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City budget cuts terminate after school program

Monday, August 16, is back to school day for the Burbank Unified School District. For some David Starr Jordan Middle School students and their parents, there might be more than the usual degree of anxiety that goes along with the first week of school.

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G-- David Starr Jordan Middle School, 420 South Mariposa Street in Burbank

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G– David Starr Jordan Middle School, 420 South Mariposa Street in Burbank

Recently, I got an e-mail from a very upset parent who felt blindsided, earlier this month, when notified about the dumping of an after school program at Jordan: “I only found out when we picked up the back to school packet. It said due to budget cuts it was canceling the program so I have to assume that it is for the year. This is where the kids hang out in the gym with some supervision from two teachers until 5pm. Most of the kids play basketball and others do homework. It is a blessing for working parents as it gives me a chance to get across town. It said that the kids could catch the Burbank got wheels bus to either Olive or Verdugo. I am not happy about my kid going on the bus (after your reporting of the bus crash and your subsequent receipt of a veiled threat) but I have no choice now.” (more on that controversial bus accident later)

A Burbank school administrator, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, admitted the program filled, “…a huge need in the community.”   If you go to the Burbank Unifed School District website and check under after school programs at Jordan you’ll find a blank page.

This weekend, I’m hearing from two different sources, that efforts are underway to replace the axed after school program with one run by the Boys & Girls Club. One major hitch, the previous program was free — the proposed one is not. The city should pick-up the tab for these parents. If there’s money for “certain” city employees to get raises in this difficult economy — there should be money to help out these Burbank families.

Bus accident flap

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- West Olive Avenue and South Orchard Drive in Burbank

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G — West Olive Avenue and South Orchard Drive in Burbank

I’m still waiting for a Burbank City Council member to request the police report on that controversial bus accident and answer some important lingering questions about it for the public.

The accident occurred on January 15, 2010 at Orchard Drive and Olive Avenue in Burbank. There were no reports of injuries in that bump-up between a city bus and a vehicle. The passengers were students from Emerson Elementary and Jordan Middle School. I heard about the accident from various sources and posted a story on this blog back in March.

City officials insist it was a “Got Wheels” bus, but my sources tell me the police report suggests otherwise. Also, there MAY BE questions about the bus driver’s qualifications. I got what appeared to be a  threatening e-mail from Interim Community Development Director, Greg Herrmann, when I asked questions about that accident.

The City Attorney, Dennis Barlow, has blocked my request and those of others in the public for copies of that police report. However, Barlow has indicated city council members can see that report. So a Burbank City Council member needs to step-up, view that police report, and clear the air for the public in public!!

That upcoming public forum

For months, Burbank Police Commissioner, Jim Etter, pushed for a town hall meeting to get input from city residents about their concerns and issues as related to the police department. That simple and clearly defined concept, with the guidance of Burbank Mayor Anja Reinke and other city officials, has been reshaped into something called the Police Community Forum as it’s called by the BPD. Or as it’s listed on the City of Burbank website, City Council-Police Commission Community Forum.

The Burbank Leader article on the event skipped the title confusion and just called it a public forum. The Leader article reported that the BPD is still struggling to deal with  allegations of misconduct, discrimination, lawsuits along with probes by outside agencies and at least two high profile controversial officer-involved shooting sin the past few months. The scandal in the Burbank Police Department is the biggest and most controversial story in this city, in the last 15 months or so, and has received nationwide attention.

The lawsuits and the clean-up of the BPD are costing taxpayers millions of dollars — they deserve to know NOW how and where that money is being spent, not later at sometime in the distant future.

If you read the tightly controlled agenda for the forum, the State of the Police Department presentation from Interim Police Chief, Scott LaChasse, is on police service information, prison reform, crime mapping and identity theft. What about an update on the police mess? That was the reason LaChasse got hired –to get the BPD back on the right track.

The public deserves to know what LaChasse is doing to improve the department and a summary of the recent actions taken as a result of the police mess. That’s a no brainer, unless of course you’re trying to distract the public from knowing what is really going on in the BPD.

The forum agenda has been through a lot of re-writes — but it could use some more tweaking.  Oh, and it would be nice to include an introduction of the Burbank Police Commissioners — it’s supposed to be their forum, right?

The forum is this coming Wednesday, August 18, from 7-to-9 p.m. in room 104 of the Community Services Building at 140 North Third Street in Downtown Burbank.

Should you get rid of your lawn?

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- Burbank resident on Bel Aire Drive turns front yard into a cactus and rock garden

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G — Burbank resident on Bel Aire Drive turns front yard into a cactus and rock garden

Many Burbank residents are re-thinking their lawns in light of the skyrocketing water rates. A few have exchanged sod for cactus and decorative rocks. There are other alternatives as well using wild flowers and native plants.

Last month, I attended a “Take Out Your Lawn with Lili Singer” session  at the Burbank Buena Vista Library. Singer, a native plants expert, gave an overview of the alternatives including more water conserving types of grasses. The next session is at the Buena Vista Library again, this coming Wednesday, August 18, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Also at the July 28 session, Burbank Recycle Center Specialist, Ferris Kawar,  made a pitch for volunteers and homeowners to take part in a new turf removal program. A few lucky Burbank residents will be selected to have their lawns removed and replaced with water conscious alternatives. The homeowners are required to pay for the plants and design, while the program will supply the labor. For more information contact the Burbank Recycle Center, (818) 238-3908.

Gripes & Complaints

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G -- The pay- to-park machine near the alley gate entrance to the parking lot of the Downtown Burbank Post Office at 125 East Olive Avenue

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G — The pay- to-park machine near the alley gate entrance to the parking lot of the Downtown Burbank Post Office at 125 East Olive Avenue

I still think that paid parking deal at the Downtown Burbank Post Office is a terrible idea, even with the new rate scale. I first reported on the parking boondoggle here, on this blog, a few weeks ago on June 26.

Recently, I spotted signs revising the flat $3 parking for all after hours parking at that U.S. Post Office. The new signs say $1 for 0-2 hours and $3 for 2-10 hours.  I guess that means if you want to mail a letter, pick up your mail from a P.O. Box or any other postal business it will only cost you a buck. That’s a bummer.

That parking lot should be offering free parking to those doing business at the post office and to the folks who come into the downtown area to spend money at local businesses and entertainment venues.

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One Response to City Buzz

  1. Citizen Monday, August 16, 2010 at 12:32 pm #

    That upcoming public forum:

    Sounds to me like it has become one more Mayor Reinke luv fest. Just because that woman can’t get a gig on the Tonight Show she thinks everything in Burbank is all about her. How long has she even lived here and where the hell did she come from ? How about we take up a collection and send her back from where she came.

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