Letter: Councilman Looks for Better Communication Routes to Public

City Councilman Will Rogers. ( Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Letter to the Editor:

I want to thank MyBurbank.com for covering the recent Joint Session of the Airport Authority and the Burbank City Council, and especially for providing readers direct access via links to materials detailing the Airport Authority’s most recent proposal.

Regardless of whether one soundly rejects the proposal, fully endorses it as the outline we must pursue, or withholds any conclusion until some questions are answered, I believe the proposal is patently and objectively superior to the terms unanimously, formally and publicly supported by the Burbank City Council just five months ago.

I will not presume to speak for my City Council colleagues, but as we continue in this process I am convinced all of us believe it’s urgent that Burbank residents keep themselves informed, and monitor as much as possible the discussions and exchanges of information between the government bodies involved.

To that end, I’m looking for public input on an intimately related question, and that is what is the most reliable, convenient and useful means to provide residents notices of the various meetings and exchanges of documents?

Obviously, the City will not select a single outlet.  Rather, I expect we will continue with a combination of announcements found on the City web site, heard and seen on BTV6 – whether conveyed via cable television, or streaming on-line.  There will be efforts to see local newspapers and news web sites like MyBurbank.com advertise upcoming events, and to report on those as they take place.  There will likely continue to be paid public notices appearing in local papers and news web sites, along with notices included within BWP bills and other sorts of municipal newsletters.

But premised upon public turnout at airport-related events I’ve attended in the last 18-24 months, those familiar methods are simply not working to inspire Burbank residents to tune in or turn up.  At public meetings with the potential of setting a course that can have incredible impact on the traffic, noise, health and business interests of Burbank residents, both for next year and decades into the future, I’ve seen public attendance as low as two people, and at a maximum of a dozen or slightly more.  It’s my understanding that it’s considered “big numbers” if 200 view our council meetings on-line, and the average numbers are much lower.

Especially as the next municipal election now on the distant horizon begins to loom, I have no doubt we’ll soon begin to hear from the ubiquitous candidates or campaign supporters.  Indeed, they’re occasionally heard from already.

I don’t read minds, so I cannot claim to know their agendas and intents.  I can only observe that the sort I’m referring to routinely and solemnly assure members of the public that they DO know the secret thoughts and plans of anyone who refutes their claims.  And typically, the tent-pole, keystone and otherwise pivotal point of all those claims is that only THEY will tell you what is secretly taking place, only they have amassed the disparate puzzle of facts and assembled them into a clear picture of what others are REALLY doing and why.  And finally, only they have the courage, intelligence and stamina to protect you from the inherently destructive and corrupt agendas they perceive.

Rather than seeing voters and other residents once again misled by one or more purveyors of fear and conspiracy, I think it’s vitally important Burbankers get information for themselves, ask tough questions of ALL sides, and apply both common sense and a full dose of accurate history in the process of forming their opinions and conclusions.

But to do that, to get there, we have to get residents into the room to see for themselves what’s going on.  And that’s where this city seems to have failed time and again.  City Hall obviously cannot take each resident by the hand and walk them into these important sessions.  We can’t assign reading material like homework.  But there must be more we CAN do that we’re not doing.

What are YOUR ideas for notifying the public?  Even if it has nothing to do with the airport – perhaps City Hall wants to notify you about a project proposed near your house, or an upcoming street project – what more do YOU think we should be trying?  We find lots of people open their utility bills and reflexively toss the inserts before reviewing their bill.  Notices mailed to homes are chucked into junk-mail piles without being opened.  There aren’t enough employees to send door to door, and we couldn’t afford to hire the numbers necessary.  The local newspaper has a small fraction of the readers it once did.  Sometimes local outlets are attentive for a week or two, then ignore ongoing events for weeks running.

Please, contact me directly at wrogers@burbankca.gov to tell me what we could be doing that we’re not to get the public attending meetings and reading documents.  If you’d prefer, you can send the same message to all five council members simultaneously by writing instead to CityCouncil@Burbankca.gov  You’re also welcome to write a good old fashioned letter, or to make a phone call, and that contact information will be given below.

Thank you in advance for your suggestions and ideas.  And again, thank you to MyBurbank.com for helping to get the word out.

Will Rogers
Burbank City Council Member

City Hall Mailing Address:
275 E. Olive Avenue
Burbank, CA  91502

(818) 238-5750

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