Pasadena Now: Former Council Candidates Menchaca, Tahilramani Endorse Andy Wilson in District 7 Runoff

Former District 7 Candidates Alejandro (Alex) Menchaca, at left, and Sheena Tahilramani, at right, give the thumbs up to run-off candidate Andy Wilson, at center.

Sheena Tahilramani, a Republican, whose campaign focused on social media, said this:

“I’ve been impressed by Andy Wilson’s depth of knowledge on the issues, by his determination to protect the quality of life in our neighborhoods – and, most of all, by his willingness to engage with those who may disagree with him. Andy is easy to reach, easy to talk to and he really listens – respectfully and with an open mind. Andy has also been straightforward about his qualifications and has run a positive campaign on the issues. Sadly, neither can be said of his run-off opponent. There’s a sharp contrast in this race and Wilson is the clear choice.”

Tahilramani noted that there were many opportunities, both public and private, to judge consistency and veracity: “On that score, there was a huge difference. Wilson said the same thing to every audience. He dealt with questions head-on, in a fact-based way. Hosp, on the other hand, spent most of his time making inaccurate or deeply misleading attacks on others. He was also regularly caught intentionally bending the truth. His tendency to dissemble, even on small matters, makes it very difficult to trust him on bigger issues.”

>> Read the full article at Pasadena Now

Pasadena Now: Pasadena Goes to the Polls: Today’s Election Decides Council, School Board Seats and County Measures

City Council District 5 incumbent Victor Gordo faces two opponents— education activist Aida Morales and writer Krystal Lopez Podley—while District 7 incumbent Andy Wilson, who was appointed by the City Council in 2015 to fill the seat left vacant by the election of Mayor Terry Tornek, faces four challengers–attorney Phil Hosp, Amtrak employee Bryan Witt, Attorney Alex Menchaca, and PR consultant Sheena Tahilramani. Incumbent John Kennedy is running unopposed for his District 3 seat.

>> Read full article at Pasadena Now

Pasadena Now: Pasadena City Council, School Board Candidates Await Tuesday’s Elections Hopefuls offer last-minute thoughts on campaigns, goals and election night

PR consultant Sheena Tahilramani, who is also opposing Wilson, said, “I predict that the two candidates that spent the most money will likely go into a runoff. If they don’t, I think the one that loses will lose as a result of his direct mail campaign and perhaps that’s an opportunity for a third candidate like myself to garner votes. If it does go into a runoff between the top two money spenders, I think it will be a slam dunk for the incumbent.”

Tahilramani also offered a long view of her campaign, explaining, “This was my first campaign. Let’s just say it was a good primer for future potential campaigns and I had a lot of fun. There are many things I’d do differently next time, like have a campaign manager.”

As for election eve, Tahilramani joked, “I’m going to be having a victory party on my couch watching ‘House of Cards’ reruns. Just kidding. No victory parties for me.”

>> Read full article at Pasadena Now

Pasadena Now: Guest Opinion | With the Cost of Doing Business Rising, Candidates Must Think Big in Order to Think “Small”

On Monday, February 13, the Old Pasadena Management District, Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, Playhouse District Association and South Lake Avenue Business Association hosted a candidate forum with City Council candidates appearing on the March 7th ballot. Unfortunately due to travel I wasn’t able to attend the forum however I am a candidate for District 7 and I wanted to share some of my ideas on supporting business growth in our City given my experience as the owner of two small businesses—SVN Public Relations and Banter & Bliss Candle Co.

I co-founded SVN Public Relations (formerly 7 Second Strategies) in 2013 and founded Banter & Bliss Candle Co. in 2015 and each company has different challenges—consultancy vs. retail— but for the purposes of this article I am going to focus on the small business retail sector because that’s where I’ve seen a host of challenges and, as a result, an opportunity for creative solutions. From expensive storefronts to hiring employees, the retail sector comes with additional hurdles that I haven’t encountered with SVN Public Relations. In fact, Banter & Bliss Candle Co. is currently located at Los Angeles’ largest permanent artisan warehouse, CRAFTED at the Port of LA, primarily due to the venue’s limited operating hours, flexible lease terms, and overall affordability.

As Pasadena Now has noted, the candidates at the forum focused on the need to promote small business over big box retailers, the rise of ecommerce as a challenge to brick-and-mortar, and the increasing number of empty storefronts around the City, among other issues. While the idea of promoting small business is a good one (and one that I fully support as the only small business owner running in District 7 by ballot identification), we can’t minimize the important financial impact that big box retailers have on our local economy and the role that they play as anchor tenants to attract foot traffic to our shopping districts (and the small businesses that operate in their midst!). So, it’s not so much about big vs. small as it is about the interplay of both to create an experience so extraordinary that you can’t get it on Amazon or GrubHub.

What does this mean for our business districts? It means we need a vision that fosters solutions that will actually connect the dots between empty storefronts, rising rents, creating local job opportunities, and our desire to recruit and retain both small and big businesses. It means we should be actively recruiting businesses to Pasadena that adopt corporate social responsibility (CSR) models as a way of doing business. And, it means we should think outside the box to see whether there are opportunities to promote small business via shared retail space similar to what they do at CRAFTED at the Port of Los Angeles (probably on a smaller scale as much as I’d really love to see the Borders on South Lake divided into shared retail space to promote up-and-coming independent brands).

Last week I had the opportunity to attend The Heart Series, a 2-day conference for conscious companies to share and learn best practices for making an impact, and hear the CEO & Co-Founder of Everytable, Sam Polk, talk about his journey from Wall Street to becoming a social entrepreneur. Everytable’s mission is to make good food available to everyone. They price their meals according to the neighborhoods they serve so you’re paying less and bringing better food to more communities. What’s more, they hire from the communities that their stores are located in and, according to their website, “many store employees are graduates from nonprofits like Groceryships and The Right Way Foundation, which supports former foster kids.” According to Advertising Age, “millennials are expected to spend more than $200 billion annually starting in 2017” and it’s a fairly well known fact that we’re the fiercest CSR supporters. So, if we can connect the dots between empty storefronts, rising rents, creating local job opportunities, recruiting and retaining small and big businesses and engaging our next generation residents…well, that’s an added bonus.

Now, back to the idea of creating an experience so extraordinary you can’t get it on Amazon. On the retail front, over-the-top rents and long-term lease agreements are nonstarters for many small business owners. We need to find creative ways to approach both of these issues to make doing business in Pasadena possible and to promote the necessary balance between big box stores and smaller retailers. For example, a Y Combinator-backed company called Bulletin is reinventing retail, recognizing the need for a more flexible approach to shared retail space—it’s basically WeWork for retail. According to a recent article in TechCrunch, “Bulletin takes a physical location and divides it into different sections of varying sizes — some of them are just a little bit of shelf space, some of them are much bigger. Then each of those sections can be rented out by different businesses on a month-by-month basis… In some cases, brands may see this as a way to experiment with brick-and-mortar retail. In other cases, they might just want to rent out space for a month or two to launch a new product.”

I see a lot of opportunity to attract innovative businesses like Everytable and Bulletin to Pasadena, especially in the South Lake Avenue Business District where we’ve seen the addition of hip and trendy retail and restaurant concepts like SoulCycle, Sugarfish, Philz Coffee, Urban Plates, and Floyd’s 99 Barbershop. If elected to City Council for District 7, I promise to always think big when it comes to the issues that affect business owners—both big and small—in Pasadena.

This op-ed originally appeared at www.pasadenanow.com on February 23, 2017.

Pasadena Now: City Council Candidates Struggle with Homelessness Issue

Demonstrating the advantages of incumbency, two incumbents for the three open Pasadena City Council seats in the upcoming March elections demonstrated a wide breadth of knowledge on municipal issues while predominantly inexperienced but scrappy challengers fought hard to make their positions and new faces known at Tuesday evening’s forum on housing at All Saints Church.

The event was sponsored by Sustainable World and The Economic Justice and Non-Violence Working Group. Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater of Friends in Deed, moderated the event.

>> Read full article at Pasadena Now

California Economy Reporting: Housing crisis takes center stage at Pasadena candidate forum

Sheena Tahilramani, a candidate for District 7, agreed that young people are having trouble buying homes: “I can’t afford a house. I’m 34 years old. I can’t afford it.”

Tahilramani said she against the regulation of short-term rentals, currently being considered by the city. “One of the things we’re talking about here is a limitation of short-term rentals, such as AirBnB, what I don’t think some of the city council realize is some of us are actually utilizing that to make housing more affordable,” said Tahilramani.

>> Read full article at California Economy Reporting

Pasadena Star-News: How Pasadena candidates would change the city’s affordable housing laws

All eight candidates running for Pasadena City Council broadly pledged to work to end homelessness and provide more affordable housing at a community forum at All Saints Church Tuesday.

The winners of the March election could get their first crack at the divisive issue almost immediately after coming into office, as council members have called for reviews of two of the city’s housing ordinances.

>> Read full article at Pasadena Star-News

Pasadena Now: Opinion | On Gang Violence in the City of Roses: Let’s Start With Why So We Can End With How

A spate of shootings in Pasadena over the course of the last few weeks has renewed calls for increased staffing at the Pasadena Police Department from community and members of the City Council alike. Last Sunday, Councilman Victor Gordo reiterated his previous call for increased staffing at the police department, stating in a message to constituents, “I ask you to join me in renewing that demand. I also am asking the Police Chief to increase patrols by utilizing overtime.” Pasadena Police Department spokesman Lt. Vasken Gourdikian attributed the shootings to a rise in gang violence across the San Gabriel Valley and community leaders have been quick to gather public forums on the issue, including one on Friday called by City Councilman John Kennedy and the non-profit Flintridge Foundation.

As I’ve walked the neighborhoods of District 7 in my current run for City Council, I’ve often told residents that among a sea of differing opinions on local issues, so long as we have a common vision for our City, I’m confident we’ll find a solution. The truth of the matter is that as a community we all strive to keep Pasadena safe and a likely solution will include a comprehensive plan to tackle the root causes of youth involvement in gangs—a plan that may or may not also include increased police staffing. Skip Hickabottom and Dale L. Gronemeier have previously tackled the “myth” of the Pasadena Police Department “understaffing” stating, “the staff’s status quo police budget is what Pasadena can afford, and its budget supports much higher police staffing than any nearby comparable city (including many smaller cities)…The demand to increase the number of officers is a knee-jerk reaction coming out of right field that is a non-starter.” Add this perspective to the one that says there doesn’t seem to be a consensus regarding marginal changes in police staffing and crime rates and it becomes clear that clarity lies somewhere in the midst of competing voices.

When I started SVN Public Relations in 2012, one of our first clients was former USC head football coach Pete Carroll’s non-profit organization, A Better LA (ABLA). ABLA’s gang prevention and intervention strategy focuses on working from the “inside-out”—that is, working within a community to effect change, rather than from the “outside-in.” I had the opportunity to work alongside ABLA-funded organizations like the Professional Community Intervention Institute (PCITI) created by Aquil Basheer (a former Black Panther). Basheer’s hardcore gang intervention program has been adopted as a model for gang intervention by the Los Angeles City Council and the organization has recently expanded to numerous cities throughout California, and also nationally and globally. If you have a chance to check it out, I’d highly recommend watching the documentary available on Netflix called “The Black Jacket.” I had the opportunity to see PCITI and Aquil Basheer in action—you can’t work with an organization like A Better LA and accept the notion that the solution to this problem lies solely in increased staffing in the police department. ABLA’s unlikely heroes—former gang members who know the ins and outs of the intricate relationships between different gangs, the specific stressors that lead to violence, and the reasons why young people join gangs—bridge the gap between at-risk members of the community and the law enforcement officers who work to protect us every single day.

As I learned from working with ABLA, there are a plethora of reasons why young people join gangs from finding a sense of identity in a community to which they don’t feel connected to finding family and fellowship where a home environment may fall short. As we approach the problem of gang violence in our communities, I’m reminded of a quote from Simon Sinek, motivational speaker and author of the book “Start with Why”—“Panic causes tunnel vision. Calm acceptance of danger allows us to more easily assess the situation and see the options.”

So, on that note, I think we need to do just that…we need to start with why so we can end with how.

Sheena Tahilramani is a candidate for Pasadena City Council District 7 and is co-founder of Pasadena-based public relations agency, SVN Public Relations.

This op-ed originally appeared at www.pasadenanow.com on January 16, 2017.