It may be time to seriously talk about the position of Burbank City Mayor. For years the position of Burbank mayor has been largely ceremonial. The position has been conferred on a rotational basis to council members by their colleagues. This practice sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.
First off, I would like to say that any citizen who is willing to step up to help guide the City should be applauded. The city council plays a pivotal role in managing the quality of life in Burbank by ensuring that the city staff makes decisions that are good for the people who live here.
There is an ongoing discussion regarding the position of mayor and whether it should be an actual position that is voted on by the residents and not left up to the discretion of the other council members. This has been brought to the council who appears to be reluctant to address it and has indicated that the recent Charter Citizens Committee did not recommend that they look at it.
As a member of that committee, I would like to say that it was discussed but it did not muster the support needed to go forward.
The history of having a ceremonial mayor position has often led to contention in the city and it has created unnecessary conflicts not only on the council, but in the city in general. People who voted for a council member expect to see their choice become the mayor. Having the person they voted for be passed over time and time again creates a lack of confidence in the council and its ability to act fairly and impartially.
Sadly, when this issue comes up, many people get caught up in the personalities involved. That is not the heart of the matter. The city council members are voted in to represent the people who put them in office. If the people have voted someone to be a member of the council, it is incumbent on the elected officials to respect that person as representing the citizens and treat them as an equal member.
Fortunately in a democracy, the people have the power to make changes in the mayor’s position. If the council members do not want to address the problems with the process and make it a fair and equitable system, then the public has the ability to have the issue placed on the ballot (in the form of an initiative ) without the council’s involvement.
If this issue is really important to people, they should contact the council with their concerns. If that doesn’t work; there is a way to bring this issue to the voters. As President Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address (November 16, 1863) “… government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” But it takes some effort.
Jackie Waltman, is a former member of the Burbank Landlord-Tenant Commission and is now serving a term on the Burbank Civil Service Board. She was on the 2011-2012 Charter Citizens Committee.