Burbank’s National Night Out Rescheduled to October

Burbank officials announced Thursday that the city’s annual National Night Out, typically held on the first Tuesday in August, has been moved to October.
Public health concerns amid the COVID-19 pandemic were cited as the reason for rescheduling the event.
Each year, the Burbank police and fire departments join neighbors and community members for the event. National Night Out promotes police-community partnerships and neighborhood camaraderie and is aimed at making the city a safer, more caring place to live and work.
The event is typically celebrated with social festivities, block parties, cookouts, community gatherings, kids’ activities, interactive safety demonstrations, exhibits by emergency service personnel, and more. However, as the community continues to deal with the pandemic, the police and fire departments decided to postpone National Night Out in the interest of public health and safety. In accordance with recommendations by the official National Night Out organization, this year’s National Night Out event has been rescheduled to Oct. 6, a date that also is subject to change.
Although National Night Out has been postponed, the Burbank Police Department encourages community members to communicate with one another through social media channels and neighborhood watch groups.
By remaining vigilant and observant in Burbank’s neighborhoods, community members can help keep one another safe, officials said.

Police Identify Two Who Died at Scene of Shooting

Photos by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader
Burbank police officers who responded to the report of a shooting early Tuesday found two men dead and a woman who was critically injured. Three children were also found and taken to family members.

Burbank police have identified two men who were shot and killed early Tuesday, but the reasons for the incident remain unclear.
After receiving a report of a shooting at about 1:25 a.m. Tuesday, officers responded to a residence in the 900 block of Cambridge Drive and found in the driveway a man who had at least one gunshot wound, according to a Burbank Police Department news release. The man, 34-year old Los Angeles resident Edward Lopez, was pronounced dead at the scene.
While trying to give aid to Lopez, officers heard yelling from inside the home about someone being shot, the department said. They entered the house and found 41-year-old Burbank resident Armen Sahakyan shot in his upstairs bedroom. He, too, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Sahakyan’s wife, whom police have not identified by name, was taken from the house to a hospital in critical condition with gunshot wounds. The couple’s three children, ages 7, 13 and 17, were also found in the house and taken to family members.
Continue reading “Police Identify Two Who Died at Scene of Shooting”

Council Hopeful, a Renters’ Advocate, Wins Suit Against Burbank

Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader
Konstantine Anthony, who plans to run for Burbank City Council, speaks at a June protest, announcing his lawsuit against the city for denying his petition to put rent regulation measures on the ballot. More than a month later, a judge ruled in his favor.

After successfully suing the city clerk for denying his petition, a tenants’ advocate planning a run for City Council is one step closer to putting a rent regulation measure on the ballot in November.
Konstantine Anthony and his campaign manager Margo Rowder, co-founders of the nonprofit Burbank Tenants’ Right Committee, sued City Clerk Zizette Mullins and the council in June. Mullins rejected the plaintiffs’ petition, which included more than 7,700 valid signatures from voters, in May, saying it had not included a “statement of reasons” explaining the necessity of the proposed ordinance.
However, Anthony’s attorney, Fredric Woocher, argued that Mullins and the city attorney had misinterpreted the Elections Code, relying on a version of the law that was changed in 1987 to remove the requirement the clerk cited.
The judge agreed, approving the plaintiffs’ request to require Mullins to approve the petition on Thursday.
Continue reading “Council Hopeful, a Renters’ Advocate, Wins Suit Against Burbank”

City Striving to Reduce Pandemic’s Economic Fallout, Mayor Says

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has hurt Burbank’s jobs and businesses, its mayor says the city is carrying out a plan to help alleviate some of the financial damage.
Emphasizing that the full extent of the coronavirus’ economic impact remains to be seen, Mayor Sharon Springer noted in a phone interview that she expects some of Burbank’s small businesses to close permanently due to economic hardship. At the same time, she highlighted some resources that the city believes could help those struggling monetarily.
Springer pointed to the city’s Economic Recovery Plan, a document approved by the City Council in May that outlines several policies to help Burbank withstand the economic drought brought on by the pandemic.

Businesses need to be kept aware of shifting health orders that may affect their operations, says the city’s Economic Recovery Plan touted by Mayor Sharon Springer.
Photo by Christian Leonard / Burbank Leader

Many of the points listed in the plan are aimed at promoting local businesses and disseminating information. For example, the city is using social media to advertise webinars that offer tips and strategies to businesses trying to weather the economic storm, and the plan also notes that businesses should be kept aware of shifting health orders that may impact their operations.
“I think a major benefit of that is to let our community know what is opening, what’s the timing on it, because everybody is just so ready to go out,” Springer explained by phone. “But we must be careful.”

Some provisions are more material. Applications for a rental assistance program offering residents impacted by the pandemic up to $800 a month for up to three months were available June 22 until Friday. And a program giving loans of $5,000 to $10,000 to small businesses is taking applications until July 10. Continue reading “City Striving to Reduce Pandemic’s Economic Fallout, Mayor Says”

Virus Surges Anew, Raising Fears on Holiday Weekend

Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center has seen an uptick in hospitalizations since the recent surge in coronavirus cases.
Photo by Charles Hirsch / Burbank Leader

Los Angeles County’s reopening plan took a significant step backward with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s reinstatement of some restrictions on indoor activities on Wednesday due to an alarming rise of COVID-19 cases in California.
“Bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning,” Newsom said in a news conference. “We’re seeing parts of the state where we are seeing an increase in not only the total number of positive cases but a significant increase in the total number of people that are getting tested that are testing positive — meaning the positivity rate, not just the total case rate, is beginning to go up to a degree that obviously generates some concern.”
That concern prompted the governor to order the closure of many indoor operations in 19 counties, including Los Angeles, affecting businesses in Burbank.
Restaurants must be closed for indoor dining until further notice, and closures also extend to wineries and tasting rooms, movie theaters, family entertainment centers, zoos and museums, bars and card rooms. Gyms can remain open, but staff members and patrons must wear cloth face coverings and gloves. Continue reading “Virus Surges Anew, Raising Fears on Holiday Weekend”

Illegal Fireworks Spark Complaints in City

File photo.

Although people across the country usually celebrate Independence Day with fireworks, some in Burbank have been setting off the explosives early this year — except they are illegal.
Sgt. Derek Green of the Burbank Police Department said via email that “estimations are that [fireworks] complaints have about doubled compared to last year.” But some comparisons showed a much greater difference: There were more than 100 firework-related calls in June 2020, compared to only 10 in June 2019.
Green also said that fireworks activity appears to have started much earlier this year than in previous years. Residents have shared worries on social media that the noise from the fireworks could negatively affect people with post-traumatic stress disorder and frighten pets.
“We just don’t know what to do,” resident Robin Randell told the City Council during its Tuesday meeting.
Randell, who called the council during its meeting’s public comment period, said that she represented more than 90 other residents concerned about the use of fireworks, with some members of her group telling her “it’s a war zone.”
Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy added at the meeting that she has received numerous reports about the fireworks, with some residents saying that they’ve seen drivers throw fireworks out of their windows.
Fireworks, included those labeled “safe and sane,” are illegal in Burbank, Green said. Those caught using fireworks can also be held liable for any injuries they cause. Continue reading “Illegal Fireworks Spark Complaints in City”

Supervisor Barger Addresses Chamber of Commerce

The Burbank Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual chat on Thursday with Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who addressed COVID-19, the economic fallout from the pandemic and protests.
Barger wanted to clarify statistics pertaining to the coronavirus and assure the chamber and public that the county is hard at work to help the local economy recover from businesses shutting down because of the Safer at Home directives.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger

“This pandemic has truly been devastating to the health and economy of the county, as you all know,” she said. “ … The county and its residents have done a great job in flattening the curve, and I know it’s been painful for many people. By all accounts we have kept the case numbers low, prevented our health-care system from being overwhelmed and are moving into the stages of recovery.”
There has been a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, increasing the total number to 68,875 and 2,813 deaths as of June 11.
However, Barger attributed the surge in cases to the fact that more people are getting tested and the spread rate has gone down.
“Prior to the civil unrest, the spread rate for every one person that was positive was less than one person that would come in contact and possibly get it,” said Barger, who also informed the chamber the positive rate has remained at 8%. “At the beginning of Safer at Home, for every one person who had COVID, it was spread to about five people. So we truly did slow it down.”
She did express concern for a possible increase in coronavirus cases with the recent protests.

Continue reading “Supervisor Barger Addresses Chamber of Commerce”

Protesters Encouraged to Seek Change at Ballot Box

As with demonstrations around the nation, recent Burbank protests have been driven by a serious purpose: demands for racial justice and police reform. But as a Tuesday march through the city highlighted, there can also be an expression of solidarity through music and movement.
“Things like music connect us every day,” said Benjamin Abiola, an organizer the protest. “Everyone feels that soul in their body, and it just shows people that there’s nothing different between us besides our skin color. And if we can both dance and sing to music, then why can’t we stand in solidarity against people who want to oppress us?”
But even as protesters danced the “Cupid Shuffle” in 95-degree heat, the signs they carried bore grim references to the issue that led to their presence in the street: the recent killings of black people. Continue reading “Protesters Encouraged to Seek Change at Ballot Box”

Budget, Schools’ Reopening Are on BUSD Leaders’ Minds

Though no public meetings were on the Burbank Unified School District’s agenda this week, Superintendent Matt Hill updated the community on the state of the budget and the reopening of school for the 2020-21 year — issues that have prompted keen interest among residents in recent weeks.
No agreement had been made between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature as of Friday regarding the state budget, which is supposed to be ready by June 15. Suspension of operations because of health concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic gave lawmakers less time to negotiate.
The May budget revise from the governor proposed drastic cuts in school funding, a big concern for small districts such as Burbank’s. BUSD would have to cut more than $13 million, and Hill urges parents and guardians to continue writing to political leaders.
“We need to continue your advocating and email the governor and the legislature,” Hill wrote in his weekly update. “Without the support of the governor and legislature, BUSD will be forced to adopt the governor’s May revise.”
The BUSD staff will have a study session on Wednesday, June 17, and the Board of Education will convene the following day for a regular virtual meeting at 7 p.m.
Hill also notified parents that the Reopening Committee — which is separated into four subgroups and takes into consideration guidelines provided by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and California Department of Education — will work with the Burbank Teachers Association and California School Employees Association and is expected to share proposed instruction models on July 2. Continue reading “Budget, Schools’ Reopening Are on BUSD Leaders’ Minds”

Police, City Council Address Oversight Concerns

While protesters marched through the streets of Burbank this week with cries of “Defund the police” and “This is what democracy looks like,” the City Council heard from residents concerned about their local Police Department.
The virtual council meeting took place as protesters assembled in front of the Men’s Wearhouse at the Empire Center, one of several demonstrations that have arisen in Burbank while hundreds have been held across the country to demand police reform and justice for black people killed by officers.
Those demands were echoed at the council meeting, with residents requesting that members review the Burbank Police Department’s budget and use-of-force policies.
However, those matters, which were brought up after a brief report from Chief Scott LaChasse, were not addressed by council members during Tuesday’s meeting.
“It is important for us to be clear and specific right now, because we are at a pivotal moment in history,” said Heather Robb, who called in from the protest to comment at the meeting. “I hope this moment does for Burbank what we see it doing in cities all over our country, causing us to examine and reflect on the role that police play in our communities.”
Robb also asked the council to revisit the department’s budget, saying that the percentage of funds allocated to it does not reflect the community’s values. The department’s $61.76 million general fund budget is about 31% of the city’s total proposed general fund budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, though city staff members have previously warned that there remain many financial unknowns due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Sgt. Derek Green, public information officer for the BPD, said in an emailed statement that “the Burbank Police Department believes that adequate training and equipping of police officers is essential to public safety and safeguarding our community. Training and equipment comes at an expense. Any reductions in funding would have a detrimental effect on the Department’s ability to continue on its path of progressive law enforcement reform.” Continue reading “Police, City Council Address Oversight Concerns”