From the Editor

The Review is running all seven candidate statements in this issue. These are in the candidates’ own words as to why voters of South Pasadena should vote for them. There are three candidates for City Council, two in District 4 and one in District 5. This is the first year the city is voting for seats on the council by district.

Furthermore, there are four candidates for three seats on the South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education, referred to as the School Board. This vote is citywide and the top three vote getters will take their seats after the general election tally. The election is Nov. 6. The Review wants to congratulate and applaud those running for office. It is the highest calling and most appreciated. Moreover, we here at The Review want to thank the candidates for taking the time to submit in their own words their statements. The statements appear in alphabetical order. And remember, don’t forget to vote.

Steve Whitmore

Eric Brady, So Pas City Council District 4
Eric Brady, So Pas City Council District 4

I’m a local businessperson, UCLA graduate and active member of the community in South Pasadena. We moved to the city in 2004 and knew right away this was where we wanted to raise our four children – probably like a lot of you – because of the excellent schools and unique character of this community. 

I’ve been a long time South Pasadena Education Foundation contributor and have loved volunteering as a coach for boys and girls sports at all school levels. I’m a volunteer for both the Girl and Boy Scouts of America, South Pasadena YMCA and coach for AYSO’s division 214 and 13. I’m passionate about the advocacy work I’ve done on behalf of the Pasadena Humane Society, the American Friends Service Committee, and the Pacific Asian Museum Fundraiser.

Here’s why I’m running for City Council: I think I can offer new ideas, real-world business experience and a new community-driven energy to the South Pasadena City Council. My opponent was first elected in 2001. The city has changed tremendously during that time – but our leadership has not.   

Let’s be honest…the problems we’re facing in South Pasadena aren’t new ones. We’ve known we’re facing a housing crisis, that we’re looking at a budget deficit if we don’t deal with the pension issue, and that if the UUT is repealed, we have no back-up plan to fund necessary city services. And that’s the point – these problems aren’t new but we aren’t planning ahead and we aren’t looking for solutions. 

Michael Cacciotti has been running for office since the turn of the century, and “that’s the way we’ve always done it” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

I was stunned to hear Michael Cacciotti advocate FOUR NEW TAXES OR FEES during our candidate’s forum. This is not “old school”; it’s completely out of touch with the residents in our district. We have many senior citizens, renters and young families. They chose South Pasadena because of the schools and community character, but they’re being taxed out of living here. Instead of new innovations, Michael Cacciotti wants to go back to the well, and keep raising taxes.

Our population – particularly in District 4, is changing. What hasn’t changed: the same people doing the same thing on our City Council. I’ll focus on how to make the city more attractive to businesses while maintaining our quality of life and tackle the homelessness with compassion and forward thinking – not making being homeless illegal, which solves nothing and goes against the values of our great city.

I’m supported by neighbors and business leaders because I’ll take a pragmatic AND progressive view – always listening to the community as I have been during this campaign as I’ve gone door to door. I also was endorsed by the leading business group in Los Angeles, BiZFed Pac, over longtime incumbent Michael Cacciotti, based on my support for pro-jobs and small-business policies as well as a strong supporter of affordable housing.

I’d appreciate your vote and support as we work together to make this city even better and stronger than it is today.

Michael Cacciotti, So Pas City Council District 4
Michael Cacciotti, So Pas City Council District 4

I am running for re-election to the City Council for many of the same reasons as I did when I first ran back in 2001.

First, to protect and preserve our small-town character.

Back in 1998, a majority of a prior City Council tried to sell the beautiful 4 acres of city property behind the golf course driving range.  

I led the months-long effort joined by Ellen Daigle and Yvonne Pine, then other So Pas residents, City Clerk Evelyn Zneimer and current Mayor Dr. Richard Schneider to stop the sale.

I then secured a quarter-million dollars from then State Senator Adam Schiff to create and beautify the Nature Park.

Here is a snap shot of the city back in 2001:

1. Water system in critical condition and needing replacement at a cost of nearly $50 million dollars.

2.  City streets and sidewalks crumbling with minimal $$ spent on repairs with an estimated cost to rehabilitate at $40 million plus.

3. Sewer system with spills and century old pipes failing at a cost of millions of dollars. 

4. Expensive 710 freeway litigation costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the imminent threat of a surface freeway through our city.

Fast forward to 2018:

For the past 17 years, working together with previous and current city councilmembers, residents and staff, I have played a significant role in the snapshot of the city today.

1. Today, we have a beautiful 4-acre Nature Park with a stunning bicycle/pedestrian trail soon opening up from the Nature Park to the dog park.

2. 75 percent of our water system has been rebuilt at a cost of over $35 million.

3. Approximately $2 million has been spent each of the past several years on our local roads and sidewalks. 

4. Millions of dollars have been spent repairing and replacing our century-old sewer pipes.

5. We organized and led a coalition of cities and organizations to stop the 710-surface freeway and tunnel.

6. We have balanced 17 city budgets. 

7. We have tripled our city budget reserves.

8. Through my positions representing our city on regional agencies like the AQMD, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Gold Line Construction Authority, I have secured hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants to pay for bike/pedestrian trails, cleaner, fuel efficient vehicles and Electric Vehicle charging and CNG fueling stations.

8. The city council has approved my proposals for additional “designated” reserve funds for Retiree Pension/Medical benefits; renewable energy and energy efficiency improvements to city facilities, and more.

Moreover, our parks and sports fields are in excellent condition.

Our library and community services offer great senior, adult and youth programs. Our police and fire departments provide superior services. Our councilmembers and staff listen/respond to resident needs and concerns.

And we have worked together to build a successful Chamber of Commerce.

No wonder Sunset Magazine named So Pasadena as one of the most desirable places to live in the West! I will continue to ensure our community remains one of the most desirable places to raise a family in the West!

Diana Mahmud, So Pas City Council District 5
Diana Mahmud, So Pas City Council District 5

I am running for re-election for many of the same reasons why I initially ran. 

I wanted to put to use for the city’s benefit my experience as a local government lawyer with a broad knowledge of the Brown Act and Public Records Act and several decades of experience working on personal service, procurement and public works contracts. Based on my prior experience I believed I would know how to get things done, what to be sensitive to, and what to avoid. 

I wanted to help the city fight against construction of a second freeway, a proposed tunnel. I also desired to further the city’s water conservation efforts and increase local sustainability programs.

Finally, I felt it was important for more women to be elected to City Council, not only for the different dynamic women bring but also to serve as a visible leader for the girls and young women in the community. I knew if I were elected it would only be the second time that two women would serve on City Council at the same time, and that I would only be the eighth woman elected to city council.

I am very pleased to say that all of the above objectives and more have been realized during my first term. 

I have reviewed each proposed contract that has been submitted to Council for approval and have often suggested modifications to improve such contracts. 

Both Metro and Caltrans have indicated they support implementation of a transportation alternative to construction of a freeway tunnel. We anticipate this will be enshrined in Caltrans’ Final Environmental Impact Report, which will be released before the end of the year.

City Council has continued to enhance our own South Pasadena water conservation subsidies, and I have suggested specific additions such as a city subsidy for a turf replacement program. 

I was elected Chair of the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments Water Policy Committee for several terms and have been recognized as a regional leader on water issues, testifying several times on pending bills at the Legislature.

I was elected Chair of the Clean Power Alliance, a joint powers authority comprised of the counties of Los Angeles and Ventura and 29 cities therein. South Pasadena businesses are presently receiving energy from CPA, 50 percent of which is from renewable sources at a rate slightly lower than SCE. Our residents will begin to receive CPA energy beginning in February 2019. CPA will further development of local and regional renewable energy facilities and promote sustainability programs, enabling the city to lower its greenhouse gas emission footprint.

My priorities for the next term include helping the city address its financial challenges including looking for additional efficiencies in providing services, ensuring CPA success, and continuing work on water and sustainability issues. 

I have been endorsed by Bizfed and the National Women’s Political Caucus.

I consider it a great privilege to represent the residents of South Pasadena and would be honored to continue to do so for another four years.

Julie Winkle Giulioni, So Pas School Board
Julie Winkle Giulioni, So Pas School Board

I understand the value of a great public education. In 1965, my family moved to South Pasadena for the schools, allowing me to attend from kindergarten through SPHS. Who I am today is deeply rooted in what I learned, who I learned from, and the support I enjoyed growing up here.

When my own children were ready to begin school, I returned to South Pasadena. While much had changed, one thing hadn’t: Our community’s commitment to providing the best education possible for our kids. Over the past two decades, I’ve leaned into that community commitment, serving our schools in capacities including SPEF and PTA president, Parti Gras and Summer School vice presidents, Fun Fair co-chair, Art Docent coordinator, room parent and more. In each role, I learned more about our schools and families…and about their needs.

I am proud to have served as a SPUSD board member for the past five years and I’m honored to be endorsed by all current school board members, all current city council members, 350+ community leaders and members, the National Women’s Political Caucus-GPA, and Representative Judy Chu.

What’s going well?

The past five years have ushered in impressive results in many different areas. We’ve:

Implemented common core standards, ranking 5th in the state on standardized tests.

Introduced 30+ new courses and units of study including BioMedicine, Broadcast Journalism, Engineering, and the Arts to name a few.

Established a robust internship program.

Hired additional counseling resources to better meet student needs.

Prioritized multi-culturalism through dual-language immersion programs and a new freshman English offering.

Passed Measure SP and completed the first two construction projects on-time and on-budget.

Balanced the budget.

Formed a coalition of local school districts and advocated for increased state funding.

Enhanced school safety through new training, processes and equipment.

What’s next?

While many things are going well, we also face opportunities and challenges such as: balancing budget and planning requirements with curricular choice and flexibility at SPHS; hiring, training, engaging, and retaining the high-quality educators our students deserve; making sure that students feel and are safe at school; and maintaining the fiscal discipline required to remain solvent despite flat revenue and escalating costs. I look forward to working with the new board on these and other issues facing our district.

What can you count on me for?

Putting students first. I have no agenda other than providing our children with the highest quality education possible. My decisions will be based upon what serves students’ academic, social and emotional needs.

Deep listening and community engagement. From participating in PTA meetings and community events, to engaging preservationists in our construction plans, to conversations with parents, to monthly meetings with city council members, I have and will continue to invest in developing relationships and understanding.

Civility and respect. We may not agree on all issues, but I commit to honoring others and their points of view and consistently modeling behavior that builds consensus and community.

Dr. Michele Kipke, So Pas School Board
Dr. Michele Kipke, So Pas School Board

I am a Professor of Pediatrics and Preventive Medicine at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and Vice Chair of Research within the Department of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. My life’s work has focused on ensuring the healthy development of children and adolescents, especially those most vulnerable. I am also a parent of two amazing kids, Lily who just graduated from South Pasadena High School and is now studying design at the University of San Francisco, and Kai who promoted last year from Marengo and is now attending the middle school.

It’s hard to believe that I have served on the South Pasadena Unified School District’s Governing Board for nearly 10 years. It has been an extraordinary honor to serve our community, families and students, and I have learned so much and benefitted in so many ways. I am deeply proud of what we have accomplished during the past 10 years and am excited about future plans to further expand our academic programs as we upgrade our school facilities.

We have outstanding schools with the best and the brightest principals and administrative staff. In fact, South Pasadena is ranked 5th of all unified school districts in California, based on state test scores. In just the past few years, we have a new dual language program (Spanish, Mandarin) and we have expanded our course offerings to include computer science, engineering, biomedicine, business and finance, broadcast journalism, and the performing arts. Moreover, a new internship program allows students the opportunity to experience real-life job training. I am excited to further develop these and other academic programs. Furthermore, we have initiated strategies to close our district’s achievement gap, and I want to help see those efforts through.

Another key achievement was passing a new bond measure that will allow us to upgrade and expand all of our school facilities. Examples of work that is currently underway includes new state-of-the-art math and science labs at the high school; a new soccer field and baseball and tennis courts at the middle school; and a renovation of the old gymnasium at the middle school into a new black box theatre. I remain committed to ensuring transparency and accountability of these resources entrusted upon the Board.

Finally, our district is best served by a successful, cohesive team of Board members who are dedicated to working as a team to strengthen and support our district. I will continue to contribute to a successful Board.

It is for these reasons that I have decided to run for re-election to the District’s Governing Board.

Dr. Ruby Kalra, So Pas School Board
Dr. Ruby Kalra, So Pas School Board

My name is Ruby Kalra, and I’m running for the South Pasadena School Board because I believe that every child matters and deserves to be supported by a team of responsible, caring, and committed adults. I’ve lived by this philosophy as a dedicated volunteer in South Pasadena public schools for 15 years, and as a pediatrician for 3 decades. My leadership highlights include president of the South Pasadena Educational Foundation, president of the South Pasadena Council PTA, president of the SPMS PTA, and recipient of the 2018 Golden Apple Award for outstanding service to South Pasadena schools.

My three children have all attended South Pasadena schools since kindergarten, with the oldest graduating from SPHS in 2016 and 2018, and the youngest a high school freshman. I know that each child has unique talents and abilities; there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to educating our children, and we must have the flexibility to meet the needs of our individual students. All South Pasadena students deserve to be safe and engaged at school, to have a wide variety of courses and extracurricular activities to foster their interests (including the visual and performing arts, and athletics), and to have their needs met for personal growth and wellness.

As a volunteer leader, inclusion and clear communication are essential to me. I’m proud of my track record of hands-on participation in South Pasadena schools–from school site councils to fundraising, to bond measure and parcel tax campaigns, to district oversight committees. I’m acutely aware that delivering a high-quality public education in a changing fiscal environment requires collaboration between parents, teachers, administrators, and the community at large, and I’m confident that the stakeholder relationships I’ve built and fostered over the years will serve our students well.

I’m grateful for the local endorsements I’ve received, including 4 of 5 current School Board members, 4 of 5 current City Council members, and many other South Pasadena parents and residents who have put their trust in me to take on this challenging and important responsibility. Please visit my website (www.ruby4schoolboard.com) for a complete list of endorsements and to learn more about me and my campaign.

In serving our South Pasadena community for the last 15 years, I’ve been a hard-working, collaborative team player.  At the same time, I’ve always been willing to ask the difficult questions, and if elected I will keep the focus on doing what is best and right for our students. I want to ensure that our children have every available opportunity to succeed, not just as students, but as emerging young adults. Thank you for the opportunity to earn your vote.

Zahir Robb, So Pas School Board
Zahir Robb, So Pas School Board

South Pasadena is a wonderful city with wonderful schools. My wife, Noel Garcia, and I are proud to be lifelong residents of this community and we have enjoyed watching our three children grow up in the same community that gave us so much. We want the best for the youth of this community, and I am running for School Board to ensure that our schools are doing exactly that. I have spent my career in education, working as a teacher, college counselor, and school administrator. I have experience in a variety of educational settings, from low socio-economic city-based schools to affluent private schools. I have experienced traditional and progressive educational models, and in each instance, I have learned about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to creating effective schools. I spend my days working in a school and much of my free time discussing educational pedagogy and school design. I have been a part of long-standing schools, built schools from the ground up, and have worked with others to develop and launch new educational projects. Our school board can use new ideas and new perspectives to build upon the excellence that exists and provide new pathways for us to move forward. Great schools and districts should always be in a continuous cycle of evaluation and improvement, and as a board member, I will provide a new lens through which we can examine our schools and their programs.

I’m running for School Board so that every one of our students is prepared for the 21st century; to ensure parents’ voices are heard; and to work with all South Pasadena residents–because we all have a stake in the success of our schools. I will bring together parents, teachers, administrators, and civic leaders to make sure we have an inclusive decision-making process, because the more we work together, the better our schools and our students will perform. I want to work together with the larger community to define the goals for our local schools, and then work with the board to make disciplined budgetary, administrative, and curricular decisions to achieve these goals.

My connections with South Pasadena and its schools run deep, and in a couple years, I will have kids at the elementary, middle, and high school level. I have devoted my studies and career to advancing student achievement and wellbeing, as well as developing successful and sustainable school programs. As a School Board member, I hope to work with the broader community of parents, neighbors and school district personnel to support our schools and move us all forward. We have great schools in South Pasadena, but we should never rest until we are doing our best–and that’s what I will do, for the sake of my kids, your kids and everyone who calls South Pasadena home.  

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