Opinion: New Year, New Council, Hopefully New Ideas

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It’s just my opinion…

On Tuesday, January 10th. Our City Council will be meeting for the first time in a regular session since the swearing-in of three new members. This is a historic City Council in many ways. With it being the first time. a majority of the Council Members are women, and no serving Council member has more than two years of experience.

As I write this open letter, here are some thoughts and opinions that will hopefully guide the council.

To begin with, there is guidance.

Burbank’s form of government only allows the council to hire two people in the city directly, that is the City Manager and the City Attorney. We are fortunate in Burbank to have two highly qualified individuals in those positions.

City manager Justin Hess has been recognized as City Manager of the Year recently. He guided Burbank through the pandemic and has kept the city running at a peak level.

City attorney Joe McDougall has also been a calming influence since his appointment. He does not interrupt or dictate to the council members at meetings the way our former City Attorney did.

Councilmembers should not be hesitant to ask either one of these two people for their opinions. They have both been around a long time and understand the workings of the city and the legal system. With that said, use their opinion to the best of your ability but still make decisions for yourselves.

That leads to my second area, don’t go down the rabbit hole.

Council members were elected to lead, not to react and try to be popular. Last year our council made a mistake, despite legal opinion, to not permit the Pickwick SB 35 process to continue with the Pickwick project. Resident after resident begged the council not to approve it, and instead of listening to their legal advice, they tried to appease the residents, which cost the city over $271,000 in legal fees so far.

There will still be more tacked on to that bill as another lawsuit has yet to be settled. Think of all the ways $271,000 could have been spent to improve our city instead of putting it in lawyers’ pockets.

We elect council members to lead and sometimes make those tough, difficult decisions that may not be popular.

If the council wants to really help, they will find a way to get us out of the SB 35 protocols so that developers can no longer take advantage of our city.

That brings me to my next area of discussion, the future.

We now have one of the youngest counsels in recent memory, and while the experience may not be there, there is a new rejuvenation of thinking. Just because we used to do something one way does not mean we have to continue to do it that way. Don’t let the staff bring out the binder and say, “this is how we’ve always done it in the past.”.

Hopefully, our council members we’ll look at the modernization and the future of Burbank in their decision-making.

We are on the verge of creating a new Civic Center complex. Don’t go by what works today, but what will evolve into the future and how society will work. Our Burbank transportation system is an absolute mess and a money-sucking pit. There has to be a new, better system that will actually serve Burbank, its citizens, and businesses both day and night.

What will have to be done to retain our police and firefighters? We can no longer compete with other cities but need to figure out a way to do something special to keep police and firefighters from looking elsewhere. Think about all the money we spend on their training and early development just to lose them to another city for a couple of dollars more in a paycheck. There have to be dynamic reasons for them to stay.

My last piece of advice would be to say do not always trust the staff blindly. Many of our younger staff members are basically passing through Burbank on their way to other jobs in the future. Most of them do not live here or have a stake in our community. It is easy to write a report and recommend something without really understanding what it means to the future of the city.

Too often, they are left off the hook when it comes to community involvement. Make sure that when they tell you about surveys and meetings, they come up with the actual numbers of the people involved or contacted. Letting 50 people decide the fate of 100,000 is not a good government. Five years from now, when these staff members are no longer here, we are still be left with their recommendations and decisions.

Question everything and make an informed decision. Don’t worry about hurting somebody’s feelings. While all these staff members are very qualified, keep in mind that book smarts are great, but street smarts always need to be considered.

And so starts the honeymoon for our new council. There will be some bumps in the beginning, but we have to give them a chance. These five individuals do care about Burbank and our way of life. They did not get elected to become rich but to lead and serve the community and its residents.

We are lucky to have a council member like our Vice Mayor, Nick Schultz, who has a legal background and a common sense approach. We also have Nikki Perez, who has been involved with legislation at the state level. Zizette Mullins has extensive experience in city government after a very successful stint leading the City Clerk’s office. Tamala Takahashi has been involved in numerous community groups and activism, and our new mayor Konstantine Anthony has a passion for making Burbank a better city.

All in all, these are exciting times, and I am very excited to see where the City Council takes us. We claim to be the media city of the world, and our technology and thinking need to reflect that.

I am excited about the future.