In mid- and late-March, the entertainment industry — like many — shut down in the face of a growing coronavirus pandemic. Productions shuddered to a halt. Award shows went virtual. Planned summer blockbusters had their releases postponed, or were pushed online. And amid it all, many of the people working on the movies, television shows and events found themselves joining millions of Americans filing for unemployment. “Work literally … with some exceptions, ended,” said Bob Beitcher, president and CEO of the Motion Picture & Television Fund. The Calabasas-based charity has given aid to workers in the entertainment industry for nearly a century. But the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic has caused need to skyrocket. Some MPTF members, Beitcher explained recently by phone, haven’t worked for six or seven months.
Officers from the Burbank Police Department arrested 20 people on suspicion of unemployment benefits fraud in September, making several of the arrests at a local Bank of America branch. Unemployment fraud has become more frequent since the COVID-19 pandemic began, according to BPD spokesman Sgt. Derek Green. Cards from the California Employment Development Department are sent to people receiving unemployment benefits, but the BPD has reported that some are getting the cards through fraudulent means, using them to withdraw cash. In some cases, the department made multiple arrests related to alleged EDD fraud in one day.
In the first six months of this year, City Council candidate Paul Herman had raised only $2,500 — a single loan he himself had given to his campaign. Less than two months later, he had raised more than $36,000. With that total, Herman became the candidate with the largest campaign coffers through Sept. 19, the most recent contribution reporting deadline, and surpassed Nick Schultz, the previous leader in contributions this year, who trailed at about $32,700. Close behind him was Konstantine Anthony, who had raised roughly $31,600. Contributions totaling tens of thousands of dollars for the local election are nothing new; in 2015, current Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy’s campaign collected nearly $25,000. But records available on the city’s website, which go as far back as 2013, don’t show dollar figures as high as the ones seen in this year’s race.
Authors of a recently released report on a local rent regulation measure said supporters and opponents of the proposal both could identify portions of the findings that justify their positions. That was certainly true for the Burbank City Council, whose members insisted Tuesday the report was further evidence that Measure RC, which will be on the ballot in the Nov. 3 election, would hurt Burbank. The report is available on the city’s website, in the council’s agenda for the Tuesday meeting.
Burbank’s budget is anticipating a dour economic outlook due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that could force the city to continue its hiring freeze and cancel events. Municipal staff members approached the City Council with an update during its Tuesday meeting, explaining that the city expects to operate at a General Fund recurring deficit of nearly $11 million this fiscal year, followed by additional millions of dollars in deficits annually through the 2024-25 fiscal year. Without intervention, by the end of the 2021-22 fiscal year the General Fund balance will likely be in the negatives. For the current fiscal year, city staff members project a decrease in “recurring revenue” of about $18 million from the original projection of $177 million, due to drops in sales, property, parking and hotel taxes.
Denisha Whittle said she was away from her car for 10-15 minutes — closer to 12, she believes. And when she came back, she noticed several items had been pulled from the vehicle’s console onto the passenger seat. But her thoughts were on one item in particular: an urn containing her mother’s ashes. It was gone. So was a laptop, some gold rings that belonged to Whittle’s mother and a jewelry box passed down from her grandmother. The theft reportedly occurred on Tuesday at about noon near an apartment in the 4400 block on Sarah Street. The urn, which was in a shipping box inside the unlocked vehicle, is inscribed with the name “Anita Sue Fowler.” “People are crappy, but you don’t have to be that crappy,” Whittle said in a phone interview. “[The urn] is actually priceless to me.”
The last of a series of local forums on local, state and federal elections also proved to be the most combative, with the two candidates for California’s 28th congressional district clashing over the coronavirus, the president and other topics. Rep. Adam Schiff, who has represented the 28th Congressional District that includes Burbank, Glendale and part of Pasadena, is running against Eric Early, a Republican attorney who previously made an unsuccessful bid for California attorney general. The event hosting the two candidates, held Monday by the League of Women Voters of Glendale/Burbank, had been marketed as a Q&A-focused forum. But a flurry of attacks from Early against his Democratic opponent pushed it into the territory of an aggressive debate, while Schiff reserved most of his jabs for Trump and other Republicans.
With only a month until the Nov. 3 general election, local candidates have shifted into high gear, fighting for the prospect of a seat in City Hall or on the Burbank Unified School District board. The candidates participated Wednesday in a series of forums, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Glendale/Burbank, allowing the contenders to answer major questions posed by the group as well as some submitted by local residents. The forums were streamed and are available on the Burbank Channel on YouTube. Eight people are looking to nab one of two open seats on the City Council. New council members elected in November will have their positions for four years. Four people are vying to win one of three open BUSD Board of Education seats, also held for four years. Each candidate previously submitted a statement to the Leader. These statements can be found at outlooknewspapers.com. Here is an abridged overview of the topics the candidates were asked about. For the City Council candidate forum, each question was given to only some of the candidates, though all had the opportunity to respond to any question at the end of the forum.
A gym and church were the two Burbank establishments that recently received citations for failing to follow a health order aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, Los Angeles County officials said. EnrichFit Gym has received four citations for continuing to allow patrons to exercise indoors, according to the county’s Department of Public Health. Fines issued to the gym totaled $2,500 as of this week. The gym was ordered closed on Aug. 6 for an initial citation, the department said in an email, but has continued to operate indoors. Currently, according to state and county requirements, gyms are allowed to hold activities outdoors only. The gym did not respond to multiple requests for comment, though the front door of the business bears a sign saying it “functions in the private domain only” and is “members only and not open to the public.” People could be seen walking in and out of the gym, and loud music could be heard playing inside.
Burbank’s ordinance prohibiting landlords from evicting tenants affected by the COVID-19 pandemic expired this week, leaving a similar state measure to protect residential renters — though not commercial tenants. However, following the recommendation of City Attorney Amy Albano, the City Council is scheduled to consider an extension of the ordinance to cover commercial renters during its next meeting on Tuesday. If passed, it would retroactively cover the gap between local ordinances.