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”

Council Members Updated on COVID, Housing Permits

Burbank City Council met virtually earlier this week, discussing a multitude of issues, including reopening plans among businesses and amenities amid the continuing increase in coronavirus cases. Council members also addressed protests that have occurred in the city.

Recent protests and reopening of certain businesses could contribute to an uptick in coronavirus cases going forward, city officials said at the Burbank City Council meeting this week.
Emergency Management Coordinator Eric Baumgardner told council members that though there has been a recent increase in COVID-19 infections, it remains difficult to attribute it to a single cause. The timing of protests and mass demonstrations, he explained, has coincided with the county allowing the reopening of restaurants and retail businesses, with limited capacity.
Additionally, Fire Chief Eric Garcia noted that more information may need to be gathered as county testing centers reopen after being inactive amid widespread protests.
As of The Leader’s press time on Friday, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported there have been 431 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Burbank, with 42 deaths related to the disease. A rise in those numbers has been consistent with that experienced throughout the county, which has shown an increase of roughly 1-2% per day, Baumgardner said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Among Burbank’s cases, 120 people were nursing home residents and 72 were staff members at such facilities, according to the county, which also said 32 deaths resulted from those cases.
Officials also explained some of the health protocols being implemented for city staff members as the county moves into the third phase of the state’s reopening plan. The city plans to bring back most of its employees, according to Baumgardner. Safety measures have been implemented or required at city offices, Garcia added, citing the use of Plexiglas shields, mandated social distancing and face coverings. Businesses that the county allows to reopen will also have their own set of protocols to follow.
The county announced Wednesday that it would allow reopening of several sectors starting on Friday, including gyms, day camps, hotels, museums and professional sports events without live audiences. Music, film and television production will also be allowed to resume.
All sectors will have county-mandated health guidelines for their operations, and the county could reverse the openings if it sees a spike in cases.

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Congressman Discusses Potential New Stimulus With Council

Congressman Adam B. Schiff

More federal funds addressing the economic impact of the coronavirus may be on the way, Congressman Adam Schiff said during the City Council’s virtual meeting Tuesday.
Schiff, D-Burbank, joined the meeting to announce the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, a potential follow-up to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the coronavirus stimulus package known as the CARES Act. The $3 trillion legislation would give about $500 billion to states and $375 billion to cities for their coronavirus responses, with the largest portion of the latter provision awarded to bigger cities like Burbank.
Councilmembers expressed support for the bill, which additionally provides more money for COVID-19 testing. However, Schiff also said that the federal government has been slow to increase its testing capacity.
“Much of the issue in terms of testing is that the administration got such a late start in prioritizing this. The early test that was rolled out by the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] was a flawed test, and that cost us precious weeks to get a good test out, and even then I think the response has been very slow to ramp up the capacity,” he said.
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Mayor Addresses COVID-19 Pandemic

By Sharon Springer
City of Burbank Mayor

Mayor Sharon Springer

Hello Fellow Burbankers. L.A. County began reopening golf courses and trails along with some retail businesses that are offering curbside pickup. In Burbank, DeBell Golf Course is now open. Stough Canyon was closed this week for a few days of maintenance. Wildwood Canyon and its parking lot are open and will remain open.
While out on trails, please wear facemasks and follow all posted guidelines. Children older than age 2 are also required to wear facemasks at trailheads, in parking lots and destination points. We must continue to practice social distancing and regular hand washing. These are simple things we can do to ensure everyone’s safety and hopefully not have restrictions again in the future. Thank you for being kind. Many are stressed during this difficult time and a kind word or thank you can help.
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Starlight Bowl Concerts, Youth Camps Canceled

Photo courtesy City of Burbank
The Starlight Bowl concert series has been canceled due to COVID-19 health orders.

Several city-run summer outdoor events, including the Starlight Bowl Summer Concert Series and the Tot Summer Daze camp, have been canceled due to the coronavirus.
The cancellations were announced during the Burbank City Council meeting on Tuesday. Marisa Garcia, the city’s Parks and Recreations director, said during the meeting that, while some facilities are tentatively planned to reopen over the summer, certain events would not be resumed.
The canceled events will save the city about $300,000, she noted.
While the Starlight Bowl concerts, including the July 4 celebration, have been canceled, private organizations may be able to rent the venue for their own concerts between August and October, depending on COVID-19 health orders from Los Angeles County officials.
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BUSD Projects Dour Budget Revisal; Considers Senior Celebrations

Photo courtesy Ryan Hirsch
Burbank Unified School District is considering ways to celebrate senior graduates.

Burbank Unified School District Superintendent Matt Hill expressed concern on Thursday about how Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised state budget, taking into account economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, will impact local schools.
With a projected $54.3 billion deficit due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown, Newsom proposed a $203.3 billion budget on Thursday that would significantly cut school funding.
“If this budget is implemented, it will drastically impact BUSD,” Hill stated in his weekly letter to the BUSD community. “The California School Board Association has made it easy for us to stress the need to protect education funding.”
Hill encouraged community members to follow the CSBA’s online link —p2a.co/lY0Zw5J — and email legislators about protecting educational funding.
The BUSD Board of Education will convene for a special meeting to “discuss budget scenarios and fundraising priorities” on Tuesday, May 19, at 7 p.m.

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City Council Projects Steep Revenue Loss on Pandemic Recession

Burbank City Councilmembers discuss a potential new coronavirus relief package with Congressman Adam Schiff, who briefly joined their virtual meeting Tuesday to answer questions about the $3 trillion bill.

The Burbank City Council approved a tentative budget this week that estimates a revenue loss of $15-$20 million during the next fiscal year of 2020-21 due to economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
The council heard eight different budget presentations on Tuesday during a virtual meeting that lasted nearly six hours, creeping past midnight. Though city officials emphasized that the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic’s financial impact on Burbank remains uncertain, they expressed confidence that the city’s prudent fiscal policies over the past several years have put it in a good position to withstand economic challenges.
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Council Crafts Outdoor Facilities Reopening Amid Social Distancing

The Burbank City Council confirmed the extension of social distancing rules to match those of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and reviewed possible reopening dates for outdoor areas during its virtual meeting on Tuesday.
The confirmation of the social distancing order, first issued by City Manager Justin Hess on April 23, will mirror L.A. County’s extension of its “Safer at Home” order to the same day, which also keeps Burbank eligible for potential state and federal reimbursement and aid for costs brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
After Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state’s transition into Stage 2 of reopening procedures on May 4, L.A. County and Burbank began allowing certain retail businesses to reopen for curbside pickup. In a staff report on Tuesday, Fire Chief Eric Garcia emphasized that though Burbank is working on its own set of initiatives to further reopen, the city will not go beyond the county’s guidelines.
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Burbank’s Firefighter of Year is Honored

Capt. Ryan Cortina

Captain Ryan Cortina, a 12-year veteran with the Burbank Fire Department, has been recognized as its Firefighter of the Year, it has been announced.
“His passion and commitment as a company officer is second to none and may only be superseded by his investment in the Paramedic Program,” a fire department spokesperson said. “He spends countless hours both on and off duty working towards the improvement, innovation and ownership of this program. He always goes above and beyond as a paramedic coordinator by maintaining personnel needs, equipment and supplies. He is a key component in the department’s successful relationships with outside agencies and provides continuing education for the Emergency Medical Services Program.
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BUSD Stands by Grading Policy Despite Backlash

The BUSD Board of Education, which includes (from left) Roberta Reynolds, Steve Frintner, Armond Aghakhanian, Charlene Tabet and Steve Ferguson, backed Superintendent Matt Hill and the Burbank Teacher’s Association’s decision to change this semester’s grading policy to Credit/No Credit after listening to disgruntled parents’ letters.

The Burbank Unified School District stood firm in its decision to go with a “Credit/No Credit” grading policy for the spring semester despite backlash and pleas from parents during the Board of Education meeting on Thursday.
Superintendent Matt Hill and the five board members responded to numerous letters from concerned — and angered — parents regarding the Burbank Teacher’s Association and district’s controversial decision. All local schools closed March 16 because the COVID-19 pandemic and students were given Chromebooks for distance learning.
“I completely understand the passion and advocacy for your children,” Hill addressed parents during the meeting. “The approach we took with our teachers was looking at all of the options and thinking of different scenarios for each option.
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