Five Minutes with Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard

Photo credit: Deirdre Flanagan

In February, when Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogaard visited campus as part of Bedrosian Center’s Lunch with a Leader series, we had a chance to ask him a few questions about his long tenure at the helm of Pasadena. But change is coming for the city. Next Tuesday, Pasadena voters will elect a new mayor for the first time in 16 years. But whoever comes into office will have some large shoes to fill.

What’s one thing people might not realize about Pasadena?

Pasadena has become highly distinguished because of institutions like Caltech and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which are at the center of the most state-of-the-art science and technology. But the cultural institutions of the city are also great: the Pasadena Symphony, Pasadena Playhouse, the Norton Simon Museum, the Pacific Asia Museum, and lots of others. Academic and cultural institutions are not always well appreciated in Southern California.

You’ve been in office for 16 years. As you get ready to step down soon, what achievement are you most proud of?

I’m proud of Pasadena’s reputation as a thoughtful and respectful maker of decisions on the part of the city council. The voters react very positively to a style of governance which is respectful and which all the members listen to one another as part of the deliberations. I’m proud of the investments that have been made during my term of office. We spent over a $100 million on the Pasadena City Hall, on the convention center, and on the Rose Bowl as part of our intention to prepare the city to serve the public for the next 100 years.

What’s one way you’ve seen the city change?

There’s been a very dramatic shift in the past 15 years, and the [Metro] Gold Line has been at the base of that change. Pasadena today offers an urban lifestyle in the central business district where people have a wide range of residential opportunities where people can walk to work or walk to public transportations.

Pasadena was in the news for the wrong reasons last year after an employee in the city’s Department of Public Works was charged with embezzling $6.4 million from the city. What is the city doing to repair public trust after the scandal?

We’re working hard at City Hall to re-establish that trust and we’re doing it by special efforts to audit and review the financial administration of the city with the help of experts like KPMG, the internationally recognized accounting firm, through the involvement of a citizen-based task force—a very distinguished [group] of people skilled in accounting, particularly forensic accounting, and fraud investigation and other investigations—persons who are accountants and lawyers and veterans who have worked in the justice department and with the Securities and Exchange Commission. We want to expose city operations to this task force and get the benefit of their views and say to the public that we’ve satisfied ourselves that this experience with embezzlement was an anomaly and not something that exists in other parts of the city operations.

The proposed construction of an extension of the 710 freeway in the San Gabriel Valley has been described a ”slow, grinding, permanent war.” The contentious idea has been in development for decades, long before you were in office, though Caltrans and Metro recently released a draft of an environmental study. What are thoughts on the latest plan for the 710 extension?

The city and the community should look at alternatives to the 710. In fact, they are involved in doing that. The city is also cooperating with nearby cities who are making similar efforts to develop local preferred alternatives. Contrary to universal expectations, the new EIR [environmental impact review] does not offer a preferred alternative. That’s what the EIR is supposed to do. The experts are going to do all these studies and then say, “This is the preferred approach.” We thought that was the direction Metro would go, not that they were going to be influenced by the studies but because they’ve thought for decades that’s the solution for traffic problems in the area. The fact that the Metro’s EIR has not arrived at a preferred alternative is a very positive signal for those that are opposed to the 710.

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