About Anthony Portantino

Democratic Values • Independent Judgment • Proven Leadership

Former Mayor and Assemblymember Anthony Portantino is a well-respected community leader in the San Gabriel Valley. Anthony has long and deep roots in our community. His daughter Sofia is a proud K-16 product of our public schools and Bella is a thriving public 8th grader. Anthony is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Southern California, where he has taught leadership and mentored countless students. He is active in numerous community organizations and local non-profits. Anthony’s spouse, Ellen Portantino, is a successful executive at Warner Brothers and also has an impressive civic resume, including being a Girl Scout Leader and a PTA President. Anthony and Ellen are ardent supporters of our local public schools and volunteer for numerous community organizations.

Anthony is very close to the Mayors and Councilmembers of our foothill cities, and his emphasis on accountability throughout state government has earned him a reputation as one of the most well-respected, hard-working and principled leaders in the San Gabriel Valley. Anthony’s monthly in-depth public policy discussions on Charter Cable cement his reputation as an intelligent political leader, who prizes public policy issues, and personal relationships, above the glitz and perks of politics. His success at banning the “open carry” of handguns on Main Street California, in the face of angry and significant opposition from the powerful gun lobby, and his reform efforts in Sacramento, exemplify leadership and Anthony’s willingness to take on the tough issues, and even his own party, to promote a better and safer California.

Educator & Reformer

After leaving public office, Anthony joined the University of Southern California first, as a Legislator in Residence, and then as Visiting Fellow at the respected Unruh Institute of Politics. There, he focuses on mentoring our next generation of student leaders, public policy solutions, government reform and teaching “values based political leadership.” During the fall of 2013, Anthony co-taught the class, The Future of California, which focused on bringing bi-partisan solutions to important topic areas including Education Reform, Public Safety, Jobs & the Economy and Environmental Protection. In the fall of 2014, Anthony taught Political Science 323: Values Based Political Leadership.

On campus, Anthony endeavors to connect a student’s personal values to his/her leadership style and goals. He strongly believes that when a person understands what he or she actually believes in, that person can more effectively lead others toward productive outcomes. In today’s polarizing political climate, it is more important than ever for future leaders to promote solutions, and solve problems rather than creating gridlock and nurturing discord to further personal ambition and the political game.

A Strong Advocate for Public Education

In his freshman Assembly term, Anthony was honored with the appointment as the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Higher Education, where he pushed for system-wide accountability standards and more transparency in how public colleges and universities conduct their business. Anthony has led efforts to improve access to financial aid for community college students, and to open up community colleges to more high school students through concurrent enrollment and academic partnerships.

In 2011, Anthony refused to support the suspension of the education funding guarantee, Prop 98, and the severe cuts to higher education. He opposed the proposed shortening of the K-12 school year by a week that was included in the 2011 triggered budget cuts, and again in the 2012 triggered cuts. Anthony is a PTA member, school volunteer, the father two great daughters; one is a current public middle school student and the other a recent graduate of UCSB.

“I support Anthony because I know he deeply cares about every child in our school system. He’s not just there for one child or one community. Whether it’s a foster youth, gate student or students with challenges, he tries to do what’s right. That’s why he has my support.”
- Hon. Renatta Cooper Past President, Pasadena Unified School District Board

Transparent and Accountable Government

Anthony is well known as a strong voice for open and transparent government. He was the only Democrat in the Legislature to have released his personal budget and calendar while in office.

Anthony leads by example. He refused a state-purchased district car, a car allowance, and he voluntarily turned down a pay raise in 2007. He took on the political establishment to force the State Assembly to release comprehensive budget information.

A Problem Solver

Anthony brought Republicans and Democrats together to create the California Public Umbilical Cord Blood Collection Program. Umbilical Cord Blood Stem Cells have been used successfully in treating leukemia and many other blood-related diseases. For his tireless work on Cord Blood, Anthony was the first State Legislator in the country to have been recognized by the National Donor Marrow Registry. Anthony has been a passionate advocate for HIV/AIDS education and public health related issues. He has held a yearly and much-respected action summit on HIV in partnership with City of Hope Hospital, and he has worked closely with the nonprofit community on legislation that makes it easier to diagnose HIV, and to bring more federal dollars to California.

His broad legislative agenda includes cooperative efforts with the State PTA on student protections that encourage teens to call for help during alcohol poisoning emergencies, and with the music industry on groundbreaking legislation that protects the legacy of legendary vocal groups such as the Drifters and Coasters. Recognizing the lack of diversity in MBA programs in California, Anthony proudly initiated an academic fellowship between the University of California and Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The fellowship kicked off in May of 2012 with 25 talented students, expanded in 2013 to include HIS’s Hispanic Serving Institutions and has completed four years thus far.

When students at “for profit” colleges lost all their protections in 2007, and a student tuition recover fund disappeared, Anthony authored AB 48, the bill that reestablished the Bureau of Private Post-Secondary Education, to protect our students from predatory “diploma mills,” when several other legislative leaders had failed previously in this effort.

In 2010, the California Police Chiefs approached the legislature to help ban the “open carry” of unloaded handguns on Main Street California. That year, Democratic leaders failed to accomplish that necessary public safety goal. The next year, the Chiefs and officers on the street asked Anthony for help to make Main Street California safe from this unnecessary and dangerous proliferation of handguns in California. Anthony faced stiff opposition from the gun lobby, which effectively keeps Congress on the sidelines of sensible and needed gun control, and he succeeded to ban the open carry in California through the passage of AB 144.

Independent Leadership

“It’s pretty simple for me. I was elected by and I am responsible to the families of the San Gabriel Valley and no one else. It’s about doing what I feel is right, not about just going along to get along.”

Throughout his three terms in the Assembly, Anthony was guided by Democratic principles and yet at the same time, he charted an independent course. Anthony joined with the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee to force the State Assembly to release budget documents to the public, a move strongly opposed by many insiders. Anthony puts partisanship aside in an effort to solve problems. Seven different times he introduced legislation to freeze the salaries of California’s highest paid non-MOU workers. Anthony felt that it was wrong to raise fees on Community College, CSU and UC students, and at the same time, give exorbitant raises to administrators. Anthony twice introduced a measure to create an Inspector General to root out waste and fraud in state government. He also pushed for “Pay As You Go” legislation that would force the Legislature to stay within its means, prioritize its policy agenda, and requires identified funding for new bills, ballot initiatives and programs.

Experience that Matters

Anthony has been called the most community connected political leader in California. He is active in the PTA, an AYSO soccer referee for 16 years and an usher at his Church to just name a few of his volunteer activities. He has received honors from both Pasadena City College and Glendale Community College for his involvement with, and connection to, both schools. He enjoys giving back to his daughter’s schools and the greater community. He is a Board Member of the La Cañada Flintridge and the Armenian American Chambers of Commerce. He is the only non-Armenian who serves on the Pasadena Armenian Genocide Memorial Committee, he is the Chair of the Pasadena City College Bond Oversight Committee, on the Board of the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy and the 12 Oaks Foundation Board. In addition, he previously served on the Board of Habitat for Humanity and currently is on the Advisory Board of PCDA ~ Professional Child Development Associates and Hathaway Sycamores.

Anthony’s long and distinguished record of service includes nearly eight years on the La Cañada Flintridge City Council, with two terms as Mayor. He is the former Vice Chair of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Advisory Committee. Anthony’s state-wide experience includes being President of the League of California Cities Mayors and Councilmembers Department, and the Legislative Chair of the California Contract Cities Association. In the Legislature, Anthony chaired the Assembly Committees on Higher Education, Revenue and Taxation, and the Select Committee on the Preservation of the Entertainment Industry.

Prior to his election to the Assembly, Anthony spent many years working in film and television production, working as a Producer, Line Producer, Art Director, Assistant Director and Location Manager over his career.  Today, he serves on the California Film Commission where he helps implement the California film tax credit program he supported as a legislator.  He continues to enjoy close ties to the industry that first inspired him to move to California.

Anthony’s work on the local level has garnered many recognitions including being named La Cañadan of the Year, being awarded the Gilbert Smith Award, and through recognitions by Solheim Lutheran Homes, Options Childcare Services with the Marge Wyatt Award, the Pasadena Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the John Muir High School Mentoring Partnership in Youth Development.

Environmental Leader

Anthony has worked to preserve open space throughout the San Gabriel Valley. In Glendale, he helped secure funding from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC) to preserve Oakmont V from development. He has testified before Congress on the importance of the Rim of the Valley Corridor, and personally supported efforts to preserve foothill properties in Pasadena, La Crescenta, La Cañada Flintridge and Altadena. He is a member of the board of directors of the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy, and a member of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy Advisory Board. He worked closely with residents of Pasadena on the preservation of Annandale Canyon Estates, and was on hand when Congressman Adam Schiff kicked off Congressional efforts to preserve open space in Burbank and the entire rim of the Valley Trail Corridor. He helped secure State funding to preserve Rockridge Terrace and Hall Beckley Canyon, both of which bring needed open space to La Crescenta, Montrose and La Cañada Flintridge. Recently, he actively helped the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy (AFC) to purchase the Rosemont Preserve in La Crescenta. In 2009, Anthony was recognized by the Sierra Club with the Legislative Policy Award for his outstanding environmental legacy. He has been endorsed by Sierra Club for the State Senate.

Family Priorities

Anthony was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. He was raised by his mother, Barbara, whom he says has had the greatest influence on his life. Her tremendous spirit and warm Italian heart inspired him to be the person he is today. Barbara Portantino was frequently with Anthony at community events, and Anthony never forgot her determined struggle to send her kids to college after Anthony’s father died -- which he credits with changing the course of his life. In 2011 Barbara became ill and could not travel to California. Foregoing any run for office in 2012, Anthony made frequent trips to New Jersey to be with Barbara, until she left us at the end of January in 2013.

“You can always be a politician but there is a limited opportunity to be a son and I was going to spend as much time with my mom as I could.”

Anthony is a proud father of two and very active in his family life. He has volunteered at his daughter’s schools, refereed soccer games for nearly two decades, and is very supportive of his wife and daughters as they, too, give back to their community. Being plugged into the community has helped shape Anthony’s common sense leadership style.

Two small examples of Anthony’s down home common sense were evident early in his public service life. Angered when a group of teenagers were given tickets for skateboarding on public property, when the city did not have a legal place for the young thrashers to go, Anthony spearheaded the construction of a skate park in town. And, when Anthony found out that residents were being charged a fee to have block parties, even though they had to pick up and return their own barricades from city hall, Anthony made sure that block parties fees could be waived.

“I wanted my neighbors to share fellowship with one another, and the idea that the city would charge a fee for a service they didn’t even perform, just made me angry.”

Anthony attended public schools and graduated from Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, where he met his future wife, Ellen, a business executive at Warner Brothers. Anthony and Ellen have two daughters: Sofia, a UCSB graduate and Bella Rose, who attends a public middle school. As mentioned above, Anthony continues to be active in the PTA, St. Bede RC Church, Girl Scouts, the LCF Tournament of Roses Association and AYSO.

The Question Is With Anthony Portantino

In 2013, Anthony launched a public policy talk show called The Question Is with Anthony Portantino. Covered topics include: education, challenges facing families and teens, prison reform, LCFF Local Control Funding, the arts, keeping film production in California and women’s health. His list of guests is extremely impressive, including Congressman Adam Schiff, City of Hope Chief Medical Officer Alexandra Levine, and the president of the California Police Chiefs Association.

YouTube: The Question Is With Anthony Portantino