Letter to the Editor:
Last night’s City Council meeting had an agenda item that was placed by Mayor Anthony regarding whether to no longer have an invocation at the beginning of each Council meeting. Mr. Schlossman clarified during his public comment the circumstances as to why this invocation became an issue to begin with. Several decades ago, the City was sued about having a religious invocation before each meeting and the case went all the way to the US Supreme Court with Burbank losing.
Mr. Schlossman’s comments should have made it clear to Council that the issue before them was a legal issue about meeting procedure. This was not and should never have been considered to be a discussion about religion. The Court decision that was made all those years ago determined beyond any doubt that religion is not to be part of our Council meetings.
Yet almost every member of Council took that discussion to mean that they should talk about their own personal religious beliefs. Over a half hour was spent on council members going on about what religion they were raised with, what they believe now and why and so on. There was absolutely no reason for all of that to have taken up the public’s and City Staff’s time, especially with the hour being so late. It was a discussion by all these council members that was inappropriate, irrelevant and blatantly self-indulgent.
Council Member Mullins was the only person on the dais who had an understanding of what the discussion was supposed to be. This was not about religion; this was about how our City Council meetings should begin and what tone and message we want to send to everyone attending and watching.
Ms. Helligar’s public comment was correct in saying that this agenda item was meant to cause chaos and to be a distraction from much more pressing concerns in our city. The lengthy and unnecessary discussion by Council of themselves and their religion went directly against her message of and plea for inclusiveness and unity. Is this the message that Council intends to send?
Blue Values Burbank is currently in the midst of obtaining survey results from Burbank residents as to what they feel is their most pressing concern about Burbank. Already it is clear that the top response is the cost of living in Burbank. If City Council keeps putting “quality of life” as a goal during their yearly goal setting session, then the cost of living in Burbank and how the City itself contributes to that high cost should be on the agenda, not these lazy and distracting agenda items. They can talk about building housing, etc. but the need for attention and action is now.
We heard last night about how our utility rates will rise due to the Council approved bond issuance. The bond is needed due to poor planning for so long by so many – City staff, elected officials and so on. The past City Councils also spent their time on lazy and self-serving agenda items that did nothing to improve the cost of living and quality of life for Burbank residents. This new Council was elected making promises that they would be different. Last night’s meeting showed us more of the same.