UPDATED with Paul Hertzberg’s contact info below! The misuse of public funds for campaigns is rampant up and down the state. Currently, the Fair Political Practices Commission has very limited jurisdiction over this abuse. To make things worse, the State Attorney General and District Attorneys have not prosecuted any of these cases in recent years. You can read more about this in this Los Angeles Times article. And you can catch up on the abuse that occurred right here in Burbank here.
No matter what your political affiliation, voters should be deeply concerned about this lack of enforcement of our campaign financing laws.
The good news is you can help end this right now! Please call or write our Assembly Member, Laura Friedman and our State Senator, Anthony Portantino. (LINKS BELOW) Here’s a sample you can cut and paste or use as a guide when you call:
Because of your prior efforts for greater transparency in our elections, I am asking you to sponsor or co-sponsor legislation that will give more power to the Fair Political Practices Commission to prevent the misuse of taxpayer dollars in elections. This practice is tainting elections all across our state. The abuse is not being prosecuted by the Attorney General and local District Attorneys. Giving the FPPC the power to hold public officials and agencies accountable is a crucial step in protecting the integrity of our elections. Thank you for your time.
The City has basically cut-&-paste their Ballot language from Measure T and will no doubt engage in a similar “fear-based” campaign threatening Service Cuts if this massive Sales Tax Hike doesn’t pass.
And CLICK HERE to read arguments against Measure QS: What it boils down to is giving teachers a raise on the backs of homeowners who already pay plenty of state taxes to fund education! Instead of passing a measure that will ultimately raise rents and not pay for any additional infrastructure – take this up with your local representatives and get some changes at the state level. Measure QS is a band-aid approach that will not benefit students in any measurable way. Finally, the BTA’s tactics during contract negotiations earlier this year were completely unprofessional and damaging to students. I won’t reward them by supporting this measure.
The Tax places an unfair burden on Burbank Property Owners & Renters who are still paying for previous School Bonds (until 2032), while approx. 1300 Students who live outside the district pay nothing. Businesses with larger footprints are also disproportionally hit.
[UPDATE: I based my research below on some out of date numbers from a prior city council meeting presentation. I just learned about the error and wanted to make this correction to the post. The revised numbers would not cost the school district millions per election but still hundreds of thousands of dollars each cycle. More exact numbers aren’t possible to calculate because they are based on a number of factors. For example, how many candidates file for how many seats. The current estimates hover around $150,000 per election. Certainly not millions of dollars, unless you add them up over the years. I apologize for the error. However, this doesn’t change my position at all. The Council still wants to offload the election costs they’ve alway covered. Which will take away valuable resources from the district and will ultimately hurt students.]
I’ve followed and researched this issue and will be posting a bit more in the coming days on the other local measures on the June 5th ballot. But this one is a no brainer.
The State of California is forcing smaller cities with poor voter participation to move their elections times to align with statewide elections. That’s a noble effort that makes a lot of sense on its face. But there’s a catch: This is going to cost the Burbank Unified School District millions hundreds of thousands of dollars each election, by forcing them to pay for the cost of county elections!
You see, the city has long wanted to offload the expense of school board elections onto the BUSD. Currently, the City administers and handles the school board elections. The cost for these elections is small compared to County-run elections. Moving school board elections to align with statewide elections will put an expensive burden on our school district. Guess who will get hurt by this?
You’ll notice no one from the school board stepped up to write an argument in favor of voting yes on Y. They are between a rock and a hard place. Urging voters to mark yes will cost them millions. Urging a no vote suggests “We hate Democracy!” It’s a sticky situation. As I have come to learn in my research, the repercussions of voting No on Y and thereby sticking with our current system, are not very serious. Literally, the worst thing that could happen if Y doesn’t pass, is that a judge could force us to comply one day.
Why should we burden our school district? It’s an expensive strategy that will ultimately hurt students.
Twenty years ago, Burbank was just about the last place I thought I’d live. I was 29, with an unpublished novel under my belt, living in a 5-story walk-up in what was starting to be called the Upper Upper East Side, but was really Spanish Harlem, when my husband was offered a job on the writing staff of a new late night talk show — a job that came with union wages and, better yet, health insurance. When you compared it to selling monologue jokes to Letterman and earning $25 a night for MC-ing at Boston Comedy Club, it seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime (and I suppose it was). We jammed everything we owned into a Penske truck and headed to Hollywood.
After a week of driving, listening to the audiotape of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” a friend had given us as a going-away present, and staying in motels so crappy I made sure to keep my shoes on in the bathroom, we wound up in a two-bedroom apartment off Ventura Blvd. in Studio City. After our New York apartment, it seemed ridiculously spacious and downright luxurious, despite the flimsy fixtures and predominance of beige industrial-grade carpet. We had an extra room — I could have my own office! — and it even had a hot tub and a pool. We decided we wouldn’t need a car. We could walk to work. And when it turned out the job wasn’t on the CBS Radford lot but in Television City, we bought an unpretentious Honda (because city people don’t care about what kind of car they drive) and agreed we’d only buy just this one car for commuting to work — because most of the time we’d just walk wherever we wanted to go.
Two years later I was driving my own used Volvo station wagon. We’d had our first child — a daughter — and she’d started to walk. Overnight, our apartment had become a death trap. A balcony? A pool? Why not just hand the baby a razor blade and end the suspense. We needed a house — preferably one with a backyard.
And, one sleep-deprived afternoon — after taking a wrong turn driving back to the apartment from the dirty Target in North Hollywood — I found just the one. It was nestled in a quiet tree-lined neighborhood that looked like something out of a 1960s sitcom. The houses were neat behind perfect squares of green lawn and there were actual children playing in the streets. Our house, a two-bedroom bungalow, had a palm tree in the backyard — a Queen Date Palm apparently — and even an orange tree. We were knocked out. Could you get more “California” than that?
Our realtor had grown up around the block from the place and he knew everyone in town. He walked us through the process and before we knew it we were holding the keys to the house on Evergreen Street where we’d raise our family.
It was 2000.
This was before there was a Costco or an Empire Center or even a big multiplex in the middle of downtown. This was when you could still get from one end of Burbank to the other in less than a half hour. This was when people understood that the Airport Authority was not their friend.
Our neighbors had young children too and they played together, running in and out of each other’s homes even crossing the street to play in each other’s yards (something that seems unthinkable to me now that speeders have discovered our street’s a convenient shortcut when traffic backs up on Burbank Blvd and Hollywood Way). One of our neighbors dressed as Santa at Christmas. On the Fourth of July we had a bike parade down our block with a real live marching band (because one of the dads played the trombone at Disneyland). We knew everyone on the block. Once, when a new family moved in, we held an ice cream social to welcome them and had the kids go door-to-door handing out the invitations they’d made. Another time we found a baby squirrel we named Sweet-Tart and all the neighbor kids delivered her, by wagon, to a squirrel rescue lady who lived a few blocks over.
With my daughter, and later my son, I spent countless hours at the park down the street, and each week we loaded up the bike stroller and pedaled down the Chandler Bike path to the Buena Vista Library for story time. As they got older, they took craft classes and drama classes, gymnastics classes and team sports classes — all offered through Parks and Rec. They swam in the pools, learned to play tennis, learned to play golf, took riding lessons at the Equestrian Center and learned to skate at the Pickwick. They won bags of candy at the annual Glow-Ball tournament at the DeBell Par-3 and held a snake at the Stough Canyon Nature Center. At the week-long camps offered each summer, my son sampled volleyball, football, track, baseball and soccer before turning his attention to golf. They went all-out for the costume contest put on by the library’s summer reading program, where on the last day, you got cupcakes from Martinos if you read enough books.
We were so lucky to land in Burbank. It was a great place to raise a family. And the thing is — I don’t think that was an accident. The people making decisions about Burbank at that time must have realized something I didn’t fully appreciate until recently. Burbank had something special to offer. It was an oasis away from the bustle of Los Angeles. It wasn’t hip like Silver Lake or the Hollywood Hills. It wasn’t fancy like Santa Monica. It wasn’t like Glendale. It wasn’t like anyplace else, really. Burbank was just a sleepy little town where you could come home from work and throw a ball with your son, or sit under the stars and watch your daughter pitch a softball game, or ride your bike to the donut shop on a Sunday morning. It was a place where you could take your kids to MacCambridge to play floor hockey and see seniors swing dancing and enjoying a hot lunch. It was a place where, when you called the fire department because you smelled something funny, they showed up in minutes — and were nice about it when it turned out to be your neighbor’s barbeque.
I wasn’t paying attention — there were dinners to make and baths to give and bedtime stories to read — but it seems to me now that our elected officials, back then, must have known that Burbank was different. And at City Council meetings they must have been doing whatever they could to protect our city and fend off those forces that would try to turn it into something else. They fought hard to keep the airport from expanding, realizing that the additional revenue would come at too great a cost. They must have cared enough about young families like mine to stand up for us and make sure Burbank remained the kind of place where anyone would be lucky to raise a family.
Now, when I see new families moving into my neighborhood, I wonder: will Burbank be that for them? Or will it become just another LA neighborhood surrounded by freeways and dotted by high-rises? Because that is essentially the question our city is facing right now.
And, I know it’s complicated. The finances are different, the money just isn’t there anymore. I get that. But with all this talk of cutting services to balance the budget, of building our way into the black, and with a City Council that votes repeatedly and unanimously to sell our city off to outside developers piece-by-piece — can we expect to retain even a fraction of what makes Burbank Burbank? With that fancy new airport, more flights in and out of Burbank and hundreds of additional hotel rooms about to get green-lit — can we expect our city to remain a place where people live their lives — not a place they pass through on their way to Harry Potter’s Wizarding World?
The problem, it seems to me, is that our elected officials seem to have a very different vision for our city than a lot of us who’ve raised families here. With each new massive development project they rally behind (and there have already been a few rubber-stamped with more in the pipeline), they boast about creating a new Burbank — a modern, 21st-century city designed for a new generation. For my daughter’s generation. Burbank, they tell us, has to change with the times.
They are not entirely wrong. Change is inevitable and we can’t stay rooted in the past. Nobody understands that better than a mother with one child away at college and another retreating behind headphones and a closed bedroom door. But what we need, in my view, is sensible change. Change that recognizes the unique character of our city. Change that puts families first.
As we talk about budget cuts and plans to make Burbank bigger and better, let’s not forget the little things that make our city what it is — a place where kids can play in the streets and the parks, where seniors can get the services they need to lead healthy active lives, and where families feel safe and protected. And let’s make sure we send a message to developers who come here to line their pockets: this is not your playground. This is not an “untapped market.” This is our home.
And I know life is busy — especially for those young families who will be impacted most by what is lost. But now is the time to start paying attention — to start contacting your elected officials, to start going to City Council meetings, to make sure you vote — to remind your neighbors to vote — the next time we have a chance to weigh in on the leadership of our city.
Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe our city can be saved. Maybe — just maybe — we don’t have to say goodbye to Burbank just yet.
UPDATE: The Mayor just announced he has stage 4 liver cancer but curiously, will not step down as a member of the council. This news was leaked already and it’s been a poorly kept secret around town for months. None of us really knew for sure though. I’m sure the Mayor feels a bit better now that he’s revealed his illness. I sincerely wish him and his family the best but that will not change anything I have to post here on the blog regarding the 50k.
If you’ve been following this story you know I’ve always contended that the architects of this illegal donation were the “buddies” of the City Council. Burbank luminaries, mostly from the Chamber of Commerce. But I was wrong about who the City Council have been protecting this whole time. Public records I received last April suggest that City Manager Ron Davis,Community Development Director Patrick Prescott and Vice-Mayor (at the time) Will Rogers all knew about and discussed this illegal activity BEFORE the November Election.On December 6th when i brought our team’s research to the Council, Will Rogers was insulting and dismissive about the whole affair and confirmed he had known about this and was “disappointed” in the donation. He wasn’t sorry in the slightest. The following week he apologized for “missing” the violation of the Brown Act when reviewing the BHA’s minutes. You have to assume someone (the City Attorney?) told him to change his tone and he certainly did.
Why didn’t the Mayor call out this illegal activity ahead of the election? He clearly knew a violation of the Brown Act had occurred from the very beginning. (see #1 below)
The Semichorus blog broke part of the story back in June but I’ve been patiently waiting for the Fair Political Practices Commission and the Los Angeles District Attorney to rule on the case. At this point, I’m deeply concerned the Los Angeles District Attorney will not take legal action against a sitting city government, even though they did find the BHA had violated the Brown Act. (See #5 below) The FPPC investigation is still ongoing but I have no idea when a ruling will be made.
I wonder what Patrick told Will in order to calm him down? (see #5 below) For now, I want the public to know what’s going on in City Hall. That’s my motivation. There’s much more to the story and I hope to do a complete video that explains where we are and how we got here. People need to know this stuff or it will just continue. If you or I broke the law we’d have to pay for our actions. You can use the contact page and I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have in the meantime. Or just post a comment below.
You can read more about this illegal use of public funds here and here. Here are additional videos:
I wish I could have made this event at the old Ikea. I didn’t get home from work until 7:15 that evening. So hopeful they will do something similar again. But here’s an interesting viewpoint from Burbankmom.com. This is the blog that always seems to be in lockstep with the development class in our city. This time she’s a bit “sad.” Which is telling. I’m neutral on this project but very concerned for the congestion it WILL bring. I already avoid the Empire Center and downtown is already pretty bad. You can justify this massive development any way you want but the fact remains: I HEART BURBANK will further transform the downtown area into the congested, zoo-like atmosphere of the Santa Monica 3rd Street promenade when it’s completed. No one can argue against that. But of course Burbank Mom makes it sound like any dissent would be akin to “panic”. Do we want all this for a measly one-time 2.5 million increase to the city’s coffers? Remember the sales taxes go to the region not directly to our city. And the idea that Macy’s “owns” San Fernando Blvd. That one sounds pretty fishy to me. Will have to check that out and report back. The best course is to pay attention to the project and keep getting the word out so the people who live in the area can weigh in.
A misdemeanor no one will be punished for – but it’s a start and again – we were right. A few months ago we’ve shared further information with the District Attorney that will hopefully prod them to continue their investigation about how this all came about and who was involved.
More to come but here’s the Leader article: http://www.latimes.com/socal/burbank-leader/news/tn-blr-me-bha-donation-20170607-story.html
I’m posting this Jack Sprat video because the election is over. Now that we have more information about what really occurred and who knew about it ahead of time, I’ll be stoking the fires again and demanding the City Council call for a disestablishment hearing for the BHA. You can read more about this illegal use of public funds here and here. I fully intend on briefing the public and the newest member of the City Council, Ms. Sharon Springer on our latest discoveries soon. I’d like to hear how she responds to our findings and if “trust” between “our city government and our community” is really something she values as she stated on her campaign website. Here are additional videos that explain this criminal activity in a bit more detail.
The Burbank City Council’s decision to extend the Verdugo Avenue bike path to Victory Boulevard and add some safety enhancements earlier this week was hailed as a victory for Burbank bike enthusiasts and those who envision a less car dependent future for our city. Indeed, since its inception the painted bike lane that hugs Verdugo’s curb in both directions has — like virtually all the bike lanes, paths and routes in Burbank – been little more than a road to nowhere.
Now — if the map of Burbank’s bike routes posted on the city’s web site is accurate (linked below) — the Verdugo bike lane will narrow to a bike route (this is a biking area alongside cars without a designated lane — marked in green) before connecting to another proposed bike path on Victory Blvd (a designated path like the one on Chandler Blvd shown with a blue dotted line). Riders would presumably then be able to reach downtown Burbank via another proposed bike route on Olive (designated by the green dotted line).
The problem with this plan should be immediately apparent to anyone who has actually attempted to ride a bicycle on the streets of Burbank — either on its bike routes or even the Verdugo bike path (as this author has).
It doesn’t feel safe. At all.
And that, transportation experts say, is the number one obstacle to creating communities where residents choose to commute by bike.
To see a spike in bike riding a city must be willing to make a commitment to protected bike lanes. Protected bike lanes are on-street lanes that are physically separated from automobile traffic by curbs, planters, parked cars or posts. They look like this:
A 2014 study by researchers at Portland State University, which was partially funded by the Department of Transportation, looked at eight cities and found that when protected bike lanes are added to a street, bike traffic rises by an average of 75 percent in the first year alone. Ninety-six percent of respondents in the study said protected bike lanes made them feels safer — even in areas where they’d previously had unprotected painted lanes (like the one on Verdugo).
Cities around the country are getting the message that unprotected bike lanes are insufficient. For example, in response to an increase in bike-related accidents New York City is in the process of converting some of its bike lanes to protected lanes. If Burbank is serious about encouraging biking it needs to make a similar commitment. Half measures — like extending the painted lanes along Verdugo and adding a green bike route sign where that road narrows — will do little to address the fundamental problem and can, in fact, instill a false sense of security among those who do decide to bike in this city.
Likewise, if Burbank wants to make a commitment to car-free transportation, it needs to adopt a sensible overall plan instead of greenlighting individual projects in a haphazard manner. (There is a City of Burbank Bike Master Plan but, after eight years, it seems hopelessly out-of-date). Bicycle safety experts say that having huge gaps in cycling networks — and bike lanes that abruptly end, as Burbank does now — are particularly dangerous as they unexpectedly dump riders onto busy streets. There is little point in approving bike lanes for individual streets without addressing the overall connectivity issue.
For example, last year the city added a painted bike lane along Edison Blvd from Burbank Blvd to the North Hollywood border in response to resident complaints about speeding and limited visibility when drivers attempted to enter or exit from neighboring side streets (including the author’s). While the stop signs were a welcome addition, the new bike lanes create a baffling situation for the journeyman cyclist.
Setting aside the fact that having cars park along the curb to the right of the bike lane increases the likelihood that one riding past will be hit or at the very least “door-ed” — or the fact that the city bus is apt to careen thoughtlessly through the bike lane to the bus stop at the corner of Maple Street without warning — the worst thing about the new bike lane is that it abruptly ends where Burbank Blvd. meets Hollywood Way. As a result, the rider is suddenly left with no choice but to join the busy stream of traffic along that artery (again, dodging parked cars and weaving buses) — or to ride on sidewalks to access the bike path at Chandler.
This same lack of regard for connectivity was apparent when the city greenlighted a new bike path on Leland Way earlier this month (although, in this case, planners did seem to recognize that a protected lane — in this case by plastic barriers — was preferable to the unprotected lanes proposed in the past). Like the bike lane on Edison, the proposed path on Leland also ends abruptly without providing a connection to any other bike routes, lanes or paths.
All of which begs the much larger question: as much as “sustainability” has become a buzzword in Burbank as of late, do we actually want our city to values bikes over cars? Indeed, the very question of whether creating a car-free Burbank is possible or even desirable is up for debate.
Even if cost is not the primary issue — since much of the cost of creating a bike-friendly infrastructure will be born by outside funds (like, for example, the Measure R funds provided by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority) — there can be no denying that making Burbank more bike-friendly by replacing car lanes with bike lanes will have a significant impact on those who live and work in the city by adding to an already significant traffic burden. And, tensions will only worsen with the upcoming boom in mega-development and endless construction projects. Blocked roads, slowed traffic and the sudden population surge will make the city’s streets more congested than ever.
So why aren’t we having this politically-contentious conversation?
Perhaps it is because Burbank’s elected officials believe taking half-measures, like extending the fundamentally-flawed Verdugo bike lane — which allow them to appear environmentally conscious without making an actual commitment to wholesale change. — is enough to satisfy most of the city’s residents. And if this seems like the political equivalent to calling yourself an environmentalist while driving an SUV, well, it is. But when only sixteen percent of residents even bother to vote maybe our representatives are not wrong in believing they can get away with it.
Unfortunately, this approach is likely to create a lose-lose situation for everyone — making day-to day life that much harder for those of us who need to get to work and school and get our kids to practices and games and dentist appointments — and endangering those intrepid enough to attempt to ride their bikes by failing to make the kinds of upgrades that could make cycling a safe and practical choice.