From this week's Print Edition

Voters Return So Pas City Councilmembers

Election Results
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Michael Cacciotti

Michael Cacciotti defeated challenger Eric Brady for the right to represent District 4 in South Pasadena.

Cacciotti pulled in a hefty 929 votes, while Brady garnered 357 votes. Councilwoman Diana Mahmud was easily re-elected because she ran unopposed for District 5. Mahmud still received 1,305 votes.

For the first time this year, the council race is broken into five districts throughout the city. Instead of being voted on by registered voters throughout the city, which is about 16,017, Cacciotti and Brady vied to represent District 4, which has about 2,831 registered voters, according to city officials. Councilwoman Diana Mahmud represents District 5, which has 3,527 registered voters.

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

“I would say that District 4 is east of Fair Oaks Avenue and north of a large portion of Monterey Road; District 5 is south of a large portion of Monterey Road and east of Huntington Drive,” Donohue has explained in earlier interviews.

Diana Mahmud

Brady, who ran an aggressive campaign, sent out fliers blasting what he alleged were Cacciotti’s special interests and outdated ways of solving problems.

Many residents said the negative attacks on Cacciotti back-fired on Brady, 56, who is married with four children. Ironically, Brady’s initial comments about Cacciotti were positive. He said he respected Cacciotti and he had done a good job, but that it was time for a change.

The rhetoric changed to a darker, more negative attack-mode, though, after the candidates’ forums.

After the forum, Brady remarked that he felt “like an outsider” but was more resolved than ever before that he is “capable and qualified to do this job.”

The forum, sponsored by the So Pas Chamber of Commerce and Women Involved in South Pasadena Political Action (WISSPA), lasted about 90 minutes and was moderated by Linda Wah. The questions were wide-ranging including issues dealing with drinking water, utility users tax, budgets, clean energy, homelessness, the arts and civic involvement, to name just a few of the topics.

The main portion of the forum was prepared questions that the candidates reviewed 15 minutes prior to the discussion. The last portion was comprised of questions from members of the audience, about 30 people, and then closing statements.

It was during the public portion of the questioning that Brady was spotlighted.

Brady was asked how many council meetings and commission meetings he’d attended over the last year or two. His answer was more than a half-dozen. After saying he had spoken to management at Whole Foods about filling the spot where OSH now sits but is vacating next month, he was asked who “specifically” did he contact. His answer was “management at local ownership level and they directed me to corporate.” He was asked to elaborate on his approval of moving the council race away from a citywide vote to a districtwide vote. He said he thought it was a good idea because District 4 was underrepresented. Both Cacciotti and Mahmud disagreed with Brady, saying South Pasadena is too small to have districts.

The questions from the public were so focused on Brady that at one juncture moderator Wah told Brady to not take the line of questioning personally.

“I think it’s because you’re new so don’t take this personally,” she told him in a conciliatory tone.

This will be Cacciotti’s fifth term on the council. He was first elected to the council in 2001, re-elected in 2005, 2009, and 2013.

The City Clerk, Evelyn Zneimer, and City Treasurer, Gary Pia, ran unopposed. Those positions are more ceremonial.

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.

There are several lawsuits pending now that are challenging the change to a district vote, according to Mahmud.

Steve Whitmore

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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