Anthony Surges, Second City Seat Contested
Days after the election, Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz continued late this week to be the front-runners for two seats on the Burbank City Council, though Tamala Takahashi added suspense to the race by hovering in third place.
Anthony’s expected presence on the council would be only the latest development in his complicated relationship with the city: If he clinches victory, the disability services provider will have gone from suing Burbank this year to joining its lead panel in December.
As of the most recent update from Los Angeles County on Thursday evening, Anthony had 15,222 votes, or 20.7% of the total of votes counted, while Schultz had 11,328 votes, or 15.4%. If their leads hold, the two will sit on the council for the next four years.
Takahashi was not far behind, however, nabbing 10,862 votes, or 14.77%, in the Tuesday election in which eight candidates vied.
In the 2017 general election, the candidate with the most votes was Bob Frutos, with 6,300.
Measure RC, a controversial rent control initiative co-authored by Anthony, appears to have been rejected by most voters, with 27,096 residents, or 63.74%, voting “no” and 15,412 residents voting “yes.”
In other races, Krystle Palmer, who was appointed city treasurer in 2019 after predecessor Debbie Kukta left to work for the Burbank Unified School District, had an expansive lead with 21,317 votes as of Thursday evening, or 57.54%. Her opponents, Lindsey Francois and Darin Shea, had 8,214 votes (22.17%) and 7,518 votes (20.29%), respectively.
The 2020 general election saw a pool of eight candidates vying for two seats on the City Council. Councilwoman Emily-Gabel Luddy announced earlier this year that she would not seek reelection to her position, and the other belongs to Councilman Tim Murphy, who was in fifth place in his bid for reelection.
The new officials, along with the rest of the council, will have to grapple with a package of challenges, including a persistent jobs-housing imbalance, a shuttering of businesses and a global pandemic that recently infected more than 100,000 in a day for the first time in the United States.
A self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist, Anthony attracted the ire of the council for his involvement with Measure RC, which the panel has continuously opposed. But his campaign was bolstered by widespread support from labor groups and Democratic committees and he quickly grabbed the lead in votes, a ranking that has shown little sign of fading.
“When we started the race, you know, all cards were up in the air,” Anthony, who lost a bid for council in 2017, said by phone. “But as we got closer to Election Day, talking to voters … we were very confident. People were saying we were the front-runner the whole time.”
He added that, if he wins a seat on the council, he will prioritize working on the city’s COVID-19 response and economic recovery plan, negotiating with other council members to do so.
Anthony also expressed interest in passing a rent control measure with the panel, saying that most of the complaints about Measure RC weren’t about rent control in general, but rather how that initiative was written.
Among other provisions, Measure RC would have limited rent increases to the consumer price index with a cap of 7%. It was besieged by city officials and apartment groups, the latter raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight the measure.
Schultz, a deputy attorney general, is a relatively new Burbank resident but has been involved in local Democratic groups and has held second place since the first wave of results was announced. He has pledged to create an economic recovery task force within his first 100 days as a council member, and has voiced interest in creating a commission studying the status and needs of women in Burbank.
Schultz was endorsed by several Democratic groups and labor unions, including Burbank firefighters.
He admitted that he didn’t know where the ballots would fall, but said he had decided to campaign as if he were 10 percentage points behind.
“For me, when I saw what was happening, when I saw the devastating effects of this virus on our local businesses, on our families, on people who were losing their jobs and unable to pay their rent or the mortgage, I just felt like I had something to contribute,” Schultz said by phone. “Not just in terms of good ideas, which I believe I have, but in energy and the work ethic that I think we’re going to need right now.”
Takahashi, owner of High Bridge Solutions and recently elected vice president of the Magnolia Park Merchants Association, was the candidate closest to overtaking Schultz as of Thursday evening. Key issues of her campaign have included diversity and the environment; she has expressed interest in moving Burbank toward electric city vehicles and creating a city diversity, equity and inclusion committee.
“While I’m disappointed that I did not end up in the top two spots, I am extremely happy with our results,” she said via email on Thursday, when the latest update showed her to be fewer than 500 votes behind. “We ran a grassroots, locally supported campaign. We were able to be competitive with the hard work and commitment of our local volunteers and with one-third of the funding of what the other top candidates raised. Our campaign was what a well-run, local Burbank campaign should look like. I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished. We created momentum and I hope to use that momentum for the benefit of our community.”
Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat, was elected to another two-year term as the representative of California’s 28th Congressional District, defeating Republican Eric Early with 74% of the vote.
Voters also reelected Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, who represents California’s 43rd District in the state Assembly, to another two-year term. The Democrat received more than 71% of the vote, while challenger Republican Mike Graves received the remainder.
Weisberg, Two Incumbents Ahead in BUSD Election
Newcomer Emily Weisberg appeared to be on the path to join two incumbent candidates on the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education, with a fourth candidate trailing.
With 27,935 votes counted in her favor as of the most recent update Thursday evening, Weisberg, who works as a middle school history teacher at Sierra Canyon School, nabbed 31.66% of the ballots counted. Armond Aghakhanian received 20,643 votes, or 23.4%, while Steve Ferguson received 20,401 votes, or 23.12%.
Roberta Reynolds, who has been on the BUSD governing board since 2007, seemed to be at risk of losing her place on the five-seat panel with 19,252 votes, or 21.82%. However, there remained hundreds of thousands of ballots to be counted countywide on Thursday, though it was unclear how many were from Burbank voters.
Weisberg, who is also the chair of the Burbank Board of Library Trustees, received endorsements from a wave of Democratic committees and labor unions, including the Burbank Democratic Club, of which she is president. She also is a member of the BUSD Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.
“I think that running against three incumbents is pretty impossible,” Weisberg said by phone. “My feeling going into the campaign was that I probably didn’t have much chance at winning, but that I wanted to take an opportunity to talk about issues that I thought were important … [I] definitely didn’t think that I would be sitting in the lead right now at all.”
“Looking at not only school board but also City Council,” she added, “I think what is clear is Burbank voters want change.”
Like the other candidates, Weisberg made DEI a major piece of her platform. She has also advocated for more transparency with families of students, such as by holding town halls and office hours, and forming advisory councils to involve more community members.
Aghakhanian, who was elected in 2016 and is currently president of the board, has emphasized only allowing students to return to classrooms when the district is allowed to do so. He also co-founded the BUSD DEI Committee and has briefly mentioned his support for removing books with racially offensive content from school curriculums.
He has received endorsements from a significant number of local and state officials, as well as some labor unions.
“We expected it to be a hard fight,” Aghakanian said by email. “One thing both campaigns taught us is that hard work and perseverance prevails. Our campaign team and volunteers embraced the challenges of not just campaigning but campaigning under the cloud of COVID-19. We are proud of the campaign’s accomplishments and are happy to see that the initial numbers reflect our hard work and truly grassroots efforts.”
Ferguson was first elected to the BUSD governing board in 2015, becoming what was believed to be the city’s youngest and first openly gay elected official. Like his colleagues, he has pledged to put safety first when considering when to return students to classrooms, and sponsored the district’s Mental Health Master Plan.
Ferguson did not reply to a request for comment by the Leader’s publishing deadline on Friday morning.
BUSD governing board members hold their seats for four years, with incoming members scheduled to be sworn in on the panel’s Dec. 17 meeting.