collegial and engaging off the field.”

‘Just what this country needs right now’

On Friday, one day before their game against Ireland, the U.S. women’s team held a practice session on the Rose Bowl’s Spieker Field and spoke about the legacy of the trailblazing 1999 team.

Jill Ellis, the U.S. team’s head coach, said Chastain’s iconic moment was the inspiration to play soccer for some of the current team’s players. Ellis announced on July 30 that she is retiring after five years and 103 wins. She will continue to coach the team through their victory tour, which ends Oct. 6, and she has been nominated for FIFA’s 2019 Best Women’s Coach award, which she also won in 2015. She is the first coach to win two Women’s World Cup titles, including last month in France and in 2015 in Canada.

“That moment [in 1999] was the catalyst of a movement in terms of suddenly taking this game to a level where it reaches a bigger audience, it touches more people, it attracts more investment,” said Ellis, 52. “It pushed us forward and upward. It was a touchstone to what came next. It’s fitting that we’re here. The Rose Bowl is pretty special. This is a great place to kick [our victory tour] off. Part of what this celebration is about is saying thank you to our fans.”

Forward Alex Morgan, 30, who grew up in Diamond Bar, CA, and played soccer at UC Berkeley, said her team was continuing the legacy started by the 1999 team.

“The ‘99ers had such a domino and lasting effect on both myself but also the future of women’s soccer in the United States and globally,” she said. “This team, the ‘19ers, is doing the same and continuing to uphold that legacy. but it definitely started with the ‘99ers right here [at the Rose Bowl].”

Morgan and Rapinoe did not play Saturday because of injuries.

“[The 1999] team laid the foundation for the mentality of all the teams after it,” said midfielder Rose Lavelle, 24. “That mentality and the legacy they left is what has carried this program through so much success. Being able to step on the same field as them when they won the World Cup is so cool and surreal.”

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti attended Friday’s practice and gave the championship team some words of encouragement.

“You’re just what this country needs right now,” he told them.

The U.S. women’s team didn’t just win the World Cup; they set several records along the way, including scoring the most goals in tournament history with 26 and the most goals in a single Women’s World Cup match and the largest margin of victory when they beat Thailand 13-0. The U.S. team has also won 12 consecutive World Cup matches, the longest winning streak in the tournament’s history.

On the same day as the unveiling of the Chastain statue, July 10, this year’s World Cup-winning U.S. women’s team received a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan to celebrate the team’s fourth World Cup win. Democratic presidential candidate and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio presented them with keys to the city.

Rapinoe, Morgan, Lavelle and midfielder Julie Ertz, 27, were all nominated for the 2019 Best FIFA Women’s Player award, along with eight other players from different countries. The winner will be announced at the Best FIFA Football Awards show on September 23 in Milan, Italy. Rapinoe also received the Golden Ball (World Cup MVP), Golden Boot (World Cup top scorer) and FIFA Player of the Match awards. Morgan won the Silver Boot as the second-leading scorer and Lavelle won the Bronze Ball as the third-best player in the tournament.

‘Doing what’s right’ on equal pay

Despite these accomplishments, the U.S. women’s national soccer team continues to make less money than the U.S. men’s national soccer team, which has not performed nearly as well as the women’s team. The men’s team didn’t even qualify for the 2018 World Cup, for instance, and they lost to Mexico in the Copa America tournament’s final game on the same day the women’s team won their World Cup Final, July 7.

In March, all 28 players on the U.S. women’s team filed a lawsuit against U.S. Soccer over allegations that the men’s team receives more in bonuses and game day pay, and that female players make as little as 38 percent of what male players make overall.

“We’re fighting here on the soccer level, but [the equal pay fight has] an even bigger scope, in the boardroom, in hospitals, in the teachers’ [lounge], it’s everywhere,” said Ellis. “At some point, it comes down to doing what’s right.”

On July 29, U.S. Soccer President Carlos Cordeiro released an open letter claiming the organization actually pays the women’s team more than the men even though the men’s team brings in more revenue than the women’s team. Yesterday, U.S. Soccer hired two Washington lobbying firms to push back against legislation requiring them to pay the women’s team as much as the men’s team. For their part, the men’s team has written public letters of support for the women’s team’s efforts.

“[Cordeiro’s letter] missed the whole point,” Rapinoe said. “It’s more about the potential earnings of each team, that’s what’s really unequal. We’ve won 85 percent of our games, so it’s more about the total compensation package. I’m not sure what the point was in him trying to say that, because it’s obviously not the point of what we’re fighting for. I’m looking forward to mediation.”

Rapinoe is also relishing her platform to serve as an antagonist to President Trump, who backtracked on his invitation for the championship women’s team to visit the White House after they won the World Cup.

“People are frustrated and fed up with all of the negativity and the cruelty coming from the [Trump] administration, not only just vulgar language but racist and sexist behavior,” Rapinoe said at the Rose Bowl.

She added that her message of unity for the country will “take really hard conversations and it’s going to be really awkward and difficult and it’s going to take a lot of work from every single person to do that, but my message is if you’re willing to come and have that hard conversation, that’s where the magic is and that’s where the real progress can be made. Absent that, we’re just going to keep fighting. I don’t think what’s happening right now is really working for anyone besides Donald Trump and a small percentage of people in the upper echelons of the 1 percent.”

U.S. hat trick

Looking ahead, the U.S. women’s team is preparing for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. And FIFA announced on July 31 that the number of participating countries in the 2023 Women’s World Cup will expand from 24 to 32, reflecting the growing popularity but also competitiveness of women’s soccer. FIFA will announce which country will host that tournament in May 2020.

The United States, which is hosting the men’s World Cup along with Mexico and Canada in 2026 and the Olympics in LA in 2028, is hoping to host the Women’s World Cup in 2027.