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BURBANK : Residents Sound Off on TV Town Hall

Burbank residents can now berate, applaud or question their city leaders from the comfort of their living rooms.

“It takes a little getting used to,” Councilwoman Susan Spanos said of the Electronic Towne Hall, a televised half-hour session during which residents can telephone City Council chambers and offer their comments on local issues.

The electronic session, which begins an hour before the first City Council meeting of the month, is part of the continuing effort to create more openness in local government, officialssaid.

The next town hall is scheduled for March 1.

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During the last year, televised coverage of City Council meetings has been expanded and Mayor George Battey Jr. has created his own “Ask the Mayor” program on Wednesday nights.

The town hall format calls for the mayor, council members and other city officials to respond to callers’ queries and comments at the conclusion of the session.

But it didn’t quite work that way the first time around on Feb. 1.

“Our operators are waiting,” Battey said as council members readied for the calls.

To fill time, council members and city officials answered a few questions immediately after some of the 11 calls that came in during the half hour.

Residents who called wanted information about earthquake damage, the Magnolia Park Neighborhood Committee, the city’s cable television contract, the school district’s $100-million bond issue, development controls and attempts to bring in a new industry to replace Lockheed Corp., among other topics.

One caller, identified as Cheryl, asked about an agenda item in which the council was asked to allow a restaurant-club to move into downtown.

She wondered why that would even be an issue.

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“I want to know why that is,” Cheryl said.

The council had delayed the matter for three weeks to allow city officials to review land-use issues in the neighborhood.

“Burbank needs more restaurants in that area.”

“What about bringing in bigger employers?” a caller named Doug asked about efforts to fill the void left when Lockheed Corp. began a pullout in 1990.

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As a result, the city lost 15,000 jobs.

“It would be nice if we got more participation,” Councilman Bob Bowne said at the end of the first town hall session.

City officials said they hope more residents will call in as the public becomes more familiar with the format.

“It went well for a first run-through,” Vice Mayor Bill Wiggins said.

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