Eric Brady

A longtime South Pasadena City Councilman is facing a challenge on two different fronts.

Not only is incumbent Michael Cacciotti facing a districtwide vote instead of an at-large tally, he’s got competition. Cacciotti was first elected to the council in 2001, then re-elected in 2005, 2009, and 2013.

The thought to challenge a strong incumbent did not come easy for Eric Brady, but he finally decided the time was right.

“I’ve been thinking about this a long time,” said Brady, who is challenging Cacciotti to represent District 4. “There really is no right time. It’s just time.”

Brady, who is married with four children, said his platform is simple.

“I believe in public safety, senior services and responsible revenue enhancement,” Brady said last Friday during a telephone interview with The Review. “I have benefited so much from this community I believe it’s time that I give back.”

Brady, 56, also said it’s time to build a better South Pasadena through ideas and solid initiatives. He has lived in the city since 2004

“I think it’s time we look at the issues specifically in my district,” Brady said. “I think it’s good to have the vote by district. It’s important.”

Some of those issues include speeding traffic, replacing power lines above ground with underground ones, street parking and the recent discoloration of the water.

“I don’t want to become Flint, Michigan,” Brady said. “I’ve watched speeding cars throughout my district. We have kids here. We need to beef up enforcement. We are replacing power lines above ground when those lines can be replaced underground.” The latter, Brady said, benefits homeowners because a horizon cluttered with power lines is not as appealing as a sky without those power lines.

“These are just some of the ideas I think are important to present,” Brady said.

The 710 Freeway issue polarized many in the community and now with that on the shelf, it’s time to bring the district back together.

“We have at the very least won a moral victory with the 710 being defeated and it’s time to bring the city back together under real ideas not slogans,” Brady said.

Brady acknowledged that Cacciotti has done a good job, but it’s time for new leadership.

“I respect him, I do,” Brady said. “Sometimes it’s time for new ideas, a fresh look at things and now is that time.”

Michael Cacciotti

Cacciotti did not respond to inquiries about Brady but did have this to say about his seeking re-election in an email to The Review.

“I have decided to run again for many of the same reasons I had when the residents first elected me to the City Council in 2001: I am still passionate about protecting, preserving and improving our small-town character.”

Cacciotti cited a specific example involving the preservation of open space that got him involved in public office.

“I first ran for the City Council in 2001 because, back in 1998, the city was trying to sell the 4-acres of open space behind the golf course driving range on the banks of the historic Arroyo Seco channel to a private entity,” Caciotti said. “The money from the sale would have been a temporary addition to city funds, but our priceless open space would have been lost forever.
“I worked tirelessly … to develop a strategy to save the open space and soon we had over a dozen people meeting and organizing for months to stop the property. In the end, I led the effort to secure a quarter-million-dollar grant … to clean the property and plant native plants and other native features. And in 2004, we dedicated what residents and park visitors affectionately call the ‘Nature Park.’”

Cacciotti also is a deputy attorney general with the California Department of Justice. In early 2015, through Cacciotti’s initiative, Garfield Park became the first municipal park in the United States to be maintained entirely by gas free, electric commercial lawn equipment. 

One of the hot-button issues facing South Pasadena is the repeal of the Utility Users Tax (UUT), which is on the November ballot. Cacciotti and Brady agree on this: Don’t repeal the UUT.

Meanwhile, not only is the incumbent councilman facing a challenger, but it will be the first race he runs where he must be the top vote-getter in his district, not citywide.  

Instead of being voted on by registered voters throughout the city, which is about 16,017, Cacciotti will be elected by the registered voters in District 4, which is 2,831, according to So Pas Chief City Clerk Marc A. Donohue. Councilwoman Diana Mahmud also is seeking re-election to District 5, which has 3,527 registered voters. Mahmud had no competition as of press deadline Wednesday evening.

The exact boundaries for the districts are difficult to define because they are in an odd shape, according to Donohue.

“I would say that District 4 (Cacciotti) is east of Fair Oaks Avenue and north of a large portion of Monterey Road; District 5 (Mahmud) is south of a large portion of Monterey Road and east of Huntington Drive,” Donohue said. 

The City Clerk and City Treasurer also are up for re-election, but those two are voted at-large basis, no boundaries. Evelyn Zneimer has filed to seek re-election to City Clerk, while incumbent Gary Pia also has pulled papers to run again for City Treasurer. There were no other candidates on file with the City Clerk’s office as of Aug. 8.

Prior to this election, councilmembers were elected at-large, meaning every registered voter in South Pasadena could vote for whomever they chose. That changed with the threat of litigation last year. In June of last year, the city received a letter from the law firm of Shenkman & Hughes, alleging the city was in violation of the California Voting Rights Act because city councilmembers were elected at-large rather than by district. Dozens of local governments in California have faced similar legal challenges in recent years, according to the city’s website, www.ci.south-pasadena.ca.us.

On July 19, 2017, the South Pasadena City Council officially approved its intent to transition to district elections, taking advantage of a legal protection that enables cities to transition to district elections voluntarily and avoid costly litigation, according to city officials. 

The filing period started on Monday, July 16, and runs to August 10. Candidates for council need to submit at least 20 signatures, no more than 30, from registered voters in their district, Donohue said. The City Clerk and City Treasurer candidates can obtain signatures from any registered voter in the city, Donohue said.

The general election is Nov. 6. All the terms are for four years.

Steve Whitmore
Author

Steve Whitmore is the editor for the South Pasadena Review. Steve has spent more than four decades as an award-winning print and broadcast journalist with a 16-year stint as the senior media advisor for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. Steve comes to us from the Keene Sentinel in Keene, New Hampshire, where he covered politics and was a columnist.

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