League of Woman Voters Holds Candidate Forum

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On Thursday, September 30th, the League of Woman Voters of Greater Los Angeles held a candidate forum at Burbank City Hall.

Burbank Chamber

Candidates running for a wide array of offices took to the diocese in order to make a case for why they should be elected. This included candidates for Burbank City Clerk, Burbank City Council, CA Senate District 20 and the BUSD Board of Education.

The first of the four forums held was for city clerk candidates. The candidates present at the forum were Kimberly Clark, Jamal El-Amin and Viviana Garzon.

In discussing how the city clerk’s office could improve, El-Amin emphasized taking a proactive approach and increasing access to information for residents. Garzon, endorsed by current city clerk Zizette Mullins, mentioned that while the city clerk’s office is currently doing well, there needs to be more staff added to the passport office. Clark brought up the need for candidates of diverse backgrounds to seek elected office and positions on Burbank boards and commissions.

When asked about what changes to the city clerk’s budget were necessary, all of the candidates highlighted the fact that the city’s passport office has the potential to bring in additional money and could use more staff.

Next came the city council candidate forum. This year, five women are seeking to be elected to one of the three spots on the Burbank city council. The candidates for city council are Nikki Perez, Tamala Takahashi, Carmenita Helligar, Zizette Mullins and current councilmember Sharon Springer.

When asked how the city of Burbank could help renters, Takahashi mentioned that there’s a three to one job to housing ratio within the city. “We want our kids to be able to live in our city and, right now, it’s not accessible to them,” said Takahashi, highlighting the high cost of living in the city.

In her response, incumbent council member Sharon Springer mentioned the need for more affordable housing in Burbank. “We have over 2000 housing units either entitled or in construction right now,” said Springer. “We’ve done our best to include at least 15% affordable in those.” Despite the progress, she would like to see much more done.

Tying in the topic of renters, Nikki Perez emphasized the need to “empower our landlord-tenant commission,” in which there is only one tenant who currently sits.

When asked directly about affordable housing and the city’s role, Zizette Mullins stated that single family homes should be the priority in protection.

“I want to see our workforce – our nurses, our teachers, and some of our city employees…[to be able to afford housing] in this city.”

When asked about the gun store moratorium recently extended by the city council, all of the candidates expressed support for the action. Candidates Carmenita Helligar and Takahashi expressed going even further in regulating the gun shops, with Helligar calling for changes to the zoning designation of gun stores.

The candidates for city council all largely support the idea of having marijuana stores opened in Burbank. However, candidates Perez and Springer brought up concerns over children’s safety and expressed the need to have the shops as far from schools as possible.

In regards to traffic safety, Takahashi brought up the possibility of adding roundabouts and traffic circles in order to reduce speeding. All of the candidates expressed a desire to see parents better educate their kids about traffic safety and responsibility.

Following the city council forum, a forum was held for CA Senate District 20. The candidates for this local state senate seat are Daniel Hertzberg and Caroline Menjivar.

Throughout the forum, both candidates highlighted their progressive beliefs.

When asked how social services within California could be improved, both candidates emphasized the need to focus on ways to help those with mental health issues without criminalizing them.

“I’m looking to champion mental health,” said Menjivar, a former social worker. Daniel Hertzberg largely agreed with Menjivar, adding “we don’t want police to be the only option for mental health issues.”

Upon being asked a question about the recent law passed that regulates the production of gas powered cars, Hertzberg posed a question: “Is California’s electric grid ready for this?”

“We need to improve our infrastructure if we’re going to have these mandates,” said Hertzberg.

On the topic of abortion, Menjivar said, “what we need is a fighter up in Sacramento who knows what it means to lose these [reproductive] rights.”

“[After the Dobbs decision] we need to look at things related to privacy through the lens of reproductive rights,” said Menjivar.

Both candidates support Proposition 1, a proposition that, if passed, will enshrine the right to abortion and contraceptive access in the California Constitution.

To end the night, a forum was held for BUSD Board of Education candidates. In total, six candidates are running for this spot: Larry Applebaum, Michael Morgan, James L. Morrison, Abby Ponzer Kamkar, Brian J. Smith and Charlene Tabet.

Candidates were asked what issue they were most passionate about in regards to education and the school district.

Abby Pontzer Kamkar responded, “increasing our enrollment.” In contrast, Brian J. Smith answered, “retention and recruiting of employees.”

Although there were differences among the candidate’s answers, there was little conflict between the individual candidates. This is interesting when considering the tone and lack of civility found in previous school board meetings.

When asked how campuses could be made safe spaces for everyone, candidate Michael Morgan responded, “there has to be accountability for past injustices.”

“There’s a lack of diversity among staff and teachers,” said James L. Morrison. “It’s important to have role models that [are like you].”

Larry Applebaum took the question in a different direction and pointed out that programs like the student resource officer (SRO) program can help students feel safe at school.

A video recording of the forum can be found here.

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