A short series of Burbank town hall meetings got off to a slow start last night with the first one taking place at David Starr Jordan Middle School over on South Mariposa Street. I arrived at around 6:30 p.m. and found a small gathering of city officials and a few residents chatting out front near a couple of food trucks.
The town hall meeting got underway around 7 p.m. in the school auditorium. A group of city hall staffers and other B-town employees sat in one side section. In the middle, between 25-to-50 residents– not an impressive showing, but considering it’s the holiday season and the limited publicity, I guess it was an okay kick off.
As advertised, the town hall meeting was basically a question and answer session with the Burbank City Council. City staffers responded to specific questions when asked to do so by council members. Burbank Public Information Officer, Drew Sugars, roamed the room providing a mike to speakers.
Burbank Water and Power honcho, Ron Davis, assured one resident that the levels of Chromium 6 in our water was well below standards and there is no danger. The owner of a piece of a hillside property reported several problems with the city. One issue over a long standing security wall resulted in the city reportedly filing a criminal lawsuit against the property owner. Community Development Director, Greg Herrmann, was called upon by the city council to work this matter out with the owner. Also, another problem with the red zones in front of the same property was handed to traffic engineer, Ken Johnson.
A realtor, got an offer of help to resolve what she called an eroding hillside problem near her Burbank home on Skyline Drive. There were other questions about the amount of the city budget, getting solar heating in schools, and updating the city website to make it more user friendly (apparently this is in the works. Yippee!).
No hardball questions about the police scandal, city hall controversies, utility bills, smart meters, IKEA and Walmart projects were asked. What happened? One city hall watcher, and frequent commenter at council meetings, told me she felt the fear factor came into play. At least one of the residents who spoke admitted to being nervous about asking questions in an open forum. If that is the case, Mayor Golonski did announce the council members would be accepting e-mails and other correspondence from residents about problems and issues. Folks should take the mayor up on this offer, especially now.
The all important 2013 city elections are just around the corner: the primary on February 26 and the general April 9. Three council members are up for re-election: Dr. David Gordon, Dave Golonski, and Jess Talamantes. At least one city council candidate, Bob Frutos, was at the Jordan Middle School town hall meeting, listening to how the council members were responding to the residents.
Bottom line, there is a huge incentive for this city council to produce quick and decisive responses to the needs of the community. Mayor Golonski spoke of a follow-up in January to see how the residents’ concerns were answered. That’s where the success or the failure of these town hall meetings will be determined and the impact, if any, on certain council members’ re-election campaigns can be assessed.
Second Town Hall Meeting: November 28, 2012 Luther Burbank Middle School, 3700 West Jeffries Street.
Third Town Hall Meeting: November 29, 2012 Muir Middle School, 1111 North Kenneth Road.
Food trucks on site at 6 p.m. Town Hall meetings start at 7 p.m. More info here.