City, LCUSD Meet Oct. 14 Over Sports Fields’ Use

First published in the Oct. 14 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun.

La Cañada Flintridge and school district officials were scheduled to meet on Oct. 14 to resume the discussion surrounding the joint use agreement between the community and sports leagues.
The local joint use committee — which includes La Cañada Unified School District leaders and members of the LCF City Council, municipal commissions and staff — will hold an in-person meeting at City Hall at 2:30 p.m. to discuss possible amendments to the agreement, most notably the time when youth sports teams can begin using local facilities.
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Local Kiwanis Club, With New President, Celebrates 100 Years

First published in the Oct. 2 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Let’s step back in time about 100 years to when President Warren G. Harding made the first presidential radio address, ribbons were cut for the opening seasons of the Rose Bowl and the Hollywood Bowl, and actress and television personality Betty White was born.
In Burbank, a transport from Graysville, Ohio, named James Crawford as the city’s fifth mayor, and a charter was issued for Burbank’s first service club: The Kiwanis Club of Burbank.
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Lawmaker Hailed for Tax Credit Boost for TV, Films


State Sen. Anthony Portantino displays the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom (seated) on a measure that includes $330 million in incentives to benefit the film and television industry.

Some motion picture industry professionals believe recently signed legislation co-authored by state Sen. Anthony Portantino will help keep film and television jobs in California by providing more tax credits.

Senate Bill 144, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on July 21, increases the state’s tax credit offerings to the industry by $330 million, including $180 million designated for film and TV productions between this fiscal year and fiscal year 2022-23. State officials — including Portantino, a La Cañada Flintridge Democrat — also hope a new credit will encourage the construction of soundstages.

Supporters of the state’s tax credit, which began in 2009, have said that it encourages TV and film projects — and the jobs they create — to remain in California, particularly in Hollywood, Burbank and other media centers. The California Film Commission, which the state established to oversee the tax credit program, claimed in its 2020 report that the $1.55 billion provided in credits between 2015 and 2020 resulted in projects that spent $11.2 billion in California and hired tens of thousands of cast and crew members.

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City Nixes More La Crescenta Fireworks Funds; Sparks Venue Search

In lieu of further assisting the traditional Crescenta Valley Fireworks show, the City Council asked for city staff to explore partnering with another organization to try producing an Independence Day fireworks show that would be in or near downtown Glendale.
Whether the city can make it happen is another story, as a specific location remained undetermined, as did the ability for it to even locate a vendor who isn’t booked for the national holiday. Still, they will try to make it work, likely with help from the Downtown Glendale Association or another unnamed organization suggested by Councilman Ara Najarian.
“I would much rather see that to be done in an area where people from around the city can get there, maybe by walking or looking outside their window,” he said Tuesday. “As you know, the downtown area is very highly populated.”

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Portantino Links Art of Conversation to Political Science

Photo courtesy office of Anthony Portantino
State Sen. Anthony Portantino is shown speaking at a press conference concerning the 2009 Station Fire with former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Congressman David Dreier and Congressman Adam Schiff. Portantino was a state assemblyman during the fire, still considered the largest in L.A. County.

Among the 120 California state legislators, Sen. Anthony Portantino may be the only one who lists his home telephone number on the state contact website.
That’s led to a few odd conversations with his colleagues at the capitol, he mused recently.
“I’ve been asked before, ‘What do you say when someone calls you at home?’” he chuckled. “I tell them, ‘Well, I go, “Hello?” How do you answer the phone at home?’”
Portantino’s been answering those phone calls since he launched his political career in 1999, starting as a city councilman in his hometown of La Cañada Flintridge, where he still resides. From the beginning, he grew accustomed to local residents calling at all hours or even paying him unannounced visits. He still vividly recalls some of those encounters, 20 years on: One elderly woman phoned late at night, upset, and loudly laid out a bitter complaint. After finally taking a breath, she told him, “I know you think I’m yelling at you, but I’m not really yelling at you, it’s just, who else am I gonna call about this at 10:30 at night?”
Now serving his second Senate term in the 25th District after being reelected in the Nov. 3 election, the legislator — who prefers Anthony as his nomenclature — has maintained that open-door policy over the years. In fact, he said some of the signature legislation he has crafted arose from open conversations with residents at the post office, supermarket or the sidelines of his daughters’ AYSO games.

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Even in Celebrating Honorees, FSA Displays Its Vision

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Michael Albanese, Anthony Portantino, Justin Hess and Laurie Bleick gather during the recent presentations of the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award.

For the past 67 years, Family Service Agency of Burbank has cultivated and celebrated relationships with officials in the city and the surrounding area, just as it has with those who have been in need of its counseling and mental health services.
Those relationships were honored as the agency presented the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award to state Sen. Anthony Portantino and City Manager Justin Hess at the recent 2020 “Imagine a City” fundraiser.
This annual event usually lures more than 300 supporters to gather for a gala evening of silent auction bidding, a sunset cocktail reception, dinner and live music. Though that wasn’t an option this year, the organization did break ground in staging Burbank’s first socially distanced fundraiser since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown began.
Former City Manager Mary Alvord, who served as the co-chair of the event along with Terry Stein, said the FSA Board of Directors gave a lot of thought to figuring out a way to make the evening possible.
“We did the same thing the agency has been doing to serve their clients since the pandemic began,” said Alvord. “We put our heads together and came up with a way to reinvent this event, which serves as our major fundraiser, and still abide by all health and safety protocols.”
This year’s awards ceremony was staged against a backdrop known as the “Field of Hope,” which included hundreds of cutouts representing everyone who purchased a ticket. The event was held at the Olive Ball Fields, where attendees parked in the field’s parking lot and remained in their cars for the presentation of awards while eating a ballpark-inspired box dinner.
Guests were welcomed by Laurie Bleick, the agency’s executive director, and board Chairman Michael Albanese, and the highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Vision Award to Hess and Portantino.
“These two men mean a lot to us at FSA,” Bleick told the drive-up assemblage. “They have inspired me with hope, taken the time to learn what we do, and embody the vision and spirit of Mary Alice O’Connor.”
The Vision Award is given annually to honor the memory, work and spirit of O’Connor, a longtime dedicated community volunteer and founding board member of the agency, who died in 2010.
Serving as the evening’s master of ceremonies, Albanese praised the two honorees for doing “hard work and heavy lifting” in making Burbank a better place.
“They both have a heart to serve, a passion for the work that FSA does, and for people of this community who find themselves in crisis,” said Albanese.
While presenting Portantino with the award, Bleick lauded him for the bravery he has shown in candidly sharing the issues of mental health that have touched his own family by the death of his brother Michael, who took his own life in 2010.
Accepting the award, Portantino in turn praised Bleick and FSA.
“I fell in love with Laurie the first time I met her,” said Portantino. “Along with the dedicated work of her staff, she does so much to help individuals and families and to bring the stigma of mental illness out of the shadows through open and honest conversation.”
Emotionally referencing his late brother, Portantino said that since his death many people have shared similar stories with him of mental illness and suicide within their families.
“When people share their stories with me, we immediately become like members of a family that no one ever wants to be a part of,” said Portantino. “But it is by sharing our personal grief and stories and hope that we can be of invaluable help to one another, just like FSA is to the community at large.”
Hess, who was presented with his award by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff during a pre-event ceremony two weeks ago at City Hall, said he was honored to receive an award that over the years has been given to so many men and women who have played an instrumental role in providing vital care, assistance and help to so many Burbankers.
“While I’m honored to accept this award, I feel it is really FSA that is to be honored,” said Hess. “They have a spirit and soul that is outstanding. They are the ones that carry out their mission and help everyone — rich, poor, you name it. Mental health issues are so much more prevalent than people realize, and I greatly appreciate what FSA does on a daily basis for those in our community who need their help.”
Among the dignitaries and special guests who came out to honor Portantino and Hess were Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer, Vice Mayor Bob Frutos, City Council members Jess Talamantes and Tim Murphy, and former Mayor Marsha Ramos.
The mission of FSA is to offer quality mental health counseling, care, education and advocacy at low or no cost. The agency has dramatically changed and saved the lives of local individuals, couples and families as well as active and veteran members of the armed forces by providing housing, crisis intervention, legal guidance, safety in the face of domestic violence and hope for those in the grips of mental illness and substance addiction.
For more information about Family Service Agency of Burbank or to make a financial donation, call (818) 845-7671 or visit familyserviceagencyofburbank.org.

David Laurell may be reached at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

Plenty of Clarity in Voting on Legislators, Ballot Measures

Though the outcome of the presidential election remained unclear as ballots in battleground states continued to be counted on Friday morning, results of most legislative races and ballot measure campaigns in California left little doubt about who or what were the winners.
As of Thursday evening, incumbent state Sen. Anthony Portantino had a firm lead over Kathleen Hazelton — 236,728 votes to 122,979 — and will continue representing District 25, which includes Burbank.
Laura Friedman defeated Mike Graves to continue serving the people of the 43rd Assembly District, receiving nearly 71% of the votes cast.
Adam Schiff will also be reelected as the U.S. representative for the 28th District with 73.58% of the votes in a race against Eric Early.

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Family Service Agency Gala Set for Oct. 24

The Family Service Agency of Burbank’s annual “Imagine a City” gala, which will honor City Manager Justin Hess and state Sen. Anthony Portantino, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Olive Ball Fields at Izay Park.
The mission of Family Service Agency is to offer quality mental health counseling, care, education and advocacy at low or no cost. FSA has dramatically changed and saved the lives of local individuals, couples and families as well as active and veteran members of the armed forces by providing housing, crisis intervention, legal guidance, safety in the face of domestic violence and hope for those in the grip of mental illness and substance addiction.
Former City Manager Mary Alvord, who is serving as co-chair of the event along with Terry Stein, said the gala had to be “reimagined to adhere to county safety protocols.”

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Hess Lauded by Agency Imagining an Ever Better City

Photo by David Laurell
Burbank City Manager Justin Hess is FSA’s 2020 Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award honoree.

It would typically not be a good sign if Burbank City Manager Justin Hess’ secretary Joyce Thompson interrupted his midday business to say he was immediately needed in front of City Hall. It would cause even further concern if, instead of being led through the most direct path via the front doors, he was taken around the corner to approach the front of the building from the side.
That scenario is exactly what took place this past Monday morning.
If Hess’ anxiety level was a bit high as he turned from Third Street onto Olive Avenue, it dropped precipitously when he saw Congressman Adam Schiff, the full complement of the City Council, members of the city’s executive staff and representatives of the Family Service Agency of Burbank welcoming him with applause.

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Glendale Armenians “Inspired by Other People’s Sacrifices”

When local members of the Armenian diaspora woke up on Thursday and began to scour the internet and social media for on-the-ground updates — any news, really — from the front lines of the reignited war between Azerbaijan and the Armenia-backed breakaway state Artsakh, they found pictures of the Holy Savior Cathedral.
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