The unemployment rate in Burbank fell to 12.2% in October, according to preliminary data, dropping to half of the peak levels reached in May — good news that contrasted with restrictions on commercial activity that were ordered in the last few days because of a resurgent COVID-19. Approximately 7,200 Burbank workers remained unemployed last month, according to the California Employment Development Department, down from 9,500 (16.4%) in September and a height of 13,500 (23.9%) in May. Burbank’s February unemployment rate was 5.1%. The joblessness rate in Los Angeles County also continued to fall to a similar level, reaching 12.1% in October. Statewide, the unemployment rate descended to single digits for the first time since the pandemic began, falling from 11.1% in September to 9.3% in October. The motion picture industry, which has a major presence in Burbank, saw a 6.8% increase in employment, though it had 30.8% fewer workers than a year ago.
For the past month, Superintendent Matt Hill warned of the possibility that Burbank Unified School District students would need to continue distance learning for the remainder of the academic year. The recent surge of COVID-19 cases made that a reality on Monday. BUSD officials had held out hope that students might be able to safely return to campus for in-person instruction in the second semester, but Hill this week sent a message informing parents, students and employees that the district has decided to commit to distance learning.
The Burbank Human Relations Council is asking community members to drop off poster board art to be displayed at an upcoming exhibition as part of “United Against Hate” week. Anyone in Burbank can submit an art piece, which must be made on standard poster board that is no larger than 28 inches by 20 inches. Pieces are being accepted today, Nov. 28, between 9 a.m. and noon at the Geo Gallery at 1545 Victory Blvd. Contributors can schedule other drop-offs by texting or calling (818) 860-2472. The BHRC will then display the pieces, representing the theme “Stand Together Against Hate,” from Monday, Nov. 30-Friday, Dec. 11 at Geo. Only two viewers will be allowed at a time because of restrictions related to COVID-19, but the pieces will also be viewable on the BHRC website and Facebook page.
The Burbank Police Commission voted this week to advise the City Council that special police initiatives be retained and that new commissioners not be required to be of a certain ethnicity, gender or occupation. The decisions made on Wednesday came after several monthly meetings in which commission members heard presentations from the Police Department on a variety of topics, including use-of-force policy and the BPD’s Mental Health Evaluation Team program. The council charged the advisory board with discussing potential recommendations after the death of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests and calls for police reform.
City Councilwoman Emily Gabel-Luddy this week encouraged her colleagues to form a subcommittee to discuss means of advancing the status of women and other minority groups in Burbank. The request came at the end of a Tuesday meeting in which council members tackled a packed agenda including topics ranging from sidewalk vendors to issues with local coyote populations. Gabel-Luddy’s recommendation contained few details, but she made it clear she wanted the potential subcommittee’s scope to go beyond simply analyzing the status of women.
Parents and students came to the defense of the Burbank Unified School District during a virtual Board of Education meeting on Thursday, supporting its decision not to allow teachers to include several books in their lesson plans for the year as it reevaluates its core curriculum. Over the past two months, a slew of teachers, students and parents have voiced their disapproval over the district’s exclusion of “To Kill a Mockingbird, “The Cay,” “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “Of Mice of Men.” Though they are not part of the curriculum at the moment, the books, which have racially oriented content, are available to all students at each school library.
With Los Angeles County election officials whittling down the number of ballots remaining to be counted, the leads of Burbank City Council candidates Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz late this week showed little sign of fading. Anthony and Schultz have led the race for the two open City Council seats since the first wave of results was announced on Election Day. With 17,448 votes as of this Tuesday, the most recent count available, Anthony’s place as a presumed council member-elect seemed unshakable.
After issuing a proclamation denouncing prejudice, the Burbank City Council indicated its support for a nonprofit organization’s recommendation that the panel formally acknowledge and apologize for racist aspects of the city’s history. Early in the council’s Tuesday meeting, Mayor Sharon Springer presented a proclamation condemning “all forms of prejudices” and embracing “inclusivity, equality and diversity.” The decree also affirmed Burbank’s commitment to promoting equity and diversity in city programs and services, though it did not announce any new initiatives. But what could be new, if council members approve, is a formal recognition and apology from Burbank for its previous “sundown town” policies that discouraged people of color, particularly African-Americans, from living in the city.
COVID-19 cases are again trending upwards, with national records being broken in recent weeks and health officials urging the public to stick to safety protocols to slow the surge. As of Wednesday, according to the most recent data published on the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health dashboard on Friday, Burbank has had 2,140 cases and 74 deaths. A seven-day average of new coronavirus cases had crept up to 19.4 a day, surpassing summer peaks. A month earlier, on Oct. 11, that seven-day average was 11.3 new cases a day; it was as low as 4.7 in September. “There are many contributing factors to this increase,” Mayor Sharon Springer said in an email, “which include an uptick in cases in some of our skilled nursing facilities, an increase in Burbank residents being tested, and an increase in people becoming complacent and beginning to gather in homes, whether it be to watch sporting events or people just tired of the restrictions and wanting to socialize. Burbank has not seen a new reported fatality in over a week.”
Though crime generally appeared to remain flat in Burbank from September to October, reports of aggravated assault more than doubled, while those of burglaries decreased by half. Recently released data from the Burbank Police Department on reports of “index crimes,” or major incidents that are often used to estimate crime rates, show a total of 201 reports in October, compared to 204 in September. Nearly all types of crimes stayed steady between the two months, with the exception of two: aggravated assaults rose from seven in September to 15 in October, while burglaries dropped from 25 to 12 during the same period. “Crime statistics fluctuate from month to month. I have no direct knowledge of anything specific that led to the decline in burglaries and/or the increase in aggravated assaults,” said BPD Sgt. Derek Green in an email.