October 23, 2014
By Kevin Ulrich & Randy Jurado Ertll
Although Pasadena is known around the world for things like the Rose Parade and Caltech, a lesser known fact about the Crown City is it was once home to Batman and Robin — at least on television in the 1960s — with the fictional stately Wayne Manor located in patrician Linda Vista.
Imagine if Batman really were a resident of Pasadena. If the Caped Crusader’s alter ego, industrialist Bruce Wayne, really existed, would he care about what was happening with his tax dollars? Would he and the Boy Wonder, Bruce’s faithful ward Dick Grayson, be involved in exposing political shenanigans at City Hall?
Given the Dynamic Duo’s already heavy crime-fighting workload, and the fact that local officeholders like to keep many controversial issues close to the vest, that might be easier said than done.
However, now might a good time for the two superheroes to start reading the papers and tuning into their Bat Scanners.
Recently, there have been rumblings among council members and the mayor related to the Rose Bowl improvement project’s cost overruns and renovation contracts awarded for Robinson Park’s renovation.
In 2013, Rose Bowl repairs went over budget by $60 million. Mayor Bill Bogaard and council members need to spend more time ensuring the Rose Bowl Operating Co. (RBOC) is meeting budget expectations. Most people would agree that a $60 million renovation cost overrun is not spare change, especially in today’s tough economy.
That shortfall has been reduced by $30 million, but at the additional cost of hosting extravagant and loud concerts — right next to Batman’s own fictional neighborhood — which have created much traffic, noise and air pollution, and illegal behavior by drunken concertgoers, all causing more frustration for the real residents of the stadium’s surrounding neighborhoods.
Just imagine if City Manager Michael Beck would decide to allocate all the proceeds from two or more concerts held at the stadium to help pay for things like low-income senior citizen housing services or afterschool tutoring programs to help struggling Pasadena Unified School District students. Even Batman might see that as a fair trade-off for all the hassles caused by these events. But that’s not going to happen.
While events at the Rose Bowl capture the public’s attention, residents of Pasadena also need to pay more attention to what’s happening with the Robinson Park renovation project.
We know that Gonzalez Goodale Architects, a Pasadena-based minority-owned firm, would have most likely obtained the contract to upgrade the park. But Councilman John Kennedy became involved with the project and changed the selection process. Thus, Gonzalez Goodale did not receive the contract. Kennedy argued that the community had not been involved, that there was not enough public input, and that a new architectural firm should be selected.
Eventually, the GKKworks architectural firm, another minority-owned business based in Newport Beach, obtained the $802,000 contract. What makes this scenario interesting is Ron Carter, who supported Kennedy’s council race through a $200 donation, received a $200,000 public relations contract for the project via GKK.
Taxpayers should be asking what has been achieved with this project thus far. Another question that needs to be asked is whether Latino residents who live in Northwest Pasadena have been included in the community meetings related to the park’s renovation.
Maybe Batman isn’t needed just yet. Perhaps this could be something that the Pasadena Latino Coalition (PLC) could take up. While they’re at it, they should also ask for an audit of all city contracts and procurements. Feel-good forums and softball questions are not enough if real empowerment is to occur.
It’s time for people to get involved and start asking about who is getting hired, who is getting the juicy contracts at City Hall, and how much of the city’s $700 million annual budget is actually being used to help low-income minority communities.
It’s been said that there are two Pasadenas: one for the rich and one for everyone else. But there is another duality: a city that is civil and transparent is also at times sinister, secretive, manipulative, and vindictive — kind of like Gotham City.
It appears Pasadena is actually bipolar. Behind the façade of the flowery parade, millions of dollars quietly flow via contracts that are awarded to a chosen few. Much like Batman might reason if he really did live here, most residents do not have the time or the interest to follow these money trails. We just assume that our elected officials will do their due diligence and represent their constituents well. But that doesn’t always occur.
What we need is Batman, a real hero who, as one of the city’s many millionaires in his other persona, probably would have lots of questions about how his money was being spent. But since we can’t have him, we’ll settle for a mayor and City Council that can be staunch advocates for transparency, the underclass and fair play.
Source: Pasadena Weekly