First published in the Dec. 18 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Jess Talamantes, the Burbank City Council’s most veteran member, was unanimously appointed by his peers this week as the city’s mayor for the next year.
Talamantes, who previously served as mayor in 2011-12 and 2016-17, returned to the role during the council’s annual reorganization meeting on Monday. Outgoing Mayor Bob Frutos, under whom Talamantes held the role of vice mayor this year, resumed his position as a councilman. At the same meeting, a majority of the panel appointed Konstantine Anthony, who was elected in 2020, as the newest vice mayor.
Talamantes, a retired Burbank firefighter and John Burroughs High School alumnus, has been on the council since 2009.
In his address to the council on Monday, he acknowledged the continued difficulties presented by the coronavirus pandemic — as well as unemployment and housing issues — but expressed hope that residents would continue to get vaccinated and reaffirmed the city’s commitment to working with businesses and nonprofits.
“As we prepare to embrace 2022 and anticipate what challenges and opportunities it has in store for us, I feel confident that we have a can-do attitude to overcome any challenges that come our way,” Talamantes said. “We are going to have our hands full this coming year. Collaboration and cooperation will keep us moving forward.”
Talamantes has also served on several county and state panels, holding multiple transportation-related roles. He has held seats on the League of California Cities, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Authority, the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments and the Southern California Association of Governments.
In meetings with the current council, Talamantes is often among the last to speak, but he has provided the deciding voice on several major decisions. He joined Anthony and Councilman Nick Schultz in supporting a vaccination mandate for city workers, as well as hazard pay for large grocery and drug store employees and fee caps for delivery services. Conversely, he recently voted with Frutos and Councilwoman Sharon Springer in advancing an ordinance related to local control of housing decisions.
VICE MAYOR’S SUCCESSION DEBATED
Indeed, Monday’s reorganization meeting itself featured a split vote in which Talamantes tipped the scales. Frutos nominated Springer, who as mayor in 2020 was prevented by the pandemic from carrying out many of her ceremonial roles, to again serve as the city’s vice mayor. Traditionally, the vice mayor is appointed to the mayoral seat the following year.
Frutos urged the other council members to support his motion, saying it would signal the city’s support for women’s representation. Springer agreed.
“I do believe that the Burbank community needs the voice of a woman in City Hall,” she said after Frutos’ motion. “I am experienced, I’ve been tested and I would appreciate the role again as vice mayor.”
But while Schultz, whom like Anthony was elected last year, agreed that Springer is well-qualified and that the city’s government needs more gender diversity, he noted that traditionally the vice mayor’s role rotates to allow each council member a chance to hold it. He then moved to appoint Anthony to the position, remarking that his colleague had received the most votes in 2020’s election.
That motion passed, 3-2, with Frutos and Springer dissenting. Newer members, Talamantes said, should have an opportunity to have a council leadership title.
Having secured the vice mayor position, Anthony emphasized that while he believes debate is necessary for a healthy discussion, and that a split vote isn’t always bad, he wants the panel to move forward together.
“We need to reach out across the aisle, we need to build compromise,” he said. “Moving forward, there’s only one way out of this pandemic, [and it] is if all of us join hands and take a step forward.”
FRUTOS RECALLS PAST YEAR
Frutos will continue to work on the council until at least the end of 2022, when his term — and those of Talamantes and Springer — expire. Being Burbank’s second mayor to hold the position during the COVID-19 pandemic, he often delivered recovery updates to community members.
“To say it was challenging is really an understatement of the year,” Frutos said Monday. “I stayed focused on making the right decision for our city and to work with my colleagues on the council and the Burbank Chamber of Commerce.”
During his tenure, the city’s finances improved faster than officials expected, and he often promoted programs encouraging people to patronize local businesses. But he added in an interview after the reorganization meeting that he wants to see Burbank’s budget shed its projected deficits, which are anticipated through at least 2025-26.
Additionally, Frutos presided over the recent reopening of the Burbank Boulevard bridge as well as the launch of a storage facility to hold the belongings of people experiencing homelessness.
And as he left the mayor’s seat in the council chambers, Frutos met Talamantes in front of the dais. The two men shook hands, and the departing mayor offered one charge to his successor:
“Take care of our good city, sir,” Frutos said.