Even in Celebrating Honorees, FSA Displays Its Vision

Photo by David Laurell / Burbank Leader
Michael Albanese, Anthony Portantino, Justin Hess and Laurie Bleick gather during the recent presentations of the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award.

For the past 67 years, Family Service Agency of Burbank has cultivated and celebrated relationships with officials in the city and the surrounding area, just as it has with those who have been in need of its counseling and mental health services.
Those relationships were honored as the agency presented the Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award to state Sen. Anthony Portantino and City Manager Justin Hess at the recent 2020 “Imagine a City” fundraiser.
This annual event usually lures more than 300 supporters to gather for a gala evening of silent auction bidding, a sunset cocktail reception, dinner and live music. Though that wasn’t an option this year, the organization did break ground in staging Burbank’s first socially distanced fundraiser since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown began.
Former City Manager Mary Alvord, who served as the co-chair of the event along with Terry Stein, said the FSA Board of Directors gave a lot of thought to figuring out a way to make the evening possible.
“We did the same thing the agency has been doing to serve their clients since the pandemic began,” said Alvord. “We put our heads together and came up with a way to reinvent this event, which serves as our major fundraiser, and still abide by all health and safety protocols.”
This year’s awards ceremony was staged against a backdrop known as the “Field of Hope,” which included hundreds of cutouts representing everyone who purchased a ticket. The event was held at the Olive Ball Fields, where attendees parked in the field’s parking lot and remained in their cars for the presentation of awards while eating a ballpark-inspired box dinner.
Guests were welcomed by Laurie Bleick, the agency’s executive director, and board Chairman Michael Albanese, and the highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Vision Award to Hess and Portantino.
“These two men mean a lot to us at FSA,” Bleick told the drive-up assemblage. “They have inspired me with hope, taken the time to learn what we do, and embody the vision and spirit of Mary Alice O’Connor.”
The Vision Award is given annually to honor the memory, work and spirit of O’Connor, a longtime dedicated community volunteer and founding board member of the agency, who died in 2010.
Serving as the evening’s master of ceremonies, Albanese praised the two honorees for doing “hard work and heavy lifting” in making Burbank a better place.
“They both have a heart to serve, a passion for the work that FSA does, and for people of this community who find themselves in crisis,” said Albanese.
While presenting Portantino with the award, Bleick lauded him for the bravery he has shown in candidly sharing the issues of mental health that have touched his own family by the death of his brother Michael, who took his own life in 2010.
Accepting the award, Portantino in turn praised Bleick and FSA.
“I fell in love with Laurie the first time I met her,” said Portantino. “Along with the dedicated work of her staff, she does so much to help individuals and families and to bring the stigma of mental illness out of the shadows through open and honest conversation.”
Emotionally referencing his late brother, Portantino said that since his death many people have shared similar stories with him of mental illness and suicide within their families.
“When people share their stories with me, we immediately become like members of a family that no one ever wants to be a part of,” said Portantino. “But it is by sharing our personal grief and stories and hope that we can be of invaluable help to one another, just like FSA is to the community at large.”
Hess, who was presented with his award by U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff during a pre-event ceremony two weeks ago at City Hall, said he was honored to receive an award that over the years has been given to so many men and women who have played an instrumental role in providing vital care, assistance and help to so many Burbankers.
“While I’m honored to accept this award, I feel it is really FSA that is to be honored,” said Hess. “They have a spirit and soul that is outstanding. They are the ones that carry out their mission and help everyone — rich, poor, you name it. Mental health issues are so much more prevalent than people realize, and I greatly appreciate what FSA does on a daily basis for those in our community who need their help.”
Among the dignitaries and special guests who came out to honor Portantino and Hess were Burbank Mayor Sharon Springer, Vice Mayor Bob Frutos, City Council members Jess Talamantes and Tim Murphy, and former Mayor Marsha Ramos.
The mission of FSA is to offer quality mental health counseling, care, education and advocacy at low or no cost. The agency has dramatically changed and saved the lives of local individuals, couples and families as well as active and veteran members of the armed forces by providing housing, crisis intervention, legal guidance, safety in the face of domestic violence and hope for those in the grips of mental illness and substance addiction.
For more information about Family Service Agency of Burbank or to make a financial donation, call (818) 845-7671 or visit familyserviceagencyofburbank.org.

David Laurell may be reached at dlaurell@aol.com or (818) 563-1007.

Plenty of Clarity in Voting on Legislators, Ballot Measures

Though the outcome of the presidential election remained unclear as ballots in battleground states continued to be counted on Friday morning, results of most legislative races and ballot measure campaigns in California left little doubt about who or what were the winners.
As of Thursday evening, incumbent state Sen. Anthony Portantino had a firm lead over Kathleen Hazelton — 236,728 votes to 122,979 — and will continue representing District 25, which includes Burbank.
Laura Friedman defeated Mike Graves to continue serving the people of the 43rd Assembly District, receiving nearly 71% of the votes cast.
Adam Schiff will also be reelected as the U.S. representative for the 28th District with 73.58% of the votes in a race against Eric Early.

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Family Service Agency Gala Set for Oct. 24

The Family Service Agency of Burbank’s annual “Imagine a City” gala, which will honor City Manager Justin Hess and state Sen. Anthony Portantino, will be held on Saturday, Oct. 24, at the Olive Ball Fields at Izay Park.
The mission of Family Service Agency is to offer quality mental health counseling, care, education and advocacy at low or no cost. FSA has dramatically changed and saved the lives of local individuals, couples and families as well as active and veteran members of the armed forces by providing housing, crisis intervention, legal guidance, safety in the face of domestic violence and hope for those in the grip of mental illness and substance addiction.
Former City Manager Mary Alvord, who is serving as co-chair of the event along with Terry Stein, said the gala had to be “reimagined to adhere to county safety protocols.”

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Hess Lauded by Agency Imagining an Ever Better City

Photo by David Laurell
Burbank City Manager Justin Hess is FSA’s 2020 Mary Alice O’Connor Vision Award honoree.

It would typically not be a good sign if Burbank City Manager Justin Hess’ secretary Joyce Thompson interrupted his midday business to say he was immediately needed in front of City Hall. It would cause even further concern if, instead of being led through the most direct path via the front doors, he was taken around the corner to approach the front of the building from the side.
That scenario is exactly what took place this past Monday morning.
If Hess’ anxiety level was a bit high as he turned from Third Street onto Olive Avenue, it dropped precipitously when he saw Congressman Adam Schiff, the full complement of the City Council, members of the city’s executive staff and representatives of the Family Service Agency of Burbank welcoming him with applause.

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Glendale Armenians “Inspired by Other People’s Sacrifices”

When local members of the Armenian diaspora woke up on Thursday and began to scour the internet and social media for on-the-ground updates — any news, really — from the front lines of the reignited war between Azerbaijan and the Armenia-backed breakaway state Artsakh, they found pictures of the Holy Savior Cathedral.
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Last Call for City Manager Beers

Photo courtesy city of Glendale
Mayor Vrej Agajanian on Tuesday presented outgoing City Manager Yasmin Beers with a certificate and plaque signifying her retirement after 33 total years working for the city in various capacities.

In reflecting on an entire professional career for the city of Glendale, which culminates in October and is capped by nearly three years as the city’s chief executive, Yasmin Beers recalled telling the City Council when it hired her that this wasn’t the sort of thing that happens by chance.
For starters, she said she had her parents — who “immigrated to the United States for a better life for their daughters” — to thank, alongside her sister, who often took care of Beers’ children while she or her husband were working. Beers also, of course, had to thank her husband, not least because being a city manager means you’re always on call and routinely being contacted by council members or administrators.
And speaking of those administrators, plus Beers’ “partner in crime,” City Attorney Michael Garcia:

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After 33 Years, Beers to Exit

City Manager Yasmin Beers, (center) pictured here at last year’s Work Boot Tuesday event with the fire department, will retire after 33 years working for the city.

Glendale officials will begin searching for a new City Manager Yasmin Beers, (center) pictured here at last year’s Work Boot Tuesday event with the fire department, will retire after 33 years working for the city.city manager after Yasmin Beers announced her pending retirement this week.
Beers, who has spent 33 years working for the city of Glendale in a variety of capacities, said in a statement that she will retire in October. She has served as the city manager since 2018, after having the role on an interim basis starting in November 2017.
“This was not an easy decision for me, and I am grateful to Glendale for the opportunity to serve all these years,” Beers said. “I thank the City Council and community for entrusting me with the position of city manager.”
Beers joined the city in 1987, when she was hired as a part-time employee in the city’s library department while completing high school and enrolled in college. She moved to gradually higher-level positions over more than three decades with the city, reaching the role of deputy city manager in 2000 and assistant city manager in 2010.
The City Council expects to discuss parameters of the search for a new executive during closed session at its upcoming meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

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Portantino’s Workforce Housing Bill Clears Assembly Housing Committee

State Sen. Anthony Portantino
State Sen. Anthony Portantino

State Sen. Anthony Portantino’s SB 1299 passed the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee last week with bipartisan support. The bill previously passed the Senate unanimously.
Portantino has long supported incentive-based legislation and SB 1299 is consistent with that approach, according to a spokesman. The Los Angeles County Business Federation suggested the bill idea to the senator earlier in the year to help address L.A. County’s housing shortage.
According to a Portantino spokesman, SB 1299 will create a program for cities to convert abandoned big-box retail sites into affordable and workforce housing. Under Portantino’s bill, local governments will be able to use these incentives to replace sales tax revenues previously generated from big-box retail stores.
Specifically, SB 1299 will enable local cities to receive from HCD the average of the annual amount of sales tax revenue generated by that site for the last seven years if the site has been converted and occupied with new housing. The city would receive that average amount for a total of seven years.

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Reynolds Selected Woman of Year By State Senator

Dr. Roberta Reynolds

Dr. Roberta Reynolds, a local resident who has served on the Burbank Board of Education since 2007 and recently completed her third term as its president, has been selected by state Sen. Anthony Portantino as the 25th State Senate District’s Woman of the Year, it has been announced.
Each year, the California Legislature recognizes the accomplishments of outstanding women during Women’s History Month. This year, the ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Reynolds has previously served as PTSA president at Burbank High School, president of Burbank Council PTA, vice president of the First District PTA, and Reflections chairperson for First District PTA. Reynolds has been the recipient of a PTA Honorary Service Award from the Burbank High School PTSA, Burbank Council PTA, and First District PTA.
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La Cañada Council Picks Davitt as Mayor; Inducts Eich, Gunter

Michael Davitt

Amid a notable lack of fanfare due to social distancing, Michael Davitt was chosen unanimously as mayor of La Cañada Flintridge at a virtual City Council meeting on Tuesday, which also featured the installation of new members Keith Eich, Rick Gunter and incumbent Terry Walker.

The meeting, which typically would have celebrated the council re-organization after an election, with special recognition to new members and those leaving office — which this term includes Gregory Brown and Leonard Pieroni — was held quickly and from the privacy of separate locations.

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