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African American news from Pasadena - Power Politics Pasadena Style

With a new Pasadena City College President and a new Pasadena Police Chief to be chosen, and the verdict still outstanding on the (still new) Pasadena Unified School District Superintendent, Pasadena is at a political crossroad. At the table when the decisions are made will be three African American women who have stepped into the gap to make sure that all voices will be there to be heard as major decisions are made about the direction of Pasadena. With the recent election of Berlinda Brown to the Pasadena City College Board of Trustees, African Americans are now represented at all three levels of Pasadena politics for the first time since Luther Renfro was replaced by Dr. Consuelo Rey Castro on the PCC Board. Brown, who is originally from Costa Rica, is bilingual and bi-cultural, and could be said to represent both African and Latino positions on the Board.  As an elected official, she joins Renatta Cooper who sits on the Pasadena Unified School District Board, and Jackie Robinson who sits on the Pasadena City Council. 

Recent events in the Pasadena Police Department and the departure of longtime Chief Bernard Melekian, leaves the Department in the hands of interim Chief Chris Vicino, a man whose name spells trouble in Pasadena's Black community.  The resignation of Melekian, after allowing Vicino to engineer the departure of three Black Commanders, Paul Gales, Rick Law and Kevin Hall, has  left a bad taste in the mouths of many Blacks. Most of the community was not aware of the events that led up to the elimination of Black officers who had given much of their lives to the Pasadena Police Department.

The picture left behind by Melekian is not pretty from a Black perspective. An analysis of Melekian's legacy shows that after moving temporarily to City Hall to become Interim City Manager, he allowed Vicino to set the stage to get rid of three Black Commanders. These actions cleared the way for Vicino to become Melekian's successor. In effect, Melekian placed Vicino in the position of eliminating his competition; therefore, there was no internal Black competition for Chief.

Also, Vicino's legacy in the African American Community is that he participated in the beating of local activist Michael Zin Zun who lost his eye in the melee. The incident caused the city to pay out millions of dollars to Zin Zun.  And Zin Zun later ran unsuccessfully for City Council against now Councilman Chris Holden. Ironically, Holden may now get to vote on whether Vicino becomes the new Chief.  Zin Zun has since passed, and his widow and supporters are solidly against Vicino becoming Chief.

African American participation in Pasadena was dealt a major blow when the new City Manager, Michael Beck, replaced Assistant City Manager Prentice Deadrick, who left voluntarily, with Steve Mermell. That move was seen as eliminating what was seen as the African American Assistant City Manager position. Now there is no Black staff in power positions at City Hall representing Northwest Pasadena. The move to hire Mermell as Assistant City Manager was not without controversy, as Beck announced that he had chosen the winner of the competition before the closing date for applicants.

At PUSD, after the hiring of Superintendent Diaz, Blacks at the Assistant Superintendent level no longer existed for the first time in years.

At PCC during the choosing of the outgoing President, Dr. Jackie Jacobs, PCC's only African American Vice President, was overlooked and not even given an interview. This move was allegedly based on what some say was the recommendation of now Board President Jeanette Mann. Mann is still there and Dr. Jacobs is being again encouraged by many inside and outside the African American community to put her hat in the ring for President, in spite of the past. Her Qualifications are unimpeachable and unquestionable.

The three new political players, Brown, Cooper and Robinson, all represent new voices in Pasadena politics. They are important on the issue of inclusion of all voices in governing the institutions of Pasadena and keeping it a great city.

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