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Burbank City Council approves new budget and utility fee hikes

Last night the Burbank City Council green-lighted a $785 million budget for fiscal year 2010-2011. The tally  4-to-1, with only Councilman David Gordon voting against the budget. As with past budget debates, Dr. Gordon was the lone member of the council fighting to try to “keep utility rates down.”

I have watched this recent debate, week after week, and I do think the four other council members believe they are doing what is in the public interest. I disagree with them, and support Dr. Gordon’s position that with all the millions being spent in this new budget there should have been enough money to cap utility rates in these tough times.

Can you blame staff, many of whom live outside of Burbank, for pushing a budget with no layoffs and plenty of hidden merit raises for themselves, even in this recession battered economy? I guess not, but city council members should be able to see beyond the self-interest, but most do not.   It is up to the voters to send the council members a message they cannot refuse to hear — through the ballot box. Mayor Anja Reinke and Councilman Gary Bric are up for re-election next spring. Bottom line, if the makeup of the council remains the same, the votes on major issues like the budget will probably remain the same.

Under the new budget, water rates will be jacked-up 13.5% and electrical around 2.9%. And that’s not all. Trash and sewer rates will increase, too. By the way, one of the main architects of these fee hikes, Water & Power General Manager, Ron Davis, is up for a huge raise to his six-figure salary. Guess where that money is coming from? The city council is scheduled to formally discuss Davis’ pay hike at its July 6, 2010 meeting.

Burbank Police Commissioner resigns

Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Burbank Police Commissioner Claudia Bonis listens to the discussion at a police commission meeting back in fall of 2009

A lot of chatter in Burbank about the unexpected resignation of long-time Burbank Police Commissioner, Claudia Bonis. The phones started ringing and e-mails flying about the surprise decision late Monday. Bonis’ resignation to Mayor Anja Reinke and the Burbank City Council, dated June 21, 2010, cites “personal and private reasons” for stepping down from the commission.

Bonis had been a member of the police commission for 9 years and was very reluctant, at first, to accept the new pro-active agenda pushed for by other members of the body. As one police commission watcher said, Bonis “has come around” in the past few months. She’s become a supporter of the upcoming town hall meeting and now sees there are real problems in the Burbank PD that need solving.

Recently I got a shock, when Bonis told me she reads and follows, “the blogs.”  Wow!  Bonis has been involved in community service for more than 30 years. Perhaps in the future, she might find a way to once again serve the citizens of Burbank.

Burbank residents complain about shoddy repair work

Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — A crew working on a sidewalk repair project in the Burbank hillside area in spring of 2010

Recently a homeowner over on East Angeleno Avenue near South Bel Aire Drive, gave me an earful about what she described as shoddy work and rude behavior by a sub-contractor doing ramp and sidewalk repair in the Burbank hillside area, late this past spring.  The homeowner complained and pointed out to me sub par work done on and near her property and spoke about similar problems over on Orange Grove Avenue. The homeowner wondered why Burbank city inspectors were not out keeping a closer eye on the quality of work. Oh, she railed about the unprofessional attitudes of some of the sub-contractor’s workers as well.

To get some answers, I shot off an e-mail to Burbank Public Works Director, Bonnie Teaford, on June 16, 2010 and got a quick informative response. Teaford identified the sub-contractor as Kalban, Inc. and said the company had completed several projects for the city of Burbank “over the years.”

I asked if Teaford had received any complaints about Kalban’s work from homeowners: “Yes. As with any sidewalk project when we are working directly in front of residents’ properties, issues arise and we do our best to resolve them.”

Clearly, there have been problems with Kalban — then, why keep giving this company city projects? Teaford’s answer: “They were the lowest responsible bidder.” This seems to be a citywide practice — low bidder, poor quality work, and later city pays a bunch of money for additional repairs. You’d think, city officials would have figured out, especially after the millions of dollars of repairs to the Police and Fire Headquarters, that paying a little more to get the job done RIGHT the first time is the prudent way to spend taxpayer dollars.

My adventures in composting

Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — My free compost bin from the Burbank Recycle Center

Yesterday I fed my compost bin an assortment of goodies: wilted lettuce, tangerine peels, other fruit and veggie scraps along with pieces of paper, balls of lint from the clothes dryer, and hair clippings from my recent visit to the hair salon. Not my idea of a feast, but the little hungry recycling critters in the bin consider this gourmet faire. I’m pretty sure something is happening in the bin now that I’ve added some important premium players or eaters, red worms.

Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Master Gardener/Compost Expert,  Jessica Craven, gives instructions with wit and humor to attendees at the June 12, 2010, Burbank Sheridan Gardens Nursery workshop.

I dropped by the two compost workshops at the Sheridan Gardens Nursery on North Hollywood Way in Burbank a few days back. The Sheridan Gardens are lovely to stroll and browse or sit and learn.  Compost Diva, Jessica Craven, taught both workshops. Craven was the instructor for the workshop I took back in May, which got me into the compost groove.

Along with tips on how to build the compost pile and what to dump in it, we got some freebie including little baggies of organic potting soil. Also, I scored some red worms from Burbank Recycle Coordinator, Kreigh Hampel. The red wigglers are voracious processors of organic waste. The worms are supposed to be able to produce pounds of dark, nutrient-rich soil like material called compost in a matter of a few months. We’ll see. I’ll post future updates.

Photo: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — participants at the June 9, 2010 Burbank Sheridan Gardens Nursery workshop give a plate of compost the sniff and touch test. This is the finished soil amendment waste recyclers hope to harvest from their compost bins.

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One Response to City Buzz

  1. DixieFlyer Thursday, June 24, 2010 at 12:49 am #

    Miss Fronnie,

    Regarding Kalban and lousy work.

    The operable word is “RESPONSIBLE”.

    The name of the City doesn’t matter, the lawyers rule the roost.

    City employees put up an “informational” picket line around the site of the flawed building called Fire Police one day and Police Fire the next.

    The rest is history.

    Add in lazy inspections, add water and there you have it.

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