SGV Connect 104 Interview : Topher Mathers on the 2022 Election

Damien: I’m here with Topher Mathers with active SGV and we are talking about some of the ballot measures are going to be on your ballot. If you’re listening outside the San Gabriel Valley we will talk briefly about some of the things in LA City and County and maybe Statewide towards the end. Active did a lot of work to break down 16 different ballot measures in San Gabriel Valley cities…we’re mostly going to talk about those.
Topher: Thanks for having me.
Damien: You’ve spent the time to really go into a lot of the cities and look at the ballot measures and to break down the good and the bad of them. Is there any out there in any of the cities that you’re really excited about or really, I guess what’s the opposite of excited, that you’re really not excited about?
Topher:  Let’s start with Measure H in Pasadena. It’s their rent control. Housing inequality is largely from the cost of housing in Southern California. This is a multi-year, grassroots effort from local organizers to get this on the ballot. It’s something we’re excited about. 60% of residents in Pasadena are renters. This just a really good ballot measure that can address some of the issues that renters are facing.
Damien: While we’re talking about Pasadena there was another measure  that you guys had also endorsed about the library.
Topher: It would continue the revenue source for the Pasadena Library System. The central library has to get retrofitted because there were some unforeseen or unseen damages related to earthquakes. It has been closed for like a year or so. So Pasadena needs to continue this measure to continue funding its library system.
Damien: Active SGV did a great breakdown on Twitter and other one at If you’re listening to this on Streetsblog or anywhere where there’s text to accompany this podcast you can link right to them. If not it’s pretty easy to remember
As I look at the endorsements, there are 16 of them total, and six of them are from the City of Pomona. Are there any of those that really stuck out as as ones that people should focus on?
Topher: There’s a lot more ballot measures that are on the ballot in Pomona. We just looked at a couple to have to weigh in on.` One I  prefer is Measure PS. That’s a special tax on industrial parcels and now it’s going to complete street projects. It’s a dedicated revenue source that would fund walking and biking.
Recently we got the report from the ATP program. The ATP program is underfunded. It’s over prescribed. It’s highly competitive. There is like an half billion extra funding this year and only two San Gabriel Valley Cities are going to receive any funding. This is a great way for municipalities to secure a dedicated funding for walking or biking projects. As long as the state is not making a significant investment and, this a great way for local municipalities to secure funding to actually  move forward with the project that would make their cities more walkable and bikable.
Damien: I don’t think a lot of people if they’re not familiar with the local politics in Pomona would think of this city  is making strides on active transportation. It always feels like a very car-centric city when you visit it. But we’ve talked to Tim Sandoval a couple times and it feels like the city is really trying to change that image and an advance more of those types of projects.
Topher: yeah definitely they just got the protected cycle track right there in front of Cal Poly Pomona. We’ve had good interactions with Victor Preciado, aCity Council Member. He was a winner at our Noche de las Luminarias Awards last month. The city is definitely taking some steps towards addressing some of these transportation issues.
Damien: Another another city that you guys looked at multiple different ballot measures and weighed in on was Baldwin Park.  A lot of those were about the way the city governs itself.
Topher: A lot of ballot measures on that. There’s one we’re really excited about. It would change how the mayor is elected. In other cities where elections where mayors are only serving short-term, it can create some issues such as a rotating measure between City Council Members. Fixing this would fix some other issues in governance.
Damien: As we move on talking about some cities we haven’t touched on, we have Yes on Measure J in Duarte.
Topher: Yes, this is about healthcare minimum wages, an increase for healthcare workers specifically.
We’ve seen the stress that is put on healthcare workers primarily. A fair wage for healthcare workers coming at you understand is something that’s good for hospitals and patients to make sure their the health care workers getting a paid appropriately.
Damien: There’s two other ballot measures in Monrovia in South Pasadena; would you like to highlight either of those?
Topher: Sure, let’s start with Monrovia. This is a bond measure that would raise $75 million dollars would benefit the Monrovia public school system. They had recently passed a bond measure to to do some retrofitting for Monrovia High School but that is only specific to the high school. So there’s other schools within the district. There’s Santa Fe, Mayflower, Clifton that benefit from this funding source to renovate and make some improvements to their Interiors classrooms.
Damien: Before we touch on the state ballot propositions, the City of Los Angeles has United House LA is a sort of a big one that we talked we talked a lot about it Streetsblog. It’s actually the first ballot measure we ever endorsed before it made the ballot. We endorsed it back when folks were just getting signatures. This is the first time we could see any Streetsblog do that. Can you tell me about why this is  so sort of important not just for LA, but for the region?
Topher: We understand I like it’s it’s only specific to LA City. But residents in the San Gabriel Valley, they have family members or friends who live in LA. Our borders are porous. Anything that we can regionally do to help address affordable housing crisis is good and will have Downstream effects on everyone else in the region. This is a great ballot measure and we’re definitely in support of funding sources for for solutions to homelessness.
Damien: Before we transition to the to the Statewide measures, I know that you’ve worked worked in Pasadena for a long time…actually in the pre-interview you mentioned that the last time we talked to you were working with the Pasadena Complete Streets Coalition, so why don’t we talk a little bit more about the measures in Pasadena?
Topher: As I said earlier, a majority of the people that live in Pasadena are renters. Over the course of the pandemic, increasing cost and housing was a problem. There was a decrease in rent initially, but that’s going up again. There are five components to Measure H that are pretty good:
There is a rent-control so it’s like a one-year it only once a year and then that’s tied to the inflation rate of the previous year 75%. There’s eviction protection so it’s only for just cause. Relocation assistance. There is a rental board that’s created. There’s a wage provided for them so that individuals who are low-income after you can participate in the rental board. It also creates a rental rates registry so that advocates in the city to no amount of rental units that are in Pasadena and they can track the rent increases are going on throughout the city.
These are some really good tools that are incorporated into the Measure H that really help Pasadena residents, renters, kind of deal with some of the issues that we’re facing as housing costs rise. Over the years we’ve seen skyrocketing housing cost in the regions that have forced out families that have lived here for generations. This is just one tool local people can use to help community members.
And this is a grass-roots efforts. It’s been give me three or four years in the making. It started off with the Pasadena Tenants Union. They formed a coalition passing for rent control. This is a really really good Grassroots effort from Pasadena residents to address one of the kind of major issues that Pasadena residents are facing.
Damien: Before before we wrap up, let’s talk a little bit about the statewide ballot measures. Before we hit record when we were doing our pre-interview we talked a little bit about Prop 13 which is sort of getting buried on TV as the “Lyft proposition.” You are urging folks in the San Gabriel Valley to vote “Yes” on the measure that’s mostly about electric cars.
Topher: Climate Change is an existential threat. We know that transportation emissions account for half of Greenhouse Gas emissions: 40% from tailpipes 10% from logistics getting fuel here. The San Gabriel Valley in particular has some kind of worst air quality in the region and state. As much to me make the transition to electric cars for climate change, we also need to do it for health.
Some people need to drive to get around because of land use patterns that have persisted for 60-70 years. This is one step that we can take to address timing change and address air quality issues.
Damien: Are there other any other statewides you want to you want to highlight before we before we call it a podcast?
Topher: Prop 1. We are a health based organization and individuals have the right to choose access to health care how they see it.