Battle over empty Pasadena council seat heats up

June 27, 2012 4:34:06 PM PDT
There's a battle over council representation in Pasadena, and our crew got kicked out of City Hall while going to ask questions.

One Pasadena council member recently resigned, and many Latinos in the city want the current council to replace him with someone who represents them.

Now, we're learning more about why news reporters were removed from Pasadena City Hall Thursday.

When Pasadena City Councilman Erv Brannon abruptly resigned during a meeting this month, it left the city's District E position open. It's a district with a 62 percent Latino population, according to the 2010 census, and it's growing.

"We feel that it needs to be filled by someone that's gonna represent the community," said Patricia Gonzalez with the Texas Organizing Project.

But while that issue was being discussed in council chambers Tuesday morning, my photographer and I were denied entry into that meeting.

Pasadena police officers told us to leave. Earlier, they told a reporter from Telemundo, a Houston Spanish TV station, to leave as well. They told that reporter to call first before arriving. The only reporter who was allowed in was writer Kristi Nix with the Pasadena Citizen, our Houston Community Newspaper partner.

"There were three uniformed police officers, My purse was searched and I was wanded for knives and weapons," Nix told us.

When we asked why the limited media access, officers told us it was at the request of their police chief and Mayor Johnny Isbell -- a charge both say is not true.

"It's never happened to me before," I told Isbell.

"I'm sorry it happened to you, it should not have," he replied.

Even city council members told me they couldn't figure out why we were kicked out of the building.

"I have no idea. They've always let them in there, I think that's ridiculous," District C Councilman Don Harrison said.

"I feel that if it's a public meeting, as long as you're not disturbing the meeting, I think you should be able to go back there and film what you need to film," District A Councilman Ornaldo Ybarra said.

Meanwhile, Richard Serna is one Pasadena resident who wants to fill the empty council seat. Serna says two Latinos out of eight city council members for a majority Hispanic population is not much to ask for.

"I think that whoever sits up there on council should be representing the people and not council," Serna said.

Latino leaders say they won't be satisfied until the mayor and council appoint a Hispanic to that empty seat.

Pasadena police officials apologized to us for denying us entry.

A lot will happen between now and the next council meeting, which is scheduled for 7:30pm next Tuesday. Latino leaders say they'll be here.


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