A full house at the public forum
After all the hoopla, debates, agenda re-writes, and months of delays, the first public forum held by the Burbank Police Commission in recent memory went off with only a few minor glitches.
First, additional chairs had to be brought out to accommodate the crowd that showed up last Wednesday night, August 18, in the Community Room of the Community Services Building on Third Street, across from the Burbank Police and Fire Headquarters.
More than 100 people were packed into the Community Room. A large number of personnel from the BPD filled the seats around the perimeter or stood along the wall. That I’m told, along with the location of the forum, created an air of intimidation and tension for many in the audience. All of the Burbank City Council members were there and so were a number of other city officials and staff.
Most of the 13 speakers who stepped to the mike spoke about personal situations, some involved allegations of harassment by BPD or hassles with neighbors. The 800 pound gorilla in the room, aka the police mess, was touched on briefly or alluded to by only a few speakers. Interesting, considering the chatter on the blogs and around the town for the past weeks and months has been about the police corruption, scandal, firings, lawsuits …etc and the need for some direct answers from Interim Police Chief, Scott LaChasse, about what is REALLY going on in the BPD.
If Burbankers came to the public forum to hear about identity theft, crime mapping, and prison reform, well they got an earful from Police Chief LaChasse. As has become his habit, LaChasse danced around, but did not answer, any question related to the police mess. More and more it seems, the BPD is being run like a secret police in a foreign country where only a privileged few get to know what’s going on — and that does not include the public who’s paying the bills for its operation and its mistakes.
Word is the Interim Police Chief is lobbying hard for the job permanently. Clearly, LaChasse is not seeking the approval of the public, but of the city government establishment — some of the same officials who may have had a hand in allowing the police mess to get to the point that it’s costing us millions and millions of dollars. Since the forum, I’ve heard more people say “we’re going to have to rely on the Feds” to do the clean-up of the BPD. They just might be right on that.
As for the Burbank Police Commission, it received positive and encouraging comments from many speakers. Chair Robert Frutos introduced his fellow commissioners: James Etter, Hagop Hergelian, Elise Stearns-Niesen, new member Robert Cohen, Vice-Chair Nathan Rubinfeld, and Secretary Ray Adams.
The commissioners appear to have a strong commitment to the community and a new take charge attitude as demonstrated by Commissioner Adams. When he was alerted by a resident that the forum was not following the printed agenda, Adams quickly took action and got it back on track. Hopefully, the forum is the first step to a stronger relationship between the Burbank Police Commission and the community.
Update on axed after school program
Last Tuesday, I spoke with Julio Herrera of the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank and Greater East Valley, and he assured me that his organization was starting a new after school program at David Starr Jordan Middle School. However, this new program, unlike the previous one, would require a $75 a year membership in the Boys & Girls Club.
Last Sunday, I blogged about the highly-regarded long-standing free, city funded, after school program at Jordan Middle School getting terminated by the city budget cutting axe. Today, I clicked over to the Burbank Unified School District website and checked under after school programs for Jordan Middle School — and yes, there are now details about the Boys & Girls Club program and study hall in the library option as well. Also, information on how students can ride the “Got Wheels bus” — something the parent who contacted me was reluctant to allow her child to do because of city officials’ refusal to answer pertinent questions about that supicious city bus accident back in January, involving some students from Jordan and Emerson Elementary.
I still think the city should pick-up the cost of the Boys & Girls Club program for parents. The cancellation of the previous program has caused problems for parents who found out about it just before the new school year began last Monday. If the city officials can find money in the budget to pay for raises to certain “select” employees, they should be able to find a few dollars to help out some parents and their children.
Gripes & Complaints
Did you hear the heartbreaking story that a homeless woman and her daughter told during public comments at last Tuesday’s city council meeting? The woman complained she could not get help for herself and two children. Yeah, the story was convoluted and difficult to follow, but it was pretty evident the family is in need of assistance.
Steve Ferguson updated the story on his blog, “Politically Speaking” the next day, when he discovered the family still living in a park. The mother had been injured — but still had enough concern to ask Ferguson’s friend to buy something for her son to eat.
Later at the public forum, I asked Burbank City Manager, Mike Flad, about the woman’s situation. Flad insisted the woman had been given a voucher for a two day stay in a hotel. That’s it? That family needs at least a two-month or even a six-month place to stay in order to get their lives together. And why are they hungry? Could not one of the charitable organizations that get funds from the city find food for this family? This is a shame. City officials need to do something to help this woman who once owned a home in Burbank. She should be able to benefit from some of the tax dollars she has paid to the city over the years.