By John Samuel
In the best actor category, there are five nominees…the five City Council Members.
And, now, may I have the envelope please?
Before we reveal who the award goes to, please permit me to let the suspense build while I give you a little background on the City of Glendale’s City Council Members’ actions in the past month and one half.
Last month (May), the Council held three Budget Study sessions to listen to the City Staff present their documents and recommendations for the future budget year 2020 – 2021.
These budget sessions were rather bland and painted a very unreasonable rosey picture of the coming fiscal year. Only one Council Member was concerned that the budget remained bloated and did not take into account the for sure loss of City revenues due to the Pandemic lock down of businesses and the resulting loss of sales tax revenues and other fees. Councilman Dan Brotman was the only person to recommend the City cut back on spending…he suggested, at a minimum, to have a plan in place should the City’s funding fall short of the optimistic opinions of the other Council Members and staff.
In the past, as I recall, there were usually more than the three, three hour sessions they had this time. It almost appeared the three sessions were more for show than actually putting together a workable budget. As I saw it, the City Manager, Yasmin Beers, pretty much presented what staff put together and just expected the Council to approve it.
The only Council Member who asked any questions of value about the budget was Dan Brotman. It was obvious he did his homework and had legitimate questions. The other Council Members appeared to just be along for the ride. One session that was teleconferenced, for three hours of the session I never heard Councilman Ardy Kasskhian participate. At the very end, he telephoned in and asked some questions that were so worthless I didn’t even note or remember them.
Mentioning Councilman Kassakhian, it should be noted that the Glendale Coalition for Better Government endorsed him for the position in the last election and the Coalition put their money where their mouth was and spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of volunteer time supporting him. He won his position by a very narrow margin of only 106 votes. His City Council campaign was based on fiscal responsibility and repeatedly told the Coalition he supported the organization and its goals. Had the Coalition not believed in him and supported him, it’s very probable that he would not have those 106 votes and therefore his winning position.
At the Candidate Forums prior to the last election, Candidate Kassakhian mentioned several ideas he had to improve the City. One he mentioned several times was to increase the number of School Resource Police Officers for student safety. However, in the budget sessions he never mentioned or suggested it. Campaign requests/promises unfulfilled?
The Budget Study Sessions all culminated in a vote to officially approve the budget at the scheduled Council Meeting held last Tuesday, June 2nd.
Stay with me, I’m getting to the awards.
At that Council Meeting, the true character/agenda of each Council Member became so obvious.
On the meeting agenda was the City Budget itself plus a couple of other issues related to the budget that required a vote to go into effect.
The initial motion suggested by Mayor Vrej Agajanian was to pass all the items with one vote. Only Council woman Paula Devine didn’t like that and requested that the issue of the transfer of electric utility fees to be used as taxes in the General Fund in the amount of 18 million dollars be voted on separately. She was uncomfortable that those utility rate fees were being used as taxes and utility rate payers were paying them. Councilman Brotman was in agreement with Devine.
Mayor Agajanian seemed confused by the issue and stated maybe it should be reduced to 12 million dollars. But he presented a weak position.
Note: The Glendale Coalition for Better Government has had an ongoing law suit against the City for that illegal transfer of utility fees and it is still in the Courts after 7 years. The suit has not yet been settled even though the Superior Court declared the Transfer in violation of State Law.
When the Transfer came to a vote, Devine and Brotman voted, NO. Wlith the other three Council Members voting, Yes, and Councilman Kassakhian strongly lobbying the No votes urging them to vote, Yes, to make the transfer…remember he had told the Coalition that he was opposed to the Transfer prior to his election.
Then the entire Budget (a bit over 900 million dollars) came up for a vote. Again, the vote was three to two. Devine and Brotman both voted No and suffered a tongue lashing from Councilman Najarian, who continually states that “Glendale has the best employees money can buy.” When anyone suggests cutting the budget, Najarian always wants to know how many fire and police personnel should be cut?? I question: Why always public safety? What about the City Attorney’s bloated department, or the City Manager’s staff, or…well, pick a department, there are many that could be cut before Public Safety is cut.
City Manager, Yasmin Beers, repeatedly told the Council, “Just go ahead and approve what staff has given you…it is a working document and you can change it anytime in the future if you choose to.”
A “working document” that can be changed at any time? I thought it was supposed to be a complete budget for a whole fiscal year? Change it anytime?? What I heard was: Just approve it…staff knows what is best! Obviously, City Manager Beers would like a rubber stamp Council subservient to City Staff!!
With the final vote on the Budget, Najarian grandstanded in a blusterous manner and threatened both Devine and Brotman that he would “remember the vote” and threatened that there would be a price to pay in the future.
I know, I know, open the envelope!! Who wins best actor??
Note that the best actor is someone who pretends to be someone else (acting) and is most convincing.
OK, and the winner is:
Newly elected City Councilman Ardy Kassakhian.
You fooled me and many others.
I believed you when you said you would be active on Council, a fiscal conservative, and a supporter of the Glendale Coalition for Better Government.
And, now the Oscar for the Best Supporting Actor:
The envelope please.
The winner is Councilman Ara Najarian.
Winning was easy for him because he isn’t acting. He advocates for more spending, supported by developers, advocates for the City Employee Unions, and bullying those on Council who don’t go along with him.
The real awards should go to the two Council members who stood up for the Citizens and Businesses and were concerned about fiscal responsibility.
Councilwoman Paula Devine, Councilman Dan Brotman