Burbank’s Elections to be Completely Revamped


Burbank is about to change the way Councilmembers are elected completely.

According to a staff report, a notice was sent to Burbank under the California Voter Rights Act that said the city was in violation of the act by not electing their councilmembers by districts instead of the current at-large system.

Nick Gutierrez, who identifies himself as a Burbank resident and Latino voter, initiated the complaint.

At this past Tuesday’s City Council Meeting, Councilmembers voted to adopt a resolution to transition from the current at-large voting system and to establish single-member districts for councilmembers to represent. By taking this action, it put any legal action the State could take on hold for 90 days.

As far as expenses, the City had to hire a consulting firm that deals with election districts at an initial cost of $100,000.

Burbank Chamber

This will be a major undertaking for the City and a completely different way of electing councilmembers in the future. There will have to be council districts created, public hearings held, and ultimately, it will have to go to the voters to decide since the Charter must be changed to accommodate the new process.

There are going to be many things for the Council to decide.

  • How many districts will be created? The council can decide on any number they wish. Currently, there are five councilmembers which would be five districts. They can decide to go to seven or even nine if they wish.
  • What will the districts be? They will have to draw up districts with many things to consider, such as population and demographics.
  • Would a councilmember have to live in his/her district?
  • Would they want to add a full-time Mayor? Currently, the Mayor is selected by a vote of the Council on a yearly basis. Under this process, the title is largely ceremonial with no additional powers compared with other councilmembers. By electing a full-time Mayor, (for example, the City of Los Angeles), the entire power structure would have to be reorganized. It would have to be decided what a Mayor could or could not do, such as handling some of the City Manager’s responsibilities when it comes to hiring or firing department heads, along with any veto power over the council’s decisions. This would also be an additional cost to the budget to pay a yearly salary.
  • How to reconfigure the districts? Every ten years after the census, they may have to go in and redistrict based on population, etc. Who would do this, and when, would need to be discussed.

So changes are coming and in a major way. The Council will need to consider all of this and when it will happen within the next six months. After splitting up Burbank into districts, they will also have to decide who will represent which district. If they mandate that person must live in the district, it could mean the end of the line for some of the councilmembers.

No matter what is decided, to do nothing would bring on a lawsuit and a financial penalty to the city until they change their system.


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