The Burbank City Council conducted its annual reorganization meeting last Monday, May 2, at City Hall. The meeting was pretty routine, except for a few moments that stood out; such as the emotional walk down memory lane for outgoing Mayor Bob Frutos and a tense drama during the selection of vice mayor, which had many on the edge of their seats.
At the beginning of the meeting, the focus was on Mayor Frutos. It’s no secret Frutos has had a love affair with the mayoral position. In his farewell speech yesterday, Frutos showed how deep that love runs. He started off by saying this is a “… humbling experience and a very emotional time for me right now.”
Attempting to choke back tears, Frutos said: “When my colleagues gave me this once in a lifetime chance to represent our city as the mayor, I never thought I would ended up meeting the president at the state of the union representing the people of Burbank. Never thought in my wildest dreams I would have a 20 minute one-on-one with Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, talking about Burbank. That is quite an honor.”
Frutos went on to highlight other bright points or achievements in his year as mayor; among them, Burbank as a Special Olympics host city, community open house at City Hall, support for merchants, neighborhoods, schools, the Magnolia Park Merchants Association, Ladies and Gents Night Out, Downtown Burbank Business Partnership, and first ever Rock-a-Hula pool party for older adults.
As he wrapped up his speech, Frutos said his 12 months as mayor have shown him “… we (council members) can conduct our city business, and be more productive, with less personal tensions between us.” Well, the selection of vice mayor later on would demonstrate the council has not fully embraced that concept.
While handing out gifts and accolades to staffers, Frutos called up Burbank Police Chief Scott LaChasse.
Frutos heaped praise on the chief: “… I do thank you for your commitment to this city and the people of Burbank. And I know that police organization is still in good hands under your leadership and guidance.” Despite the kind words from Frutos, LaChasse appeared grim-faced. Perhaps, he was thinking about the Tom Angel scandal/controversy and how he might have to face the music for his handling of the matter.
As reported on Media City Groove, LaChasse’s former second in command resigned from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department last Sunday amidst a firestorm of criticism over a series of offensive emails Angel sent while at the Burbank PD. The emails mocked or belittled a list of folks including Muslims, Latinos, blacks, and women. Angel forwarded email jokes to some of his contacts in 2012 and 2013. LaChasse found out about the negative emails in 2014, but apparently did not take stern action against the deputy chief. Angel left the BPD last June for a job as the chief of staff at LASD.
Before the meeting adjourned, the city council members selected a mayor and a vice-mayor for the coming year. It was no surprise that Vice Mayor, Jess Talamantes, was elevated to mayor by his colleagues. This is the normal pattern of succession. Talamantes was first elected to the council in 2009 and served as mayor from 2010-2011. Talamantes was re-elected in 2013.
Talamantes’ second term as mayor got off to a bumpy start when he called for a nomination for vice mayor. A lengthy awkward silence fell over the council. Talamantes tried to encourage his fellow council members to put forth a nomination. No takers. Finally, Talmanates said: “I’ll take the lead … nominate council woman Emily Gabel-Luddy.” The motion was met with more silence and died for lack of a second. You could feel the tension in the room. Cell phones and other distractions lost their appeal. All eyes in the small audience were on the council.
More silence. Then Gabel-Luddy stepped up and nominated Will Rogers, who is entering his second year on the council. Dr. Gordon seconded the nomination. Just as they had with Talamantes, the council members voted unanimously for Rogers as vice mayor. Another shock came when the usually chatty Rogers declined to comment after his selection as vice mayor.
In an attempt to ratchet down the “personal tensions,” Dr. Gordon urged his fellow council members to “… all look within and try to work together and call upon the better angels of our nature.” Gordon explained the last phrase was borrowed from President Abraham Lincoln’s first Inaugural address, when the country was deeply divided and heading into a civil war.
Mayor Talamantes reminded his colleagues: “We are here as a team to represent the citizens of the community… our goal is to make this, make this city better than how we founded it.”
Despite the vice mayor snub, Gabel-Luddy attempted to put a positive spin on that drama: “I think there was a lot of speculation that I’d be elected for vice mayor. But I think this is a terrific choice. And I think moving forward, we’re going to have a really productive year together.”
All we can do right now is hope that Gabel-Luddy is right. It would be helpful if the personal tensions and council dramas disappeared. Sigh, somehow, I doubt that will be occur.