Change could be coming to Burbank, according to the two new City Council members its residents elected.
Both Konstantine Anthony and Nick Schultz ran on progressive platforms that included ideas involving police reform and increased resources for people experiencing homelessness, and pledged to help the city recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We absolutely need change in the city,” Anthony said, pointing out that only two of the eight candidates, himself included, had run for a seat on the panel before. “There is not a single person I’ve talked to who didn’t have something that they needed changed in this city. It was a change election. So let’s do it — let’s make some change.”
Anthony, who earned the most votes this election, 17,529, said he wants to see major changes to “the way we invest in our city,” adding that he believes the council needs to make the kind of major changes to the city budget that it did during the 2008 financial crisis.
He expressed interest in providing tax credits to small businesses, a move he believes would aid workers and help people pay rents and mortgages.
Levying a parcel tax of 15 cents per square foot on properties bigger than 1,500 square feet could also help put more money back into the city, Anthony said. A similar measure from the Burbank Unified School District was proposed to voters in March, but fell about 2.5% short of the 66.67% approval threshold it needed.
Schultz, who won 13,105 votes, emphasized the importance of adapting to changes wrought by the pandemic. A potential solution, he said, is creating an economic recovery task force that includes the voices of front-line workers and business owners.
The city has an economic recovery plan, but both Konstantine and Schultz said additional steps need to be taken.
“An economic recovery plan is just that — it’s a plan,” Schultz explained. “But what we really need are experts and stakeholders, right here in the community, at the table with City Council to advise us.”
MEMBERS TALK HOMELESSNESS, POLICE
Schultz also acknowledged that Burbank’s tumultuous financial situation could make pursuing solutions for homelessness difficult, but said he is open to the idea of starting the city’s first homeless shelter.
He also pointed to programs like those of the Burbank Temporary Aid Center and StreetPlus, adding that he would like to see them expanded or given more resources.
“If there’s anything that I would like the voters to know moving forward,” Schultz said, “it’s that I do want to try bold and new things, but I also want to make sure we’re not reinventing the wheel needlessly.”
Konstantine, who said he has been homeless three times, wants residents to think about what services they would want in place if they could no longer afford a place to live.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is that, in today’s economy, the average Burbanker is closer to being homeless than they are to being a millionaire,” he added.
Like Schultz, Konstantine wants to see the BTAC nonprofit provided with more resources, and also expressed interest in having a homeless shelter in Burbank.
He also noted that he believes officers should be removed from the Burbank Police Department’s Mental Health Evaluation Team, leaving it staffed only with Los Angeles County clinicians. Burbank’s Police Commission recently decided not to recommend such a move to the City Council, citing safety concerns voiced by officers and mental health workers. But Konstantine argues that people experiencing a mental health crisis could be intimidated by the presence of armed officers.
Konstantine also said he wants to make sure the BPD isn’t spending money on unnecessary equipment. Noting that racial justice activists have been calling on cities to “defund the police,” Konstantine explained, “for me, as a white man, it’s not my place to change the messaging or tell people what to do differently. It’s to take the phrase … and [think], ‘How do I implement that in Burbank?’”
Schultz, a California deputy attorney general, has pledged to provide the BPD and Burbank Fire Department with the “equipment that they need to do their jobs safely and go home.”
But he added that he wants to see more diversity in city commissions and committees, saying that while he applauds the officers at the BPD, he has also talked to community members who have had negative experiences with the department.
“When you bring people with lived experience and different perspectives to the table, they’re going to have ideas and input that maybe I and others missed,” he explained.
NEWCOMERS SEEK UNITY
Schultz is a relatively new resident of Burbank, having moved to the city’s Rancho neighborhood with his wife in March. But he has been involved in the Burbank Democratic Club since 2016, and remains on the related Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley executive board.
He explained that he decided to run for City Council because he believed he had the work ethic and regional connections necessary to serve his local community, calling his new role “the most demanding and consequential experience of my life.”
“I walked into this experience knowing how steep of a hill we have to climb and knowing the immensity of the challenges at hand,” Schultz said. “I understand that and I’ve been preparing for it.”
Anthony, a member of the city’s Transportation Commission and a Democratic Socialist who was a part of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign four years ago, first ran for City Council in 2017, fueled by a sense of unease after Donald Trump was elected.
That time, Anthony lost the primary election, but through his conversations with residents, he started building a platform of rent control and police reform.
This election was different; Anthony quickly became the front-runner and held on to his ranking.
“The amount of votes that I won by … has given me a clear directive that the voters of this city agree with me on a vast multitude of policies and ideas,” he said. “And we’re going to push every single one of them.”
At the same time, Anthony and Schultz both stressed the need for consensus building on the council as well as in the larger community.
Anthony pointed out that some members of the community were adamantly opposed to him, with YouTube videos from a local resident serving as attack ads against the candidate.
“I never let that affect me,” he said, “And I will say to people who saw the messaging, got maybe a surface view of who I am or what my policies are … once you get to know me and understand what I’m working toward, I guarantee we have a lot more in common than you think.”
Schultz spoke in a similar vein, saying that he feels confident he can convince his fellow council members of his ideas’ merit, though he added he is happy to hear their suggestions for improvement.
The soon-to-be council member also said he plans to keep in contact with his constituents via monthly events and newsletters so he can hear their ideas as well.
“I don’t want to be the guy who just ran for election, goes to office and they don’t hear from him for three and a half years,” he explained. “If someone else has a better idea, a better way to do business, I want to make it clear that my door is always open.”