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”
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”
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”
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.
It’s been a dark and emotionally draining week. It has been much longer than a week for people of color; a few centuries, perhaps.
It goes without saying that this is a brutal time for our nation. How often are we under two emergency orders simultaneously?
Last week’s death of George Floyd was horrifying. We’ve all seen the video multiple times: Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. As a TV reporter astutely pointed out, the video appears to show the officer shifting his weight after a few minutes to seemingly apply even more pressure while already in a dominating position. And as we saw, in the final three minutes the 46-year-old Floyd lay motionless.
Pastor Albert Tate from Fellowship Church used the terms “execution” and “evil” in describing the death during the streaming of his Sunday sermon. It was the first time that I’d heard those two words mentioned in this context.
And Tate is not alone in looking for words that fit the enormity and gravity of what we saw. People from all walks of life, regardless of their skin color, are outraged by the senseless death of George Floyd.
Many of the protests that I watched on television featured ethnic diversity. In fact, the news showed a protest march in Santa Ana on Sunday that seemed to be mostly Latino. This is obviously not simply a black issue; this is a human rights issue. Continue reading “‘Injustice Anywhere Is a Threat to Justice Everywhere’”
Hundreds of residents took to Burbank’s streets this week, joining a nationwide wave of protests demanding justice and decrying police brutality after an unarmed, handcuffed black man died while in officers’ custody in Minneapolis.
Many of the protesters who gathered in Burbank said they wanted to raise awareness of racism and police brutality against black men and women, issues that have been thrust into public view since George Floyd died May 25 after a police officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes during which Floyd was handcuffed and pleaded that he could not breathe. Three other officers looked on while Floyd died. Continue reading “Protests Demand Police Reform”
John Burroughs High School’s recent 2020 graduation looked different than in years past.
Rather than gathering on campus, students made small celebratory videos in their living rooms and backyards. Principal Deborah Madrigal gave her speech to a camera, instead of to a crowd of graduates. And when the class moved their tassels from the right side of their cap to the left, there was no deafening cheer, no waves of applause.
But despite the constraints placed on the school’s celebration by the coronavirus and the health guidelines it had forced, students, professors and staff still found a platform to honor the graduates’ achievements through a virtual format on May 21. And on there, many familiar details — the turning of the tassel, the heartfelt speeches, the grins of students — were on full display.
This year’s event, held virtually with a two-hour recording, also included a video message from actor Clint Howard, who graduated from Burroughs in 1977. Howard noted many students had expressed frustration when they learned their in-person graduation was being canceled, but he encouraged them to “go with the flow.” Continue reading “John Burroughs High School Celebrates With Virtual Ceremony”
It was a graduation unlike any other for the Bulldogs.
While the celebration to cap off Burbank High School’s class of 2020 graduating seniors was full of pomp and circumstance, the virtually recorded event also was spliced with poignant, heartfelt messages, lilting music and bittersweet comedy, telling of the toll quarantine measures took on the students and the rather unceremonious ending to their high school career.
The BHS Commencement 2020 was a tribute in partnership with local production company Mocean and culmination of a weeklong awards program aired through the school’s own BHS-TV, a student-run production that can be streamed on Vimeo and YouTube.
“The production became a passion project in a year when the kids have lost so much,” said BHS Principal Thomas Crowther. “We wanted to showcase our amazing school and our wonderful seniors — perhaps to some community members who hadn’t ‘met’ them.” Continue reading “Burbank High School 2020 Graduates Shine in Video”
The Burbank City Council this week adopted a “needs-based” staffing policy that staff members said will reduce unnecessary overtime for municipal workers. Meanwhile, multiple residents questioned council members about the city’s finances.
Management Services Director Betsy McClinton said that the policy, which the council unanimously approved during its virtual meeting Tuesday, will give the city the flexibility to hire more or fewer staff members depending on need, or have more staff in communities that require it. The policy is also expected to help cut down on overtime.
It is unclear how much money would be saved by the new policy, according to McClinton, who added that the city spent nearly $7.2 million from the general fund on overtime in fiscal year 2018-19.
In accordance with California law, the city must meet with its labor groups before the new policy can be implemented, she said during the meeting. Her staff report to the council did not mention which employees might be affected by the policy. Continue reading “Burbank Council Seeks to Reduce Spending on Overtime”
The Burbank City Council approved more than $850,000 in relief money for small businesses and low-income renters impacted by the coronavirus, acknowledging that the funds alone would not be enough to help everyone in need.
The council unanimously authorized the spending during its virtual meeting Tuesday, allocating nearly $440,000 for rental assistance and more than $414,104 to provide forgivable loans for small businesses. The programs are largely funded by Burbank’s portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, with unused federal Community Development Block Grant and county Measure H funds also contributing to the initiatives.
The small business assistance program launched with the money will help “microenterprise” entities, such as gig workers, contractors and those who are self-employed, by providing a forgivable loan of up to $5,000. Businesses with between two and 50 employees can receive up to $10,000 in forgivable loans, though they must have at least one low-income employee to be eligible.
The program aims to assist between 30 and 60 businesses, according to Marcos Gonzalez, the city’s housing development manager. When originally proposed, the aid would also have been available to businesses that applied for federal Small Business Administration loans.
However, the council decided to amend the program so that it would cover what was not provided by those loans up to $5,000 or $10,000, as some business owners have reported receiving only a fraction of what they applied for. Continue reading “City OKs Aid for Small Businesses, Renters Hurt by Pandemic”