Pasadena’s city council filled its vacant District 3 seat with local engineer Justin Jones, but a few citizens are concerned about the process.
John J. Kennedy, the incumbent for District 3, passed away last July shortly after winning his race for the next term against Brandon Lamar. Lamar won 41.06% of the vote to Kennedy’s 58.94%. The Pasadena City Council, following the rules of the city charter, selected and appointed Jones on September 29. The special meeting was broadcast live and recorded. Members of the public called in to make statements and ask questions of the candidates, and many asked that Lamar be considered for the seat. Kennedy’s passing, however, created an opening for two terms in district 3: the end of the current term and the next one.
According to the Pasadena City Charter, section 404, vacancies in the city council are to be appointed by the council, and if there is no agreement on a candidate, by lot. There are no provisions in the charter for a provisional or special election to fill vacancies. The appointee holds the position until the end of the term or the next election. While the current term for district 3 ends this December, the second term ends December 2024.
About 25 residents gathered to listen to a presentation covering the process of appointment and its problems in a town hall held on October 27 at the Jackie Robinson Community Center in Pasadena. Beverly Bogard, a district 3 resident, along with Gene Washington and others, were the organizers. Martin Gordon, chairman of the Pasadena Community Coalition, hosted the talk.
“We’re not here to discuss Brandon Lamar; we do want to discuss what the process is,” said Gordon. “The issue is when you get to this application process are you going to listen to what comes out of district 3, or are you going to just do whatever the city council wants to do — that’s the issue.”
Video of the meeting, posted to YouTube by Vernon Thompson, included clips of the Pasadena City Council discussing the appointment and public input. The council also announced an opportunity for public input on its website, but some citizens were unsatisfied.
“The process they went through, we feel, was flawed,” said Washington. “We think that the charter needs to be looked at, and maybe there need to be some reforms to the charter.”
The main issues are that some felt that the public input was not fully considered, the second term is too long for an appointment, and that there should be provisional elections included in the process. These concerns all point back to the charter. Robert Grant, who said his family has been in the city for about 100 years, called the appointment process unconstitutional.
“The constitution says one person, one vote, and when you don’t have that, you find yourself disenfranchised,” said Grant. “The reason why it is important is because it’s not just for a few months; for two years, the citizens inside district 3 will have no say over who’s actually in that seat.”
Interim appointments are not unusual for cities, and there have been numerous times in the past when the city council has appointed someone to a position. When current mayor Victor M. Gordo won his mayoral race, his district 5 seat was appointed to Jess Rivas from February 2021 to December 2022. She won the following election.
The appointment process for district 3 has already started its second round. The next term’s appointment for District 3 is on the city’s website. Applications are to be hand-delivered to the city clerk’s office with a $25 filing fee and at least 25 signatures from residents of the district by Dec. 1, Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Afterward, applicants will be invited to a public meeting with the council sometime during December. Lamar made it clear he intends to apply again.
Lamar is unaffiliated with the town hall but agrees with some of their complaints. In a phone interview, he stated that he would prefer that the position go to a special election and allow for voters to decide the next step, but he also said that he will abide by the rules of the charter and the law.
“I think at the end of the day, we all have to learn to work together no matter what the decision is,” said Lamar. “We’re definitely working to better our district together.”
This publication reached out to Mayor Victor M. Gordo and Councilmember Justin Jones but had not heard back from them before publication.
To view the video in its entirety… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uFIhHWdK40