The City Council general election in November is going to be a first for South Pasadena.

The right to represent South Pasadena residents on the City Council this year will be decided by districts, not at-large, where the top vote-getters won the races. 

The two councilmembers up for re-election –

Diana Mahmud, District 5, and Michael A. Cacciotti, District 4 -now will be running within their own districts, according to city officials. Mahmud and Cacciotti have already pulled papers with the City Clerk’s office.

Instead of being voted on by registered voters throughout the city, which is about 16,017, the two incumbents will be elected by the registered voters in their respective districts. For Mahmud in District 5 that’s 3,527 voters. For Cacciotti, the number is 2,831 registered voters in District 4, according to So Pas Chief City Clerk Marc A. Donohue.

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 in an earlier email to The Review.

The City Clerk and City Treasure also are up for re-election but those two are voted at-large basis, no boundaries.

As of the press deadline, Eric Brady has filed papers to run against Cacciotti and 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. 1.

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 are 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 and the website.

Meanwhile, Mahmud said she’s running for a second term because there is still much work to be done.

“I’ve learned a lot, have brought a lot to the position in my capacity as a retired energy, public works and contract lawyer, and met a lot of other elected officials and staff which is particularly important for a small city such as ours,” Mahmud said in an earlier email to The Review. “I’ve worked hard and earned important leadership positions in regional government committees and boards.”

She is the eighth woman to serve on the City Council. With her election, two women simultaneously serve on the City Council for only the second time in the city’s history. The other woman is Mayor Pro Tem Dr. Marina Khubesrian.

Cacciotti, meanwhile, was first elected to the City Council in 2001 and was re-elected in 2005, 2009 and 2013.

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.

Brady, who pulled papers to run against Cacciotti, was unavailable for comment.

The filing period is from Monday, July 16, to August 10, extended to Wednesday, August 15, if an incumbent fails to file. 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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