Trump policies heat up Pasadena candidate forum
President Donald Trump’s stance on immigration and healthcare took centerstage at a Latino issues forum for Pasadena candidates seeking election to the school board and City Council.
City Council candidates for District 5 including incumbent Victor Gordo, and challengers Aida Morales and Krystal Lopez Padley were on hand as were District 7 candidates including incumbent Andy Wilson, and challengers Alejandro Mechaca, Phil Hosp, Bryan Witt and Sheena Tahilramani.
President Trump became the focus of the forum late in the afternoon when City Council candidates were asked whether or not they voted for him.
Hosp, an Iraq war veteran and Bronze Star recipient ignored the question as did Tahilramani, a one-time intern in the George W. Bush White House and later Karl Rove’s Chief of Staff.
The other candidates said they did not support Trump.
The forum conflicted with Super Bowl LI, something organizer Roberta Martinez said resulted in low attendance. It was scheduled for Sunday afternoon so voters could see the candidates before the commencement of absentee voting, Martinez said.
Candidates also discussed the implications of the Affordable Care Act — also known as Obamacare — being repealed by Trump’s Administration. Each candidate expressed a commitment to maintaining Pasadena’s Health Department, even if federal funding were to be cut.
Moderated by NBC’s John Cadiz Klemack and organized by the Pasadena Latino Coalition, the forum also featured Pasadena Unified School District candidates Kimberly Kenne, Adrienne Ann Mullin and Elizabeth Pomeroy all of whom are incumbents in their districts. Also present were challengers Rita Miller and Michelle Richardson-Bailey.
PUSD’s hot-button issue at the forum was the possibility of Trump Administration taking on immigration enforcement on school campuses. The school board candidates unanimously agreed that preventing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from detaining students suspected of being undocumented is a top priority.
“This is the culture of our campuses,” Kenne said. “And we’re gonna continue that.”
The candidates also discussed working with Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez to intercept immigration officers.
School Board candidates were asked to give a take on bilingual materials for special needs students and address how the district can place a greater emphasis on English-learners.
In the City Council portion of the forum, District 7 candidates were asked how they would improve Latino visibility. Martinez expressed a frustration that city events for Latinos are often sidetracked by a focus on entertainment rather than education.
“Is it just folklorico, or fiestas or the parade?” Martinez asked. “Or is it about highlighting the contributions of Latinos to Pasadena?”
Several times in the course of the forum, incumbents fended off attacks. Victor Gordo had to field accusations that he was out of touch with his constituents, while Hosp accused Wilson of funneling city funds to his privately held non-profits.
Martinez said the forum served an important function for all those who participated.
“It takes a lot of time and energy [to campaign],” she said. “This is their time to be heard.”
UPDATED at 3:50 p.m. to re-characterize Hosp and Tahilramani reaction to a question from the audience.
By Hugo Guzman, correspondent