Glut of Applications Helps City Fill Board Vacancies

Back in City Hall for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, the Burbank City Council sifted through a record number of applications for municipal boards and commissions since at least the past decade.

Burbank community members filed 123 applications to serve on city commissions or boards since early May — the highest number for midyear appointments since at least 2011.

Because of the explosive interest in the positions, the Burbank City Council easily filled the 27 vacant volunteer roles during its meeting on Tuesday. The number of applications from which the council selected were more than twice the number received last year: 51. The closest the city has been to reaching this period’s number of submissions, according to an analysis by the Leader, was in 2013, when community members sent in 99 applications.

“This is the most applicants [I’ve seen] in the seven years I’ve been privileged to serve on the council,” Mayor Bob Frutos said on Tuesday — when the panel returned to City Hall after a long period of remote meetings due to the coronavirus pandemic — following a lengthy appointment process involving multiple rounds of voting. “Even we on council had a difficult time finding consensus in our own views because there’s so many talented people.”

The Leader counted submissions in which an applicant named two boards or commissions — as is the case when a community member expresses interest in serving on either panel — as two separate filings. The 123 applications were received since May 3.

The city usually opens applications at points throughout the year to fill seats vacated by commissioners and board members who leave before completing their terms. But the bulk of the appointments occur at an annual meeting near the middle of the calendar year.

The Police Commission will undergo arguably the most visible change among the panels when the new members take their positions next month, being the only group this year that did not have any incumbents reapply for consideration. The advisory group received the most applications, 27, in its first appointment process since last year’s summer protests sparked widespread calls for racial justice and police reform.

Indeed, several applicants for the commission who addressed the City Council during public comment on Tuesday cited the need for more diversity. Others said the commission would benefit from having more community members who are not current or former law enforcement personnel.

“After the murder of George Floyd, I as well as many others were very upset at the broken records that seems to keep on playing in this country, as well as some of the incidents that have happened recently here in the city around race,” local resident Africa Turner told the City Council shortly before being appointed to the Police Commission. “I needed and wanted to play an active role in creating changes that will helpfully be stepping stones to a more just system for all.”

Turner, who is Black, did not elaborate on the incidents to which she referred. She is a member of the Burbank Unified School District’s diversity, equity and inclusion subcommittee, according to her application. Other new members of the commission include a Los Angeles County mental health clinician, a data analyst and a founder of Burbank for Armenia.

The three departing members of the commission appear to collectively have the most law enforcement experience of the current group. One is a former deputy district attorney for Los Angeles County, while the other two have worked as police officers.

Though the commission had the most candidates of any panel this week, the Park, Recreation and Community Services Board had the highest application-to-vacancy ratio, with eight residents for each opening. That group was followed by the Burbank Cultural Arts Commission, which had about 5.75 applications per vacancy. The Police Commission had an average of 5.4 applications per vacancy.

All six boards and commissions that had vacancies this year saw an increase in that ratio. City Clerk Zizette Mullins attributed the large number of applications to her office’s intensive promotion of the openings and emerging interest as officials lift pandemic-related restrictions.

“After … COVID, everyone is really excited,” she told the Leader. “They want to go out and serve the community and see what they can do to make a difference.”