Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Very Interesting Pasadena Mayor's Race

How often do you hear a Texas candidate say: "He's just told me the position pays $102,000. I had no idea. If I had known that, I would have put out more yard signs."

I went to the candidates forum at San Jacinto College last night. Very interesting and fun. Too bad there is no good late night place to eat afterwards nearby.

Pasadena has wide and varied interesting choices for mayor.

The candidates:
Don Harrison, former mayor's brother, council member.
David Stroder, contractor, no experience in politics.
O.L. Harris, developer - conservative business candidate, last councilman in 93.
Johnny Isbell, former mayor, owns or is involved in three or four businesses.
A.J. Christ, pastor, former Firestone store manager, contractor.
Ralph Riggs, councilman, retired from NASA utility subcontractor.
Jerri Neely, former councilwoman, involved in citizen watch groups, former mayoral candidate.
The highlight of the evening was that Harrison while answering a question mentioned the mayor's salary of $102,000. The next candidate David Stroder: "He's just told me the position pays $102,000. I had no idea. If I had known that, I would have put out more yard signs."

After starting out as the most clueless candidate, only running against the federal government and too many illegal immigrants in Pasadena, Stroder captured the crowd as the most honest clueless candidate. Stroder's campaign seemed to be that he is an average citizen and voters need a change from the typical Pasadena politicians also running. "After all, how much could I screw things up in 18 months." He did have several "I don't know" answers to questions. Perhaps Stroder should have inquired about all the other perks the Mayor has now.

A rundown of the rest:

Don Harrison came across as mumbling, almost senile, but wily and willing to throw the most jabs, about the only jabs in fact. (Take my opinions with a grain of salt, I don't like him even if he was the first to state the obvious, Pasadena is majority Latino and the city should be doing more for all citizens.) Kept exceeding his time limits. Repeated his false claim of a $41 million surplus in the rainy day fund.

O.L. Harris, very conservative, very representative of business interests. On a transportation system for Pasadena - "I don't know any private enterprise that could run it at a profit."

Johnny Isbell, slick, polished, knowledgeable. Running as the only one with experience running Pasadena, stressed his police backing, the reduction in crime rate under his term as mayor. The most typical successful politician, his flip-flop from Democrat to Republican did not come up.

A.J. Christ - we need to roll up our sleeves and get to work. More actions, less studies and talk. Good speaker, but very unspecific.

Ralph Riggs, always repeated the question back. Very specific and knowledgeable. Stresses his accounting and problem solving background. Would be a full-time mayor. Not very charismatic but knowledgeable from his time on council, studious and has good experience.

Jerri Neely, very emotional, loves Pasadena. Has solved problems with slumlords and getting city services in the North end of town. Talks too much, had the most problem with always exceeding her time. Nice lady, also would be a full-time mayor but isn't there a garden club or volunteer organization she should be involved in?

Highlight of the forum was David Stroder (713-STRODER) who after a very bad first impression made strong appeals to electing a normal private citizen instead of the politicians who have created the current Pasadena.

Another interesting highlight was the complete rejection of the Strawberry Road extension by all candidates, with most favoring selling the land back for new housing development to get some money back. Other properties by city hall also needed to be sold or razed. Jerri Neely admitted she had made a naive mistake in supporting the Strawberry Road Extension originally in the interest of redeveloping North Pasadena. (Pat Van Houte must feel somewhat vindicated after leading the citizen opposition to the multi-million dollar boondoggle for years.)

Low point was a hard attack by Harrison on Isbell's very high tax and fee increases as mayor when Harrison was the last one to speak in the debate, allowing no opportunity for a rebuttal. As a student of politics I saw that hurting both Harrison and Isbell. Harrison's typical hardball tactics are probably more effective in a on-on-one race, not in a crowded field of candidates.

Isbell seemed to have the most people in the about 400 crowd. Buttons and badges were banned from entering the auditorium but a small number of people put Isbell badges on at the end.

Afterwards we went to the Skillet to confer. No other late night restaurants in that part of suburbia. They had a good cheap baby-back rib special Pat ordered and I got a hamburger and onion rings. Despite our warning her Janette made the mistake of ordering the most expensive thing on the menu in a dive - rib eye steak. What's worst, she had ordered the same thing before and hated it as I reminded her before she ordered it again.

Our forum consensus, a wide field of candidates and somebody could find something appealing about any of them.

Odds are that Isbell makes the runoff, nobody has close to a majority, impossible to rank how the other candidates will do right now. I like Riggs but I am not sure studious and informed is enough of an image to project in a crowded field or crowded stage.

Links: Pasadena Citizen
Houston Chronicle.


surpluscitizen said...

The home rules charter listed the salary at $ 25,000.00 per year. I was willing to give up the six figure income that I presently earn to serve as Mayor, at least now I know that I wont have to dip into savings. Mr. Isbell responded by saying that the the city didn't need any more signs. The irony is that he has more illegal signs displayed that any of the other candidates. I have chosen to place signs only by request on private property. You wont see many. I have also chosen not to accept any campaign donations. If elected, I won't have any political debts to repay. I spoke with one of the residents affected by the Strawberry Road extension. She was at the forum and called the STRODER hot line. We are meeting early next week. She has followed this failed project from the beginning. I will be up to speed on this matter soon. Remember, every candidate on that stage had something to do with that tremendous waste of your tax dollars except me. Regarding the smoking ban in bars, Mr. Riggs' slogan is "Lets keep moving forward". I am of the opinion that by reversing this ordinance we are moving backwards. I was the only candidate with the conviction to say no. We already know the effects of second hand smoke. Regarding reducing the City's debt.. I am sure that there is 1%-3% of fat in the 100 plus page budget. I just received a copy of the Second Century Corp balance sheet and am still in the process of reviewing it. Reducing costs will be the easiest task of this term. Let me address the illegal alien issue briefly. My wife and I bought a beautiful home in Vista Villas. We have a 4-1/2 year old daughter who will be going to kindergarten in August of 2008. Her elementary school, three blocks from our home, is Jensen Elementary. I invite you to check out any of the 30 elementary schools in Pasadena at Look at the graphs and do the math. I gave my out my number at the forum. 713.STRODER or 713.787.6337. I would love to have an opportunity to discuss these matters and more with the citizens of Pasadena. Remember that December 8th is a Saturday.

Gary said...

Other candidates are also invited to leave responses.

The original charter had the mayor at $25,000 plus a COLA each year. In addition, the mayor gets $750 a month for transportation expenses and no requirment to spend it on transportation. There are several other perks and expense accounts for the mayor.

Most Pasadena mayors also make sure they have businesses that can receive business from developers, city contractors and subcontractors, etc. This does not apply to our current Mayor Douglass.

Council pay did not have a COLA and is still extremely low. They have just this year responded to that by giving themselves a $650 a month transportation allowance similar to the mayor's. They have another small office expense account as well.