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Not the Swan Song YMCA Camp Director Hoped For

Marasco estimates she has accompanied more than 4,000 of South Pasadena’s young people to summer camp over the years.
Photos courtesy Sue Marasco.

If she adds up all the days and weeks she has spent at summer camp, YMCA mainstay Sue Marasco estimates she has passed more than two years of leading campfire songs and eating in dining halls, mostly at the service of local young people.
The odyssey began 45 years ago, in the summer of 1975, when Marasco attended Camp Little Green Valley as a wide-eyed 16-year-old counselor-in-training. It has all come to a rather unceremonious end now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two years ago, Marasco decided she would retire from her post as executive director of camping services for the Los Angeles Metropolitan YMCA after spending one last summer, 2020, at her beloved Camp Whittle before handing the reins to her successor.
But with the pandemic shutting down group activities, the YMCA was forced to make the excruciating decision to cancel all of its camping programs and, in an act of painful irony, Marasco was part of the panel that had to make the final call. In short, Marasco canceled her own swan song.
“This was a tough, heart-wrenching decision,” said Marasco. “We spent the first part of April planning how we were going to run camp under the safeguards of COVID-19. As we entered mid-April, based on many conversations with Los Angeles County, the American Camping Association and the Y-USA, it became clear that it would be challenging to offer a safe camp with quality experience, so in consultation with key staff and board members the decision was made to cancel camp.”

City Operating Budget a Work in Progress

Rather than kicking off the fiscal year on Wednesday with an operating budget adjusted to absorb the predicted revenue shortfalls from the pandemic, the City Council instead punted last week and approved a continuing appropriations resolution.
The decision was unanimous only for lack of another legal option. When the meeting agenda was published, it only included action on the continuing appropriations resolution — not an option between the two. For now, the city will function on essentially the operating budget that was approved last year, and will tentatively approve a new budget within 60 days of the new year.
Councilman Richard Schneider, with strong support from Councilman Michael Cacciotti, led the charge to delay budget adoption last week, largely on the basis of an unsolicited analysis prepared by a former finance director that was critical of the budget that had been presented to the city’s finance commission.
“There’s a lot of discontent in the community about whether the numbers are accurate and whether the funds have the correct balances now,” Schneider said last week. “I have no doubt that [Finance Director Karen Aceves] is working assiduously to get them correct, but I think they are something of a moving target, and there are corrections and adjustments being made to both the revenue and expenses and their anticipated numbers as we speak.”
The analysis, which was prepared by Josh Betta, casts doubt upon Aceves’ budget, claiming the city does not have a clear grasp of its own financial situation. Complicating matters is that an audit on the 2018-19 fiscal year is still being completed. Because the numbers have not been verified and compared to prior years, Betta — who has held finance director stints in South Pasadena, San Marino, Bell and Glendora, among other locales — characterized the proposed budget as “a product of professional incompetence” in a public comment last week.

SPUSD Holds Off on Discussing Possible Bids on Property

The South Pasadena Unified School District plans to publicly address possible bids on the site of its main office at a future meeting, but has not yet identified when.
Mum’s the word, generally, after the bidding period expired on Friday, June 26. The SPUSD Board of Education did not report any action or decisions after a closed session on Tuesday night that had only one agenda item: a conference with a real property negotiator regarding the approximately three-acre property at 1020 El Centro St.
“The Board and District team will be reviewing the proposals in preparation for negotiations,” Superintendent Geoff Yantz wrote in a statement Monday. “Assuming an agreement is reached, the Board will approve the agreement at a future Board meeting.”
The district added that it could not disclose the number of bids received because that could compromise the negotiating process with any interested parties.
Sale of the property remains the sole condition needed to trigger the district’s $10.75 million purchase of its proposed future home, the property at 1100 El Centro St., which lies directly across Fairview Avenue from the current headquarters. Though the SPUSD’s building is historic and picturesque, Yantz and school board members contend that the district’s needs have long outgrown the structure’s 16,000 square feet. Additionally, the building — constructed more than 100 years ago — may require up to $6 million in renovations.
Indirect pressure from the city also plays a likely role in the amicable change of venue. The Mission Street Specific Plan lays out South Pasadena’s s objectives for the area.
The intended new location, which presently houses the Collins Collins Muir & Stewart law firm, boasts more than 20,000 square feet in a structure erected in the 1970s. The school board agreed to the purchase of the building and the sale of the current office at its June 9 meeting.

City Panel Will Discuss Possible Police Reforms

By Haley Sawyer
Special to The Review

Responding to the political sea change sweeping local governments across the nation, the City Council last week unanimously agreed to appoint a subcommittee on the future of policing in South Pasadena.
The new panel will work with an existing offshoot of the Public Safety Commission and report directly to the council. Subcommittee members will discuss possible reforms to the South Pasadena Police Department and how they could affect the city’s budget.
“I think part of it has got to be revising that oversight of the public safety to address some of these police reform issues we’re talking about,” said Councilman Michael Cacciotti, a state deputy attorney general, at the virtual meeting.
The council hopes that the early discussions by the subcommittee will include the community and be dialogue-driven. Cacciotti and Councilwoman Marina Khubesrian showed strong support for hosting a community forum.

Summer Reading Program Clearly a Success Story

I’ve always been a fan of the South Pasadena Public Library — particularly the summer reading program.
I’ve acted in past years as a kind of “greeter” to help parents and students register for the program, which has drawn more than 2,000 students in past years. That’s why I was worried that, with the library closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there might not be a reading program this year.
I should not have worried.
The program may be online instead of in-person this year, but the energy level is still high — and so is the creativity of children’s librarian Judy Neeb and her teenage volunteers.
The program has had 1,023 participants sign up for the program since it began in early June and they had read for a total of 1,187,475 minutes as of early this week.
“There have been a great many changes during these challenging times, but the heart of this program remains focused on the joy of reading,” said Neeb, who was named children’s librarian last January. “And while I wish we could be working together in person, I’m grateful that we still are able to flourish during this transitional period.”
The program, which began June 1, runs through Aug. 1.
The spirit of the program has always been kept up by teen volunteers — and this year Neeb is really impressed with the 40 teens who have given more than 200 hours of service altogether.

Streets to Be Decorated for Fourth of July

Though the usual festivities cannot happen as a result of the county’s pandemic restrictions, South Pasadenans are still able to have a modicum of celebration for the Fourth of July this year.
The South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with the city, the South Pasadena Arts Council, Transition South Pasadena and the Festival of Balloons Committee to decorate local streets ahead of the holiday, with hopes to encourage residents to bring their business to newly reopened restaurants and shops.

Review file photo.

Posters created by local residents are displayed along Fair Oaks Avenue and Mission Street. Strings of environmentally friendly hand-sewn flags created by members of Transition South Pasadena adorn the walkways. Several local businesses now sport special displays for their shop windows, an effort made possible by SPARC’s coordinating with local student artists.
Businesses and eateries plan to have holiday specials on Saturday, and many also will be open on Sunday, July 5, to welcome customers. Those who plan to shop and eat must wear face coverings and practice social distancing. The city has placed numerous picnic tables on Meridian Avenue, near the history museum, for families to enjoy a meal together at a safe distance from others.

Creative Online Venture Makes for Happy Campers

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up many lives.
For 23-year-old Kate McCarthy, it has taken her from New York City to San Diego and now to Eagle Rock.
And now she finds herself both owner and head counselor of Kate’s Kamp, a day camp on Zoom for children ages 6-12 that is animated by activities like storytelling, improv games, group writing projects, character creation, dance parties, joke workshops, movement pieces and spelling games.
McCarthy works with groups of up to 10 kids 6-9 years old from 9-10 a.m. every weekday, and with groups of children ages 10-12 from 1-2 p.m.

Kate McCarthy of Eagle Rock uses Zoom in her roles as head counselor and owner of Kate’s Kamp — an online program that children can join from anywhere. McCarthy has used her training in acting to come up with projects to capture the interest of students ages 6-12.

She also offers individual or small group sessions if parents feel that their child would thrive more with one-on-one sessions or if joined by a friend.
Because of misfortune, McCarthy has reached down to make her own luck and maybe a little bit of fortune.
“It was actually my mom and her friend’s idea for me to do a venture like this during this weird summer, but I misunderstood their suggestion and thought they meant I should do group Zoom calls to make it seem like summer camp, when they just meant individual sessions. I ended up doing both,” McCarthy said.

Obituary | Hortense Banwer

One year ago on June 28, 2019, Hortense Banwer, 94, of Palm Springs, California, died peacefully in Palm Desert, California. She was born to Francisco and Josefa Ramirez in Parral, Mexico, October 28, 1924. After the death of her parents she moved to the United States with her sisters Alicia, Dora, and Luz. She was married to Daniel (David) Banwer for over thirty years until his death in 1984. Together they raised eight children in Los Angeles and South Pasadena. She is survived by all eight children: Luis, Dana (Brian Hurd), Hortense Packer “Fo” (James), Sonia “Sunny” (Rob Rosenthal), Abner (Brooke), Michael, Melisse “Mitzi” and Jeffrey. She also leaves twelve grandchildren and fourteen great-grandchildren.
Loving and loyal to her family, she was a spirited people person and every stranger was a new friend. We love you, we miss you, and we raise a glass (white wine, of course) to you, Mom.
Hortense was interred at Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City, California, in a private ceremony, and a celebration of her life was held several months later in October of 2019, when she would have celebrated her 95th birthday.

A Fourth of July to Remember — in a Different Way

Vintage cars parade through South Pasadena during a past Fourth of July celebration.

Every July 4 at 9 p.m., I take a chair to the front lawn and watch fireworks explode over the trees from the high school down the street. I can usually hear the music, and the big boomers always put on a wonderful display.
I then go into the backyard and feel the earth shake from the fireworks at the Rose Bowl, and I can hear explosions all through the night serenading me from San Marino to Alhambra and beyond.
It has been one of my favorite hours of the year since I moved to South Pasadena in 1996.
I sometimes start the day at the pancake breakfast at the local firehouse, and afterward I’ve been known to watch the balloon festival. What’s most fun is watching the children — which is really what the parade is all about.
Sorry, South Pasadena. We’re going to have to hit pause, just as we have since mid-March.
The pandemic has rained on another parade.
Mayor Bob Joe has described this year’s festivities as being held in “unprecedented times,” and that fits. No pancakes. No parade. No picnics in the park and no fireworks. Parks are open, but shelters and playgrounds are still closed. So there will be no rentals for group gatherings.

South Pasadena Student Earns NOBLE Chapter Scholarship

Tanner Holmes

Tanner Holmes of South Pasadena was among the recipents honored by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement, which has long embraced a role as “the conscience of law enforcement.” Its San Gabriel Valley Chapter has carried out the mission through outreach programs that not only educate but nurture, strengthen and validate youth.
During the past years, NOBLE-SGV has overseen the distribution of more than $30,000 to high school students across the region. And though the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the organization’s Annual Scholarship Breakfast this year, NOBLE-SGV nevertheless was able to award $1,000 scholarships to 12 students in the region, thanks to the benevolence and support of members and sponsors.