Two Elections Down, One to Go – But Do You Really Care?


It’s election season here in Burbank.  In February, we went through our Primary, March saw us vote on a school bond and April will see us finally fill the two remaining seats on the City Council and two open School Board seats.

In most cities this is an exciting time, in Burbank just a handful of people really seem to get excited.

Let’s examine some issues.

First is this all mail election that we have instituted here in Burbank.  Of course, the thinking is that people are just too busy to leave their house on election day and actually go and vote for something that will effect their daily lives.  Now of course, we are far ahead of the thinking in Washington that still makes people travel to a polling place on a certain day and actually physically cast their vote.

But wait, they also have this thing called an absentee ballot, so that the truly lazy (and maybe some who actually are not available election day) can fill out a ballot and be counted from the comfort of their sofa at home.

In Burbank during the Primary, 9,869 voters actually took the time to fill out a ballot – or about 16% of the 61,170 eligible voters (including my father who passed away over a year ago who still received his ballot).   That was up from the Primary two years ago when only 8,106 voters out of 56,239 (including my father who was alive and did vote) equaled only 14%.  So are we now excited that 16% cast votes?

Let’s break it down even farther.

This past election, voters put Bob Frutos onto the council.  From people I talked to, the real issue was the current direction of the council, the money spent on the police litigation, and there were many who really just did not like the way Frutos was treated after the last election, when losing by just 86 votes, was then removed for no apparent reason from the police commission with the person who defeated him, Emily Gabel-Luddy, along with two of the three incumbent challengers (Dave Golonski and Jess Talamantes) both voting to remove him.  Losing by just 86 votes gave him a strong power base that did not go away, but even grew larger.

With that all said, while Frutos received over 50% of the votes cast, he only actually received only a little over 8% of eligible voters.  In other words, just 8% decided our next city councilman, which is just 5% of the population of Burbank (103,340 per the 2010 census).

Here are some more numbers for you as to why it is important to have your voice heard.

We just voted for a $110 million school bond in March.  While the money is needed for modernization, according to the final numbers supplied by the City of Los Angeles, Measure S won by capturing 61.45% of the yes votes, or 4,053 votes out of 6,595 votes cast out of 61,153 registered voters. (Funny how the County says we have 61,153 registered voters and the City of Burbank says we have 61,170 voters – but my dead father did not receive a Measure S ballot, he did receive a City of Burbank ballot).

Break that down and while 61% of voters that day approved it, only 6.6% of the registered voters approved it.  So 6.6% of voters decided to raise taxes on 93.4% of the voters.  For those who did not vote, you can see the results on an upcoming Property Tax bill – coming soon!

Let’s go back to 2011.  We all voted on this great little thing called Measure U.  At that time it passed 5,270 to 2,562 votes cast out of 56,239 voters, or about a little over 9% of the registered voters.  How did that work out and directly affect you?  Take a look at your cell phone bill.  See that nice new item on there called “Burbank City Utility Tax”?  That amount ($3.27 on my current bill) is a direct result of 9% deciding the fate of an entire city.

Make sure you smile when you write your check!

The bottom line is that Burbank people just do not get excited for elections.  Are you upset that so far the City Council has spent over $7.1 million on outside litigation for the police mess (and how much has been spent by our own payed City Attorneys as part of their work day that should also count).  Does it matter that your cell phone bill increased by $3 a month because you did not vote?

I feel that the all-mail elections are a part of the problem.  Even though you were suppose to mail in ballots, the count was held up for hours on election night because they had to verify signatures on about 1,500 ballots received on the day of the election.

With all mail ballots, candidates don’t know where to campaign. If they go door to door, are they wasting their time because the person has already voted?

Another problem is today’s digital social media.  Candidates think the best way to get to voters is on things such as Twitter and Facebook.  They lose the personalization of the campaign process and the human touch and feel of a race.

Whatever happened to good ol’ fashioned campaign rallies.

“So and so will be speaking at a rally today at the park!  Come and listen to him”.  People would get riled up and go home and talk to their neighbors and friends and dialog would start and issues would be discussed.

Now I am not saying we should get on the back of a train and ride the rails like old presidential candidates, but how public really are our campaigns?  They all seem to be small meet and greets with neighbors and nothing big that would create a buzz.

Now they just hoped to be ‘retweeted’ or ‘liked’ by people.

I also miss everyone showing up at City Hall after an election and watching election results come in.  Yes, they used to use an old overhead projector and a grease pen to post results.  Now it is all done over the City’s Channel 6 that you MUST pay for cable TV to get or you can always come down to City Hall and join the few of us (and a couple of candidates) who still believe in the tradition – except now they wheel out a TV and we watch it like others.

BurbankNBeyond was considering endorsing candidates.  After all, we are the ONLY news service that operates on a daily basis that is owned and operated by Burbank people (who DO vote in Buirbank) and have an interest in the election and it’s results (like our cell phone bills) compared to those that do not live in the City or have no financial interest in the City but wants their advertising dollars.  Sounds like an agenda?

Instead, we will send out questionnaires to the candidates and give you their entire answers.  After all, as you have found by this never ending column, the internet is endless and we can give you as much as there is to give.

The bottom line is get off your butt and vote.

I will leave you this to think about:

Everyone goes out of their way to say how much they support our troops (and rightly so).  But what is it our troops, and the troops of many generations have fought for?  It’s our right to be free and hold free elections.  So if you really do support our troops, then get out and vote, that is one direct way that you can thank them, and in most case your fathers or grandfathers, for the sacrifices they made to make this a great country.

Come on Burbank, you can do better.


    1. An American will cross an ocean to fight for another man’s democracy, but won’t cross the street to vote for his.

      Paraphrased quote by Bill Vaughan

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