Thursday, July 31, 2008

Historic City Hall 1920s Construction Photos, Continued

I think this must have been shot from the top of All Saints. Petrea over at Pasadena Daily Photo had a couple of great posts last week showing St. Andrew's Church, and it inspired me to find this photo. That's the St. Andrew's Church tower in background, mid-right. I'm not sure what the church is on the far right. Maybe Pasadena Congregational at the southeast corner of Los Robles and Walnut? Anybody have a better guess?

No hard hats, no knee pads, no steel-toed boots, no nail guns. Just hard, honest work.

Oh, my aching back!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Visitors from Japan

Several high school students from our sister city of Mishima, Japan, visited Pasadena City Hall yesterday. They're in town for about 10 days, staying with local host families, and are learning about the community plus seeing the sights.

They were in Little Tokyo yesterday when the earthquake hit. Welcome to Southern California, kids!

Barney Melekian met with them in the council chamber to discuss how local government works in Pasadena and what his responsibilities entail.

Then I took them on a tour of the building.

Many thanks to Bryan Takeda of the Pasadena Sister Cities Committee for arranging the visit.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Zack Stromberg, my graphic designer in the Public Affairs Office, was giving me an update on a project. Suddenly there was a jolt, and then the building began gently, ever so gently, swaying.

Had the earthquake hit prior to the seismic retrofit of Pasadena City Hall, it would have been horrible. But I'm happy to say the retrofit worked and all those base isolators did their job.

We were evacuated immediately. We headed down the stairs to the Garfield side of the building and then across the street, which is the standard evacuation for earthquakes, fires and other incidents. Some departments go to the northwest corner of Garfield and Holly, and other departments go the southwest corner where the Robinson Memorial (lovingly called "the heads") is located.

Before I show you evacuation photos, is your earthquake kit in order? How about your family emergency plan? Explore our Emergency Preparedness web page and get a move on!

Here are city employees beginning to gather at the northwest corner:

I was among the employees who gathered at the southwest corner:

Here's Zack, Barney Melekian, a constituent, our Public Affairs summer intern in the blue with her arm over her head, Assistant City Manager Julie Gutierrez with her back turned, Councilwoman Margaret McAustin, the mayor's executive assistant Lorain Nagahiro, and City Clerk's Office executive secretary Kathy Vandervort with her back turned.

It doesn't show up very well in this photo, but there are etchings on the backs of "the heads" that represent the accomplishments of Jackie and Mack Robinson who grew up in Pasadena. If you've never walked over and looked around the entire installation, I highly recommend it!

Pasadena Fire Department arrived to do an inspection of the building to ensure it was safe to reoccupy. Once they gave the high sign, an hour after we evacuated, we went back to work.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Dear Jane:

We miss you already and it has only been three days since your retirement party!

Former (!) City Clerk Jane Rodriguez has left the building after 35 years of public service. Service is the operative word. Jane always went out of her way to keep impeccable records, provide accurate information, help anybody out, serve the council and much more.

Former California Attorney General John Van De Kamp and his wife offered their lovely estate for the party, which was an early evening affair with a number of senior city staff, elected officials and community leaders, all of whom came to bid farewell to the best city clerk Pasadena has probably ever had. Van De Kamp was chairman of the council-appointed Task Force on Good Government several years ago, and Jane was staff liaison to that task force.

Here are some photos.

Everybody gathered in the back yard.

Claire Bogaard and Al Moses:

Richard Bruckner and Ralph McKnight (and Linda Centell in the lower left):

John Van De Kamp, Victor Gordo and Victor's son Michael:

District 5 Field Representative Vannia De La Cuba, former District 5 councilman Bill Crowfoot and PUSD Board of Education member Steve Lizardo (who is also Vannia's husband):

Mayor Bogaard and his former field representative, Betty Ho:

Former District 2 councilman Paul Little and his former field representative, Margo Fuller, who is now field rep to Margaret McAustin.

Mayor Bogaard presented Jane with an official commendation:

Margaret McAustin presented a framed photo of the famous Pasadena City Hall stairway shot by Tavo Olmos.

Jacque Robinson presented a gift from Rose Bowl Operating Company, which is partially in her district.

There's a new bundle of joy in San Diego named Jack Henry! Barney Melekian rushed down there on Friday afternoon to meet his very first grandchild and had to miss the party. Julie Gutierrez and Stephanie DeWolfe, the assistant city managers, presented Jane with her official retirement gifts from the city: a clock and a plaque, both recognizing her 35 years of service.

Jane surrounded by the sterling City Clerk's Office staff.

The Wednesday Lunch Group presented Jane with kind words and a photo. This is a group of past and present city employees who, as the name implies, have lunch together every Wednesday. Left to right: Ted Reynolds, former assistant city attorney; Steve Mermell, director of finance; Judy Kent, field representative to the mayor; Stephanie DeWolfe, assistant city manager; Jane; Larry Newberry, former assistant city attorney; yours truly; Maria Stewart, former city clerk; and Robert Person, former assistant to the city manager. Nick Rodriguez, assistant city attorney, was on his way to a wedding and couldn't be there.

Jane thanked everyone, including her children, parents, brothers and sisters, some of whom were at the table in the foreground:

Then was a small after-party at Stephanie DeWolfe's house, made up mostly of Wednesday Lunch Group past and present plus just a handful of other special guests.

Steve Mermell, Ted Reynolds and Maria Stewart:

Library Director Jan Sanders and Mark Jomsky, our new city clerk:

Project Planner Leon White and Steph's dad:

Steph's parents, who are visiting from Michigan.

Jane is now retired, footloose and fancy free!

We miss you, Jane, but we'll see you soon.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Anatomy of a Press Conference

I've organized press conferences for 32 years. We conducted one today. Here's a behind-the-scenes look at how it works.

It begins with an issue. Make sure it's worthy of a press conference and will resonate with reporters and the public.

Location, location, location. Decide the best place for the conference to be conducted -- a site that reflects the issue. 

Then there's the planning. Who should speak? What should be included in the press kit? What are the logistical issues associated with the site?

The devil is in the details. Microphone, lectern, backdrop, visuals, table for press kits, chairs, sign-in sheet, permit if necessary, alternative in case of rain (if it's outdoors).

Burn the midnight oil. Research the issue and write the materials: key messages, media alert, news release, fact sheet, etc. Then send everything out for review by all the powers that be and revise as necessary.

Alert the media! A media alert serves as the announcement of the press conference. It's short, sweet and to the point with details such as the issue and why it matters, date, time, place, speakers, parking, and main point of contact.

Meet with the Team. Go over the final key messages (some call them talking points but I don't like that term) and determine which should be covered by which speakers. Discuss the order of the program. Make sure everybody's comfortable with who's on first.

Serve as the MC. Thank everyone for coming, introduce the issue briefly, announce the speakers and then turn it over to the them. Come back to the lectern to field Q&A and wrap the whole thing up.

Do the follow-up. When you get back to the office, send out the news release to all media to ensure that those who couldn't attend have the info. Double-check the websites of reporters who attended the press conference and email the links to speakers and the boss.

Here's how it worked today at 10:30 a.m.:

The issue is that there's a proposal on the table in Sacramento to once again balance the state budget off the backs of municipalities. The state is looking at a loophole in the law that could make it easy for them to shrug their responsibility and let cities pay the price. In Pasadena, public health will potentially suffer as a result.

A large room at Pasadena Public Health Department was chosen as the site. I led off the press conference as MC.

Mayor Bill Bogaard was the first speaker.

Then Bernard Melekian.

And Dr. Takashi Wada, our public health director.

The last three speakers were Mary Donnelly-Crocker, executive director of Young & Healthy, which is a community partner of Pasadena Public Health Department; Jacquelynne Jones-Corby, district representative of Senator Jack Scott; and Adam Carter, district representative for Assemblyman Anthony Portantino. Scott and Portantino are standing with cities on this issue.

Steve Mermell, our director of finance, was standing by to answer questions involving dollars and cents.

Reporters from several news outlets were there, plus Dr. Wada did a phone interview with KFWB prior to the press conference.

The Pasadena Star-News had an article posted online just three hours after the press conference was over. Janette Williams does quick work!

Many thanks to Joy Guihama and other staff at Pasadena Public Health Department for their assistance in the logistics, creating the fact sheet that was part of the press kit and providing these photos!

Here's the news release I wrote, which was part of the press kit and was also sent out later today after the press conference.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Love Thy Neighbor. . .

I love my neighbors. Most of us on our little block know each other pretty well and look out for each other's properties and kids and animals. We run into each other on the sidewalk and in the yard and on the porch and across the fence.

It's a bit of a schizophrenic neighborhood, and I'm not talking about the people! We live on Atchison Street between Hill and Sierra Bonita, right on the city/county line, so the north side of the street is unincorporated county and the south side of the street is -- well, it depends. Some properties on the south side are in the Pasadena city limits and some aren't!

The street itself is under the jurisdiction of the county, so even residents who are in the city limits have to get animal licenses from the county, have to have trash picked up by a private hauler, etc. The north side has Southern California Edison and the south side -- even those not in the city limits -- have Pasadena Water and Power (our PWP bills are less expensive than Edison, which is a plus!).

There's one thing that we can all agree on and will show up for, and that's Neighborhood Wine Night every few months. It's really a glorified potluck that's hosted each time by a different household. The host chooses the wine theme -- Cabernet, Chardonnay, French Burgundy, Champagne, whatever -- and everybody brings a bottle. During the course of the evening, we eat lots of food, catch up with each other's lives, have a sing-along and enjoy the wine. Nobody has to get in a car and drive, so it all works out. Nobody ever gets drunk. It's very civilized!

We had Neighborhood Wine Night last Saturday. The battery for my digital camera was dead and the charger was at my office at City Hall, so I had to use my Treo to take photos. Not the best option but it was all I had.

Here are a couple to give you an idea:

While still daylight, here's Ana Carpenter (left), Thelma Reyna, who many people know because she's a retired teacher and principal and taught at PHS for many years, and Ana's husband Lloyd. Thelma's husband Victor is also a retired high school teacher. He was there somewhere!

Then it gets dark and my Treo, which doesn't have a flash, takes very grainy photos but they are what they are.

That's George and Zebeda. George's wife Arpi and Zebeda's husband Remy were at the party somewhere! George is from Lebanon, Zebeda is from Algeria, Arpi is Armenian from Lebanon and Remy is from Poland and grew up in France. We're a very diverse neighborhood! Lots of distinctive accents.

And then it gets darker so here's one more but I won't make y'all suffer through this any longer!

That's Dwight Torigian on the right, his wife Maro with her back to us, and Betsy in the middle. Dwight is half British and half Armenian, Maro is Armenian from Lebanon and Betsy is a not-so-average American whose day job is at a bank but whose passion is acting. She does live theater and has been in a few TV commercials that you've probably seen.

Many others were there but the shots are just too dark and grainy to serve the purpose here.

I must send a shout-out to Arie, who used to live next door to me and now lives a few blocks away but still comes to Neighborhood Wine Night. He's from Holland and is planning a trip "home" next month. He used to work for PBS and now teaches at PCC.

Yes, I love my neighbors. We eat, sing, laugh, drink vino and gab. A lot.

Monday, July 21, 2008

City Council Not So Blow-by-Blow

A couple of highlights from tonight's council meeting:

Jane Rodriguez is retiring after more than 30 years of public service! I'm happy for her, and she'll have lots of time to spend with her family (including that darling grandbaby Jade), but I'm sorry to see her go.

I've known Jane for nearly 18 years, ever since I first began working for the City of Pasadena. She worked hard to prove herself and when Maria Stewart left to be city clerk in Santa Monica Jane, who was assistant city clerk at the time, was hired by the council and never looked back!

In saying their public goodbyes, councilmembers tonight used words such as graceful, elegant and helpful to describe Jane, and they're absolutely right.

Saving Pasadena Before Bedtime: Jane, Stephanie DeWolfe and I named ourselves after The PowerPuff Girls a long time ago for reasons that we'll take to our graves.

On another note, there's a terrific tournament basketball team called the Pasadena Success that has a current record of 36 wins and no losses. It's made up of mostly eighth graders who are going on to high school in the fall with the exception of one younger member who's moving up to eighth grade.

They were introduced during the council meeting tonight and one of the players led the Pledge of Allegiance.

These kids are fortunate to have James Every (in the white shirt) for a coach. When he was experiencing terrible knee pain and was subsequently diagnosed with bone cancer, the team and their parents encouraged him to fight it and to keep coaching. He heeded their advice and reported tonight that his condition is improving "because of them."

They're headed for a big tournament in Las Vegas this coming weekend, so let's all wish them well!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More Original City Hall Historic 1920s Construction Photos

Note Pasadena Public Library on Walnut Street in the background. It's now called Pasadena Central Library because there are nine branches throughout the community.

Here's a shot with All Saints Church on Euclid Avenue.

The building on the right in the background with the tower is First Baptist Church at the southwest corner of Marengo Avenue and Holly Street.

I'll show you some more another time. This is fun!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

When City Hall was a Hole in the Ground

I was scrolling through my digital photo files yesterday, looking for some images to go in the August issue of "Pasadena In Focus."

It's so easy to get sidetracked when I do that! I came across a folder I hadn't looked at in a long time -- original 1920s historic construction photos from the mid-1920s when Pasadena City Hall was being built.

There are about 200 of them in all, so I'll show you just a few.

The blank canvas:

"Dig" the steam shovel:

Dome in progress:

Taking a break:

Stairwell in the making:

Dome in progress II:

Dome in progress III:

Two also-ran designs: