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City Buzz: Frutos wins big in primary, run-off surprises, and ballot count debacle

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Burbank voters have spoken loud and clear. What did they demand? Change on the Burbank City Council, where an entrenched council majority, led by 20-year- incumbent, Dave Golonski, is now on shaky ground. The reason, the election of Bob Frutos, who was the only candidate to win a seat on the council in Tuesday’s Primary Nominating Election. A candidate must receive 50 percent plus one of the votes in order to win the election.

The three incumbents, Mayor Dave Golonski, and Councilmen Jess Talamantes and David Gordon, are now headed for a run-off with former school board member, David Nos, in the general election, April 9, 2013. Challenger, Juan Guillen, showed a lot of potential in the campaign — however, as the least known of the council candidates, he had a difficult hurdle to overcome.

Photo courtesy Bob Frutos campaign 2013

Photo courtesy Bob Frutos campaign 2013

For Bob Frutos, a long time resident and former Chair of the Burbank Police Commission, the victory was especially sweet. Two years ago, Frutos lost a tight race for city council to Emily Gabel-Luddy by less than a hundred votes. Gracious in defeat, Frutos extended his hand in cooperation.

Here’s a line from his concession press release sent out on April 16, 2011:  “I will do everything in my power to help move the City forward.  Emily will be a great council person for Burbank and I want her to know that I will be a contributor to her tenure as she engages in realizing her vision to make Burbank a city we can all be proud of.”

So what was the response? The city council refused to re-appoint Frutos to the police commission — a slap in the face and an attempt to stifle his political ambitions. One local political official told me, Frutos won a lot of support and friends because of that tacky put down.

Now that all 42 city precincts reportedly have been counted, here are the numbers on the city council race from the city website

Bob Frutos               5,232           53.33%

David Gordon       4, 670           47.60%

Jess Talamantes  4, 319            44.02%

Dave Golonski       4, 089          41.68%

David Nos                3, 144        32. 05%

Juan Guillen           2, 485        25.33%

Juan Guillen did not make the cut and will not be moving forward to the general election.

 

Photo: FLLFLLewis/Media City -- Incumbent City Councilman Jess Talamantes dropped by city hall Election Night and did not look pleased with the ballot count process Burbank February 26, 2013

Photo: FLLewis/Media City G — Incumbent City Councilman Jess Talamantes dropped by city hall Election Night and did not look pleased with the ballot count process Burbank February 26, 2013

Another surprise run-off — the top four contenders in the race for two seats on the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education. Incumbent and School Board President Larry Applebaum spent several hours at city hall watching the painfully slow returns and he said he was not shocked by the run-off: “I expected it.”  Applebaum and three other candidates will be moving on to the general election — where the candidates are expected to ratchet-up their campaigns for a major battle for the two available board seats.

School board results from city website.;

Larry Applebaum           4, 451   45.37%

Charlene Tabet                3, 008  30.66%

Steve Ferguson                3,002    30.60 %

David Dobson                   2, 842    28.97%

Armond Aghakhanian   2,723  27.75%

Aghakhanian did not make the cut and will not be moving forward to the general election. (At city hall Tuesday night, Aghakhanian told me his campaign had encountered blatant and ugly racism in Burbank during the campaign. More to come on that later.)

City Treasurer/ appointee, Debbie Kukta, ran unopposed and easily won election to the position. Another appointee, City Clerk, Zizette Mullins, also won election to her position — but it was a chaotic night for Mullins and many others involved in the processing and counting of the mail -in ballots.

First the numbers on the City Clerk race:

Zizette Mullins      4, 403   50.34%

Gloria Salas           2, 676    30.60%

Nonna von Sonn  1,667   19,06%

Photo: FLLewis Media City G -- Newly Elected City Clerk Zizette Mullins  makes a point at city hall in Burbank on election night February 26, 2013

Photo: FLLewis Media City G — Newly Elected City Clerk Zizette Mullins makes a point at city hall in Burbank on election night February 26, 2013

In an odd and disconcerting twist, Mullins was a candidate for an office while acting as the point person for the election ballot process and count. Wearing both hats left her flustered and uncertain most of the time. At around 8:30 p.m., I took a tour with Mullins through the back offices in the new city clerk’s area.  I was shown the room where the addresses and signatures were being verified and the ballots were being sorted by precincts.

Photo: FLLewis MediaCity G -- Sorting and verifying of ballots took place in a back room of the city clerk's office on Election Night Burbank February 26, 2013

Photo: FLLewis MediaCity G — Sorting and verifying of ballots took place in a back room of the city clerk’s office on Election Night Burbank February 26, 2013

Also,  I got to see the large canvass room where the ballots would be separated from the envelopes and put in boxes for counting. Strangely, the counting machines and the consultants operating them were in the same room.

Usually, there would be some results from the count of the early precincts between 9-9:30 posted on the city’s channel 6. No such luck this time. Mullins kept telling folks at city hall and those calling or texting on her phone that the numbers would be up soon. That did not happen.

Finally, at 10 :35 p.m. Burbank Public Information Officer, Drew Sugars, who was a TV anchor in a past life, appeared on the screen and started to read some numbers from his cell phone. Eventually, someone realized that putting those ballot results on the screen was a better way to inform the public. However, it was only 5 out of the 42 precincts. So that meant it was going to be a very long night.

At a 11:37 p.m. only results from  17 of 42 precincts had been publicized. Then at 11:39 pm., 23 out of the 42 city precincts were disclosed. At around 12:15 a.m. staff and volunteers began heading for home– saying it was all over, all the ballots had been counted in the 42 precincts. Wait a minute, on channel 6 the screen was only showing the result from 26 of the 42 precincts. Also, there was a report the result totals were already on Twitter! A short time later, Mullins came out of the clerk’s office celebrating her victory, but she still found it hard to explain why total results were known to some, but they were not appearing on the TV screen for the media and the public.

Around 12:45 a.m. the results for all 42 precincts appeared on the TV screen. The total number of ballots cast was 9,811. Mullins blamed the delay on a reported “1,500 ballots ” coming in late. Also, she said PIO Sugars and his staff took charge of the results and then had them posted on the TV screen. Hmm! Shouldn’t these results be handled by persons not connected with the city — at least not directly to city hall. A number of mistakes were made with this process, among them Sugars telling the TV audience all five school board candidates would be moving forward to the general election — when it was only the top four.

There needs to be a complete review of Tuesday night’s election count process and if need be the city clerk and top staffers should review established election procedures thoroughly before the general election in April. Burbank can do better.

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2 Responses to City Buzz: Frutos wins big in primary, run-off surprises, and ballot count debacle

  1. Appaled Friday, March 1, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Thanks, Fronnie. You did a GREAT job reporting on this one. A fiasco, indeed. But one with a happy ending!

  2. Burbanker Sunday, March 3, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

    What we did not need was Mr Sugars wasting time all night long. It looked as if he grabbed the opportunity to get face time on camera over and over again while most of Burbank became more and more disgusted with his performance. Between the delays and Mr Sugars it was a very frustrating night and that SHOULD NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN!

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