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Media City Buzz: Big changes ahead for Burbank as a second councilmember bows out of the 2022 election

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Mayor Jess Talamantes’ decision not to run for re-election opens the door for big changes in Burbank. Over the years, many residents have burned my ears with complaints about the city council and how it handles major issues and controversies. It’s a fact; City Council votes affect the quality of life of the 100-thousand plus people who call the Media City home.

Most residents rarely think about the five elected officials on the city council. That is, until they are directly impacted by street parking battles, development expansion, or perhaps hikes in utility rates. During my frequent conversations with council critics I often tell them, “change the makeup of the city council and you will make some significant changes in city government.” We are now on the brink of seeing the composition of the city council dramatically transformed. Some say, the change is long overdue.

City Council Race 2022

There will be three seats for the Burbank City Council on the upcoming November 8 ballot. The only incumbent seeking voter approval is Councilmember Sharon Springer. The rumblings of a seismic power shift began when veteran Burbank City Councilmember, Bob Frutos, announced his retirement last June. (Frutos’ retirement takes effect at the end of his term in December.) Earlier this month, another jolt to the status quo in the town. The August 12th deadline for incumbents to file nomination papers for re-election passed without Councilmember Talamantes taking action.

In an email, the three-time mayor explained his decision. “It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve on the City Council for more than 13 years. I want to thank the entire Burbank community for entrusting me with this important role. I’ve had the privilege to serve as the Centennial Mayor, had the honor to meet two Presidents and a First Lady, collaborate with so many of my incredible colleagues, implement important changes in our community, and build lifelong relationships,” said Mayor Jess Talamantes. “Deciding not to seek re-election was a difficult decision, but I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life – to spend more time with my family and find new ways to give back to the community in a meaningful way.

Here are the official council candidates. They are: Incumbent Sharon Springer; Nikki Perez, nonprofit program manager; Tamala Takahashi, environmental advocate; Zizette Mullins, Burbank City Clerk; and Carmenita Helligar, diversity advocate. All of the candidates are women. This guarantees a female majority on the city council.  A first for Burbank.

City Council Reorganization Meeting

Ironically, female influence on the council will grow significantly without the manipulation of any longstanding traditions. Last year, a bold attempt to select Springer as the vice mayor, over two new members, got derailed. During the reorganization meeting on Monday, Dec. 13, Councilmember Frutos made a motion to give Springer a second term as vice mayor under the guise of increasing representation for women and showing more diversity at City Hall.

Leadership Rotation Debate

For the record, Springer served as vice mayor in 2019 and mayor in 2020. Traditionally, those leadership positions are rotated annually.  When the rotation has been ignored controversy, bitterness, and resentment have festered.  Last December, Councilmember Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz chose to support the rotation. So did the mayor. Anthony was selected vice mayor in a split decision 3-2.  Springer and Frutos voted no.

In casting the deciding vote, Mayor Talamantes expressed a desire to stick to the tradition of giving newer members ”a chance to be part of the leadership process.” A wise decision by Talamantes. He did the right thing. Hopefully, other councilmembers will follow his example.

Moving forward, gender should not be an issue in the upcoming election. This should clear the way for the voters to judge the candidates on their merits, positions on the issues, and their future visions for Burbank.


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