This past Tuesday, the Burbank City Council finally took up a vaccine mandate for city employees. Or should I say it appeared on their agenda?
In the discussion that followed, it became increasingly clear that nothing was the best action.
What appeared on the agenda was “Adoption of City of Burbank COVID-19 Employee Testing Policy”, which took the discussion into some areas that became clear they were looking for a way out.
Vice Mayor Jess Talamantes put a motion to get better, more updated information because the staff report was two weeks old, and the fact that so much has changed in that time. Really? Things are changing? Nice time to figure that out considering the last Council met was THREE weeks ago, and the next meeting is not for another two weeks.
Mayor Bob Frutos says he needs more information. When the Council meets again on October 12 to take it up again, how current will the staff report be then? Staff reports appear on the agenda the week before the meeting. They are not done the day before the meeting.
What started out as a simple mandate to have city employees either vaccinated or tested weekly, pretty simple and straightforward. In fact, this is what the ordinance was to basically cover:
1. Provides definitions for Fully Vaccinated and Proof of Vaccination.
2. Requires that employees test for COVID-19 infection weekly.
3. Provides an exclusion to testing for employees who provide proof of vaccination to the City. The policy also excludes certain City employees who are subject to the Los Angeles County Health Officer order of August 12, 2021 entitled Health Care Worker Vaccination Requirement. This Order requires that all workers who provide services or work in Emergency Medical Services Provider Agencies must receive the second dose of a two-dose regimen or the first dose of a one-dose regimen no later than September 30, 2021. All sworn personnel in the Fire Department are covered by this Order in lieu of the City’s proposed testing policy.
So what happened?
Instead of adopting the policy now, everyone started to bring up the ‘what abouts’. What about independent contractors who work for the city? What about new hires in the city? What are other cities doing now?
Councilmembers Nick Schultz and Constantine Anthony wanted something done now. While they thought all the points were good about all the other types of things, they still wanted to pass something at the meeting and then they could revisit all the other ‘what-abouts’ later with either a new ordinance or add to the one they passed.
Talamantes and Frutos would not budge. One thing they kept bringing up was negotiating with the unions. I don’t remember the virus consulting the unions.
You have to remember that Talamantes is a retired Burbank Fire Captain and Frutos is still active with the LAPD. When you look at some of the departments with the lowest vaccination rates in the city, you will find both the police and fire departments. Is their loyalty to those departments, or all of the citizens of Burbank?
Not only is Talamantes a retired Fire Captain, he was also a Paramedic for many years and should understand not only the seriousness of the virus but the importance of vaccinations for not only fire personal but for the general public.
Both police and fire unions supported Talamantes and Frutos in the last election and with both coming up for re-election next year, maybe they are trying to hedge their bets for political reasons.
Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles have already passed this back in August for all of their employees. Earlier this month, President Biden announced mandatory testing or vaccination for all Federal employees. Yet, our Burbank City Council still needs more information.
Los Angeles County Health has just issued a new health order that requires proof of vaccination for all customers and employees in indoor areas of bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs, and lounges. Customers and employees will be mandated to have at least one dose of vaccine by Oct. 7 and receive their second by Nov. 4.
Maybe they are hoping City Manager Justin Hess issues the order in his role as the Emergency Services Director. He has executed all other orders that the Council ratifies later and is not afraid to make the hard decisions. We have been lucky to have him at the helm during this entire pandemic.
So far, the Council has stayed to its meeting schedule the past couple of years. They have the power to call a special meeting to take up a topic like this and make a decision but have yet to take leadership.
Either get the shot or get tested and wear a mask, what is so hard about that? I would prefer that vaccinations are mandatory or find a new job. If you work for the City of Burbank, you work for the citizens of Burbank, and protecting these citizens should be the number one priority. Maybe the City Council should be told that.
Schultz was right, this is about not only the daily contact of adults but also the kids who can not receive the vaccine yet. Who is protecting them?
It is really a conflict for me to understand why our first responders are the most hesitant to get vaccinated. I keep seeing their deaths reported around the country and I just wonder why they won’t take it. Of course, once they are about to go onto respirators or pass away, their families then ask the same question.
I know if we mandate the vaccine, except for medical or religious reasons, that suddenly many will find God. While they may need directions to their local church, I would hope the exemption would require a priest or minister to verify the person’s faith. Might as well lie to God.
While Anthony and Schultz, who both voted for the policy were frustrated at the lack of action, it still takes at least three votes to pass something. Maybe next month, with a newly updated staff report and probably being the last local city to act, they may pass something.
Councilmember Sharon Springer made a good point when talking about Small Pox and Polio Vaccines of the past. By everyone getting vaccinated, the problem was cured.
If Dr. Jonas Salk had invented his vaccine in 2020 instead of 1953, I can only imagine how many people would refuse to take it today.