Burbank Unified School District officials held another virtual session on Tuesday focusing on special education and assured parents that they are working on a safe return for special-needs students. Though the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has allowed schools to reopen at a limited capacity for students with disabilities and English-language learners since Sept. 14, BUSD has kept its campuses closed since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The district is working various scenarios and proposals to try to bring back some of our most vulnerable learners,” said Tamara Schiern, director of special education. “We are working on it, and I think we’re getting closer to implementing something.”
Starting in December, Burbank Water and Power could once again shut off power or issue late fees to medium and large businesses that are behind on their bills from the utility. BWP representatives told City Council members on Tuesday that residential and small commercial customers would continue to have late fees and shutoffs suspended. But having those options reinstated for other entities, representatives added, will help the BWP negotiate repayment schedules with such customers. According to a BWP official, the agency will begin notifying substantial commercial customers of the revised policy on Dec. 1. If a customer does not agree to a payment plan, the utility could cut off power less than four weeks later.
Burbank could have a new guiding document for its downtown area by December 2021, with city planners aiming to add housing and promote transit. The downtown Burbank Specific Plan will guide land use in the roughly one-mile area, according to city staff members, who added that its principles will aim to “create a pedestrian-friendly environment,” introduce housing units and protect existing residential neighborhoods. The project area is bounded by Lake Street, Victory Boulevard and Mariposa Street to the west, San Fernando Boulevard and Amherst Drive to the north, Glenoaks Boulevard and Fifth Street to the east and the city boundary with Glendale to the south. A report on the plan, which was presented to the City Council on Tuesday, is an early step in a roughly yearlong process. A virtual community workshop on the plan is scheduled for November 2020, while plan adoption and implementation are projected for December 2021.
Al died peacefully on October 22, 2020, at the age of 70 after a two-year battle with cancer. Al was born to Betty and Ernie Moore in Burbank, California, and attended grade school, high school and community college in the area. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and honorably served his country. After the war, Al returned to civilian life and his adventuresome spirit took him around the world as a river rafter, where he gained many lifelong friends. Continuing his need to serve, he joined the Burbank Fire Department and met his firefighting family. He loved his work and helping the community. While a firefighter, Al married Anne Pugel, and his life was changed forever! Anne brought with her many siblings and Al grew to know and appreciate the chaos of large family gatherings. Anne and Al shared a love of travel and visited many continents in their 31-year marriage.
Rosa Maldonado’s house is known as “the one that scares people.” Every Halloween, she and her family celebrate by turning their yard on the corner of West Clark Avenue and North Sparks Street into a haunted maze, complete with costumed scarers. Over the past several years, themes have included cannibals, a circus and La Llorona — “the weeping woman” of Latin American folklore. On guests’ way out, they’re given the opportunity to donate to a charity the Maldonados have chosen for that year. It’s a reflection of a major reason why Halloween is so important to them: It was the favorite holiday of Rosa Maldonado’s stepdaughter, who died of cancer when she was 8 years old.
Burbank’s recent announcement that face covering requirements would be enforced with fines was an initiative prompted by community outcry. But while many residents applaud the city for its actions, not everyone is pleased. Operating largely on social media, some members of the Burbank community have argued against the move, or mask rules in general. A now-deleted Facebook post by Burbank eatery Tinhorn Flats Saloon & Grill gained attention from residents and news media for its fiery response to the city’s announcement. “The Burbank City Council is hiring Mall Cops to enforce this mask mandate because the AMAZING BURBANK PD is refusing to enforce this,” the post read. “WE WILL NOT BOW DOWN TO THREATS & FEARS and WE STAND AGAINST the Burbank City Council and their unconstitutional … act.”
The looming COVID-19 pandemic that forced 2020’s State of the City Address to be held virtually rather than in person was a major focus during Mayor Sharon Springer’s speech, but she encouraged residents that the city was adapting to the challenges. The Tuesday speech, titled “Burbank Together, Rays of Light,” took an optimistic tone, though it also acknowledged the threat posed by a coronavirus that has killed more than 220,000 Americans, including dozens of Burbank residents, and caused businesses to shutter. In a prerecorded 12-minute video streamed, clips were shown of Gregg Garfield, whom Springer described as the first person in the city to contract the virus. Personnel interviewed at Providence St. Joseph’s Medical Center said they did not expect Garfield to survive. Fortunately, he recovered weeks later.
Though the Burbank Unified School District made the decision to continue exclusively with distance learning for the wide majority of students through the remainder of the semester, staff members gave stakeholders an idea of what in-person instruction in a world of COVID-19 could look like. Superintendent Matt Hill and other staff members hosted a virtual session on Wednesday about the possible reopening of schools and fielded questions from parents. Right off the bat, Hill said the district is “not expecting any changes right now for this current semester” and that staff is planning for a return to campus when permissible by health officials. “The earliest that we would [reopen campuses] is January,” he said, “but we are not saying January is when we would do that. We do not have a date right now because health conditions change frequently.”
The state agency in charge of overseeing political donations said it is investigating local City Council candidate Paul Herman’s campaign after receiving a report claiming he supported another campaign. The California Fair Political Practices Commission said it received a complaint alleging that Herman’s campaign paid for two Facebook advertisements opposing Measure RC, a local rent regulation measure that is on the ballot for the Nov. 3 election. The complaint argued that the money spent on the ads should have been counted as contributions to Burbank Citizens for Responsible Government, which has filed with the state as an opponent of Measure RC.
Reported unemployment in Burbank continued to fall in September, according to preliminary figures, as the statistics did for Los Angeles County. But four out of 25 in the Burbank labor force remain unemployed. About 9,300 Burbank workers, or 16.1% of the labor force, were unemployed in September, according to recently released statistics by the California Employment Development Department. It was an improvement from August’s preliminary figure of 18.1% or 10,500 unemployed workers, but still by the far the highest for city-level records, which only stretch back as far as 2010. The Pew Research Center noted that the United States, grappling with a global pandemic, has seen the highest unemployment levels of the post-World War II era this year, and possibly since the Great Depression.