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.