New Montrose Chamber of Commerce Director Puts Meteoric Rise in Perspective

Photo by Zane Hill / Glendale News-Press
Mavil Aghadjanian took over as executive director of the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce in July and aims to help shepherd local merchants through the pandemic.

It was quite a hand that Mavil Aghadjanian was dealt this year, when her expected rise to leading the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce was not only expedited, but happened during the era of a pandemic.
When she joined the organization about a year ago to work membership services, Aghadjanian said internal plans were to position her as the eventual successor to Victoria Malone as executive director of the nonprofit. However, Malone in June accepted a surprise offer to join the Mavil Aghadjanian, which vaulted Aghadjanian up to the top early. She said she is hoping the organization’s longevity — it launched in 1923 — will help her navigate through the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s been here far longer than any of us have,” Aghadjanian said. “It was scary at first accepting this role. We had talked about how eventually this would happen, that I would step into this position, but I didn’t think it would ever be in these circumstances.”

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GUSD Heads Confidently Into School Year

Glendale Unified School District board members this week showed confidence in the back-to-school plans prepared by district administrators that are slated to kick off Wednesday, Aug. 19, as computers and tablets power up and video conference sessions are launched.
Those images are relevant because the district is soldiering on with distance learning, with most students remaining home and elementary-age students in need of day care receiving instruction virtually at “learning pods” on school sites.
“We’ve always spoken about the fact that no matter what type of model is embraced, we will continue distance learning because that is a commitment we made to the parents and community members who felt that they would not be ready to return whenever public health allowed us to return,” Superintendent Vivian Ekchian said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “Distance learning will be the constant and we will certainly consider hybrid learning as an option once public health allows us to move in that direction.”\In the meantime, the school board is expected to ratify, in a coming meeting, an agreement with the Glendale Teachers Association regarding distance teaching for fall 2020. The two parties announced in a joint statement late Wednesday that they had hammered out an accord and that the start of school remains Aug. 19.

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USC Honors Local Leader for Her Research

Michele Kipke

Citing the “enormous impact” Michele Kipke’s research work has had for more than three decades, USC recently bestowed its prestigious Associates Award for Creativity in Research and Scholarship on the local leader.
Kipke, a La Cañada Flintridge native and La Cañada High School graduate who is serving this year as president of the South Pasadena Unified School District Board of Education, said in an interview that it was “an incredible honor” to receive the award. She is a professor of pediatrics and preventative medicine at Keck School of Medicine and also serves as vice chair of research with the pediatrics department at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“Part of what’s very special about that is being recognized by your peers that you’re really making a difference and that your work is impactful and significant and is changing the field, whatever that is,” Kipke said. “As a researcher, you really want to know your work is making a difference. I definitely want to know that my work is making a difference in the lives of children and families.”

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Activists Rally Support for Armenia, Reject Hatred

Photo by Zane Hill / Glendale News-Press
Activists and others gathered outside of the Armenian Consulate last Saturday in a show of support for Armenian troops who in July engaged in border skirmishes with the Azerbaijani military. The clashes represent the latest in a series of ceasefire violations between the two nations since 1994.

When hundreds gathered outside of the Armenian Consulate last week — an event that largely turned the corner of Lexington Drive and Central Avenue into a sea of red, blue and orange — it was not to showcase aggression or hostility.
Rather, those who gathered in solidarity with Armenia and the Artsakh Republic sang, cheered and danced in the closed-off block, to a backdrop of motorists — many of whom had decked their vehicles with flags — enthusiastically honking in support. And, as officials for local Armenian organizations shouted to the crowd last Saturday, they did so out of love for their homeland, not hatred for Azerbaijani soldiers ordered to fire upon Armenian targets throughout July.
“We are here to tell our brothers and sisters in the homeland that the diaspora stands with them,” yelled Gev Iskajyan, a member of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region’s board of directors. “We are here to exemplify the love that we have for peace, the love that we have for freedom and the love that we have for our people in the homeland. That love will never cater to hatred.”
The Armenian and Azerbaijani militaries traded artillery rounds and drone strikes starting on July 12, when Armenian troops said their adversary’s units began aiming at civilian targets along the nations’ borders. The escalation again violates a ceasefire agreement in 1994 that followed the Nagorno Karabakh war; a more substantial incursion occurred in 2016.

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Glendale, Burbank Firefighters Team Up to Battle Blaze

Photo courtesy Glendale Fire Department
Firefighters from Glendale and Burbank on Sunday fought off a blaze on Alameda Drive that threatened a two-story apartment building next door.

Glendale firefighters, with assistance from their Burbank peers, successfully fought off a structure fire on Sunday that threatened a nearby apartment complex.
Four ladder trucks and seven engines responded to the fire Sunday morning in the 1100 block of Alameda Drive. Glendale Fire Chief Silvio Lanzas said a detached garage there was well-involved by the time firefighters arrived and that the blaze had begun damaging adjacent fences and buildings, including a two-story apartment building next door.
Firefighters contained the blaze within half an hour and spent another three hours on cleanup. Lanzas said investigators determined the fire was accidental and caused by electricity. One firefighter was examined on the scene for a bout of dizziness, Lanzas said, but was cleared and resumed work at the site.
Lanzas praised the work between the Glendale and Burbank fire departments.
“It was seamless,” he said. “The communication and cooperation between them, you almost wouldn’t know they were separate departments.”
The detached garage, which was destroyed, was valued at around $100,000, the fire chief said, and the response saved $3 million in potential additional damage.

City Council Deems Bike Trail Proposal Worth Studying

The proposed Verdugo Wash bike trail and linear park are a step closer to reality after the Glendale City Council this week showed enthusiasm for the idea and approved opening a bidding process for a design firm to help determine its feasibility.
This year’s budget allocates $250,000 in Measure S sales tax money to fund the visioning study, which will solicit input about the proposal from community members and identify cost estimates and potential issues to navigate. The trail would begin in Crescenta Highlands and follow the natural Verdugo Wash along 17 other Glendale neighborhoods all the way to where it meets the Los Angeles River, which itself has a bike and pedestrian trail.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to connect to several neighborhoods, several communities and offer another mode of transportation,” said Bradley Calvert, assistant director of community development, at Tuesday’s council meeting.

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Council Takes Shine to Possible Mylar Balloon Ban

The City Council has asked for an ordinance to ban the sale of Mylar balloons in Glendale because of the problems they cause for electric utilities.
Photo courtesy Los Angeles Department of Water & Power

In the coming weeks, the City Council expects to take up a possible ordinance banning an innocent-looking party product that can cause nuisances that have frustrated Glendale officials for decades — the Mylar balloon.
City Attorney Michael Garcia will, at the unanimous request of the council at its Tuesday meeting, prepare an ordinance that would ban outright the sale of the metallic balloons — known to drift into power lines — in city limits. The council, for now, eschewed a ban on possession, citing enforcement issues for such a law.
“These products have unfortunately become a nuisance and we have to do the right thing by our residents and by the users of our utilities,” said Councilman Ardy Kassakhian, adding it was a “no-brainer” to enact a sale ban. “I don’t think we can do anything about the possession of them, and I think the enforcement of that becomes a little bit more difficult and troublesome. Our code enforcement is already stretched thin. Our police are now enforcing our mask guidelines and rules. I think now is not the time to add anything of this sort to their plate.”

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Coronavirus Demographics: Younger People Also Afflicted

While the tally of positive COVID-19 tests grows larger, the average age of patients has been inching lower in recent weeks as the initial wave of the pandemic has surged back with fury.
When the pandemic grew in March and April, hospitals found themselves overwhelmed and low on key supplies to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, and elderly men and women with pre-existing health conditions represented a large percentage of cases. A significant number of such patients came from skilled nursing facilities, whose residents sometimes made up a super-majority of deaths in a given community.
Now, in the weeks after Los Angeles County and state officials briefly relaxed public restrictions, it’s a different picture.

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Racism Panel Depicts ‘Painful Reality’ of City History

Acknowledgment, the group assembled by the city contended, is a strong first step for a community to address a past marred by racism and other prejudice.
However, as the panel tasked with discussing the past and present state of racism in our society and communities emphasized, it will take more than that to truly heal from prior transgressions, even though the people of today might not have had anything to do with them.
“This is a really painful and difficult reality that I think, of course, has to be acknowledged,” said Safiya Noble, one of three panelists brought together for Thursday’s “Racism: Past and Present” discussion sponsored by the city government. “There are so many ways in which these practices remain about who belongs and who doesn’t belong, like the way we don’t need the signs but we have the customs that exist.”

Noble and her peers were brought onto the virtual panel — a sign of our coronavirus-affected times, which themselves have had an outsize impact on black Los Angeles County residents — as part of the city’s commitment to facing its past-but-not-forgotten racial discrimination, whether formal or passive. That engagement was prompted by protests and advocacy that crystallized in May, when George Floyd, a black man, died while in Minneapolis police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
Locally, Glendale’s past reputation as a sundown town — in which black men and women faced potential violence if they remained within city limits after work hours — re-entered the public conversation, as did the fact that the American Nazi Party maintained its West Coast headquarters here for a couple of decades and that a prominent Ku Klux Klan leader lived and purveyed his rhetoric here.
“With respect to sundown towns and communities that have this tortured history, certainly acknowledging that is a first step. Apologizing for it is another step,” said panelist Hannibal Johnson, a lawyer and historian with expertise on the 1921 riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a white mob attacked a black district and its residents and businesses. “I guess the really meddlesome part is the atonement, making reparations, making amends: What do we do to repair the damage imposed by those systems? Acknowledgement is not enough. Apology is not enough. You need all three steps.”
Panelist Gary Keyes, an author of local history books who previously taught at Glendale Community College, said Glendale police officers were actively enforcing a sundown town mentality as recently as the 1960s. That mentality was something he said he personally observed when, as a teacher at Crescenta Valley High School, he would drive along Foothill Boulevard through La Cañada Flintridge and see scores of black men and women waiting at bus stops.
On occasion, he said, he would see local law enforcement stopping black motorists to redirect them as they journeyed to what were then African-American communities, such as Pacoima or Altadena.
“That’s where it gets really ridiculous,” Keyes said. “Some sundown cities did not allow African-Americans in the community at all, and therefore if you were going someplace you would have to detour around town.”
Noble, a UCLA professor specializing in technological and data redlining, outlined that the difference between “not racist” and “anti-racist” is that the former is a passive stance whereas the latter describes people who “actively work” to dismantle institutional racist practices. “Not racist” white people’s acknowledgment of the inherent social benefits they are afforded is not enough, she said. Noble also pushed back against the “half-and-half” designation she said she sometimes gets because her mother is white and her father black.
“Of course this is completely absurd because no place in my life have I been misunderstood or misclassified as a white person,” she said. “Every dimension of modern life is governed by racial categories …We live in systems, and it doesn’t matter if you signed up for the system or not. It doesn’t matter if you declare yourself to be not racist. You’re still a beneficiary to long-term, systemic racism.”
Johnson, pointing out that the Tulsa riot remains an obscure part of the nation’s history, said enhancing education and curriculum represented a strong first move in the right direction. Indeed, as moderator Steven Nelson quipped, the harrowing opening scene of the 2019 HBO miniseries “Watchmen” has been for many the first exposure to the tragedy.
“What we are taught in our schools really feeds into systemic and structural racism that exists,” Johnson said. “We are too often taught a sanitized version of history that is exclusive of people of color and exclusive of what I call ‘hard history.’
“That’s something that people don’t forget,” he added, referring to the riot, “and it takes years and years and years of ‘affirmative action,’ if you will, to even begin to bridge the divide between the races. One concrete step, I would say, is for the community to take a look at curriculum, particularly history. There are a number of opportunities for just the ordinary citizen to make a real difference. We’re all represented by somebody on a school board. That’s influence.”
Keyes added that in 1920 the KKK hosted a major rally, which included a cross burning, that began at Verdugo Park, and that the organization would frequently participate in the city’s parades in that era. He added that the “last gasp” for overt white racism may have occurred in the 1970s, when an industrial park planned for the south side that would have pushed out the area’s Mexican community was ultimately shot down.
“I believe Glendale has made a sincere effort to change its past,” he said, having earlier noted: “People don’t always know their history and people should always look for the dark side of American history, because if we don’t know anything about our past, we can’t do anything about it in the future.”

Hit-and-Run Severely Injures Girl, 13

The Glendale Police Department is eager for any possible leads as it investigates a hit-and-run incident last week that left a 13-year-old girl in critical condition at a local hospital.
Police are searching for a black 2019 or 2020 Lexus GX460 SUV with damage to the passenger-side headlight and right front bumper, a department spokesman said. Investigators did not have a description of the driver as of press deadline.
The vehicle struck the teenager at 3:12 p.m. Friday, July 24, in the 800 block of East Garfield Avenue, dragging her at least 30 feet before stopping and almost immediately fleeing east on Garfield toward Chevy Chase Drive, according to a police report. It remains unclear how the vehicle came to collide with the girl; that section of Garfield is an unusually long residential corridor with just one crosswalk in the half-mile between intersections.
It’s also unclear how fast the motorist was driving, but the vehicle collided with the girl with such force that it damaged the SUV. Investigators were able to determine the make and model of the vehicle based on damaged pieces of the SUV that were left at the scene. The girl was listed as severely injured and remained in critical condition this week, according to police.
The GPD urges anyone who may have seen that type of vehicle speeding through the area at that time to call the department.
“Maybe if someone in the neighborhood has a Ring camera, we can get some better information on the vehicle,” said Sgt. Christian Hauptmann, public information officer for the GPD.
Those with information should contact police at (818) 548-4911. To make an anonymous tip, call the Los Angeles Regional Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-8477, download the P3 Mobile App on a mobile device or visit lacrimestoppers.org.