After weeks of pressure from some residents — and a bit of backlash from others — the Burbank City Council directed municipal staff members to create a fine enforcing face covering guidelines. The staff still needs to draft an order that the city manager will give, but it will be shaped according to directions the council gave on Tuesday. Notably, the order will not be administered by the Burbank Police Department, something the agency strongly opposed when the matter was raised at previous meetings.
There will be eight Burbank residents running for two open City Council seats in November, with three people looking to nab the position of city treasurer. Local voters will cast their ballots on Nov. 3, with the newly elected council members holding their seats for four years and the treasurer holding his or her seat for two years to finish the unexpired term of former City Treasurer Debbie Kukta. Each candidate submitted a statement to The Leader for publication, explaining why he or she should be elected to a city position.
Burbank City Council hopeful Nick Schultz raised more than $25,000 in campaign contributions from May 3 to June 30, according to city records, by far the most for any current council candidate for the first period in which donations were reported. The California deputy attorney general’s campaign gained $7,000 of those funds through a loan from himself and an additional $500 of his own money during that period. Contributions could not be received before May 3. Among donations of more than $100 — which require identification of the donor — only $550 came from people with Burbank addresses, not including Schultz himself. Disability services provider Konstantine Anthony had the second-most campaign dollars at nearly $15,500, including a total of $1,000 from himself and his treasurer. He also had the highest percentage of small-dollar donations, with about 27% of contributions he received during the period being less than $100.
After hearing from some residents who voiced frustration that the topic hadn’t been discussed, the Burbank City Council will review the possibility of fining people who don’t adhere to face covering requirements. Council members Emily Gabel-Luddy and Timothy Murphy led the push during the panel’s Tuesday meeting to return a report on the subject to the agenda. The matter is scheduled to be discussed when the council next meets on Sept. 15. The report, drafted by the Burbank Police Department, had been placed on the agenda before the council’s Aug. 11 meeting after Councilman Jess Talamantes requested it. But when the meeting began, Talamantes abruptly pulled the item, later saying he “didn’t feel it was the right time to discuss it.”
A few months ago, Rachele Rivera was successfully running her business, a Burbank workout studio named Fitness is Art. But then the pandemic hit, forcing gyms across the state to shutter. Now, Rivera is taking a cross-country road trip to Florida, where she plans to stay with family. As she drives through the United States with her two Pomeranians, the rent on her studio continues to pile up. “The pandemic was stressful enough, obviously,” she said in a recent phone interview. Rivera tried to persuade her landlord to decrease her rent when it appeared — briefly — that gyms could reopen in June. Many of her clients became unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she told him, and she wasn’t making enough money from online classes to pay him the full $3,800 a month she owed.
Roughly a month after the Burbank City Council instituted permit-only parking in Starlight Estates after residents complained about speeding and loitering there, the situation seems to have improved. According to the Burbank Police Department, the number of citations in the area fell from 48 in June to 38 last month as of July 28 as the parking policy took hold. The total number of police activities in the area also declined. In June there were 191 activities, compared with 132 as of late July. Calls for service in Starlight Estates also dropped by more than 28% as of July 28. Sako Semizyan, who has lived in Starlight Estates for roughly 15 years, said there are “not as many [issues]. It did help a lot.”
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”