A budget shortfall, housing shortage and leadership qualities were some of the topics candidates for the Burbank City Council addressed during a forum last Wednesday.
Leadership Burbank and the Burbank Chamber of Commerce co-hosted the event at the Colony Theatre, where all eight candidates fielded questions from moderator David Nos, a former Burbank Unified school board member and a City Council candidate in 2013.
Though there were eight questions asked, not every candidate was asked the same question.
Nos asked candidate Konstantine Anthony what he would do to address the housing shortage in Burbank, specifically when it comes to recent college graduates. Anthony, a social media manager, said he would look into approving housing projects that had smaller, affordable units that are spread out across the city.
"We need to look at not just the size, but also the quality of the apartment," Anthony said. "Do these kids need 12-foot, vaulted ceilings with crown molding and travertine marble? I don't think so. We can have a nice, no-frills, white-walled apartment [that's] 300 to 350 square feet. They don't need much."
Candidate Richard Carr was asked what his leadership style was and what skill sets he would bring to the City Council. Carr said that as a retired property manager with more than 40 years of experience, he has the knowledge and understanding of how to balance a budget.
The city faces a looming projected deficit over the next five years, according to a recent report.
"We worked on budgets. We formulated budgets. We learned how to deal with budgets, [and] we learned how to trim budgets," Carr said. "This deficit that we're talking about, to me, is a fallacy to help developers build their product."
Nos asked incumbent Bob Frutos what he would do to balance the city's budget. Frutos, a retired Los Angeles police officer, said the city needs to look at its expenses and start discussions about possibly increasing the sales tax and approving development projects to hike property taxes.
"We don't have the revenue today," Frutos said. "I don't know where we're overspending, but we are literally at bare minimums. We have fought hard on this council not to cut back the services, but with the new projection that we all received, we are in very dire times and we're hoping that our business tax sales bump up a little bit."
Incumbent David Gordon was asked if he believes there's anything the city should do to improve the quality of life and strengthen the local economy. Gordon, an optometrist, said Burbank needs to be more aggressive about improving its infrastructure.
"When you're riding down our major streets, when you're riding even a bicycle, you have to have proper infrastructure," Gordon said. "We need proper signalization. All these things make the city work better."
Candidate Juan Guillen was asked about traffic congestion caused by most of Burbank's workforce living outside the city and how he would address the issue. Guillen, a small business owner, said the city was wrong to approve housing and mixed-use projects such as Talaria at Burbank on Olive Avenue because questions of increased traffic were not addressed.
"When we create development that displaces attainable affordable housing and pushes those individuals back into the marketplace that already is in great demand, prices go up," Guillen said. "When we develop — and we need to address the housing issue — it has to be thoughtful and make sure that we're addressing the concerns and needs of our community and not just the pocketbooks of the developers."
Candidate Greg Sousa was asked how he would build a consensus when working with a group that has opposing viewpoints. Sousa, a studio transportation driver, said that although a consensus is something that is not always reached, sometimes it boils down to finding some common ground upon which everyone can agree.
"After all, the political process really is a way to reconcile competing interests," Sousa said. "What is good for one constituency is probably not going to be as good, and sometimes is directly contrary, to the interests of another constituency. You have to have a set of values, underlying principles that guide you in where you want to go with the decision-making process."
Nos asked candidate Sharon Springer how the city should address its growing infrastructure needs, which are estimated to cost about $263 million. Springer, a nonprofit administrator, said Burbank should consider sponsorship-type projects.
"There are firms that specialize in the appraisal of naming rights that can come up with plans," Springer said. "They're doing it for other cities that have funding shortfalls. The city of Milwaukee is one of them."
Incumbent Jess Talamantes was asked how he would improve or strengthen city government. Talamantes, a retired firefighter, said his eight years on the City Council have given him the experience to find solutions to the issues Burbank is facing.
"I've made a lot of contacts throughout the Southern California region, so the networking has helped," Talamantes said.
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