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Media City Buzz: Multicultural Arts Festival denied access to a Burbank park

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Burbank High School is the new site of the Elevate Burbank Multicultural Arts Festival on Saturday Aug. 20. Kudos to the Burbank Unified School District Board for stepping up and making this happen. Nevertheless, it is disappointing to hear foot dragging by the Burbank City Attorney’s Office pretty much derailed the initial plan to host the free, family-friendly event in Johnny Carson Park.

Elevate Burbank a nonprofit

Elevate Burbank is a relatively new organization, but it has participated in events like Magnolia Park Night Out and the recent National Night Out celebration in Johnny Carson Park. The organization’s website describes its mission this way: Elevate Burbank is committed to providing opportunities to promote cultural diversity through events, engagement, and partnerships with the Burbank community.

Diversity is key for this organization. Elevate Burbank board member and long time resident Madison McAleese offered this explanation in a letter to the editor, published last Saturday, Aug, 6, in the Burbank Leader, “… the city is rich with diversity – diversity of backgrounds, identities, political affiliations, and religious beliefs. We are the media capital, after all, in the heart of LA County, and are a beautiful tapestry of cultures and identities woven together.  However, I have never seen this visibly reflected in Burbank or in its community events.”

Frustration over event process

Also, McAleese’s letter expressed frustration with the handling or mishandling of the insurance approval process for their multicultural arts festival.  A letter from Elevate Burbank President, Linda Bessin, appeared in Saturday’s Burbank Leader as well. Originally, city officials were enthusiastic about the event.  Bessin states in her letter: “We met with the City Manager in March 2022 and received a pledge of the support from city staff. We reserved the park for August 20th .

Then things got shaky.  Bessin says, “After weeks of multiple submissions of paperwork, various different proofs of insurance and lots of emails, our required insurance coverage was approved. Then the approval for insurance was revoked, then approved again, and then revoked again, all by the city attorney’s office. By that time, it was the beginning of August, and Elevate Burbank quickly searched for a new location.”

City Attorney’s Office response

I reached out to Burbank Interim Public Information Officer, Jonathan Jones. He contacted the City Attorney’s Office about the matter and provided this email response: “Miscommunication concerning execution of the insurance documents, as well as the City Attorney’s Office lack of familiarity with the nature of the specific insurance provided, resulted in an unusual amount of back and forth with the insurance agent.”

Hard to believe a simple matter like confirming the organization’s insurance tripped up the City Attorney’s Office and resulting in weeks of delays! This situation is not encouraging to other nonprofits or any group seeking to hold an event in a Burbank park.

City Attorney Joe McDougall needs to make some changes in his department to improve the event process.  Also, McDougall should offer a public apology to Elevate Burbank for the festival snafu.

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The Multicultural Arts Festival will be held August 20 from 11 a.m. until 5 pm. at Burbank High School. For more information on the event, go here on the Elevate Burbank website. 

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