Letter to the Editor: Council Member Wants to See Public Comments Period Reinstated

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Editor’s Note: This letter is in response to our opinion piece talking about the elimination of the public comment period after agenda item reports that were taken away by a vote of the Council at the July 26 meeting. This comment can also be found in the comment section of that editorial.

Letter to the Editor:

A key opportunity to speak and participate in the democratic process was eliminated in a 3 to 1 vote by my Burbank City Council colleagues.   The elimination of any Public Comment for the reasons set forth is illogical, exclusionary, potentially dangerous, and can result in disconnected, out of touch government.  The reasons set forth: participation has been low since May 3, 2022 – our first post pandemic in-person meeting, and the Mayor’s script is confusing.  Should we not give public participation a little more time as we emerge from the COVID pandemic?  People are still testing positive, staying home, and avoiding the public.  Ironically, Council member Frutos was absent from the vote as he tested positive for COVID.  Would it not be simpler and more democratic to rewrite the Mayor’s script so that it’s not confusing?       

On July 26, 2022, Mayor Talamantes, Vice Mayor Anthony and Council Member Schultz eliminated in-person public comment after each Report to Council.  This comment period has been an effective forum since at least back to 2006 when my neighborhood organized, advocated and was successful in achieving a safer residential street.  For most of us, other than voting, it was our first experience with direct, in person government participation.  The camaraderie, allocation of the component parts of our presentation, and mutual support were important to achieving our goal of safety for our families, neighbors and visitors. We had jobs, businesses, family responsibilities and other commitments that made participation in the initial General Public Comment impossible. 

We called, we wrote, we invited the City Council to our neighborhood, but we had not received responses from all sitting Council members.  We needed three votes.  They had their own jobs and family responsibilities.  Had they heard us, did they read our emails, did they know we called?   Did they know about the speeding driver who lost control on the down-hill curve, and slammed head-on into an innocent driver poking up the hill in his minivan?  Did they know about the other accidents and how truly dangerous it was?    

In exasperation, frustration and fear, my neighborhood showed up at City Hall on a Tuesday night and went home on a Wednesday morning.  Our street is safer because of it. To eliminate this Public Comment after each Report to Council can lead to disconnected, unresponsive government and a significant chipping away of our democratic process. 
 
Sharon Springer
Burbank City Council Member

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