OPINION MATTER ONLY
With a historic election soon before this great City, it is time to review some of the misconceptions and half-truths set forth in the recent slew of letters. One author bashes Councilman Gordon for his response to the actions, or rather inactions, of a completely incompetent City Charter commission. This was a hand-group select that was manipulated by the now disgraced former City Attorney and his now banished Assistant City Attorney. The City Charter Commission had one purpose, to inject more power into the City, which fortunately the voters said no to. Thank you Dr. Gordon for saying what many of us actually felt. The current city election asks us to choose between a way-to-long sitting councilman Golonski, who has been surrounded with questions of ethics and behind the door benefits and buyouts for years versus that of the former firefighter Talamantes who did not garnish even his own union's support. He appears intellectually puzzled and overwhelmed with each bill, vote and proposal that arrives on his desk. We must also choose between a local doctor who has the internal fortitude to actually ask why every vote is 5-0 and shouldn't we actually do our job as elected officials and ask what is right and what is wrong. Thank you Dr, Gordon for that. In terms of the school board election, it puzzles me that the public has not expressed more outrage about a young man, Steve Ferguson, vying for the first in many stepping stones toward a higher elected position. He was not asked to return for another term while sitting on a local Burbank Board, he was cited for driving without insurance at the scene of an accident, and his campaign staffer was caught stealing signs, on multiple occasions. Is this a role model for a position which directly involves bettering the future for children? What bothers me is that after his staffer was caught stealing signs, he was not fired, he was not demoted, in fact, he continues to work as Ferguson's right hand man. This city has the chance to more forward and not backwards. I have heard many say in coffee shops, at baseball parks, and in the streets, what if Burbank is the next Bell. Why aren't we asking "what if Bell was the next Burbank?"
Burbank election 2011- 15% voter turnout, which is awful. This means that 8,106 out of 56,239 registered voters voted. This City is facing major issues in the upcoming years, budget, city manager, police chief, economy, etc. You have no right to sit back and complain if you did nothing to take part in the process. Please vote this year.
To register to vote, visit www.LAVote.net
For more information. Burbank Elections
Approval of Measure S would authorize the Board of Education ("Board") of the Burbank
Unified School District ("District") to issue general obligation bonds, in an amount not to exceed
Funds received from the sale of the bonds shall be used only for the specific purposes
set forth in the Measure, including renovations and energy efficient upgrades to roofs,
electrical, lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, sewer, water, gas,
irrigation and drainage systems; upgrading and construction of classrooms, parking lots,
playgrounds and other hard surfaces; upgrading and installing fire detection and suppression,
security, data, voice and audio-visual communication systems; expanding technology
infrastructure, including computers, tablets, mobile devices, software, interactive educational
technology, digital projectors and cameras, monitors, audio-video systems, and network
equipment; repairing and replacing fencing, doors and locks; and upgrades to ensure
compliance with building, health, safety and access requirements. No funds may be used for
teacher and administrator salaries or any other school operating expenses.
Independent performance and financial audits will be performed annually to ensure that
the bond proceeds have been expended only on the school facilities projects listed in the
Bond Project List. The Board shall establish an Independent Citizens Oversight Committee
in compliance with Education Code sections 15278, 15280, and 15282 within 60 days after
the election results appear in the minutes of the Board.The Board shall establish an account
in which bond proceeds will be deposited, and the Superintendant of the District shall prepare
an annual report which shall state the amount of bond proceeds received and expended in
that year, as well as the status of any projects funded or to be funded by the Measure.
The bonds shall bear or accrue interest at a rate not to exceed the legal maximum and
no bond shall mature more than forty (40) years from the date of issuance.The best estimate
of the highest tax rate required to fund the bonds, based on the estimated assessed valuations
available at the time of filing the Tax Rate Statement on the measure, is estimated to be
$55.18 annually per $100,000 of the taxable real property located within the District. This
estimate represents extension of the expired 1997 election bond tax rate, currently $50.18
per $100,000, plus $5.00 per $100,000, which is the best estimate of the tax rate required
to be levied to fund this bond issue.
This Measure requires a fifty-five percent (55%) vote for passage
During these difficult economic times, I think we all dropped our jaws when we heard that the City Attorney’s office wanted over one million dollars to bring in outsiders to help revamp our Police Department. The problem, however, is that the issues go much deeper than alleged behavior of the peace officers. The problem sits with the administration and the policies they have set. Years and years of ineffective polices have slowly eroded one of the best police forces in the state. Mary Alvord, Mike Fladd, Juli Scott, and Dennis Barlow appear to be the ones responsible for the downfall. In fact, recent findings forced the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department to end their investigation fearing that their results would lead them to a higher office.
There is no greater conflict of interest than Juli Scott apparently training the rank and file about harassment and then concluding the lecture with a stern lesson…if you sue the City we will fight you, to the bitter end. For over a decade she has counseled the Police Chief and the Police Commission, trained the police force and yet must then defend the City against the same individuals in a lawsuit. The thought that a member of her office staff is married to a police officer is unbelievable. I certainly hope that her public braggadocio about Burbank’s Nepotism was a joke and not her moment of pride. She is lucky not to be named in any of the current lawsuits. Mr. Fladd tends not to care about former Chief Stehr’s indiscretions because it was “many years ago.” That behavior will be the dyke that breaks the dam.
Now I beg you to imagine a city filled with a unified rank and file in its Police Department, represented by politicians who vote their conscious, and city administrators and attorneys who have no conflicts of interest. That fantasy can become a reality right here in Burbank, California. We were all saddened and troubled when we read about the death of an honorable police sergeant. I am disheartened that the turmoil within the department is so bad that certain police officers were banned from his funeral service. Imagine that good citizens of Burbank, a guest list for the funeral of a police officer.
The rank and file is so divided that there are the “pot-stirrers” who constantly write memos to the City Council which contain so much irrelevant information, that these memos are more like the script for “Much Ado About Nothing.” There are also those facing disciplinary complaints and investigations. In response, our city attorney brings in an outsider to run the internal investigation. This retired Police Chief from Northern California is alleged to have already made factual findings before even interviewing the officers accused of misconduct. He is hired by the city and thus reports to the city. How can that be an impartial investigation if the City is the one truly at fault? And to top this off, City Attorney Barlow gets quoted in the press saying all the officers are lying. Not only does this walk a fine line between group defamation and ignorance, but I am guessing Barlow was present for all these incidents and can personally determine who is being forthright.
However, our biggest flaw is relatively simple. Why does this city not have an anti- nepotism policy? Is it true that a former City Manager was romantically involved with a member of the Park and Recreation Department? If so, one would hate to see what the insubordination punishment would be… sleeping on the couch perhaps. Is it possible that a newly elected councilwoman demand her daughter be hired by the city? What if Asst. City Attorney Juli Scott’s secretary was married to a Burbank Police Officer. Juli Scott is basically the “lawyer” for the police department but she must also decide whether to settle any of the current lawsuits or whether to waste more taxpayer dollars fighting a losing battle and trying to “circle the wagons” as she has been known to say. How did she answer questions directed at Police Chief Stehr when the police commission asks him pointed questions? Ethically and professionally, this is a conflict of interest greater than anything I have ever seen.
I am both an attorney and a resident of this great City. But I remain a concerned citizen. Why is it when Councilman Gordon suggests Chief Stehr resign, some members of the City Council were able to take time from re-inking their rubber stamps to call him a grandstander. The police force is broken; one man of honor took his own life. No matter what your personal belief, it was time for the Police Chief’s departure, and probably Fladd, Scott, and Barlow as well. How can the Chief prevail if his rank and file wanted him gone? There are just too many questions that have gone unanswered. Chief Stehr selected Bill Taylor as his second in command because he was “squeaky clean.” The advice Stehr was given was to surround yourself with honor to hide your own dishonor. And now Taylor is the one on administrative leave. Shame on all of us.
Did our Fire Chief get fired or did he run to his doctor for a note putting him on medical leave? This City is in disarray and whether the blame is justified or not, it calls for a change at the top which includes the mayor, the police chief, and the dynamic duo of Barlow and Scott. Why did it cost the city’s attorneys almost $37,000.00 to draft a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against Barlow for publicly outing a police officer? Any law firm could have done the same for under $5,000.00. Why does this city terminate employment for soldiers on active duty? It is time for a call to action. Cleaning the slate is the only way for this city to start fresh and clean.
We need to demand the resignation of Dennis Barlow, who recently withheld the findings of the Attorney General from one of the council members. Keep in mind, the City Charter mandates that the City Council direct the City Attorney how to prosecute and defend matters. Let us also remember that Mr. Barlow changed his story, telling the public he was waiting for a written opinion, knowing full well that one, he never made such a request to the AG, and two, the AG does not issue written opinions in that fashion.
The city charter was re-written a few years ago in part as a response to the election of Councilman Gordon. The police commission was stripped of authority. It was a power grab warranting the re-naming of our city to Burbank D.C. What would happen if an independent investigator listened to the tapes or read the minutes of the City Charter Commission meetings? Now, rather than just list why the city is broken, I am also compelled to suggest what we can do. A new Police Chief is needed, one that respects the rank and file and will not put anyone on administrative leave if they fail his loyalty oath. Two, give the Police Commission independent power (look how well they did in the City of Los Angeles, with the power to narrow the list of police chief candidates to three). Next, remove any and all City Attorney interference from the independent commissions. Three, draft an anti-nepotism policy manual for the entire city. Ask the City Attorney for a monthly accounting of monies spent defending the police litigation. I cannot understand why the City has hired two or three other law firms to handle the litigation costing the City millions of dollars. The time has come to start over. The foundation is there, we just need some remodeling.
David D. Diamond
Executive Director, www.SaveBurbank.org