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Do Burbank City Council Members read e-mails and letters from the public?

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Photos: FLLewis/A Writer’s Groove — Mayor/Councilman Gary Bric & Vice-Mayor/Council Member Anja Reinke

Last Tuesday’s Burbank city council meeting provided a lot of reasons for folks to get riled up.  At the top of the list, the city council’s 3-1 approval of that hotly-debated new film permit ordinance. Gary Bric, Anja Reinke, and Jess Talamantes voted for it. Dr. David Gordon was the lone naysayer. Dave Golonski was absent from the council meeting. A lot of chatter on the blogs about the vote and the film permit ordinance.

I still find it surprising that three city council members put their stamp of approval on the new film permit ordinance, despite its murky and convoluted language, and the controversy clinging to one of the co- authors, Burbank Police Lieutenant J.J. Puglisi. The police lieutenant is accused by some of unfairly targeting freelance photographer Kevin Muldoon by slapping him with a film permit violation last spring. There are indications the Burbank PD has allowed a much larger production to go forward in the city without a film permit. I’ll have more to say about the new film permit ordinance later.

Another hot button issue at the council meeting was the Home Occupation Ordinance, which involves entrepreneurs working out of their homes. Our economy is still struggling and unemployment remains high, therefore, chances are more Burbank residents than ever are working at home. Both Talamantes and Councilman Gordon got that and suggested it was time to review the ordinance.

However, Council Member/Vice-Mayor Anja Reinke argued changing the ordinance was not necessary because “…I didn’t get one e-mail…one phone call…” complaining about it. Mayor Gary Bric joined in saying he had not received any e-mails and didn’t see any reason to change it either. On the other hand, Dr. Gordon says he did get e-mails from “…some people who could not come down…” and speak before the council. After more debate the issue was finally tabled until a full council could review it.

So was Dr. Gordon the only council member to receive an e-mail from a Burbank citizen about the Home Occupation Ordinance? No, he was not. For instance, Producer/Editor Eric Cap e-mailed his comments suggesting changes in the Home Occupation Ordinance and detailing his lingering concerns about the revised Film Permit Ordinance to the entire council. How do I know?

I received a copy of that e-mail, along with a number of others including several people in the media, from Cap. Also, the e-mail shows it was addressed to the City Council and was sent to council members Anja Reinke, Gary Bric, Dave Golonski, David Gordon, Jess Talamantes, and to City Clerk Margarita Campos.

I’m told the procedure in the Burbank City Clerk’s Office for e-mails addressed to the city council is to forward them “right away” as hard copies to all council members. If that is the case,  all the city council members should have at least received a paper copy of Cap’s e-mail by last Tuesday’s council meeting.

Remember, both Reinke and Bric stated during the council meeting that they had not received one e-mail about the Home Occupation Ordinance. I have confirmed with Council members Gordon and Talamantes that they got Cap’s e-mail last Tuesday before the council meeting. So what happened with Reinke and Bric? If for some reason they did not get Cap’s e-mail, both should have received hard copies of it from the City Clerk’s office.

Some Burbank residents have complained that council members do not respond to or ignore e-mails and letters from the public. Several commentators have made those charges on this blog. If Reinke and Bric ignored the Cap e-mail, it’s a serious matter. Why?  Both Reinke and Bric based their opinions for not revising the Home Occupation Ordinance on getting no input from the public about it. Also, it is part of their jobs as council members to consider the opinions, e-mails, and letters of Burbank citizens — the people they are supposed to be representing.

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13 Responses to Do Burbank City Council Members read e-mails and letters from the public?

  1. Reese Saturday, October 24, 2009 at 8:19 pm #

    Why am I not at all surprised. Some of these council members never answer a phone message or an email. Why am I not surprised that they not only don’t answer they never even read or listen to it.

  2. Al in SoCal Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 3:25 am #

    Why should they reply to people who do nothing more than criticize? Did they explain their votes – I see nothing in this recap that dives into what they said their reasons were for voting for the ordinance. Other than glorifying the lone dissenter – again – all I see is a long complaint.

    What makes you think they did not get his email? Simply because they didn’t reply??? Talk about jumping to a conclusion. Is “Cap email” is so utterly important that is MUST be replied to and must be thoroughly discussed at the council meeting? Uh – I don’t think so.

    I think it’s pretty ludicrous to think they should personally respond to each and every email sent to them. If you go through the trouble of hand-writing a letter I might think a response is warranted – but an email – that can be copied / pasted / sent in under 2 minutes?

  3. Jimbo Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 4:44 am #

    While I understand where you are coming from Fronnie, I feel the need to stand behind our council members. Yes Eric Capp emailed the council but that man emails the council every time a leaf drops.

    Eric Cap is not a respectable individual and frankly weasels his way around with these ordinances. I wouldnt count him even as a citizen…some gadflies should be listened to i.e. piroli and nolan. Others i.e. Capp and Phipps should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Gary and Anja continue to do a good job with a lot going on in the city. While Gary is not always as eloquent as we would like, his common sense perspective is essential. Anja will be a great Mayor next year, she is well-spoken, and opinionated. She won’t lead you a stray and she won’t lie…This is a good team…as for the other three…oy vey!

  4. DixieFlyer Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 7:09 am #

    After watching a repeat of the City Council meeting, it appears that Anja makes the point that no one bothered to contact “her” on the subject. Bric appears to concur.
    Maybe they ran behind in their e-mail, the impression I got was that they dismissed the public interest in the subject–and “cited” the lack of e-mails or calls.
    Who or whom tried to contact them wasn’t Fronnie’s point.

    Not that long ago the question of “Open Access” for our Electric Utility came up. Week after week GOLONSKI was trying to ram it down our throat’s.
    After month’s of accusations that those resisting had their “head in the sand” , a member of the public noted that no one from the public had ever requested the open access. When the council member responded that there had been “constant e-mails”, none were ever produced.
    We now know what happened over “Open Access”.
    It’s now up to Anja to clear-up her statement. Fronnie has pointed out a curious point, Did she or Didn’t she receive public comment??
    Please remember “She won’t lead you astray and she won’t lie…”
    Here’s hoping we don’t fall into the trap of disputing among ourselves our personal likes and dislikes of a person–keeping the facts straight is tough enough.

  5. Mary Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 11:07 am #

    Al in so cal thinks if people complain council members should not reply ? Does he think most people get motivated to write because everything is peachy ?

  6. Fronnie Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    DixieFlyer,

    You got the point of my story and confirmed it by going back and watching a repeat of last Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

    In that meeting on the subject of the Occupation Home Ordinance both Council members Reinke and Bric said they had not received any e-mails from the public on the subject and cited that as a reason for not wanting to change the ordinance.

    It doesn’t matter if you like Eric Cap or not. He’s a Burbank resident who sent an e-mail to the entire council about that issue. The question is why did Reinke and Bric say they didn’t get that e-mail or any e-mails on the subject? Has this happened before? Is it part of a pattern?

  7. Kyle Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 4:49 pm #

    It’s a pattern for sure.

    Al really shows how it’s not about the merit of any idea that counts at city hall it’s all about who the idea comes from. Isn’t that a big part of all the problems right now ?

  8. Eric Michael Cap Sunday, October 25, 2009 at 7:43 pm #

    Fronnie,

    Thank you for your blog and for bringing some much needed attention to this very important topic. Let me take a few moments to provide some history on this issue.

    First up regarding my email; It was sent at about 1pm Tuesday to the entire Council and a number of other people as you indiciated. I also send it to the private email addresses I have for all 5 Council members & the City Clerk. It is entirely possible that Gary & Anja did not receive it prior to the meeting so I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I know it’s custom for the City Clerk to provide copies of all correspondence for Public Hearings but I’m not clear if that’s also the practice for regular Agenda items. I have spoken to Gary Bric in the past and he has told me he does get my emails and does read them so I’ll take him at his word. I’ve only called him once and he did return my call and we had a good conversation on the FPO, lighting etc. I know he’s not the most technology savvy Council member but I think he’s trying to be as responsive as time allows him. I also realize he and his colleagues are busy, as I am, so contrary to popular belief, I don’t send emails “at the drop of a leaf”. For the record I have sent a grand total of 6 emails to the entire Council during 2009. Three of them related to the Film Permit &/or Home Occupation Ordinances (FPO/HOO), 1 in support of the Tobacco Retail License suspensions of 3 businesses who sold cigarette’s to minors, 1 in support of the Green Taxicab program and 1 in support of Family Promise & the Activity Center for the Homeless. Those Council members who ran for election also received a Candidate’s Q&A. Over the past 12 months I have appeared and spoken to the Council 3 times, primarily on the FPO & HOO. I’ve also had a couple of letters published in the Burbank Leader on these issues. Copies of those letters and some of my emails can be read on my blog here: http://iluvburbank.wordpress.com/

    I appreciate that some people here may not like me or agree with my positions on these issues and that’s fine, but I hope we can re-focus the discussion to the improvement of our 10 year old Home Occupation Ordinance. To that end, here is what I said in my email on that topic:

    “One more thing re the Home Occupation Ordinance Staff Report; All I asked is you consider making a small allowance for low volume client visits i.e. A handful of people each week and Staff comes up with this? Think about it; one of the primary goals of the HOO is to encourage less vehicular traffic by allowing folks to work from home. So if someone works from home and does not make 2 peak-hour trips each day but has 2-3 clients visits per week which are off-peak who park on their premises, isn’t that a net reduction? How can Staff claim such a person is creating additional vehicular traffic? Let’s say I have a few people come over to play cards, or watch the game, or do a bible study or sit-in while I edit a video for them…what’s the difference? A lot of people who film now edit themselves and are also impacted by these inflexible rules & regulations but this HOO effects more than just film makers, it effects musicians/composers with home studios, graphic/web designers, people who do bookkeeping/taxes etc. The HOO is over 10 years old and can be improved by making a few simple changes that don’t require a task force or a lot of Staff time IMO. Please use your common sense when considering this item.”

    I believe the primary reason Gary & Anja didn’t hear from many people is that as usual, NOBODY KNEW ABOUT IT! I got no notice, there was nothing in the Burbank Leader…what did they expect? This is exactly what happened with the Film Permit Ordinance; the item pops on the Agenda without anyone knowing about it, the Council votes on it, then The Leader publishes a article and a few letter start pouring in, slowly the word gets out, people listen to Staff members who have no clue about film technology or the economic realities videographers & filmmakers face and become more & more indignant when they learn about possible financial conflicts of interest & the Muldoon prosecution, until all hell breaks loose when Staff tries to sneak in a modification that would ban Tripods. If the City really wanted to hear from the public the least they could do is have PIO send out a Press Release to The Leader and notify the 1400 or so people with registered Home Occupations. For those interested I am posting links here to my public comments on these issues, as well as a few other speakers and Council & Staff’s responses:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67o9qQHq6l4

    http://www.youtube.com/burbankhomebiz#p/a/u/2/8BbN1mhG3I4

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iN329AcizW8

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJrnt7KTIVU

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-HcsfDhv90

    When I get some free time I’m going to post video from their March 3rd discussion during which the Council voted 4-1 (Reinke – “NO”) for the HOO item to come as part of the regular 1Step – 2Step process for the reasons Fronnie references in her article. It should be noted that Dave Golonski, who was on the Council when the HOO was last revised, stated that we erred on the side of being cautious/conservative and that he thought we had some room to tweak it to make it a little more flexible, so I’m hopeful he will join Dr. Gordon & Jess Talamantes in moving it forward. At that meeting (March 3) Anja couldn’t understand why the Council were even discussing it and had to be reminded by the Mayor. Given that both myself and Barbara Sharp had spoken in it just a few week earlier, it DOES make me wonder if she’s really listening when the public speaks. What disappointed me was when I asked her & Gary for their support on HOO amendments during their Council campaigns, both stated their support. Here’s the exact question and their responses that were published on the now defunct ValleyNews.com web site:

    Q: In 2006 the Council adopted a zone text amendment to allow music lessons as a Home Occupation. Given Burbank’s standing as the Media capital of the World, advancements in current technology, and the traffic gridlock in the media district, do you support further amendments to encourage more people to work-at-home in arts/media related areas such as motion graphic design & animation, video editing and the like?

    Anja Reinke: Yes I support people working in their home as long as it does not present a nuisance to the neighborhood.

    Gary Bric: Most Definitely.

    To that end, I’m disappointed in both. That said, I’m hopeful that if enough people weigh in on this issue that Gary & Anja may change their minds, so if your supportive of revisiting the ordinance, whether your work from hom or know someone who does, please take a few minutes to email the entire council so noone can claim they didn’t receive any emails of support. Here’s the email address: CityCouncil@ci.burbank.ca.us

    Finally, perhaps “Jimbo” (whoever you are) can explain what he means when he say’s I’m “not a respectable individual and frankly weasels his way around with these ordinance”. In all due respect, the only people weaseling around with these ordinances are the people writing them!

  9. Jim C. Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 4:47 am #

    Don’t forget that Reinke voted AGAINST bringing the home occupation issue back to the full council this week. It lost the preliminary vote 2-2, then Gordon moved to bring it back with Golonski, she even voted against this, with Bric at least agreeing to re-hear it.

    For some reason she didn’t want Golonski to have a vote– possibly because it will end up getting loosened with him on board.

  10. Fronnie Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    Jim C.,

    Yes, Reinke seemed dead set against making any changes in the ordinance or even discussing it further. That’s why it is bothersome to think that Reinke may have based her opinion on not getting “any” e-mails or phone calls from people wanting some chances made to the ordinance. When actually at least one e-mail from someone suggesting changes to the Home Occupation Ordinance was sent to her.

  11. Kyle Tuesday, October 27, 2009 at 5:20 pm #

    The vice mayor is dead set against anything that is not personally interesting to her. Face it she works from an office and not from home and thinks everyone else should be just like her. Reinke is so out of touch with people it could make you cry but wose she doesn’t even care to try and understand other people.

  12. DixieFlyer Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 1:57 am #

    Kyle,
    She makes it soooo obvious that “she doesn’t even care” !!
    Until Mike Nolan nailed her for reading magazines during the City Council meetings she seemed alert.
    Then she discovered you don’t have to only Eat Blackberries–she found out that she could e-mail Marsha Ramos–and get an answer.
    Now most of the time she sits with her head in her hands looking bored–or like the statue in “Dobie Gillis”.
    The “set-up” questions for Kriesler were Anja in Animation.

  13. Eric Michael Cap Tuesday, November 24, 2009 at 4:16 pm #

    FYI: This item (Home Occupations) is back on the Agenda tonight for re-consideration. If you’re supportive but haven’t weighed in yet, please take a minute to voice your support via email CityCouncil@ci.burbank.ca.us

    Here is a copy of the email I sent today for those interested in this issue:

    Dear Burbank City Council members,

    A brief note to voice my strong support for the Council moving forward on amending our 10 year old Home Occupation Ordinance (HOO) to possibly allow for a small number of client/customer visits, which according to Staff is currently prohibited. The HOO currently states:

    I. PEDESTRIAN AND VEHICULAR TRAFFIC
    The home occupation shall not create pedestrian or vehicular traffic in excess of that which is normal to a residential use of the premises.

    I do not believe someone having a few client’s visit them on a weekly basis constitutes pedestrian/vehicular traffic “in excess of that which is normal to residential use”, and have received several legal opinions to that effect. In fact how does one go about even making a determination as to whether a visitor is a client or family/friend and as long as all other laws re creating noise/nuisance aren’t violated, what’s the difference? I would argue having a few friends over to watch a football game or having a child’s birthday party or a home bible study create more traffic & noise than most home businesses currently operating in Burbank. I believe only a handful of violations have been prosecuted over the last 10 years and they were for blatant abuses. We cannot and should not legislate against what is in my opinion fair & reasonable use of one’s property, especially during these current economic conditions.

    Although I believe forming a Task Force to make a few simple changes is overkill, I’m supportive of doing so if that’s what it takes to improve/modify the HOO to be a little more flexible and reflective of what’s actually going on in 2009/10. As more and more people are laid off or re-employed as “independent contractors”, the number of people working from home on full or part time basis continues to increase and I believe the 1400 registered home businesses represents just a fraction of those actually working from home without any noticeable negative impacts to our residential neighborhoods. In fact, the more people working from home the less cars on the road and peak-hour traffic problems we have to deal with. Technology continues to advance to allow more of what had to be done on-site to now be done in a home office/studio, from video editing, motion graphics, animation/illustration, color grading, music composition/production, voice overs, graphic/web design etc. 90% of this can be done alone but there is a need on occasion to work with people in-house to expedite the review process and make final changes, hence the need to update the HOO. I thank you for your re-consideration of this important issues and look forward to your support. I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving Holiday…I know it’s been a tough year and we face many (legal/financial) challenges, but I’m hopeful we will come out of this mess better for having gone through it providing we deal with the root causes in an open/transparent manner, learn from our mistakes and put the health, safety and welfare of the greater community above all else. Cheers!

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