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Historic Burbank City Council race is down to the wire

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The race is in the home stretch for three seats on the Burbank City Council. The five candidates on the November 8 ballot are all women for the first time. Historic for the Media City. The development stirs excitement among some and a bit of anxiety for others over what a female majority on the city council will mean. Since there is no precedent… we will just have to wait and see what happens.

Incumbent, Sharon Springer, is the only candidate with council experience. Springer is campaigning for a second term. She is up against a field of serious minded candidates with strong commitments to Burbank and impressive qualifications. The other council contenders are Environmental Advocate Tamala Takahashi, Burbank City Clerk Zizette Mullins…

Nonprofit Program Manager Nikki Perez, and Businessowner/Diversity Advocate Carmenita Helligar.

During the campaign, the candidates have discussed city issues and needs, presenting plans and solutions. Recently, I sent out emails to them asking two questions. Here are the questions and the candidates’ responses in ballot order.

Nikki Perez: Candidate for City Council

1. If elected to the Burbank City Council, what would be your three priorities?

If elected, I want to pursue policies that will address the housing and homelessness crisis, rising environmental impacts, and maintain our excellent quality of life: 

1. Housing & Homelessness – Approve a comprehensive housing/homelessness plan that outlines specific ways to address individual and family homelessness and explores the creation of a homelessness resource center for those at risk or experiencing homelessness. This plan should include specific ways our government entities and nonprofit providers will work together, measurable goals, and dates when we plan to attain these goals to keep us accountable.

2. Environment – Pursue an ordinance that mandates all new building constructions are all electric (no gas), thus significantly reducing our second highest rate of emissions which comes from buildings. Glendale has done this, and I hope to learn from our neighbors about the best practices and challenges they faced while pursuing a similar ordinance.  

3. Quality of Life – Work with city staff to ensure we are maintaining our fundamental city emergency services and utilities. Right now, I know our fire department is in increasing need of support. We have had 15 firefighters leave this year, taking years of experience and specialized training with them. Improving street safety. Creating more green space and outdoor recreational opportunities, including new dog parks. Investing in a new, state-of-the-art central library & community center.

2. Do you support the current tradition of rotating the vice-mayor and mayor positions on the city council?

Yes, I absolutely support the current tradition of rotating the Vice Mayor and Mayor positions on Council. In thinking deeply about the meaning of this tradition, I find myself coming back to the fact that the position remains truly nonpartisan. Burbank City Council is listed as a nonpartisan position, yet all of us come with different political leanings and beliefs and as humans it’s unavoidable. One of the things we can do to retain this impartiality – and not politicize the office – is protecting the rotating Mayor and Vice Mayor tradition.

The minute we change this policy simply because we do not like the person who becomes Mayor, we run the risk of permanently politicizing the process. The Mayorship would then become another game to play in City Hall as well as during elections where we could see Councilmembers cutting deals and working to keep power; a game reminiscent of what we are currently seeing play out in LA City Hall. I fully support us continuing our traditions of rotating the Mayor and Vice Mayor positions and keeping our government offices as clear as possible from political games. 

Tamala Takahashi: Candidate for City Council

1. If elected to the Burbank City Council, what would be your three priorities?

Affordable housing, safe multi-modal transportation network, environmental sustainability 

2. Do you support the current tradition of rotating the vice-mayor and mayor positions on the city council?

The Charter Review Committee recommendations provide a good opportunity to look at the Mayor’s role in our city, especially as we evolve and face challenges like COVID-19. I also strongly believe in the democratic process as well as transparency. If updating the governance structure is a way to do that, then I’ll support it. However, if it doesn’t have a significant impact on these things, then it doesn’t make sense to change the system for little gain. I am very curious what the community will say once the topic is up for discussion.

Sharon Springer: Candidate for City Council

1. If elected (again) to the Burbank City Council, what would be your three priorities?

My top three goals of Continued Emergence from the Pandemic, Housing/Homelessness, and  Transportation, will be undertaken consistent with the comprehensive Burbank City Council collaborative goals that were decided in 2022:  continuing economic recovery and responsible development, sustainability, maintaining and expanding city services, ensuring quality of life, building infrastructure, ensuring transportation and traffic safety and housing and homelessness.


Emergence from the Pandemic
I will work with residents and businesses and vote on policy that keeps costs down and does not impose unnecessary burdens. I will support businesses with policy that enables flexibility among their workforce and promotes provision of a diverse housing supply.  I will continue to support programs within the Burbank Economic Development Department including Visit Burbank, Tech Talks, free consulting services for business plan development, guidance obtaining financing, and customized training opportunities to help employees reach their potential.  I will remind workers within Burbank that their children can attend Burbank schools.

Housing

I support affordable rental and for sale housing at every income level.  Affordable housing is defined as that which the cost doesn’t exceed 30% of one’s gross income.  City Council and I have adopted a goal of 12,000 units by 2035 and a commitment to achieving our RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) numbers.  Theoretically, achieving our RHNA numbers will result in an adequate supply of affordable housing at all levels.  


Homelessness
So, far, the steps Burbank has taken are having a positive impact on reducing homelessness as our count has declined 9%.  There is so much more to do.  What do you think is good about it, and if not, what would you do to change it?  The collaboration between the various City departments, religious institutions, BPD, FPD, our nonprofits and the compassion of our residents is good.  We need more mental health professionals interacting with our unhoused, every day.  I support adding them to our Plan.

 
Burbank is moving forward with a Tiny Homes Village.  The Village is proposed to have 27 units with capacity for 48 to 50 adult individuals.   

Less than ⅓ of homeless will accept group shelter.  I think we’re on the right track with a Tiny Homes Village and wraparound services. 

Transportation
Transportation emits over 40% of total greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. And moving forward I would design a system that aggressively reduces greenhouse gas emissions and includes the implementation of Universal Design, which means that the transportation, public right of way infrastructure, first mile/last mile improvements, building access are usable by everybody regardless of disability or ability.  The service would be affordable, reliable, frequent, timely, comfortable, safe and clean.  Our streets and sidewalks would provide protected multi modal use and would encourage walking, biking, wheelchair and other safe passage to those using alternative modes.       

I would design a system that helps our residents most in need:  our low income, seniors and our disabled and I would provide fixed route and on demand service that responsibly fills their needs.     
    
I have been car-free for 5 years, so public transportation is important to me. I have firsthand ridership experience to inject into policy decisions.  I am in contact with Burbank public transportation users and I’m a liaison to the Burbank Transportation Commission, whose members also use public transportation. This Commission is incredibly qualified, and members are studying, and advising on Burbank bus route changes to provide effective accessible public transportation.  I will continue to listen to these Commissioners.

I will proactively work on moving 20% of Burbankers to being car free.  Help facilitate 15-minute train service through Burbank.

2. Do you support the current tradition of rotating the vice-mayor and mayor positions on the city council?

Yes.

Zizette Mullins: Candidate for City Council

1. If elected to the Burbank City Council, what would be your three priorities?

Affordable housing for all those who would love to call Burbank their home. Advocate for the disadvantaged – Expand the Street Plus and the Mental Health Evaluation Teams. Support safety personnel to make sure they can meet the ever-changing needs facing our City. 

2. Do you support the current tradition of rotating the vice-mayor and mayor positions on the city council?

The Charter Review Committee gave careful consideration to the entire City Charter before arriving at their recommendations. I believe these independent recommendations deserve further rigorous review and public vetting during the next stage of the process. The Council and the community are accustomed to a Mayor rotation. This is not a rule but rather a tradition which seems to work well for the City.  As a City Council Member, I would carefully consider the Committee’s findings and public input on all of the issues including Council rotation.

Carmenita Helligar: Candidate for City Council

1. If elected to the Burbank City Council, what would be your three priorities? 

My three priorities are Housing, Sustainability, and Small Business.

  1. Housing- Create affordable, accessible, and stable housing, especially for our workforce and the unhoused
  2. Sustainability – Improve our environmental policies to become a leader in smart, effective, and fiscally responsible climate action
  3. Small Businesses-Create programs to help small businesses thrive as well as revamp our permitting process to open small businesses more efficiently.

2. Do you support the current tradition of rotating the vice-mayor and mayor positions on the city council?

I do support the current tradition of rotating the vice-mayor and mayor positions. It gives us a fresh perspective from an individual that’s elected into office yet has no additional power they still only get one vote on the issues.

The importance of my first question is obvious, but the second may need some explaining. So, if you take a look back at some city councils, you will find a lot of discord over the mayor and vice-mayor positions. Much of it played out in public. The most recent episode took place last December at the council reorganization meeting.  An attempt was made to derail councilmember Konstantine Anthony’s opportunity to serve as vice-mayor.  After some debate, Mayor Jess Talamantes settled the debate by supporting Anthony’s selection as vice-mayor.

Also, it’s hard to forget the years, yes, years of bitterness created by the decisions and underhanded wrangling that went on to exclude councilmember Dr. David Gordon from the rotation. After much public outcry, Dr. Gordon served as vice-mayor in 2013 and mayor in 2014.

Bottom line, I find it difficult to believe council members’ pledges of integrity, diversity and inclusion when they backstab or undermine colleagues in power plays for leadership positions. I am hoping the upcoming historic council will take the high road and we will see all councilmembers be treated with respect and fairness.

In the true spirit of the rotation, let every councilmember get the chance to serve as vice-mayor and mayor.  That clears the way for councilmembers to not be detracted by petty politics, allowing them to keep their focus on the needs and concerns of the Burbank community.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 8. Vote! Let your voice be heard.

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