On Thursday Burbank’s city council undergoes its annual “reorganization,” the five choosing from among themselves one to serve as Mayor.
One local contingent argues the decision has “always,” with only extreme exceptions, been premised upon a formula that weighs placement in the most recent election. Others insist using only seniority and the record of who has not yet been Mayor is the way it has “always” been done, save for the occasional boycott of supposed trouble makers.
There have been many battles over the Mayor’s seat, with a council majority and their respective camps occasionally declaring that whomever was next in line couldn’t be named, warning of disaster and municipal humiliation. Among those denied a “turn,” only to later be given the chance by new regimes, were Mary Lou Howard and Dave Golonski. Others were blackballed and left office never serving as Mayor, including Tim Murphy, Susan Spanos, Ted McConkey and, to date, David Gordon.
The pearl-clutching dramas make some forget the job is entirely a figurehead position. With it comes wielding the gavel at council meetings, and use of a larger office. Otherwise, the job is as Burbank’s ceremonial representative, the “privilege” of the center seat at the dais, and signing proclamations. Burbank’s Mayor has no button to push to let the missiles fly, nor even a weighted council vote or veto. In 25 years of watching Burbank’s Mayors, I don’t recall one incident wherein residents were abandoned, an employer closed, or a thriving business fled because of the Mayor. All of these have happened, of course, but who was or was not Mayor at the time played no role.
Our neighbor, Glendale, has repeatedly named as Mayor one of the most erratic, self-centered and “out-of-round” pols I’ve ever known. While that’s led to occasional flaps, some of which even roiled international wags as he rambled irrationally and blundered, I don’t believe his being Mayor has ever had more negative impact on the city than his simply being a councilman.
I’m no fan of councilman David Gordon, and can document many incidents that reflect badly on his claimed integrity and honesty, qualities for which supporters give him credit. But he was elected, and even the well-founded contempt some of his colleagues and constituents is not cause to engage in a petty effort to block him from the Mayor’s seat he longs for.
As a journalist I’ve certainly reported on the sentiments of those who opposed one potential appointment, or supported another, just as I’ve covered the “:horse race” aspects (i.e. “Three out of five council members now say there’s no way they’ll ever agree to make – fill in the name here – Mayor on May 1.”).
Still, as long as the time in office and the rotations allow it, my personal opinion has always been that everyone who wishes to serve as Mayor should get their turn. That was my position when Tim Murphy, an amiable, respected and dedicated councilman was shoved aside in the 90s, and when the belligerent demagogue McConkey was raging from the dais in the 2000s. It’s no different for Gordon.