By Julie BUTCHER
On a nearly dreary Sunday, Feb. 26, a day generally reserved for Oscar watching preparations, more than 400 members of the foothills’ communities found the parking structure and trekked across the well-kept landscape of the campus of Glendale Community College to attend a packed, spirited community swearing-in for recently elected California State Senator Anthony J. Portantino.
Portantino was elected on Nov. 8 to represent California’s 25th Senate District, representing over 930,000 people in Burbank, Sunland-Tujunga, Shadow Hills, Atwater Village, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, Pasadena, Altadena, South Pasadena, San Marino, Sierra Madre, Monrovia, Bradbury, Duarte, San Dimas, Glendora, La Verne, Claremont, and Upland. Sen. Portantino previously served three terms in the Assembly, representing the 44th Assembly District.
The large crowd gobbled up appetizers and drinks in the short-lived sun of Plaza Vaquero, enjoyed the percussive talents of Pasadena’s John Muir High School’s drum line and the cover classic rockings of local band Misplaced Priorities, and joked about various uses for the pasta scoops distributed at the event.
Before the brief ceremony, Portantino honored a local couple, Lila and Rich Ramirez, celebrating their 60th anniversary. When asked for the secret to a long marriage, Rich quickly quipped: “70/40,” pointing to his wife with a smile. They both laughed.
“He’s an engineering geologist,” Lila noted.
“She’s a city commissioner,” he added.
As for Portantino, the enthusiasm for his election was widespread and heartfelt. “He’s very popular in the business community,” a businessman noted as he arrived.
“Because of Anthony’s record and commitment to bringing people together across all lines and backgrounds in the community, we have high hopes for his bold, progressive leadership with his return to the state legislature,” said Hans Johnson, president of the East Area Progressive Democrats. The local political club has been active in environmental efforts such as the statewide ban on plastic bags.
Glendale City Clerk Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian introduced his son, 2-year-old Armen, as Portantino’s biggest fan.
“The turnout for this swearing-in ceremony is one of the most diverse I have ever seen in the district,” he said. “It is a reflection of the type of inclusive person that Anthony is and is a big reason for his success.”
Local attorney Bill Newkirk identified himself as a “big fan.”
“Even when we disagree, with Anthony Portantino what you get is clarity, consistency, a willingness to debate and engage.”
State Senator Bob Hertzberg added, “Portantino’s operation sets the gold standard for constituent services. Plus he understands that, agree or disagree, the most important thing is continued dialogue. Anthony Portantino shows up. He shows up and he keeps on showing up!”
The ROTC Color Guard from Blair High School in Pasadena presented the colors, young Skye Correy and Anahit Sinanyan led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the La Cañada High School chamber singers sang the national anthem.
Claremont Mayor Sam Pedroza emceed the ceremony. Dr. Anita Quiñonez Gabrielian, president of the Glendale Community College board of trustees, notably seventh in the nation for income growth, welcomed the community to GCC, announcing that the college has recently attained the highest level of accreditation possible for an institute of higher education. About Anthony Portantino, she was effusive.
“You are at every important event in the community – and you love it!” she said. “The turnout today shows that the feeling is definitely mutual.”
State Controller Betty Yee swore in Portantino. She spoke about him with tremendous enthusiasm.
“Anthony Portantino is the best government has to offer. He never forgets who he represents and the voice of the community in everything he does,” Yee said. “He’s been a mayor, a council member; I’ve especially enjoyed our work together on the Santa Monica [Mountains] Conservancy. At every level, for him it is always about making a difference for the people he serves. Anthony embodies the true meaning of service.”
After being sworn in, Portantino took the mic.
“You all know I’m known for always joking – and I genuinely believe that we should always laugh at ourselves – but these are serious times. However, I must note that this is the biggest inauguration crowd ever!” Portantino joked to raucous applause. “We share so much more together than divides us. We all aspire for the American Dream – a great education, a good job, a secure future and a decent retirement.
“Everything we do has to be about the kids. And I don’t care where they’re born. Think about this with me: if pushing back the start time of school would increase student achievement, improve attendance, reduce accidents, violence, and drug use – who’s for it? We’ll be having town halls on the issue and look forward to vibrant dialogue that puts kids first, even if that inconveniences adults.”
Summarizing several aspects of a packed, aspirational legislative agenda, Portantino reported some of his priorities: filling the teacher shortage, particularly in subject matter areas; making life better for juvenile offenders and for foster youth; protecting young athletes to keep them from going from the ball field to the emergency room; keeping addictive synthetic heroin out of the hands of children; helping cancer patients store their fertility.
“We are good, kind, and just people, and we should act like it,” he finished.
Local civil rights icon Juanita DeVaughn summed up the event: “Beautiful. Just beautiful.”