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Burbank City Councilman David Gordon responds to his critics

Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — At the November 3, 2009 city council meeting, Councilman David Gordon called for a major step in dealing with the growing Burbank police scandal

Burbank is still buzzing about the snub of two-term Councilman David Gordon by his colleagues on the council. On Monday, Dr. Gordon was passed over again for mayor and vice-mayor. The positions are rotated every year among the council members, but apparently a decision has been made to leave one member out of that selection process.

This time around, Anja Reinke was elected as the new mayor of Burbank and councilman Jess Talamantes, who’s only been on the council a year, vice-mayor.

The Burbank Leader has “revised” its report about the selection of Reinke and Talamantes at the reorganization meeting of the city council. When it was first posted on the Leader website Monday, the article carried a subhead or deck that said “David Gordon again passed over for vice-mayor.”

On Tuesday evening, the Leader backed away from that strong stand and changed the second title to “Former vice-mayor commits term to safe, clean streets, sustainability.” The new article still includes this revealing paragraph: “Gordon, who has twice been elected and is the council’s second-longest-serving member, had expressed interest in the vice-mayorship, but some of his colleagues said privately that they wouldn’t support him based on his never voting to approve a budget and his earlier call for then-Chief Tim Stehr to step down.”

What is Gordon’s reaction to these complaints from his fellow council members? I e-mailed the councilman and asked — here are his responses.

 1. Burbank city budget

Yes, it is true.  I never voted to support a City budget since taking office.

With respect to my voting record, I have voted against the budget each year primarily due to the overly broad and rather excessive utility bill increases that seem to be a part of each and every budget. In my first year in office, the Council was told the cost of energy was going up and would “never” go down.  Well, it went down, but no roll back of utility rate hikes ever occurred or was ever considered.  We have many seniors, who are on fixed incomes. These seniors are in a struggle just to keep their home and survive. They are not getting increases in income.  Some have had their meager income and benefits cut back.  Some are forced to ration or skip meals or needed medication just to get by. The people, especially our seniors, have been struggling mightily to make ends meet.  Meanwhile, there has been no discussion whatsoever in stemming the ever escalating costs of the essentials, water and electricity.

It should be noted that I have also consistently called for more accountability, transparency, and spending taxpayer dollars more responsibly.  I have voted against raising top management salaries.  I questioned city employees staying at the Mirage and Bellagio hotels while on City business trips to Las Vegas. I have voted against huge cash giveaways in questionable Redevelopment deals.  Meanwhile, I have not been able to get Council support to have the Redevelopment Agency repay the City’s general fund which could help stabilize utility rates.  Whats more, I question the wisdom of having paid Wildan Group, Inc. thousands of dollars for an Excessive Use of Force Audit in 2008 to be told there were no serious problems in Burbank’s Police Department while the City is now incurring millions of dollars in attorney fees to address the serious problems within our Police Department.

The City needs to be more prudent in its spending.  We need to find ways to deliver services cheaper and better ways to finance them rather than balancing the budget on the backs of the ratepayers with rate hikes.  My intent in voting against budgets is my way of letting everyone know that more oversight is needed in spending hard-earned taxpayer money.

2. Tim Stehr controversy

I have known former Burbank Police Chief Tim Stehr for several years.  I have had the opportunity to interact with, and get to know, him in my capacity as a member of Burbank’s City Council.  My relationship with him has always been mutually cordial, respectful, and professional.  My knowledge of his background and performance within the Burbank Police Department has been that he put in more than three decades of professional service to the Department coming up through the ranks from recruit all the way to chief…truly a noteworthy career.

However, beginning with serious allegations first brought to my attention with a series of anonymous letters arriving in mid-2008, followed by numerous allegations and lawsuits involving police improprieties or misconduct, escalating tensions within the department pitting officers against each other seemingly about to reach a flashpoint, and culminating with the tragic and untimely death of Burbank Police Sergeant Neil Gunn, Sr., in October, 2009, all occurring on Chief Stehr’s watch, it became apparent to me that something had to be done by someone to break this cycle.

On November 3, 2009, I requested that the Council place an emergency item on its agenda for consideration to direct the City Manager to place Chief Tim Stehr on indefinite administrative leave pending resolution of the various ongoing police investigations.  I felt then, and I still feel, that this was the only action I could take as an individual Council member to immediately address what I viewed as a real and immediate potential threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the public and our police department personnel.  The other Council members opted not to support my motion at that meeting.  However, within days, Council member Dave Golonski referring to Chief Stehr’s decision to retire as he appeared on ABC TV news made the following statement,

“He really needed to make way for new leadership in that department.  The problems are pretty severe there and there is a tremendous amount of discord.  And it’s very difficult for someone who is a sitting chief to fix those problems.  And I think he recognized that.”

 

The agenda debate

More fallout from Monday’s city council meeting and election of Anja Reinke as mayor and Jess Talamantes as vice-mayor. On the Burbank city website, there’s a confusing notation on the agenda for Monday’s reorganization meeting.

Click on the city website tab Meetings & Agendas, scroll down to  Archived Meetings, click on city council, and go to the agenda for Monday, May 3, 2010. Scroll down to item E and under recommendation you will see: “Select Mayor and Vice Mayor for coming year. Mrs. Reinke was selected as the Mayor and Mr. Talamantes was selected as Vice-Mayor.”

I first read about this on Jim Carlile’s blog. So what does it mean? Was the fix in before the meeting or did someone just add the names of Reinke and Talamantes after the election to the agenda? Hard to tell at this point, but it is very strange.

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32 Responses to City Buzz

  1. Thomas Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 2:26 pm #

    Ok so let me see if I understand this after what I just read. Councilman Gordon does not always agree with the rest of the council so that means in their small minds that he can’t be mayor or vice mayor ?

    I want to see where in the rules about electing a mayor and vice mayor it says that a requirement is that the person has always agreed with you. I bet they can’t show any of us that requirement which tells me it’s a requirement in their own small minds.

    Gordon is right about utility rates. We are overcharged and the money is going someplace. Where does all the money go ? I bet every property in Burbank pays the city well over 100 dollars each and every month. That is a whole lot of money so where is the accounting for every penny of it ?

    If you ask me the people working for that water and power company are overpaid. A study should be done to see how much the average rate payer makes a year vs how much an average employee makes a year in this city.
    Something tells me it take about 4 or 5 of us to equal what just one of them makes and something is wrong with that picture.

    Utility rates should not be raised every year like they have been doing. It is a rip off and they are using all that money for something more than electric and water is what I believe.

  2. Pat Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    It’s a disgrace that the City Council is able to keep passing over Dr. Gordon for the essentially ceremonial office of Mayor. They should simply pass the job around and each take a turn.

  3. Candy Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 2:55 pm #

    The voters should chose the mayor. It’s crazy that they think they have such great powers to tell us who our mayor is. I for one would never vote for this Reinke woman. It makes us all look more than foolish the people they make mayor.

  4. Candy Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    The people they chose to be mayor just makes us all look like country bumpkins. We should vote in our own mayor.

  5. the Sarge Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 3:04 pm #

    Everyone knows that Gordon did the right thing asking for the police chief to be put on leave. Some have a problem admitting it but deep down in their soul they know it was the right thing to do. The night Gordon did it shouts of approval could be heard all through Burbank and each and every one of them know it.

    It took guts and showed real leadership to make that call and that’s what scares the rest of them. They are afraid of real leadership.

  6. TJ Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 3:09 pm #

    “Former vice-mayor commits term to safe, clean streets, sustainability.”

    How about some leadership ? Safe clean strets and sustainability are nothing but buzz words.

  7. Francis Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 3:20 pm #

    I’m sure she plans to grab a broom and sweep up every street.

  8. Duck Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 3:24 pm #

    Think about it Gordon fought against higher power bills and said the chief needed to go. Makes him the bad guy in their mind ? Tells me they are the bad ones for not doing those things themselves.

    Gordon should be Mayor of Burbank.

  9. Taz Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 6:41 pm #

    I have only one criticism of Dr Gordon. Why didn’t he get rid of that police chief a year earlier and save us all a lot of money ?

    Don’t get me started on my criticism of the rest of them. It would take hours for me to finish with my criticism of the Golosnki guy.

    Somebody tell that dude golonski to stop interrupting people and stop acting like a thug.

  10. Jim C. Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 7:46 pm #

    By the way, the new defense of the city on ‘agenda-gate’ is that they were merely updating their old notice with the later results.

    The problem is, they never do this as a practice. They didn’t do it last year, and they didn’t “update” us on their League of California Cities pick on the same day. The only time they’re ever updated their agendas– which is extremely rare, like almost never– has been on done deals, meaning mostly technical matters like minutes approval.

    I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes if someone filed a Brown Act complaint on this. There’s also a story going around that Reinke didn’t want Talamantes as vice-mayor right now, and if there’s even an iota of truth behind this it means that there were off-the-book discussions about the vote.

  11. Shocked Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 8:03 pm #

    Remember what you heard in the new Mayor Renke’s speech — she said she had made so many new friends with staff people since she was elected. Making new friends is important, but she was elected to represent the voters. She seems to be uncomfortable on those rare occasions when she votes against the recommendations of her new friends.

    Council people who have no leadership skills or knowledge about representing the people of Burbank are told by the staff what to do. So they don’t have to spend any time reading staff reports, all they need do is jump to reading the staff recommendation and read the motion that has been prepared by the staff. That is how everything at City Hall works. The elected members of the council are there to do the staff’s bidding.

    To many it is pretty obvious the real reason that Dr. Gordon wasn’t made vice mayor or mayor — it is because the staff resents every question he asks and he is punished with insulting comments and rudeness. No one is supposed to question anything whether is is utility and water rate hikes or the number of parking spaces for a project. The staff expects the Council to “sell” these hikes and projects to the voters. The ultimate rudeness by the staff is preventing him from being made vice mayor or mayor. They somehow see this as public humiliation when in fact, it is a badge of honor to be snubbed by these small minded people and their puppets.

    Dr. Gordon always comes to the meetings prepared and whether you agree or disagree with his votes, at least he makes an effort to understand and represent the voters. The staff has their job upside down. In years past there have been councils who would have called them on the carpet in mass for some of the rude, disrespectful behavior. The staff is supposed to take direction from the elected officials but in Burbank sadly we have elected people with few leadership skills and they are now told what to do by the staff and in exchange the staff props them up to make them look good, help with speeches and appearance on TV or at other public meetings. It has become about the Tuesday night “show.”

    There is no question Dr. Gordon should not have been the lone voice calling for Chief Stehr to be sidelined. The City Manager should have done it months earlier — had that call be made, perhaps Sgt. Gunn would still be with his family. And, as far as the budgets, who in their right minds could vote for all the giveaways to the favorite developer in town and all the pet projects of Dave Golonski?

  12. Dr. Freud Friday, May 7, 2010 at 12:52 pm #

    Shall we get the crying towel out for everyone?

  13. Mark Friday, May 7, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    Well Dr Freud you just might have the money to pay your bills right now but you may find yourself down and out before long. Smug replies like yours show that you must be having no problem with that power bill you get yet. Many of us where like you a couple of years ago but now we struggle to pay the bills.

    With a city council that only knows how to spend money and make things cost more for us what hope do any of us really have ?

    It’s time to reduce all the charges we pay to this city. Maybe Dr Freud isn’t forced to cut back yet but the rest of us sure are so why didn’t the city already cut back ? Why are all the city employees working when the rest of us have lost our jobs ? Why do we striggle to pay the city employees when we have no job and no money to pay them with.

    I have one message to the city. You need to share the pain because you are not some group elite class that gets to be exempt and smug while the rest of us suffer.

  14. Mark Friday, May 7, 2010 at 1:19 pm #

    Shocked:

    It is time for the city hall bunch to stop handing money to their favorite business people. It is time to start giving back and handing it to us citizens. They got it from us and they need to give it back to us so we can pay our bills.

  15. Dr. Freud Friday, May 7, 2010 at 4:01 pm #

    My comments were regarding Gordon not making mayor or vice mayor. I have never been a real fan of Mr. Gordon. This was due to his inconsideration towards city personnel. He has greatly improved from his past about this issue. I am all for “treating others the way you want to be treated.” The mayor/vice mayor is just a status name. Who cares?

  16. Kyle Friday, May 7, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    Look Freud, watching council meetings never have I seen Gordon inconsiderate to the personnel. What is obvious is that most of the overpaid and under experienced personnell can’t explain things and are even worse when it comes to answering even a simple question. Imagine expcting over paid people to be ressponble and answer some simple questions.

    The truth is many of the cities personnel are a complete embarassment. They are lucky I am not a councilmember because most of them would get pink slips for complete incompetence.

    If you ask me we sure don’t get what we pay for from the personnel and trying to shift that from the facts to somebody is inconsiderate to them is so far beyond absurd its comedy that should be put on stage.

    Come to think of it Burbank personnel would make a great comedy troupe maybe that can help pay all the legal costs due to their incompetence. Reading comments like yours makes me angry because this expecting competence in what we pay for is not some sort of disrespect or inconsideration at all.

  17. Resident Friday, May 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

    “This was due to his inconsideration towards city personnel”

    If memory serves me correctly here Gordon had the proud endorsement of the city personnel unions. Did I miss something about that ?

    Let me get this right he is inconsiderate to city personnel so they endorsed him ?

    My suspicion is you have some special interest in these statements and unfortunately those comments do not represent the actual majority view of Burbank employees. Hate to burst your bubble on this one but your friends are not the real employes who do the real work in this city.

  18. Blue Friday, May 7, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    If Dr Gordon is presumed to have shown inconsideration toward the likes of Tim Stehr, then what exactly did the police officers show in the vote of no confidence in this man ?

    For fun maybe we can have some secret ballot polls taken of various city departments and find out what the confidence level is of all these department heads like Stehr. Anyone ready to bet the farm that they all score high in the confidence areas ? How about a city wide poll of the personnel confidence in the city attorney and th city manager. If anyone is so sure they are competant why fear the secret ballot poll.

  19. Dangerfield Friday, May 7, 2010 at 4:53 pm #

    A very good suggestion Blue.

    A yearly confidential survey. Put together for each city department that gives the employees an opportunity to point out flaws in department morale and or department management. Questions could include such things as:
    1. Rate the employe morale of this department
    2. Rate the accessability of the department head
    3. Rate the level of knowledge of the department head
    4. Rate the level of confidence you have in the department head.

    These surveys could be handed to all employees in every department and returned to a central locked box as a secret ballot. Results could be tabulated with the actual name free surveys included all in a note book available for everyone to see.

    This would be a means to prevent the drastic mismanaagement within the police department as there would be an annual indicator of problems within every department.

    A survey regarding the city manager and city attorney could be given to every employee and the questions could include:
    1) rate the management style
    2)rate knowledge of all city operations
    3)rate accessability to employees
    4)rate responsiveness to problems
    5)rate overall confidence in city manager/city attorney

    This is a really good idea to prevent decay within morale and retention of poor managers. I think the city should begin doing this immediately.

  20. Shocked Friday, May 7, 2010 at 5:33 pm #

    The annual surveys are a GREAT idea. It would go a long way in stopping the insane philosophy of promoting people based on nepotism instead on actual experience and job performance.

    Yes, Resident, you are right. I remember that Dr. Gordon was the only candidate in the last election to be endorsed by all the city employee unions. So it sounds like it’s not the employees who have a problem with him … it’s city management and Dave Golonski. Telamantes didn’t even get endorsed by his fellow employees from the Fire Department of 30 years. Sounds like he’s the one with city employee problems but he’s vice mayor. It is all about what city management wants not the voters and employees.

  21. Love Bead Friday, May 7, 2010 at 6:14 pm #

    I remember it ws strange that after all those years as a great fireman the firemen didn’t endorse Mr Talamantes. What did that really mean. Maybe it means the fireman were all personally insulted that Mr Talamantes is now Vice Mayor ? Thinking about it I am sure that it is inconsiderate to the fire personnel that Mr Talamantes is vice mayor. They should strike until he gets removed.

  22. Love Bead Friday, May 7, 2010 at 6:36 pm #

    I remember that shocked. 30 years with the fire department and firemen did not support Mr Talamantes for city council. Does that mean that disrespecting the firemen and making him vice mayor is inconsiderate of the fire personnel ? They should go on strike until they are shown some respect and Talamanontes is removed from being vice mayor

  23. Kelly T Friday, May 7, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

    Honestly why do employees in Burbank act like they should pick their bosses ? Where in the world do things work that way ? Evaluating their bosses is not a bad idea to get to the bottom of why is not doing a great job but deciding who is mayor or vice mayor is beyond any control they should even imagine to have.

  24. Kum-bi_ya Friday, May 7, 2010 at 6:58 pm #

    Who else remembers that Councilman Telamontes was unable to get the support of his brother (and sister) firefighters because he was a real lazy pain in the neck to work with ? Didn’t most of the employee groups refuse to support Mr Golonski too ?

  25. Shocked Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 4:57 am #

    Kum-bi_ya, I seem to remember the city unions didn’t endorse Golonske in the Feb election last year, but not sure whether it was some or all of them. I remember thinking it was strange.

    Kelly T, you are absolutely correct. Too bad the elected people do not decide who will be mayor and vice mayor.

    On another subject, some of my neighbors have been talking about that gigantic new apartment building on Buena Vista so I took a drive down there today. There is already so much traffic on Buena Vista it is a nightmare. I sure hope they put enough tandem parking spaces in that place otherwise where will they all park? I thought only manufacturing could go there and eventually that would be a good place for some descent paying jobs. Too bad now we’ll just have more toilets flushing, dishwashers, etc. There are rental signs up all over town so they just may have trouble renting them next to the railroad tracks. What a stupid place to build apartments. It must feel like a small earthquake every time a train rumbles by, and the train whistles — who would want to live there? I don’t think it qualifies as an “eco” building.

  26. Bo Bo Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    Beune Vista is a war zone now with that massive and very ugly bunch of apartment buildings all jammed in there on top of each other. Imagine living in that mess, why not just live in skid row, it’s cheaper rents and every bit as bad.

    They keep tearing up Buena Vista for that monster apartment building and now when you drive through there it’s like driving on a dirt road full of ditches.

    I ended my trips to the shopping center there becaue of that eyesore and the traffic mess the thing has made and it’s not even open and really making a mess yet. At least that place will provide a constant stream of shoplifters for the shopping center.

  27. Bo Bo Saturday, May 8, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    That mess of apartments is some brain childs idea of urban living. You could get the same mess renting on skid row for a much lower price. That monster of apartments all on top of each other is nothing more than a constant supply of shoplifters for the shopping center there.

  28. Jim C. Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 4:09 am #

    I’m amazed at what those B.V. apartments look like. It reminds me of something they might have built up at Devonshire and Zelzah about 30 years ago– phony house-like structures crammed right on the street that simply do not fit in with the neighborhood.

    That’s an industrial area and it needs a more streamlined look– like the “Collection” downtown. Less peaks and eaves and more right angles. They’re trying to do a village-y thing and it looks absurd.

  29. Fronnie Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 4:25 am #

    I drove by that big apartment development at Buena Vista and Empire Avenue on Saturday as well. I kinda like the village-y thing, however, I must agree with Jim. One of the reasons it probably sticks out so much –other than being a very dense apartment complex— is the style. Perhaps a more “Collection” look would have fit in with the industrial area — and fewer units would have been better as well.

    I agree with Shocked about the water use that is going to come from that and similar developments. If there is a “real water” shortage and residents’ are being forced to cutback, but still their rates are going up — it is a pure shame to allow this type of development to continue in Burbank.

    Also, those B.V. apartments are going to put considerable traffic pressure on that already busy street. There was a lot of traffic on Buena Vista on Saturday. I can imagine what it is like during a week-day commute.

  30. Fronnie Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 4:36 am #

    Blue, Dangerfield, Kelly T, and Shocked,

    I think an annual confidential survey of department personnel in Burbank would be a great idea, too. Excellent outline and suggestions from Dangerfield.

    My only question is who in Burbank city government should collect and analyze the surveys? In the present climate of distrust, an outside agency, that doesn’t cost a million bucks, might be best.

  31. Rod Monday, May 10, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    The people who built the apartments at Beuna Vista and Empire must thing they have some exclusive mansions for the rich and famous. You can get a small one bedroom (760 sq feet mansion) for a mere 1,790.00 a month http://empirelanding.com/floorplan-d.html but it could cost up to 1,990.00 a month. Maybe that depends on if they like you or not.

    By the way at those prices they claim it’s affordable housing http://empirelanding.com/affordable-housing.html

    If you’re feeling wealthy and looking for luxury you can get a neat affordable 2 bedroom with 2 bath (1060 sq foot) for an affordable 2.450 a month. http://empirelanding.com/floorplan-e.html

    Who could beat these prices afterall it sits in one of the most congested areas that can be found in Burbank with a railroad track immediately adjacent and you can share in the thrills of aircraft noise and polution daily.

    Wow what a great deal at an affordable price

  32. ct Monday, May 10, 2010 at 6:07 pm #

    That is so far from affordable the owners should wake up and smell some black coffee. Maybe they made the units all no smoking unites so the rent goes higher or something. Imagine all those additional toilets just flusing away when that opens or not with rents that high no one could afford the water or electric to live there anyway. I smell another Burbank bankruptcy with those rents.

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