A political action committee sponsored by a labor union that represents about 800 retail workers in Burbank has raised $20,000 in an effort to unseat City Council incumbent Jess Talamantes, with a spokesman for the group citing a “pattern of not making smart decisions” at a time of “dire financial straits.”
The group — Burbank Residents Opposed to Jess Talamantes Slashing Public Safety — is being bankrolled by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 770 political action committee, which represents roughly 35,000 workers in the retail food industry, about 800 of whom live in Burbank, said campaign spokesman Mike Shimpock.
The committee is taking issue with Talamantes' support of a $2-million bailout of DeBell Golf Course — a city-owned enterprise that he publicly defended as “too big to fail” — even after school resource officers were cut from the city's budget. Opponents also claim the councilman refused to adequately consider concerns about a planned Walmart — a claim Talamantes denied in an interview Tuesday.
“We met and we addressed the issue,” Talamantes said of Walmart, adding that he stands by his vote to support DeBell. “It belongs to the city ... it's not like we're bailing out a private enterprise.”
Dave Golonski also supported the DeBell bailout, but David Gordon did not. Both Golonski and Gordon, who are also up for reelection, joined Talamantes last year in voting to pave the way for Walmart to obtain necessary building permits.
Even so, Shimpock said the opposition campaign remains focused on Talamantes.
The opposition also stems from the councilman's support of a proposal to use $450,000 of public art funds to build a sculpture garden in Lincoln Park, and his unsuccessful pitch to invest $87,000 over the next five years to bring outdoor ambient music to downtown.
“Spending almost $100,000 to make streets downtown sound like a dentist's office isn't how you increase the safety of neighborhoods,” Shimpock said. “He's clearly a binge spender.”
Talamantes, who is wrapping up his first term on the City Council, said the claims were misleading.
“I want this community to succeed just as much as anybody else,” he said. “I take input from staff, I take input from the public — my final decision is what is best for my community.”
But Shimpock said the councilman's “pet projects” have been proposed in times of financial hardship.
“That's not the sign of an elected official in touch with the needs of the community; that's the sign of a politician trying to burnish his resume at the expense of his community,” Shimpock said.