Burbank & the Bell salary flap
Here ‘s a sad, but true tale of two Southland cities where the pay of selected officials/employees has been jacked up to ridiculous levels. The Los Angeles Times outed the small community of Bell recently for paying exorbitant salaries to a handful of its city officials. Nearly $800,000 to the Bell City Manager, $457,000 to the Police Chief, and $376, 288 to the Assistant City Manager. Oh, and most of the Bell City Council members were banking a $100,000 a year.
The Times’ investigation produced a series of stories and columns, sparking outrage among Bell citizens. That outrage prompted the city manager, assistant city manager, and police chief to resign. And grudgingly, the Bell City Council members gave-up their six-figure salaries.
The Bell flap has focused national attention on the problems created by city officials who shell-out hefty salaries and raises to some “allegedly-more-valuable- than -the-rest” employees to the detriment of the communities they’re supposed to serve.
Here in Media City, many residents are ticked off at the Burbank City Council for recently voting to hike the salaries of the senior executives at the Burbank Water And Power an estimated 7-to-11 percent. Thanks to the generosity of the city council, Burbank Water And Power General Manager Ron Davis’ salary reportedly will take a huge leap from around $218,000 a year, to somewhere between $233-and-$270-thousand per year. Nice gift. I blogged about it in a City Buzz column back on July 7.
It happened days after the city council approved a budget with fee increases that included a 13 .5% hike in water rates and 2.9% for electrical. Apparently, the four city council members, Jess Talamantes, Dave Golonski, Gary Bric, and Mayor Anja Reinke, who voted for the raises, came down with Bell fever. Council member David Gordon, who did not show signs of the political ailment, voted against the BWP pay hikes and those proposed by staff at last Tuesday’s city council meeting as well.
On July 27, city staff presented new requests to the city council for some job re-classifications and pay hikes in the Park, Recreation, and Community Services Department as well as a 19 and ½ percent raise and new title for a graphic illustrator in the Community Development Department.
This time around, Councilman Golanski refused to support that 19 and ½ percent raise, but three other council members voted for that salary increase and the others as well. So all of those salary hikes passed. Dr. Gordon voted “no” on all the raises. Reinke, Talamantes, and Bric voted “yes” on all of the raises.
I find it distrubing that the city council is handing out fat raises to some city employees — while members of the Burbank PD work without a contract. The BPD has been hit hard by scandal, corruption, and mismanagement. Still, Burbank cops are out there on the streets putting their lives on the line to protect the city and its citizens. You’d think the city council members and top staff would be scrambling to get raises and a contract for Burbank cops. Now, that would benefit the entire community — not just line the pockets of a few select employees with more taxpayer dollars
Bell fever. I wonder how long certain Burbank City Council members will be afflicted with the malady. Somebody needs to find a cure fast!
Steve Ferguson, Chair of the Park, Recreation and Community Services Board in Burbank, has a new blog, Politically Speaking. Ferguson has posted a thought-provoking piece called, “The Unspoken Conflict.”
Ferguson writes: “Police lawsuits, cut-throat political tactics and gossip have created an environment of fear, paranoia, and desperation. It’s not okay to disagree, to want to know more, or even to read a blog or two in our City. As a result, the dominant culture of our community divides those who are involved, based on their current views of City policies, into three groups: those who are right, those who are wrong and those who are not involved or don’t have a clue. There is no longer any appreciation for a difference of opinion. The division is everywhere. When two individuals from different groups interact it is mostly unspoken and sometimes even eerily cordial.” Read the entire post here.
Update on San Fernando Boulevard Fire
Fire officials are still investigating that major fire at a commercial building in the 500 block of San Fernando Boulevard near downtown in Burbank, last Tuesday, July 27. The fire broke out shortly before 7 p.m. and burned hot and fast. Smoke from the blaze billowed out into the neighborhood and could be seen for miles.
There were no injuries, but on Friday, Burbank Fire Spokesman, Captain Ron Bell, put the damage estimate to the gutted building at $1 and ½ million and damage to the contents at around $250,000.
Captain Bell says they don’t know yet exactly what caused the fire and it is still “… under investigation and will be so for some time.”
Gripes & Complaints
Some sharp criticism of the Burbank Adult School over on the Semichorus blog. The educational facility is accused of charging for some courses that reportedly should be free to students. Details here.