Where Candidates Stand on Issues
D. Dianne Adams, 57, businesswoman
Adams is the founder and president of the San Fernando-Glenoaks Homeowners Assn. and has been an advocate for elderly people. She has lived in Burbank almost all her life and has owned businesses in the city.
Adams said the city should help the school district renovate both high schools using redevelopment agency funds and money generated by a bond issue.
To help combat the growing problem of crime and gangs, Adams has proposed a “recreational reach-out” that would enable children from low-income families to participate in activities offered by the city’s parks and recreation program. Currently, there is a fee for many of these activities.
“When people are low-income, they are concerned with paying the rent and putting food on the table,” she said. “They may not be able to afford the $25 to sign their kid up for some activity.”
Adams said she played a key role in resolving a disagreement between neighborhood residents and developers of an apartment complex for the elderly on Whitnall Highway.
Robert W. Bates, 31, attorney specializing in medical malpractice defense
Bates grew up in North Hollywood one block outside the Burbank city limits and has fond memories of Burbank’s parks, libraries and swimming pools.
“I moved here two years ago because I wanted to live in a city with better services. A smaller city, a more manageable city,” he said. “The main thing is how are we going to preserve all of our wonderful public services and, at the same time, face severe public budget crisis?”
The council, he said, must perform “a balancing act between adding new development” and protecting residential neighborhoods.
His priority would be to lure Twentieth Century-Fox and other entertainment companies to Burbank. He has misgivings about building an arena near the airport.
Bates opposes eliminating the utility users tax and supports using city cash reserves to balance the budget without cutting services. He opposes cutting the wages or benefits of city employees.
“We’re in competition for good city employees. You have to remain competitive in order to retain good employees,” Bates said.
Carolyn Berlin, 46, homeowners leader
Berlin is the leader of a homeowners organization and co-authored Measure B, a growth-control initiative defeated in 1991.
She favors a variation on the electronic town hall concept, which would allow residents to call in their comments during televised City Council meetings. The calls would be recorded and reviewed later by city officials.
Berlin proposes that individual council members be allowed to add items to the agenda, instead of the present system, under which a majority must support adding new items. Berlin said the city needs to collect more in fees from developers and transfer the funds to schools, where increased housing density has caused crowding. She also believes that council members should not serve on the Burbank Redevelopment Agency and the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.
“We should adopt a tough conflict-of-interest ordinance that applies to council members and people who sit on city boards and commissions,” she said.
Berlin said the city needs to replace lost manufacturing and aerospace with high-paying jobs in entertainment or high-tech fields rather than lower-paying service jobs.
Elena V. Cook, 57, former real estate agent and owner of beauty salons
Cook has lived in Burbank for 33 years and is the widow of two-term Councilman Byron Cook, who served from 1971 to 1979.
She decided to run out of frustration “with the people who get on the council and say they’re going to do something and they never follow through.”
The budget, crime and planning are key issues for Cook and will be the focus of her attention if elected, she said.
On the budget, Cook said City Hall “spends too much in consultant fees. I think we could save a lot by doing more in-house work.”
She also contended that some city officials are overpaid and said cuts aimed at balancing the city’s budget should be made from the “top down.”
“The city manager’s salary is $121,512, not including his benefits,” she said. “I feel it is too much.”
Dave Golonski, 34, financial systems manager
Golonski, a six-year Burbank resident, views consensus building on the City Council as essential to solving the problems confronting the city. Contention has been a barrier to finding solutions in the past, he said.
“I think the council needs to work harder to bring different points of view together,” he said.
“We can build a consensus that will allow us to bring our schools back into the excellent shape they once were in, to build a long-range plan for economic revitalization, to address the loss of manufacturing and industrial jobs that we’ve experienced, and to maintain the economic diversity that we have always had.”
He supports maintaining both high schools in Burbank, using Redevelopment Agency funds to help renovate both.
Golonski has been endorsed by Burbank City Councilman Tim Murphy, the Burbank Police Officers Assn., the Burbank Fire Fighters Assn., the Burbank City Employees Assn., and the California Organization of Police and Sheriffs.
John D. Hardy, 28, owns a T-shirt design business
Hardy has lived in Burbank 25 years and wants the city to be run like a business.
“I want to use my public relations skills to entice business into the city,” he said.
Hardy, whose father and grandfather were police officers, said his other main priority is law enforcement.
“I support court actions that ban gang members from certain areas and concentrated police patrols in areas frequented by gangs,” he said.
If elected, he hopes to develop an “adopt-a-neighborhood” plan, in which residents and businesses will help clean up troubled areas and provide youths with activities.
He also supports charging a fee to “non-residents who use city parks,” selling redevelopment properties and cutting the utility users tax.
“I would like to make this city as comfortable and nice as it was when I was growing up,” he said.
Marti Israel, 33, conducts motivational seminars and lectures
Israel moved to Burbank 10 years ago and was inspired to run for office when he heard about the loss of 15,000 aerospace and manufacturing jobs in the city.
If elected, Israel said his first step would be to meet with Walt Disney Co. Chairman Michael Eisner, “take him on a tour of the vacant property in Burbank, and find out what he and his team of visionaries think we should do. He’s a major visionary. They’re building a whole city in Florida. Maybe we can incorporate some of those ideas in Burbank.”
His next goal would be to travel the nation with Eisner and other Burbank-based executives to tell the heads of major corporations that “Burbank is the best city in America for business.”
Israel would also establish a volunteer corps in Burbank to help police, firefighters, teachers and park employees.
“One of my goals is to make Burbank the safest city in America, and our police just can’t do it alone,” he said.
Israel also wants the city to stop collecting the utility tax for several years, saying “government always overtaxes consumers.”
Gregory Jackson, 40, land-use consultant
Jackson served as deputy to Los Angeles City Councilman Ernani Bernardi (1986-89) and former Councilman Howard Finn (1981-86) in a district that borders Burbank.
He supports new economic development but is critical of some of Burbank’s past land-use decisions, particularly the sale of a property last year in which the city lost more than $1 million.
“There are a lot of problems when the city becomes a property owner and engages in speculative deals,” said Jackson, who opposes spending city money to develop an arena.
“I don’t think the Redevelopment Agency should bankroll an arena when our high schools are in disrepair. . . . We should spend that money on the schools.”
Jackson said the city should be cautious and selective about new development.
“I don’t think we should be obstructionist to new development, but I don’t think we should throw away land-use controls that we adopted in the 1980s.”
Jules Kimmett, 72, retired custodian
Kimmett moved to Burbank 26 years ago after playing professional baseball and serving in World War II.
Kimmett, best known for his acerbic commentaries during the public comment period of council meetings, is running for the 10th time. Describing himself as “His Majesty’s loyal opposition and the devil’s advocate,” Kimmett wants to impeach a majority of the present council, whom he accuses of representing “developers, not people.”
“This city has a shameless history of favoritism. . . . If a developer wants to build something, they should bring their own cash. We shouldn’t be providing welfare to the country club set.”
Kimmett accepts no contributions and garnered 80,000 votes when he opposed Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. in the Democratic primary in 1978.
He wants council members to be elected from five districts instead of the present at-large system.
“All the politicians come from the rich side of town. If we had districts, all Burbank residents would be represented,” Kimmett said.
His plan to stimulate Burbank’s economy is “honesty--a quality you just never see in politics.”
Robert C. Kramer, 45, painting company owner
A lifelong Burbank resident, Kramer decided to run when he heard that the city had heard proposals to contract with the county for police and fire services.
“It would be a disaster,” Kramer said. “City employees are accountable to the city--you can trust them--and non-city employees aren’t. It’s simple.”
Kramer favors using city money to refurbish schools and he is steadfastly opposed to pressuring the school district to merge the two high schools and sell the vacant site.
“School property is a sacred right of our children. It doesn’t belong to us. It doesn’t belong to some developer who wants to put up a high-rise. It belongs to the children and to their grandchildren.”
He said council members should stop the practice of appointing themselves to seats on the board of directors of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, which he called an “example of arrogance because a lot of people are qualified to serve.”
Thomas H. McCauley, 64, engineering consultant
McCauley moved to Burbank from Minnesota in 1985 and, until 1988, served as head of the city’s Public Service Department, where he oversaw the municipal utility until he resigned under fire after reorganizing operations.
President of the Burbank Democratic Club, McCauley made a run for the council in 1991, finishing fourth in the race for two seats. He has the backing of some slow-growth advocates.
His priorities include protecting city services from budget cuts by increasing the efficiency of operations. He wants the city to balance the budget by drawing on reserves rather than laying off employees.
McCauley opposes privatizing city services and giving “special breaks to developers” or other businesses to aid the economy.
“The best way to attract development is to have a good infrastructure,” McCauley said. “Burbank is an attractive place for business and, once the recession is over, it will be attractive once again. People move here because of our city services and our quality of life. Let’s not jeopardize that.”
Richard G. Messer, 54, part owner of the Burbank Airport Hilton
Messer is a member of the Business Review Committee, a group that reviewed city spending and recommended cutting more than $20 million in utility users taxes over five years. They advocated giving $5 million to the Burbank Unified School District on condition that it merge the high schools and requiring that city employees pay for a portion of their health benefits.
Messer has aggressively defended his proposals, which have been criticized by unions and other candidates. Burbank’s city manager has also questioned some of his assertions.
“The city has in excess of what it needs,” Messer said. “I say give it back to the taxpayers, who can put it back into the economy.”
Messer has also said “unnecessary energy has been wasted” debating the merits of building a sports arena on land owned by Lockheed Corp. near Burbank Airport because, he said, Lockheed officials told him that they would create their own plan for the site.
Messer said his ownership of the hotel would not cause a conflict of interest that would require him to recuse himself from land-use decisions affecting that area.
Lou Morelli, businessman
Morelli, who declined to be interviewed, has lived in Burbank for five years. According to his candidate’s statement, he is a disabled veteran of the Air Force. He is a Little League coach and an instructor with the Boy Scouts.
Morelli vows to reduce taxes, control spending, balance the budget and create jobs. He supports term limitations, and wants to eliminate waste and inefficiency.
Melvin Perlitsh, 62, retired postal worker
Describing himself as “the gadfly from hell,” Perlitsh is best known for his biting verbal assaults on city officials during the public comment period of council meetings. He is running for council for the fifth time.
Perlitsh frequently exceeds his allotted time and has been removed from the room by force on several occasions.
“I don’t run away from anything. I may not be the most pleasant person running, but I know I’m the most honest and the truth hurts,” he said.
Besides city officials, developers are the most frequent target of his barbs.
“The real estate lobby runs the city. They have for years,” he said. “The only thing that ever changes in City Hall is the faces.”
At a recent candidate forum, he also attacked other candidates, calling them clones.
“They all give the same speeches every year and then they get elected and just look out for their cronies,” he said.
“If I had $35,000, I could get my dog elected to this council,” Perlitsh said. “He’d do a better job than anyone there, too.”
Thomas Pratt, 32, insurance company marketing representative
Pratt, who grew up in Glendale, moved to Burbank eight years ago.
If elected, Pratt plans to devote his energy to changing the state workers’ compensation system.
“I’m running to highlight the workers’ comp problem, which is a major cause of our economic problems in California,” said Pratt, a self-styled “comp crusader.”
He said he realizes that the City Council has no power over state legislation, but added that a Burbank council member will be taken more seriously in Sacramento than a private citizen.
Pratt eschews traditional yard signs. His campaign advertisements screen before movies shown in Media City Center Mall. He also has set up a booth in the mall.
Pratt also supports term limits for city offices, opposes merging Burbank’s two high schools and opposes privatizing or contracting to the county any city services.
“I’d like to see the Starlight Amphitheatre turned into a summer stock theater,” he said. “We have all these actors looking for work and we have this beautiful site laying dormant. We could put this together and have a great service.”
Ron Shively, 60, retired executive at Pacific Bell
Shively moved to Burbank 36 years ago and serves on the Burbank Police Commission and the FOCUS Committee, a citizens panel that reviewed city finances. The FOCUS committee, he said, made him rethink government:
“We need to bring a sense of creativity to the way we run the city.”
One example: “We should consider doing away with the line-item budget . . . and instead give departments the direction and motivation to save money just like a business.”
Shively said his decade as a liaison between the phone company and cities makes him the most qualified candidate. As a retiree, he vows to serve the city on a full-time basis.
While careful not to directly criticize the present council, Shively promises “no more back-room deals” in his campaign literature.
“I’m not implying that they have been done, but I think there is a general perception among the public that there have been back-room deals,” he said. “People mistrust government and I will bring credibility to the process.”
Susan Spanos, 29, former account executive with a national mortgage bank
Spanos, a lifelong Burbank resident, plans to work full-time on city issues. Presently, only one member works full-time on council matters, she said.
“I think overall the city gets shortchanged when our elected officials spend very little time at City Hall,” she said.
If elected, Spanos said she will not accept a salary for the first year.
She argues that council members must employ salesmanship in their efforts to attract businesses to the city. They should contact corporations in other parts of California and other states, and “emphasize Burbank’s geographical advantages,” such as its location near two major freeways, the airport, the city’s low tax rate and land availability, she said.
Spanos has been endorsed by the Burbank City Employees Assn., the Burbank Fire Fighters Assn., the Burbank Police Officers Assn., and the California Organization of Police and Sheriffs.
Ron Watters, 31, traffic-safety education instructor at Burroughs High School
Watters lived in Burbank from 1972 to 1980, then returned in 1990 after he left the Navy.
“In the 10 years that I was gone, the city changed immensely,” he said. “I left a nice, quiet town where people were friendly, and I came back and it’s a metropolis. It was kind of horrifying. I think they’re letting the developers run the city. That’s why I’m running. I want to protect this city.”
Watters accuses the city of neglecting senior citizens and schoolchildren. He wants to see more redevelopment money go to programs that benefit those two groups.
“The city has grown by leaps and bounds, but the schools were totally neglected,” Watters said. “Nobody would live in a house that looks as bad as our schools. It would be condemned and torn down.”
Watters opposes plans to construct an arena near Burbank Airport.
“We would be stuck with an albatross,” he said. “The arena would bring more traffic and more crime. The costs would outweigh the benefits.”
Bill Wiggins, 43, owner of a Glendale metal-plating company
Wiggins served on the FOCUS Committee, a citizens panel that reviewed city finances. After the review, Wiggins said there “wasn’t much to cut that didn’t hurt services.”
But he said the three new council members will probably be forced to trim up to $7 million from the city’s budget.
He opposes cutting the utility tax because that money might be better used to help weather the recession without gutting services. He also supports keeping two high schools in Burbank, but fears that “it just won’t work economically.”
Wiggins said Burbank needs to act like a business when it comes to recruiting businesses. When he considered opening a new plant in Phoenix, he said one phone call led to a meeting with the mayor, city planners, a realtor and an expert in environmental requirements.
“They were all there sitting at the table, and they told me everything I needed to know that day,” Wiggins said. “We can do that here too.”