Tag Archives: Burbank

Diversify Our Narrative Petition Aims To Incorporate Representation Throughout Burbank Schools

A petition lobbying for diversity in classroom curriculum that started amongst Northern California students has expanded as a Burbank high schooler is leading a campaign for its measures to be passed across the Burbank Unified School District. 

The “Diversify Our Narrative” petition was initiated by a group of Stanford University students who created the platform with the intent to implement guidelines in schools all over California which call for further representation in classrooms. Sophia Moore, a Burbank local who will be a senior in the fall at John Burroughs High School, is friends with some of the students who started the proposal and decided to get involved by becoming a community organizer for the City of Burbank.

The petition, which began for the BUSD on June 19 and had around 200 signatures as of June 25, calls for at least one assigned reading book in every English Literature and Comprehension class to be both written by a person of color and tell of their personal experiences. Any current or past member of the BUSD community can sign, whether it be faculty, parents, or students. Moore, along with campaign supporters, believes that the diversity surrounding us should be reflected through accurate representation, starting with our educational curriculum.

“We’re living in a country where we’re the melting pot,” Moore said. “We’re such a diverse country and California is such a diverse state that I think that the notion of adding books that capture everyone’s experience, not just the white man’s, not just the white woman’s, but also the black man’s, the black woman’s, Asians, Latinx, Native American, everything, that’s so important because kids want to see themselves represented in the books that we read.” 

Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Matt Hill maintained that the district would be open to the suggestions outlined in the petition.

“We are always soliciting feedback whether it is public comment, emails, petitions…,” Hill said. “For this topic, our English teachers have been discussing incorporating diverse books into their reading lists. Funding has been the only barrier preventing us from making this happen.” 

The proposal comes after the May 25 murder of Minneapolis resident George Floyd, which prompted Moore to question how our schools are using their platform to inform students on cultural and racial issues troubling our country.

“When I read about “Diversify Our Narrative,” I was like, ‘Oh, wait, what are we doing in school to talk about racism?…What are we learning in terms of police brutality and the prison system?,'” Moore said. “And so seeing that initiative and having an opportunity to push diversity in the books that we’re reading in school,… it seems so simple, right? It seems like just an easy solution where we could have more conversation, especially in an academic setting. You can reach hundreds of thousands of kids with one book. And to me, that’s so powerful.”

The petition also includes the measure that required reading books must have both men and women depicted in three-dimensional roles, and “Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups to the total development of California and the United States” must all be portrayed accurately in the selected course text.

The next Burbank Board of Education Meeting is being held on July 16, and Moore plans to present the petition to the board at that time. Moore is working to include these guidelines in high schools and middle schools in the area with the hope that educational institutions everywhere recognize how adding accurate representation will benefit their entire student body. 

“It’s bigger than what we do in our state,” Moore said. “If we could implement something like ‘Diversify Our Narrative’ nationwide, that would just be so, so impactful to so many people because you’re teaching an experience…Not everyone is a person of color. Obviously not everyone has lived through experiencing racism or the same hardships as black people in America… So I think that being able to read resources like that in school and discuss them the same way you would discuss ‘The Great Gatsby,’ the same way you would discuss ‘The Scarlet Letter’ is such an important opportunity that needs to happen.”

Moore is half-Mexican and says throughout her whole academic career she doesn’t recall any required reading which included a Mexican character in a lead role. In ninth grade, however, a teacher recommended Moore read Sandra Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street” outside of class, which gave her the experience of a story with a main character she could resonate with. This experience is one she hopes all children can feel in their classroom setting. 

“As assigned reading, if there were Mexican characters or characters that I could relate to in terms of my ethnicity, they were side characters or in the background,” Moore recalled. “It wasn’t like they were the main character…That book has not been able to leave my mind because of how powerful it was to read about. You know, a girl who I could relate to…So, if I got that feeling, every kid of color could have that feeling,…if they could find their ‘House on Mango Street’ as assigned reading, that would just be so cool. There’s nothing cooler than that to me.”

Moore emphasizes that the goal is to not to completely eradicate the entire library of books that have been read in schools for years. Rather, the campaign’s goal is to still include valuable, classic literature while introducing a new narrative that will provide a varied academic experience.

“I hope people can understand that this isn’t a push to completely flip the values that we’ve held in school, I recognize the importance of reading classic literature,” Moore said. “But I hope that people can also recognize the value of reading contemporary literature written about people of color, by people of color, about people of color and the struggles that they face in America.”

“Change starts with education,” Moore continued. “You can’t change racism,… [and] police brutality without talking about it. And I think that through ‘Diversify Our Narrative,” that’s that first seed of talking about it. We’re planting that tree to hopefully one day be able to say that we live in an equal society in terms of racism.”

A link to the petition can be found here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfPoZkyCTwMJeYEUk8YAKgS16IB3AjgD8SYt-dZY1mUlIgxLQ/viewform

 

Starlight Estates Neighborhood Regulations Approved By City Council

New regulations for the Starlight Estates neighborhood were approved at Burbank’s most recent City Council meeting, which took place on Tuesday, June 23, 2020.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

The meeting included introducing a pilot parking permit program in the neighborhood in order to curb the excessive loitering that has been plaguing locals severely in recent months. Although the estates don’t meet all standard criteria to warrant the permit, it was requested that the City Council take special consideration for the area due to the severity of the disruption experienced by locals. A recurring annual fund for a trash receptacle on Bel Aire Drive near Vista Ridge was also incorporated in the meeting agenda. Both measures were approved in a 5-0 vote. 

Under the new program, all non-resident street parking throughout the neighborhood will be prohibited from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., Monday through Sunday. Unless terminated or extended, according to the council’s determination, the parking permit will continue through the end of the year. Speed bumps have also been placed in the area to deter vehicles from driving too quickly. 

Public Works Director Ken Berkman presented the issue to the council, noting the “inappropriate and illicit behavior” which has increased police presence in the area and resulted in 150 citations since January 1 of this year. In addition, Berkman called on police data to reveal the Starlight Estates as the fourth highest area of calls for police service this year in Burbank at 225 calls, in comparison to other neighborhoods which average at 30-50 calls per year. 

The Burbank City Council revised this meeting agenda last-minute to include these proposals after an intruding group using fireworks started a brush fire at the estates on Thursday, June 18. The incident occurred after months of increasing tension between neighborhood members and groups of young adults who frequent the area and cause problems for residents by speeding loudly, leaving trash behind, and loitering from early evening through late-night hours.

Although the situation has improved in the neighborhood since the fire took place, resident and Burbank Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Debbie Kukta says she believes these measures, along with implementing neighborhood speed bumps, will continue to promote beneficial changes in the area moving forward. 

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

“Enforcement of the permit parking should deter the multitude of cars that park throughout our neighborhood on a regular basis now,” Kukta said. “The speed humps placed last week along Bel Aire [Drive] have already had an impact on the speed of cars traveling along that section of the street just before entering our neighborhood and have had a noticeable effect on their speeds once entering our neighborhood.  Even though it’s only been a couple of days, there’s been a clear decline in the number of cars driving through the neighborhood, speeding and gunning their engines.”

Kukta also feels that the approval from the Burbank City Council sets the tone for the expected quality of behavior for visitors of the Starlight Estates.

“These actions approved by the City Council clearly identify our neighborhood as a neighborhood where people live and have the expectation of safety and quiet,” Kukta said. “It’s not a destination for people to loiter for hours and disrupt the sanctity of the place where we live.”

Fellow resident Stephanie Brown expressed appreciation in the city’s response to recent events and has a positive outlook on how the changes will impact the Starlight Estates in the future.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

“I’m very happy that the city has taken these measures,” Brown said. “I hope that they discourage the behavior we’ve been seeing. The police have been there every night to enforce so we hope that continues.” 

While remaining optimistic, the city will continue to communicate with Starlight Estates residents and monitor how the regulations are affecting the neighborhood throughout the rest of the year. As time goes on changes may or may not be made depending on the efficiency of the new measures.  

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

 “It is our belief that all of these actions will keep people from parking in the neighborhood in the evening, and reduce people rolling through the stop signs and congregating in the view area,” Assistant City Manager Judie Wilke said.  “Our plan at this point is to keep an eye on how things progress with the protections we have put in place and we will need to remain nimble.” 

 

Fritz Coleman Talks Retirement after 39 Years With KNBC

On Wednesday, June 17, 2020, longtime NBC4 weatherman Fritz Coleman announced he is retiring from his role at KNBC and his last day on air will be Friday, June 26, at the 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. hours. 

Coleman grew up in a suburb west of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and knew from a young age that his future career path would involve being center stage. 

“I think I always wanted to be the center of attention,” Coleman said. “I was a bit of a class clown and was always involved in various performances.”

After graduating from Radnor High School in Pennsylvania, Coleman attended Salem College in West Virginia for two years before leaving to enlist in the U.S. Navy, a choice that proved to be instrumental in his development.

“It was probably the single greatest decision I’d ever made in my life,” Coleman said of joining the Navy. “I was assigned to Armed Forces Radio and Television, which gave me my career start…So that was my first exposure to broadcasting and made me think that I wanted to do something in that area.”

The day after getting out of the Navy, Coleman got a job at a radio station in Philadelphia. He would go on to have a 15-year-long career in radio which included filling the role of various industry positions, including music and production director.

During this time Coleman began to venture into the world of stand-up comedy, which led to a fateful cross-country move.

“I was a real novice and would do open mics at jazz clubs and over a period of a couple of years got fairly proficient,” Coleman said. “And I thought, ‘Well. I have a solid 10 minutes of material, I must be ready for L.A.’ So I decided to move out here.” 

Following making the move to Southern California in 1980, Coleman was making $45 a night working as a stand-up comedian at The Comedy Store when serendipity changed the course of his career. One night a friend came to watch Coleman’s act and brought his boss along with him, who was a then-news director at KNBC. Coleman’s show that evening included an anecdote about his experience being persuaded to do the weather report while in the Navy with very little knowledge on the subject. After the show finished, his friend’s boss approached him with a potential employment opportunity.

“His boss said to me, ‘I know this is a very odd question, but do you have any desire to do some vacation relief work for me on Channel 4? Just use your personality and have some fun doing the weather,’” Coleman recalled. “I said, ‘But I don’t know anything about the weather.’ He said, ‘That’s fantastic. There’s no weather in California. This will work out great.’ So I said, ‘I’ll do it.’”

Coleman auditioned for the job and prevailed, earning the spot of NBC4 LA’s weekend weatherman.  Within two years he was promoted to a full-time role as weekday weatherman, a title he has held for 39 years.

“It’s the greatest stroke of luck in show business,” Coleman said. “I had no desire to do the weather. I wanted to be on TV. I wanted the performance aspect of it…But this opportunity just presented itself and it turned into this astonishing career that I’m so grateful for.”

At Channel 4 Coleman has played a key role in one of the longest-running news teams in history working alongside colleagues Colleen Williams, Chuck Henry, and Fred Rogin. Coleman credits their success to a love for their work, as well as genuine friendships and an affable environment amongst the whole KNBC unit. 

“It’s a family atmosphere,” Coleman said of the NBC4 team. “We’re all friends and we all support one another and we’ve developed this chemistry…We’ve been successful at what we do and we enjoy being around one other. I think Channel 4…is the best shop in town for support for employees, for a creative and familial atmosphere.”

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Throughout his nearly 40-year run with KNBC, Coleman’s personality has shone through and resonated with audiences all over Southern California. He says that his role in the news has lent itself to a unique and meaningful relationship with viewers. 

“The one cachet that you have as a TV news person is that you appear in people’s lives every day at the same time over a period of time,” Coleman explained. “And there’s this intimacy that occurs. And what adds to that is news is the only type of broadcasting generally where you break the fourth wall, you’re looking right into the camera. So there’s a very personal relationship you have with viewers…It is quite touching.”

While working at KNBC over the years Coleman has developed an affinity for the City of Burbank as well as neighboring areas of the community. His participation within the city includes filling the role of Official Master of Ceremonies at the City of Burbank Centennial Celebration in 2011, emceeing for the Burbank Arts for All Foundation, and being honored by The Burbank Chamber of Commerce in April 2015. In addition, on Wednesday, June 24, Mayor Sharon Springer bestowed a proclamation officially declaring June 26, Coleman’s final day on-air, as “Fritz Coleman Weather Day” in the City of Burbank. 

Fritz Coleman at BAFA 2017 Party @ the Globe (Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“It has been my whole life for over half my life,” Coleman said. “I’ve raised three children and two grandchildren here. My two older children were born in St. Joseph’s Medical Center… I love this community… Although I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, I consider Burbank and this part of the San Fernando Valley my home.”

Coleman has stayed true to his roots in comedy while employed as NBC4’s weatherman through performing at iconic venues such as the Ice House in Pasadena and Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank. He also holds fond memories of making appearances on late-night talk shows numerous times throughout his stay at KNBC with various hosts such as Garry Shandling, Jay Leno, Joan Rivers, and Johnny Carson.

 “For a young comedian in those days before there were cable specials and before there were a plethora of other platforms for comedians to make themselves, you had to do ‘The Tonight Show’ to get a name,” Coleman said. “Doing the Johnny Carson show was ‘it.’ It was the greatest single experience you could have. Those are some of my fondest memories.”

Beyond being recognized as a legendary television news personality, Coleman has regularly received awards and accolades for his contributions to Los Angeles and dedication to public service. These include being given the “Humanitarian of the Year” title from the U.S. House of Representatives for his involvement in the American Red Cross, as well as being named a “Treasure of Los Angeles” by the City of L.A and Honorary Mayor of Toluca Lake. NBC has also established the “NBC4 Fritz Coleman Community Service Award” in honor of Coleman’s charitable work throughout the Southern California area. Coleman has continuously shown generosity in his philanthropy and sees it as one of the most rewarding elements of his work.

“There’s nothing more satisfying [than public service,]” Coleman said. “It’s so easy to be helpful. That’s just the power of television. So I just love it. I love the community outreach aspect of it. I love supporting small nonprofits. I love the one on one pressing the flesh aspect about it. I love interacting with people. So it’s the best part of my job.”

As a former NBC VP of Facilities, Jack O’Neill ran in the same circles as Coleman over the years and the two developed a close friendship that has lasted to this day. O’Neill says that Coleman’s generosity and devotion to the city are what make him so well-liked by the community.

Fritz Coleman with NBC VP Jack O’Neill (Photo by © Ross A Benson)

“People love him,” O’Neill said of Coleman. “He is so kind, he is so professional, and everybody I know, when they say ‘Hey, Fritz is coming with me,’ people would go nuts, they’re so happy.”

“If Fritz considers you a friend, that makes you feel so much better in life,” O’Neill continued. “That’s how good he is. He is without an ego…Fritz is a Burbank guy and he is so committed to this city. And that makes him real.”

Coleman’s retirement was planned in advance and working from home during the COVID-19 outbreak has created a transitional period in which he’s settling into life after KNBC. 

 “I wasn’t sure how I would feel,” Coleman said. “…But I say the quarantine for me has been like a retirement halfway house. It got me to see how I’m going to do in retirement, and as it turns out, I’m going to do great. So I’m happy I’m retiring. It’s time. Even if you love what you do, [after] 40 years, it’s time.”

Coleman had a year and a half of comedy shows and speaking engagements booked prior to COVID-19 and will continue to do both in the future.

More information about Coleman and requesting him for events can be found here: https://www.wcspeakers.com/request-speaker/?speaker-name=Fritz%20Coleman

 

Racing Cars, Loitering, Littering Leaves Starlight Estates Neighborhood Frustrated

Ongoing disturbances plaguing the Burbank Starlight Estates neighborhood have come to a head in recent months and erupted with the outbreak of a man-made fire on Thursday night.

Just after 8 pm an officer was patrolling the area and noticed a group circled around a bush that appeared to be on fire. The officer then called upon the Burbank Fire Department and used a fire extinguisher to maintain the fire, which is believed to have been caused by setting off fireworks,  until BFD personnel arrived.

“Several minors were detained and interviewed,” said Sergeant Derek Green, Public Information Officer of the Burbank Police Department. “Collectively as a group, the minors admitted to being responsible for lighting the firework[s]. A police report was taken and the incident is under further investigation.”

Green also stated that there have been “roughly 170 activities related to the Starlight Estates” just over the past month, including both calls for service and activities initiated by officers.

Although it’s commonplace to find visitors admiring the overlook of the city from the Starlight Hills, this incident comes after community members have noticed an escalation of disrespect from groups of teenagers and young adults who frequent the area, particularly over the past few months.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Rodney and Stephanie Brown are a married couple who have lived in Burbank for 20 years. They’ve resided at the Starlight Estates for the past eight years and initially felt attracted to the area due to its tranquil atmosphere, but there has been a gradual shift towards more disorder as intruders impose upon the neighborhood. 

“It’s a beautiful view,” Rodney said. “And [at first] people would come and walk up and take the view and then leave. And so that was pretty much the extent of it. But over time, it just became more and more and the crowd became younger kids just looking for a place to hang out.”

The groups that regularly spend their time at the estates usually cause a commotion racing their loud cars and littering throughout the streets and yards.

“Some of them are loud and then they race… And it makes a loud noise at night when you’re trying to sleep,” Rodney added. “…And what has really exasperated is the problem is with COVID,  these kids are just looking for a place to hang out because they can’t hang out in restaurants or whatever. So they’re bringing their food up there. They’re hanging out and then they’re leaving their trash.”

Burbank fire trucks line up in response to a brush fire started by fireworks at the Starlight Estates neighborhood. (Photo by Ross A Benson)

Stephanie Brown spoke on the brazen nature of the groups, who usually come by at 6:30pm and stay in the area until midnight or so.

“I saw someone [outside] one-time taking photos with no shirt on,” Stephanie said. “I know it sounds crazy, but I’ve seen discarded condoms. Marijuana container[s], drinking. It’s just it’s really disturbing. Very, very disturbing.”

Fellow resident Masis Khodaverdian has encountered these combative groups many times and mentioned just how severely their presence is affecting locals.

“[When confronted] they retaliate by throwing rocks and eggs on people’s doors and windows,” Khodaverdian said. “…Some of our neighbors are thinking about moving out.”

Another anonymous neighborhood member echoed the threatening personalities involved in the disturbances, stating that “some people become aggressive and threatening” when residents speak up against the intruders. 

When the fire broke out, Stephanie says she was made aware of the circumstances by her children, who were outside playing and noticed smoke.

“My kids were outside in the backyard playing basketball and looked out,” Stephanie said. “They came in and they said, “There’s a fire!” And we came out and you could see the smoke rising.”

A firefighter from the Burbank Fire Department puts out flames at the Burbank Starlight Estates. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Stephanie noted the fact that no one was harmed was a stroke of luck for residents and visitors alike.

“I don’t think it ever got out of control,” Stephanie explained. “But the fire trucks are there. I mean, obviously, it’s fire season [and] that could have been just devastating.”

Together with neighborhood members have approached the City of Burbank on the issue in the recent past. Starlight Estate resident and Assistant Superintendent of the Burbank Unified School District, Debbie Kukta, spoke on behalf of neighbors at a City Council meeting in January in hopes of finding solutions in collaboration with the council.

Kukta says the groups that frequent the area create an uneasy mood for neighbors, but the amount of officers monitoring the neighborhood has increased since addressing the city, which helped quickly resolve the fire on Thursday. 

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

“It happens daily,” Kukta said. “There are groups that are down there…They glare at you as you drive by. And I think there have been some interactions with neighbors…So when it gets to that point where the intimidation is like that, that’s scary. [But] there has been a huge increase in police presence,…the city’s been great.”

Although the matter was to be revisited by the city in July, Assistant City Manager Judie Wilke says the date has been changed so that the Burbank City Council will address it this Tuesday.

“Due to the fire last night, we have sped up our timeline and we will be going to Council on this Tuesday to get approval for the permit parking,” Wilke said. “… In the short term, we will be placing curfew signs in the neighborhood. As this issue may be a moving target, the City will work with the neighborhood to consider other longer-term strategies.”

Community Rallies For Local Resident Facing Homophobic Harassment

On Saturday, June 6, a group of Burbank community members gathered along the Chandler Bikeway to show support for a fellow resident who has been the target of repeated prejudiced behavior in the neighborhood.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Burbank local David Aaron moved to town four years ago from Portland, Maine, and quickly found a new residence on the bikeway along Chandler Blvd. Although Aaron generally loves the area, he says that continued homophobic harassment from one neighbor has made his living situation a very distressing ordeal. 

“She knows that I am an openly gay male, and she quotes Bible verses as I walked by her house,” Aaron said. “She tells me that I’m going to hell. She swore at me one time as I was on the sidewalk and sprayed me with her garden hose…And this one time she was standing right at the gate and she said, ‘Get away from me. I don’t want to catch AIDS.’”

Beyond harassment aimed at himself, Aaron says that there have been additional accounts of the neighbor yelling threatening insults at people of color around the neighborhood.

“She’s taken it to a different level where she hones in on someone’s identity, whether it be the young man of color…who had gotten off his bike to rest in the shade of a tree on the bike path and she screamed at him to go home… or the Indian family that had parked in front of the block to unload their bicycle to ride on the bike path,” Aaron explained. “She just screamed at them to go back to their country.”

(Photo Courtesy of Facebook)

Aaron has attempted to work with the Burbank Police Department (BPD) regarding the verbal attacks since January of 2019. He follows their advice of avoiding the neighbor as much as possible, but, in spite of this, there have still been attacks in one form or another.

“[The cops] came and knocked on my door one day because she said that I had thrown a cigarette butt into her yard,” Aaron recalled. “I don’t smoke. I said to the officer… ‘Anytime anything happens to her, she blames that on me because I seem to be the most visible target for her.’ She doesn’t like me. She doesn’t approve of my, quote, ‘lifestyle.’ So if anything goes wrong, she blames me.”

Last Wednesday the harassment intensified when Aaron found that someone vandalized his car by twice inscribing the word pedophile (misspelled as “pedofile”) on the side and roof of the vehicle.

(Photo Courtesy of Facebook)

“She often calls me a pedophile,” Aaron said. “So that’s why [when] I came out of my house last Wednesday and saw “pedofile” carved into my car I knew immediately that it was her because no one else has ever called me that in my entire 56 years of age.”

Amidst the hardships brought about by the COVID-19 epidemic, this encounter with hateful vandalism left Aaron feeling devastated. 

“Like many people affected by COVID, I haven’t been working,” Aaron said. “I’ve been worried about money, stress and anxiety is my daily routine. So when I saw that on my car on Wednesday, it literally ruined me. I just was a mess.”

The crime is currently under investigation with the BPD as a felony charge, but local officers have told Aaron that it doesn’t classify as a hate crime.

Following this series of events, Aaron reached out to a local friend of his, Laura Adler, who sent a message out to the community in hopes of finding some video evidence or witnesses to move the case along faster. Community member Kate Crandall responded to speak in support of Aaron, and together the three came up with the idea for a show of support for equal rights.

Entitled “Show of Love,” they planned for a meeting “to show solidarity in the belief that love is stronger than hate, that communities of color, gender identity, or sexual orientation will not be intimidated.” The gathering took place on June 6 and had over 125 attendees along the Chandler bike path standing in solidarity with the belief that Burbank is “No Place for Hate.”

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

“The message was really loud and clear,” Aaron said “Don’t intimidate our neighbors or our friends because we will show up for them. That’s what we’re seeing kind of worldwide right now. Don’t intimidate our friends of color because we are going to show up for them. So it’s kind of a universal message right now. We obviously covered everyone saying we’re all in this together.”

Aaron has a background working in nonprofit organizations specifically related to public service, and says that in spite of difficult experiences he remains dedicated to human rights with the belief that the future will place emphasis on individual character.

“My hope is that we just look beyond the labels and judge people by their character and their morality and what they contributed to society,” Aaron said. “It’s like being a human being. Being the best possible human being is all that matters.”

Local Veteran’s 99th Birthday Celebrated by Burbank Community

On Saturday, June 6, a group of community members gathered to celebrate Ivan Cregger, a local resident who has made lasting contributions to the City of Burbank and beyond. 

Sgt First Class Dave Schalles presents Ivan with a special coin.(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Cregger has lived in Burbank for 63 years and is a well-loved member of the area. Immediate family and neighbors gathered under social distancing guidelines to celebrate his 99th birthday with a “Veterans’ Recognition and Honoring Ceremony.”

Cregger enlisted in the army in 1941 and became a staff sergeant during World War II. In addition to working as an aerial engineer, he participated in the Ploesti raid in Romania, one of the most dangerous flying missions of the war. Cregger was based in Egypt for 42 months before being sent to Italy and later discharged in September of 1945. 

Normally during this time of year, Cregger would have invitations to participate in ceremonies honoring WWII veterans, but with the COVID-19 epidemic still being prominent these events have been canceled.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

 Joanne Asman is a neighbor of Cregger’s who recognized this deficit and decided to put on the celebration in his honor. Asman has known Cregger for 21 years and says his welcoming and generous nature has left great impressions on the neighborhood over the years.  

“He is one of the most wonderful, compassionate men you will ever meet,” Asman said.  “He will help anyone if he can.  He is smart, articulate, and totally with it at 98.”

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Guests at the event included violinist Debra Price, a group from the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Burbank, Lucero BP the horse wearing an American flag, and Mayor Sharon Springer, who presented Cregger with a  “Certificate of Recognition” honoring him as a World War II veteran from the city of Burbank. 

The ceremony honored Cregger’s service to the country and provided a fun celebration of the joy he has embodied throughout his life.

“His patriotism is beyond reproach,” Asman said. “ He is smart, loves to dance, loves people, loves to be outside in the sun.  He is one in a million human being and loved by all.”

‘Dick Clark Dog Park’ Plan Announced By Burbank Parks and Rec Department

The City of Burbank’s Parks and Recreation Department announced during a board meeting in May they have plans to name a proposed dog park after the late legendary radio and television personality, Dick Clark.

Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer give information during the project’s open house. This will hopefully be a dog park when the construction ends ( Photo by Ross A Benson)

The concept of instituting an off-leash dog park in Burbank was initially brought up in 1997, but budget constraints and limited land availability inhibited the project from moving forward. Plans to follow through with constructing the park picked up in 2015, however, when AHBE Landscape began working with the city on preferred locations and optimal features. At this time it was decided that the southern end of Johnny Carson park, which lies adjacent to the freeway, would be the best area for the design.

 The city was then approached by a representative of Dick Clark’s wife, Kari Clark, in July 2019, with an inquiry regarding possibly naming a Burbank facility after her late husband. Clark had personal ties to Burbank and the city was instantly elated with the idea.

“We were absolutely thrilled to hear from Mrs. Clark and flattered that she chose Burbank as the place to honor the iconic Dick Clark,” said Burbank Parks and Recreation Director Marisa Garcia.  “Mrs. Clark told us that she felt a special connection to the City of Burbank since the Dick Clark Production offices were located here for many years.”

Due to Clark’s affinity for dogs, the park proposal was suggested as the namesake site. Kari Clark gladly welcomed the idea and has pledged a $150,000 donation toward construction plans. 

“During our discussion on possible locations, the idea of naming a dog park was proposed as an option…and Mrs. Clark enthusiastically accepted the opportunity,” Garcia said. “It seemed like the ideal combination given that Dick Clark was also an avid dog lover.”

A few steps will be carried out by the city before construction can begin. Following Mrs. Clark’s contributions, estimated costs to finish the venture may range anywhere from $36,000 to $236,000. These funds will be addressed through means such as grants, campaigns, or possible supplementary sponsorships. 

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will also have to finish their River Supply Conduit Improvement project, part of which is taking place at Johnny Carson Park. Additionally, approval from the Burbank City Council must be granted before the proposal can move forward. After this, labor on the park will commence in two years.

Once completed, Burbank residents will be able to visit an area where they can spend fun times with pets and enjoy the outdoors.

“Having an off-leash dog park in Burbank will benefit the community tremendously,” Garcia said. “Residents will have a dedicated space to be physically active with their pets.  The facility will also provide an opportunity for residents to enjoy the outdoors and socialize with fellow resident dog owners.”

The Parks and Recreation Department anticipates that the new park will be a prime example of the quality developments they continue to institute in the City of Burbank.

“Part of our department’s mission is to provide enriching opportunities through beautiful parks and inspiring programs, which would definitely be accomplished with this dog park,” Garcia said. 

“Residents can expect a high-quality experience, both aesthetically and functionally,” Garcia added. “The Parks and Recreation Department takes tremendous pride in our parks and facilities and the Dick Clark Dog Park will not disappoint.”

Teenage Burbank Resident Battling Kidney Disease Seeks Donor

Micah Homoyounian is a 16-year-old Burbank resident who just finished his sophomore year at Notre Dame High School. 

Like many other teenagers, Micah enjoys playing golf, practicing the drums, and devoting time to his studies. He’s close to his family and is a great big brother to 7-year-old Mason. Unlike most of his peers, however, he has had to develop a strength of mind and character due to tragic circumstances.

Micah was diagnosed with FSGS, a rare, chronic kidney condition, in 2011 at seven years old. At the time, the Homoyounians had no knowledge of the disease and scrambled to find out any information they could about FSGS. Micah’s father, Mike Homoyounian, says the reports they found while investigating quickly brought up major concerns. 

 “The first thing we did was we went searching, researching online,” Homoyounian said. “And at the time the information was a little scattered and [FSGS is] still considered a new disease. We read some stuff and we started panicking because most patients have three to five years…And this at first hit us hard. We were panicked… Not much is known about it, and there is no protocol of treatment.”

16-year-old Micah, top, with his little brother, Mason. (all photos credit Mike Homoyounian)

As a result, Micah has gone through extensive experimental treatments over the years and currently has to take 12 to 13 pills a day, along with a nightly shot. 

“Really, what they do is they try different treatments and combinations of medications to see if it might work on that patient,” Homoyounian said. “Since he’s been in second grade, he’s pretty much been just full of medications, different medications, constantly changing. And it really takes a toll on your body.”

The various tests of different medications have left Micah with a constant battle of facing extreme side effects. One treatment option caused the levels of Micah’s potassium to get so high that it was deadly. Another, although at first showing promising results, resulted in a sharp increase in blood pressure, and others made Micah fatigued to the point that even getting out of bed became very difficult.

In the face of adversity, however, Micah has stayed strong and never complains about the daily struggles he endures. Throughout his academic career he has fought through FSGS and made significant accomplishments in the classroom and in his extracurricular activities. 

“He played competitive sports…flag football teams and basketball teams and baseball…He graduated from elementary through junior high with straight A’s,” Homoyounian said. “And this past year he did mock trial and was voted MVP. He made varsity golf at Notre Dame and he just finished his final his sophomore year with a 4.0 [GPA].”

The family’s goal has been to get Micah through his high school career at Notre Dame, but they recently received devastating news regarding his condition.

“Two weeks ago, [our doctors] set up a conference and said, look, you know, the truth is it’s not it’s not going to happen,” Homoyounian said. “He’s not going to make it through high school…so we pretty much have six months now.”

Consequently, the family is urgently seeking a donor for Micah to get a new, healthy kidney. Any potential candidates must have type O blood (either O- or O+), be between the ages of 21 and 40, and be in good mental and physical health.

 Although Micah is on the list for receiving a kidney from a deceased donor, the wait time can last years. Additionally, there are benefits to receiving the kidney from a living subject.

Micah enjoys time with his family and is a hardworking student-athlete who is seeking a kidney donor amidst battling FSGS. (photo credit Mike Homoyounian)

“With a living donor, there are the luxuries, obviously, of scheduling,” Homoyounian said. “But more importantly,… it gives you a better quality of life. It gives you a longer life than getting a deceased donor.”

Homoyounian hopes that a donor can be found to give his son a new chance at a prolonged, healthy life. Micah’s tenacity is inspirational to those around him, and his family appreciates anyone who can come forward to try and show the same courage through a kidney donation that Micah has displayed while living with FSGS. 

“I know he’s my son, but he’s exceptional,”  Homoyounian explained. “He’s my hero because this kid, he had every reason to make excuses and had every challenge…[He never said] ‘I’m struggling in this class because I don’t feel well.’ He never did. Even when I would tell him to take it easy…It wasn’t an option.”

“He’s just remarkable,” Homoyounian said. 

Anyone who is interested in inquiring about becoming Micah’s donor or wants to learn more about his story can visit his website or send a message to his website’s email here:

https://4micah.com/micahs-story/

info@4micah.com 

Peaceful Protest Is Carried Out In Burbank Following Death of George Floyd

A group of about  300 to 400 Burbank protesters organized outside of City Hall on Monday, June 1, in support of Black Lives Matter following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

The protest began at 3 pm in front of City Hall and made its way down to Olive and First Street Burbank Police had been notified about the gathering was to be carried out and they shut down San Fernando Blvd. in preparation, while some businesses on Magnolia Blvd. also boarded up their stores.

The crowd shouted “Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe” in unison while marching down Olive Avenue, and stopped at Olive and First to continue chants and hold up signs with various phrases, such as “Who Do You Call When Cops Murder?,” “No Justice No Peace,” and “We All Bleed The Same.”

(Photo by Ross A Benson)

Participants and onlookers both noted how contained and nonviolent the Burbank protest proved to be, with twitter user Kristen Weber (@kristenwEditor) saying “Burbank had a peaceful and inspirational protest today. My new hometown impresses me every day with its kindness and sense of community.” User Eric Leja (@EricLeja) echoed a similar sentiment, sharing a video of chanting protesters while adding the demonstration was “passionate but peaceful.”

This mood contrasts with other Los Angeles protests, including Van Nuys and Santa Monica, where there have been reported lootings and arrests.

Floyd passed away on Monday, May 25, after Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes. Officers reported on the scene when deli employees claimed Floyd was using a counterfeit bill to pay for cigarettes. Chauvin continued to put force on Floyd’s neck as he was quoted as saying “I Can’t Breathe” and pleading with cops to stop their excessive force. All officers involved are currently under investigation and Chauvin is facing  third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.

Protests continue across the country and Floyd’s funeral is set to be held June 9 in Houston.

 

Burbank Food Service Team Provides For Community

While Burbank schools remain closed and teachers and students are working to conduct classes online, the Burbank Unified School District Food and Nutrition Services staff has been on campus providing meals to those in need. 

Shari Burkhart has worked for the Burbank Unified School District for 20 years and provides leadership to the group as Food Service Field Supervisor. Born and raised in Burbank, Burkhart’s grandmother moved to town in 1924 and her parents were among the first graduating class of Jordan Middle School. 

Burkhart has remained devoted to serving the Burbank education system that has played a significant role in the lives of her and her family members.

“Having grown up in Burbank my whole life, my best interests are based within the Burbank’s community of children, making sure they have food readily available to them and making sure they are taken well care of,” Burkhart said.

Every Wednesday, the 16-member team of the BUSD Food Service produced 10,000 meals for the community, with the last day of distribution being May 20. Meals were given away outside of Luther Middle School, Jordan Middle School, and Burbank High School. Although originally intended primarily for BUSD personnel, every person in need who showed up was given provisions.

“The food was supposed to be for the students of BUSD,” Burkhart said. “But we would have a few other community members show up. None were turned away. We had a veteran who lived in a group home with other veterans, he was given food for him and the other ten veterans living with him.”

The team made enough breakfasts and lunches to last five days out of the week for community members who would line up outside in their cars and receive meal kits by trunk. The food consisted of hot dogs, ham and cheese sandwiches, cheeseburgers, French toast, egg muffins, fresh fruit, and veggies, as well as milk and juice for beverages. 

Burkhart says feeding the community is a rewarding experience that brings hope amidst this arduous period.

 “It’s amazing to see everyone come together as a team and work so hard to help our community during these tough times,” Burkhart said. “Getting to see all the kids and how happy it makes everyone feel that they have food available to them makes it all worth it.”

Although the BUSD Food Service team is no longer distributing meals at this time, there is information regarding receiving food benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic on their website, which you can visit here:

https://www.busdfoodservices.com/index.php?sid=1101131625567654