The Candidate, Chris Holden
His campaign information states that he is a leader who’ll get California working again.
In answering the question, ‘Why am I running for the assembly?’ According to Chris Holden, “Californians have faced tough times in recent years. I know we can create jobs, improve our schools and turn our economy around. We’ve done it before, and with state government working for you, we can do it again. That’s why I’m running for the State Assembly. With your help, I am confident that we can get California working again.”
Chris Holden is a member of the Pasadena City Council. At 51, he has spent almost half of his life in politics–notwithstanding, he is the son of former state senator and city councilman, Nate Holden. First elected to the Pasadena City Council in 1989, he served as Mayor of Pasadena for two years. It was during his term, as the appointed mayor, the city charter was revised to allow for open elections for the mayor. Now Holden is running for the new 41st Assembly District–a result of the recent redistricting.
The Sentinel spoke to Councilman Holden about his plans for the 41st district ‘when’ he gets to Sacramento.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL (LAS): “Tell us, why did you plan to run for the Assembly?”
COUNCILMAN CHRIS HOLDEN (CCH): “Well after 23 years on the Pasadena City Council I have had an opportunity to address many of the issues that the legislature (the Assembly) has addressed and will address going forward; so it’s a great place to learn civic engagement, working with neighborhoods and constituents, and solving problems at the ground level. In Pasadena, we are doing a wonderful job of (re)-building downtown, Old Pasadena, turning it into a model for downtown revitalization. We use it as a successful example of how redevelopment dollars are used and could be used going forward, notwithstanding that some communities did not use them (dollars) correctly. But we did.”
LAS: “And what else …?”
CCH: “In addition, we are one of only three cities in the state that has its own health department and power company–so we’ve been able to provide services to uninsured and under-insured residents for many years. So when the state made their cutbacks, we would use general fund dollars to make sure that families are/were in need, their medical needs would be met.”
LAS: “As you are speaking about insurance, was Pasadena heavily impacted by the recent storm that devastated parts of that area of the county with trees falling on houses, cars … I think it was last year, and there was also a whole lot of wind damage and confusion about the time it took the utilities companies to act, etc…?”
CCH: “Yes, Pasadena was impacted heavily. Essentially, it was ground zero for what was a no-rain hurricane. Winds were in excess of one hundred miles an hour; it uprooted trees like I’ve never seen before …”
LAS: “And how have you all … the city been able to overcome that since then … have you gotten federal, state or county dollars to help?”
CCH: “We are looking at ways to figure out the cost because we didn’t clear the economic threshold for a full bailout from the federal government in terms of a federal emergency where they would have put in a significant amount of resources.”
LAS: “What has to happen to reach that threshold?”
CCH: “The cumulative cost was somewhere around $20 million and the cost had to be much greater … much higher than $20 million for the federal government to provide assistance. It was recognized by the State of California as a disaster (area), not only Pasadena but the surrounding communities in the San Gabriel Valley.”
In further explaining the reasons why the area did not receive federal assistance, Holden drew parallels between the tornado devastation in the Midwest–where there was loss of life–and said that though the Pasadena and surrounding areas were hit hard, there was no loss of life.
LAS: “You have been in the city council for 23 years, and I believe the mayor’s position rotated among the council; when were you mayor?”
CCH: “I was the mayor from 1997 to 1999 and during that time, it was rotated. Now we have an elected mayor. The rules were actually changed; while I was mayor one of the issues we put forward, recognizing that the city was very large and we had to address a diversity of issues. We have been able to really grow our city while I was mayor: we buildup our downtown and Civic Center, and bring new businesses and jobs.”
LAS “Now we know that we have an unemployment problem throughout the country, and the economy is in the doldrums … let’s say you make it to Sacramento … what are your plans from day one?”
CCH: “The two areas I want to focus on are transportation and education. Most people see that education is still one of the most important issues that we can focus on. The problem is that we do not have the resources to line up with the priorities. So though it may be considered one of the top priorities, it’s still one of the lower funded.”
LAS: “When I think about transportation … public transportation … relative to Pasadena, I think about the rail: the one that runs from L.A. almost parallel to the 110 (Freeway) and the one that runs down the middle of the 210. What do you have in mind to boost the transportation component of Pasadena?”
CCH: “I think rail is going to be very important because it’s part of a network that we need to take advantage of–the 30/10 plan–which calls for a number of rail projects … hi-speed rails and things of that nature. It creates a network we need to exploit: the gold line extension going eastwards and then going in the other direction to Bob Hope/Burbank Airport.”
LAS: “And where are you with the 710 Freeway coming up to join the 210; that has been in limbo for many years?”
CCH: ” Most people see that as an important project that should be completed. Now the Metro is going through an environmental review period and they are evaluating three options: a tunnel, a surface route or do nothing.”
LAS: ” … Surface means on the ground or above the ground …?”
CCH: “It would be the original proposal for surface freeway … it may be elevated but it would still have to move a lot of treasured neighborhoods and homes, and would have a traumatic impact on the surrounding area. I don’t support the surface route. Doing nothing would be basically problematic.”
LAS: “You have a name recognition history–your dad–how much has that helped you and how much support has that garnered for you?”
CCH: “Let’s face it, my dad served in the state legislature with Jerry Brown as governor; now I have an opportunity to serve with Jerry Brown also. So the more things change, the more they remain the same. But he looks as himself as a public servant not a politician and that’s how I try to envision myself.”
LAS: “How much is he involved in your thrust for the Assembly now?”
CCH: “He’s involved as a dad would be. He obviously knows a lot about what I’m trying to do and I would be remised if I don’t reach back and draw on that wisdom.”
Along with the parental wisdom of which Holden spoke, he has gathered a stellar cast of supporters, and in his own words, “this is an opportunity to show what I can do … what I have accomplished.”
And his website says it very well, “Hard work and commitment to improving the quality of my community is what makes public service worthwhile. The seat I occupy belongs to the people of Pasadena, it’s a privilege to give back to a city my family and I love.”