Alan Reynolds is among four candidates running for elections to the South Pasadena City Council on Nov. 5. A South Pas native who was born and educated in the city, Reynolds is making his second bid for the council on a platform of diversity—a multiplicity of professional backgrounds, not to mention age groups, is healthy for the council, he argues. An engineer by training who runs his own engineering consultancy and technical sales business, Reynolds spoke with South Pasadena Patch recently about the key issues he thinks the city faces—and why he thinks he’s qualified to address them. Excerpts from the interview:
South Pasadena Patch: What kind of engineer are you and why
do you think an engineer on the city council would be beneficial to South
Reynolds: I have a degree in aerospace engineering from USC. I didn’t really make myself an expert in engineering but I made myself an expert in problem solving—working with people, solving their problems and moving on to the next problem. Engineering in and of itself is problem solving. My degree is also a valuable mindset for everything that I do.
Patch: How would you describe yourself politically? Are you a liberal, a progressive, a conservative or a combination of the three?
Reynolds: I call myself an independent moderate centrist. I do not belong to either the Republican [Party] or the Democratic Party. I hold values that both parties have. And I have a lot of values that fall between where they [the two parties] are.
Patch: On your Facebook page, you say that South Pasadena needs a “Diversity of viewpoints on council to keep our City great!” What kind of diversity would you bring to the council if you’re elected, and what are some of the ways you think you would put that diversity to use?
Reynolds: I think my background is different [from that of] other members of the council as well as those who are running for office right now. Being an engineer, being a private business owner who is not a lawyer, being a native of South Pasadena, having grown up here, gone through our entire school system, being a young parent—gives me a different blend of perspectives than members of the council as well as the three people I’m running against.
Patch: Why are you trying to distinguish yourself from those who might have lived in South Pasadena for a long time but didn’t grow up here?
Reynolds: Because it’s a different experience growing up in a place as a child than it is for someone who has maybe lived in a place for 30 years as an adult. There are people running for council who have lived here longer than me—because I haven’t lived that long. But I have had the experience of personally growing up here and attending our schools and being immersed in what South Pasadena is from the day I was born. It’s not necessarily why people should like me. It’s just an additional benefit. I think having an engineering and private business background combined with having grown up here gives me a different perspective. I don’t want to go so far as to say that being younger provides me a different perspective, but I have had people tell me that. It’s something multiple people have told me, as opposed to something I have come up on my own.
Patch: What would you say is the Number One issue facing the South Pasadena community and what would you do to address it if you got elected?
Reynolds: It’s kind of a throwaway thing to say, but the Number One issue in South Pasadena is always the 710 freeway. It’s always something that is never—never—dead. Even though there has been legislation passed that helps, even now Caltrans is pushing back and saying that they’re not going to do things like sell the houses [as they’re required to do by law, under Senate Bill 416] for another couple of years until another alternative to a surface route is put forward. A tunnel or some of the more invasive alternatives such as a bus or transit route, or reversible lanes on Fair Oaks, have the potential to destroy the town. And that bleeds off into the infrastructure issues, both for the streets as well as the sewers and the water, which haven’t been addressed for a hundred years because we’ve been fighting the freeway for over 60. And while there’s a reason why [those issues] haven’t been addressed, we can’t keep not addressing them. I think we’re better situated now in regards to fighting the freeway than we were 30-40 years ago, and we can now fix our infrastructure.
Patch: What would you say is the one major issue in the city that only you, out of all the candidates, are focusing on?
Reynolds: Well, the one issue that I keep bringing up is having a council that is more diverse. And I hesitate to phrase it this way, but people have phrased it to me this way when I talk with them—that 80 percent of the council is made up of individuals with only two different educational backgrounds. I think we took a step forward in one way in the last election because we didn’t have any female perspective on the council, and we elected our current mayor pro tem [Marina] Khubesrian. But at the same time she added another medical professional to a council that already has one. So the issue that I think is being neglected by the other candidates is intrinsically what the makeup of the council is.
Patch: What would be your goals if you’re elected, and what steps would you take to achieve them?
Reynolds: One goal I have is regarding infrastructure in the city. We’ve taken steps in the right direction, and we need to keep taking bigger, better steps in that direction and making sure that it doesn’t require the residents on a certain street to get together in a committee in order to comment and complain at council meetings to get their streets fixed. I happen to live on a street that’s the second-worst or worst street in the city.
Patch: Which one?
Reynolds: Hanscom Drive. We’ve literally have had residents in the past pick up chunks of our street and take them down to the council and dump them on desks—and not gotten a response.
Patch: Why do you think you weren’t successful in the last election—and what have you learned from that failure?
Reynolds: Personally, I don’t really view it as a failure because there was a point when there were nine people running—and I could have told you who was going to win. I really do think there was a very strong group of people who were pushing—and rightfully so—for there to be a woman on council. And I believe that Dr. Schneider had been very fair, and his election was not surprising. And if you look at which next person was the most involved and most deserving at that point it was Councilmember [Bob] Joe—he has been a pillar of the community for a long time. And I could have told you those would be the people who would win. When there are nine people running you can end up with a very split vote in which somebody like you or myself could have had a good chance. Or you could end up with a very focused vote in which three or four people get the majority of the votes. So at some point I made the choice to not just push that hard for it and to continue my campaign with what money I had, and come back two years later.
Patch: Do you aspire to any political office higher than the South Pasadena City Council?
Reynolds: For me, the city council is the council of a place that I grew up in, and while I’m politically involved on other levels through other people, any ambitions that I may have toward that [for those offices] at a future date would be something that’s not at all related to me running for council.
In a city as small as South Pasadena, being on the council does not really serve as a stepping stone toward going up the ladder. So, I’m not running for council to try to take a step in that direction. I may choose to do so later, depending on my circumstances. But at the same time, I’m 28 right now. I’ll be 29 on election day. I have a lot of room in front of me if I decide I want to change direction and go for something else.
Tomorrow: Q&A with election candidate Diana Mahmud.