The Issues Facing Burbank
Below are the issues that I feel accurately reflect the urgent needs of our community in these trying times. I also want to know what you think. If you have
any questions or ideas about these or any issues important to you, don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing me at KonstantineAnthony@gmail.com.
PROTECTING OUR RESIDENTS AND WORKERS
Though COVID-19 has put many states to the test, California has responded well, through safer-at-home guidelines and keeping our community informed and free from preventable outbreaks.
We must be prepared to get back to business as usual by implementing a worker retention ordinance that includes a right of recall for all airport, janitorial and security, and hotel employees. When rehiring workers, seniority must be taken into consideration as well as prior pay rates, salaries, and benefits.
Many businesses have the wherewithal to implement these policies on their own, but we must prevent unscrupulous entities from further eroding our seasoned community of workers.
Of course, the largest uncertainty weighing on everyone’s minds is whether or not they can afford to pay their back-due rents and mortgages. I will work with state and federal leaders to cancel all rents and allow forbearance on qualifying mortgage payments for renters, homeowners, and small businesses.
In addition, I believe Burbank during this trying time would be in a prime position to implement the kind of local universal basic income (UBI) pilot program seen in Stockton, California. We are a city with a large income gap between rich and poor, so as council member, I will push the city to explore UBI in the form of a small pilot program.
STABILITY & EQUITY FOR WORKING FAMILIES
First and foremost, we must address the high cost of housing here in Burbank. In fact, all of Los Angeles County experienced a surge in demand for housing, but Burbank has refused to meet the growing demand for many years. Our current city council has already begun to increase housing production, and I applaud them for that. But with no affordable housing requirement on the books, most new units are well above market rate and many are being categorized as “luxury apartments.” We must demand that 20% of all new housing units be deed-restricted as affordable housing for moderate-, low-, and very low-income residents.
This new construction will take some years to affect the current housing market, and realistically, we can’t wait for the market to correct itself. We need protections in place now, to keep people from being pushed out onto the street.
That is why I support Measure RC, also known as “2020 Burbank Just Cause Eviction and Rent Regulation Measure,” a local measure that will appear first on our November 3rd ballot. I am a co-author on this measure, and I collected over 3,000 signatures for its inclusion in this year’s general election.
The rental market is not the only collection of housing affected by the shortage of supply. Our home sales are skyrocketing, and young families with good jobs and down payments for their first homes are being priced out of the market. They can’t compete with the corporate real estate purchasers and out-of-state cash buyers who care nothing for the community of our city and only seek to gain capital investment. To combat this, we must require certain large-scale developments to include for-sale housing.
In addition, California’s new public banking law allows for Burbank to utilize the city’s general fund to offer low-interest-rate loans to those who need a competitive edge against large corporate buyers. This will not cost the city any money, and in fact could increase revenue on the small-interest loans it provides. The general fund could also be used to aid a building’s tenants in purchasing said building in order to convert it into a housing co-op. To assist in this, city council should enact a right of first refusal on all non-owner-occupied rental properties.
Photo by Ev on Unsplash
IMPLEMENTING THE HOUSING FIRST MODEL
Burbank is one of the last LA-county cities without emergency bridge housing. As we’re well aware, we are facing an unprecedented homelessness crisis resulting from the lack of affordable housing across LA County and the rest of the state, coupled with wages that have stagnated for years. While most of the housing policies I support seek to keep people in their homes, we must also address those who have fallen by the wayside and now live unhoused in our parks, under our roadways, and in vehicles across the city. No amount of affordable housing can help someone off the streets once they are chronically homeless, which can happen in as little as a few months.
From personal experience, I can tell you that homelessness is a multifaceted issue, and no one method will bring every individual in off the street. As a community, we must be prepared to address each unhoused resident’s needs.
When I was living in my car in 2015, I worked paycheck to paycheck to save up for a security deposit and first month’s rent on a new apartment. With the help of some friends and a clear plan to move forward, I was able to remain in Burbank. I never thought that I could become homeless while I had a job or that an abusive relationship could result in such economic hardship. As a disabled American and a survivor of domestic violence, I can see now that so many of our fellow Burbankers are one bad day away from being out in the cold. As a community, we must be prepared to address each individual’s unique needs to both prevent potential homelessness and guide our lost neighbors back into safety.
It’s time we built a fully functional homeless shelter in the city of Burbank, based on the Housing First model, that is connected to all available wrap-around services with case management and seamless integration with county programs. One way to achieve this is to work with Ascencia in Glendale to set up a Burbank satellite of their main shelter. Ascencia’s outreach and proven results give us a model for what we can achieve in Burbank. A shelter would add a vital component to our city’s existing Homelessness Plan, which includes a social outreach team from StreetPlus and the services of nonprofit organizations like Burbank Temporary Aid Center (BTAC), Family Promise of the Verdugos, and Burbank Housing Corporation.
We don't need to reinvent the wheel, we just need more tires on the ground.
Transportation & Infrastructure
Photo by Yonghokim used under Creative Commons license
A MULTI-MODAL COMMUTE BENEFITS EVERYONE
For decades, Burbank has prioritized driving above all other modes of transportation. This strategy has left us with congestion and traffic every morning and evening, with very few walkable areas around town. The city has ignored active commuters and mobility for the disabled, and Burbank has failed to connect its transit hubs and bike paths.
Safety, not speed, should be our guiding principle when we design roadways. I’m in favor of the “Complete Our Streets” project that our city council recently approved. As the current Chair of the Transportation Commission, I was proud to help shape this legislation. A city becomes more welcoming and its residents happier when walking and biking are given the same consideration as driving. And, I am strongly in favor of protecting our horse trails and keeping them separate from bike paths, which is safer for both users.
Our city needs to build on the success of the Chandler Bikeway and the walkability of downtown. I will prioritize connecting all city bike paths into one seamless system. I want to see buses running every 15 minutes every day, including weekends, and every 10 minutes during commute hours.
We must also invest in quiet zones at the handful of remaining rail crossings that don’t have them, to end train horns’ significant disruption of our neighbors’ daily lives.
When the new NoHo-to-Pasadena Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) rolls out, I will advocate for a dedicated bus lane during commute hours to maximize efficiency. Decades of data from urban planners show that this will reduce congestion, since fewer cars are needed to move the same number of people. In addition, I would like the upcoming Magnolia Park Circulator to be free of charge to users and for each student, senior, and PASS Program participant to have a free bus pass for all city buses. This will increase ridership in the economic centers of our city and open transportation opportunities to residents with the least access to a car. I will also work with the LA Metro board to eliminate duplication of service and demand a portion of their federal and state Transit Operations Funding, of which we currently receive none.
For the safety of our pedestrians and bicyclists, we need more than paint. We need wider sidewalks, physically separated bike lanes, and a prioritization of safety over speed for all congested intersections. We can reduce our roadway casualties to zero with a strong transportation policy based on proven strategies.
The current pandemic has also created a drastic need for residents to be able to work from home. If we want to cut down the number of workers who have to commute into an office every day, we must expand our municipal fiber optic internet service, ONE Burbank, to all residential neighborhoods. A citywide Wi-Fi network with capabilities up to 1 GBPS would be able to support most types of media or tech industry jobs remotely.
USE-OF-FORCE LAWS AND DEMILITARIZATION
Just last year, our local police force received high marks for their use-of-force policies and misconduct investigations. But historically, this has not always been true. Less than a decade ago, the department had been investigated for racism, sexism, and gross misconduct.
As council member, I will support the implementation of common-sense limits on police, including the eight policy recommendations from The Police Use of Force Project. Currently, the Burbank Police Department policy only includes four. (See figure 1.)
I will not vote for a city budget that funds military surplus equipment for our patrol officers. Residents should not have to see officers walking the streets outfitted like SWAT. We must defund the militarization of our local police force to foster goodwill.
I am against all forms of predictive policing and qualified immunity for government agencies, as these systems are known to be biased against people of color. As council member, I will use my voice and influence to help enact the Ending Qualified Immunity Act. We must also decouple our Burbank Mental Health Evaluation team from our police department, in an effort to end the criminalization of the mentally ill and unhoused. Facial recognition software should not be used by police departments, so I will also push to permanently shelve California Assembly Bill 2261 (“Facial Recognition Regulation Bill”).
I will push to remove all police presence from our schools and instead encourage community engagement by increasing local recruitment efforts at our high schools and nearby colleges. In addition, I will vote to add a $350/month housing credit to our city budget for all uniformed officers who choose to live within the city limits. We should do everything we can to make wearing that badge synonymous with being a part of this community.
Lastly, in response to the most recent curfews across the country: I am against the enactment of all curfews during peace-time. We are not at war with our fellow citizens, and creating arbitrary curfews out of fear only turns regular people into criminals. We must evolve our justice system away from the criminality mindset and towards the community mindset.
Figure 1. Results for Burbank, CA on 8cantwait.org
Environment & Clean Energy
THE GREEN NEW DEAL BEGINS LOCALLY
We often think of the climate crisis as a global problem in the distant future, but its impacts and causes happen at street level, right here in Burbank.
California’s wind speeds are higher than ever before. They’re strong enough to bring down electric transmission lines, and if those lines are live on impact, they easily cause wildfires. By the same token, implementing preemptive shutoffs can cause blackouts. Burbank currently imports most of its electricity along transmission lines, but we can reduce the risk of fires and blackouts by producing more solar energy locally. Plus, the increasing frequency of droughts has been making wildfires worse and threatens the security of Burbank’s water supply, which is almost all imported.
Burbankers understand that climate change is real and that it disproportionately affects marginalized communities in every neighborhood, including our own. But we don’t need to wait for state or federal permission to take action in Burbank. Every elected official at every level of government must sign onto the Green New Deal.
The content of our city’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Plan (GGRP) has not been updated since 2013 and does not comply with current state regulations. The goals we’re trying to reach are based on 2006 standards. In 2016, Governor Brown approved a greenhouse gas update to the state’s Health and Safety Code that Burbank has yet to include in its own environmental standards. This new code requires our GHG emissions to be reduced to a level at or below 40% of the state’s limit by 2030. By willfully ignoring the current standards, city officials allow themselves to claim they’ve achieved 95% of the 2020 Measure GHG reduction goal. This blatant omission of current standards results in a falsification of our city’s true progress.
It’s time we start using the same measurement tools as the rest of California and adopt the current GHG reduction standard set by SB 32 in 2016. In addition, we must establish the position of sustainability coordinator, who reports directly to the city manager, to allow for environmental oversight on all departments as recommended by the Burbank Sustainability Commission in this letter (PDF). And, let us not forget that the single most effective way to improve our city’s carbon footprint is to target the transportation sector.
As part of my environmental policy platform, I want to maintain the ban on herbicides (RoundUp) in our parks, and to extend the ban to sidewalks, medians, and alleyways – not only to protect our residents but to keep our city employees safe from known carcinogens.
Burbank must emerge as a leader in clean energy, and that means tackling the issues of battery storage and transmission line purchases. As we move toward solar power, the main concern becomes energy availability overnight and during cloudy days. This is a major issue that environmental scientists are working to solve, and great strides have been made with local battery storage technology. Wind power has its own issues with carrying energy across great distances to serve communities far removed from turbine fields. Because Burbank does not directly control land that can be used for solar and wind farms, we must negotiate with our neighboring cities of Glendale and Los Angeles to secure power from solar and wind fields out East and demand the end to all fossil fuels from the Intermountain Power Plant in Utah.
To lower our dependence on outside energy, I’m in favor of adding solar technology to available roof-space, paying ratepayers back for lowering their peak electricity usage, and offering new incentives for residential and commercial solar installation. I believe every new Burbank development should be all-electric. As a city, we must resolve to fill new, clean energy jobs with former fossil fuel industry workers throughout our city departments to ensure a just transition. In addition, I feel Burbank must commit to 100% clean electricity by 2030.
We live in one of the most creative and innovative cities in the world, and the advancements we can achieve shall shine as a beacon to other cities engaged in the climate crisis facing all of us.
BACK TO BURBANK’S ROOTS
We have so many high-paying jobs in Burbank that it’s easy to forget many of our workers live paycheck to paycheck on minimum-wage salaries. With such a robust local economy, our everyday employees should not be forced to work long hours at multiple jobs to earn a decent living. There are tried-and-true methods we can take as a city to benefit the working conditions and local economy for our community.
We must return to our roots as a union town and only invite into our city new businesses that already have collective bargaining agreements with their employees.
We must also work to organize local industries that aren’t currently represented by unions, the foremost of which must be our booming hotel industry. And to help raise the tide for all boats, I will introduce a $1 increase to the minimum wage for businesses with more than 10 employees, and an additional $1 increase for businesses over 25 employees. (See figure 2.)
Figure 2. Minimum wage increase proposal
As standard policy, I believe all city contracts must use firms that employ workers at the prevailing wage, and all city development projects must utilize union labor.
In addition, Burbank City Council must adopt a Community Workforce Agreement favorable to the building and trade associations that construct and maintain our city. This agreement should include a 30% minimum requirement for local hires, 10% minimum requirement for veteran workers, and a 10% minimum requirement for contracting minority-owned businesses.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
ENDING SYSTEMIC OPPRESSION LOCALLY
We know that Burbank has historically had its share of bigoted practices, from redlining to Prop 8. The exclusion of minorities in Burbank has led to generational gaps in wealth and power. Burbank’s first female council member was elected in 1979, and two women had never served simultaneously until 2017. The city must take steps to remove these systemically unjust practices. For instance, I would like to update our police department’s policies to identify known slurs against all protected classes, in order to designate and report hate crimes. And, we must also ensure that our city is designed for universal access to all peoples, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, age, or disability.
Black, Indigenous, and People of Color
Ban the Box: The city should work with local businesses to ensure that they are complying with California’s AB 1008, which bans employers from asking about criminal history during the application period.
Small businesses: During our post-pandemic economic recovery, the city must allow BIPOC-owned businesses to receive priority consideration for any benefits.
Police data: Our police department policy must include gathering and recording demographic data on all stops, not just those that lead to arrest (as is the current policy and practice).
Education: Burbank must end the practice of police in schools, and I will only vote for a city budget that eliminates the position of school resource officer.
Hiring practices: We must ensure our city departments create a new system of targeted outreach to networks of BIPOC candidates for employment. In addition, if this year’s Prop 16 passes, I will vote to approve a refreshed hiring policy with specific guidelines to increase diversity in our employees and department heads.
Language justice: Translations of public broadcasts and closed-circuit feeds of public city meetings should be available in any of Burbank’s most common languages according to the current census.
City code: I will direct city staff to comb through our decades-old city code to identify and revise outdated language in terms of gender and sexuality.
Restroom equality: The city should engage with local businesses to ensure compliance with AB 1732 to prevent gender discrimination in commercial spaces.
Homeless services equality: LA County has a high number of LGBTQIA teen runaways, and Burbank staff must be trained to address the specific needs of these young people through a gendered, trauma-informed lens.
Treating all genders with respect: I will push for training in all public service departments (fire, police, parks & recreation, etc) on trans rights and gender nonconformity. In addition, I will work to ensure that same training is in place in any new emergency bridge housing and all current transitional housing, to treat our LGBTQIA residents and victims of domestic violence with respect and sensitivity to their unique needs and gender identification.
Protocol for transgender inmates: I applaud the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for their updated guidelines regarding transgender inmates. During standard protocol in Burbank, trans residents are not always treated with a gendered lens, and I would like to change that.
Outsmart bullying: LGBTQIA students face bullying and harassment every day in our public schools, which is why I’m a big fan of the work being done by the GSA Clubs on certain campuses in our district. I would endorse a school board vote to expand the GSA presence to include every middle and high school. Our trans and gender-diverse students deal with an extra level of scrutiny due to bathroom policies and binary-gendered requirements for physical education. I would endorse a school board policy that creates detailed transgender and gender-diverse guidelines to address the needs of these students.
Equal benefits workplace: For our city employees, I will propose that all employment contracts include equal benefits for all domestic partners. In addition, I will negotiate for city employment contracts that include health benefits with coverage for mental health, gender dysphoria, hormone therapy, and gender affirmation surgery.
People with Disabilities
Mobility needs: When someone who uses a mobility device attends a city council meeting, they must take the elevator down to the first floor to reach city hall’s accessible bathroom. All new construction must be designed to fit all modes of movement, and we must incentivize the retrofitting of older buildings to meet modern standards.
Deaf & hard of hearing: The city has recently included assistive listening devices for use during public meetings, but the technology used is unreliable and low-quality. I will be sure to carve out a line item in the upcoming city budget for modern assistive listening devices and closed captioning on all public broadcasts and closed-circuit feeds during meetings. I will also ensure that we always have at least one fluent ASL interpreter on staff.
Visually impaired: City buildings and parks need braille and high-contrast signage.
Burbank’s Small Businesses
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
HOW TO SAVE MAGNOLIA PARK
Burbank’s Magnolia Park clearly represents the failures of a city that ignores its small businesses. If we do nothing, Magnolia Boulevard will go the way of the Sunset Strip, which has lost all of its local charm and is now full of national chains. We must utilize a new, comprehensive economic strategy to help our mom & pops compete with national chains.
First and foremost, our 2018 sales tax increase (Measure P) hurt small businesses the most, and we must rebalance the scales back toward our local shops. I propose that we refund 80% of our most recent local sales tax increase on all receipts up to a million dollars to locally incorporated businesses with fewer than 10 employees (excluding franchises and chains). This could mean up to $6,000 in yearly rebates for qualifying businesses.
In the upcoming election, Proposition 15, also known as Schools & Communities First, will appear on the ballot, which proposes to equalize large business’ property tax rates to 2020 levels. This will increase the city’s property tax revenue and give our general fund a much-needed boost.
Let’s put this money to good use and channel it back into the community with property tax credits for qualified small businesses. If this ballot measure passes, I would like to refund 33% of our local share of property tax revenue back to the small businesses who own their properties and qualify for the above-mentioned sales tax rebate.
One of the major reasons small businesses like those in Magnolia Park fail is due to the volatile market of commercial rents. The businesses we see thriving are the ones that own their own property, and we must do all we can to encourage local ownership. To that end, I propose a commercial parcel-splitting policy for large properties that rent space to multiple small businesses. We must break up the large corporate ownership of entire blocks of real estate in our commercial corridors. In addition, we must guarantee a small business’s right to the first opportunity to purchase their lot when it goes on the market.
To help make property ownership more accessible to small businesses, I propose making use of the recent California public banking law. This would allow the City of Burbank to offer low-interest loans to qualified small businesses and help them realize their dreams of true ownership.
And lastly, we should expand our small business industry to include cannabis dispensaries. Many of our elderly and chronically ill residents already have cannabis products delivered to their door from North Hollywood. None of that tax revenue goes to Burbank’s general fund, which is how we pay for the maintenance and upkeep of the very streets being used for these deliveries. It’s time for Burbank to adopt a cannabis ordinance similar to Long Beach’s recent ordinance. Successful small businesses should be cultivated, not relegated to our neighboring cities.
Supporting Burbank Schools
INVESTING IN THE NEXT GENERATION
This year, the Burbank Unified School District cut $3.8 million from their budget due to a lack of funding caused by a combination of factors: an outdated state funding formula, unfunded pension liability, and the failure of two recent attempts to pass a parcel tax measure. Similar cities in LA County are suffering the same fate yet have found ways to fund the shortfalls.
Pasadena, a city similar in size and demographics to Burbank, recently passed a sales tax measure and an ordinance that dedicates 30% of that revenue to the city’s school district. That same year, Burbank passed its own sales tax increase, yet has not planned to transfer any of that revenue to our struggling school district. We need actionable solutions now to address the needs of our students and teachers. I will push for a one-time transfer of at least $4 million to immediately shore up the school district’s budget. I will also push for one or more of the following: a parcel tax measure exempting small businesses and parcels of lower value, a Transient Occupancy Tax increase of 2%, and an “Amazon tax” levied on big corporations as was recently passed in Seattle. For this reason, I am publicly endorsing Prop 15 (Schools and Communities First) in the hopes that it will fully fund the budgetary needs of our school district.
Media Jobs Fair
photo by Junkyardsparkle under Creative Commons license
CONNECTING STUDIOS WITH LOCAL PROFESSIONALS
California’s Assembly Bill 19 from 2017 created many opportunities for free community college throughout the state.
I would like to create partnerships between the city and local employers to incentivize scholarships in higher education for local residents working in those industries, with the promise of employment in those fields.
This will be a key component of the annual jobs fair that I plan to create. Burbank touts itself as “the media capital of the world,” yet we have a disconnect between our local residents and the media companies that employ thousands of workers who don’t live within the city limits. As council member, I plan to spearhead a media jobs fair that connects local residents with employment opportunities with an emphasis on higher education, apprenticeships, and incentives for local hiring practices.