Burbank Council Candidate: Will Rogers
At a Glance:
Occupation: Investigative journalist
Political affiliation: Decline to state
Education: Normandale College - No degree
Chicago Institute of Art - The Goodman School - No degree
Have you run for office previously?No.
Why are you running?
To stay special, Burbank needs open and FAIR leaders. Protecting neighborhoods makes where we happen to live into where we want to live. Honest traffic studies would be a start.
We want affordable electricity and water, park programs, and good streets. Using one-time funding to pay down pension liability and fix streets will help.
Healthy business is vital, and most share priorities with residents. If officials truly listen to all sides, compromise is possible. End the cycle of picking sides!
What is the most important issue facing the city?
City Hall’s competence and credibility, or lack thereof, in addressing everything from maintaining streets, to combating traffic, from overseeing the huge commercial project proposed next to the airport (which would be the largest all-new development since WWII), to preparing for projected budget deficits.
Name a recent issue or policy the current City Council has decided that you agree with. Why?
The council’s decision to implement neighborhood protection measures around the Talaria/Whole Foods project. Had officials shown respect and interest for residents and taxpayers like those shown the developer, the board and council would have known about long-standing issues before Talaria was proposed. Such respect/interest and truly listening to residents’ input from the start could have allowed an admirable project, a revenue generator AND protection for R-1 neighbors and the taxpayers.
Name a recent issue or policy the current City Council has decided that you disagree with. Why?
Giving “conceptual approval” to what was a 3-million-square-foot commercial development next to a proposed new terminal without expressing any concern over impacts. On one site the project had nearly half the office space projected for the entire city through 2035. Anyone can see this project would result in terrible traffic congestion on Hollywood Way and Buena Vista, and the city already has traffic studies that prove it. The City Council should have sent this project back to the drawing board.
What is the best thing about how the current city government is run?
As has been the case for decades, we enjoy and are accustomed to great city services. That’s why it is so important that we fight the efforts to whittle away at these, and address coming funding challenges now.
What is the worst thing about how the current city government is run?
The lack of leadership and focus on solving important issues. Residents want traffic cut, lights synchronized, parks maintained and streets repaired!
There is always a waiver or exemption for developers, but no corresponding flexibility serves residents.
Also, lip service is paid to better informing residents on substantive issues, when repeatedly only one-sided, incomplete information is available at the last moment.
I will provide the leadership and focus needed to fix these problems.
Is the city doing enough to be transparent about its negotiations with the airport regarding the replacement terminal and/or the so-called “opportunity site?” What, if anything, could be done better?
No. There is simply no way to adequately address the astounding scope and depth of the mistakes made thus far on these two major projects in the space allowed. Virtually EVERYTHING “could be done better.” If the city advertised information about these projects half as well as it did the downtown skating rink, the public could participate in a way that informs and actually influences and serves the end result.
Please see my analysis of these projects at www.Rogers4Council.com
When City Manager Mark Scott was hired in 2013, his salary was more than the city managers of Glendale and Pasadena, as well as the mayor of Los Angeles. Has he earned it?
No, but I hold the City Council most accountable. I have yet to see a Council majority clearly articulate a vision and policies for the City Manager to take as marching orders, and its success or failure in accomplishing those assignments I’d use to weigh his performance.
It appears the city manager has been expected to maintain the status quo, operating purely on a reactive, defensive basis day to day, with little room or direction given for new initiatives.
In light of the legal issues the city has been involved in, including the water transfer suit, is City Attorney Amy Albano providing the council sound legal advice? Why or why not?
I’m deeply concerned about Ms. Albano’s understanding of the voter-approved ballot initiative (Measure B) that clearly says the council can’t vote on a new terminal before the citizens have approved it. She also seems to have difficulty articulating legal views in open meetings. I would like to work with her to improve her communication with the public. But I can’t render a fair judgment on the soundness of her legal advice without access to that given in closed sessions on myriad topics/cases.
For 30 years I’ve been an investigative journalist, almost 20 of those spent covering all aspects of Burbank. It’s how I came to recognize the benefits of good municipal government, and grew to love Burbank from the inside out. As has been the case from the beginning, my core principles revolve around advocating open and honest leadership in City Hall.
With regard to candidates and the tradition of claiming a record of community service, often efforts that begin around the time someone considers pursuing an appointment or election, I’ve long been a proponent of the admonishment, “Do good works and blush to have it known.” I won’t detail for campaign purposes the agencies, people and causes I’ve served over the years. It will have to suffice to say that I’ve done so, and not just by attending one meeting per month, or giving a speech when the crowd gathers, but instead with physical labor, and hours of other hard work for which there were few or even no other volunteers.
I was raised to believe such efforts are a duty of citizenship. (My mother volunteered for the Peace Corps when she was 68, and was sent to work in eastern Europe.) But in serving for decades on the front lines of local charities, schools, and similar pursuits, in the process I have developed and/or improved skills relevant to elected office. These include goal-setting, problem-solving and the importance of teamwork. I’m excited at the opportunity to put these skills, combined with in-depth knowledge of City Hall, and a talent for digging, to work for the unique city my family and I call home.
There are many examples of my efforts to campaign by the same standards I’ve publicly advocated for others over the years. I’m reporting the names of all of my campaign donors, not just those whose contributions meet a dollar threshold dictated by those who run for office. With campaign expenditures, I patronize businesses, trades people and services in Burbank, and have been successful thus far with only one exception. (I could not find a local firm to produce campaign signs with the features I required.) I participate in endorsement processes only with those organizations willing to interview all candidates. There is no project, proposal city business I refuse to comment on or discuss with voters.
I submit that no other candidate can demonstrate a decades-long record of advocating and acting on principles such as these, and so a list of my promised priorities as a council member is not simply rhetoric, but is instead a credible forecast of my agenda.
My priorities begin with assuring elected officials and residents can trust they’re given timely, complete, reliable, and independent information, and that citizens know what their representatives are doing. Those standards are the means to;
- Restore and zealously protect Burbank’s quality of life;
- Diversify our economic base;
- Fix our streets;
- Negotiate an airport terminal replacement project that continues protection for residents, and creates workable processes for handling future changes;
- Reduce traffic congestion;
- Partner more closely with schools;
- Protect our environment;
- Stabilize our budget regardless of outside economic swings;
- Encourage development that respects neighborhoods;
- Restore affordable transportation and park programs, especially for seniors and youth; and preserve excellent city services.
- Ensure that airport-adjacent development does not bring about the city-wide gridlock it’s now on target to deliver;
- Assure residents know what is proposed in their neighborhood long before that proposal becomes a foregone conclusion to city staff or council members.
Any questions? Please call me at home at 818-843-2211, or visit Rogers4Council.com
Public Records & Legal Information:
Criminal Case: People vs Will Rogers – Los Angeles Superior Court – Case number unavailable
Filed: April 4, 1980
Case Type: Criminal
Summary: Rogers, who was 23-years-old at the time, pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of possession of marijuana. He also admitted to the theft of some clothes from the Broadway department store, where he worked as a loss-prevention officer, though the charges of burglary and theft were dropped. He was sentenced to 120 days in jail, serving about half that time. He was released from probation in July 1982. Rogers gives a lengthy description of what happened on his website.
There is simply no defense for this episode that took place almost exactly 35 years ago, well before the 10 year “background check” to which all other candidates are subject. It’s known and disclosed here because I have repeatedly publicly disclosed it and taken responsibility for my actions. I’ve done this in published reports, in conversations with office holders, and twice even from public stages as part of one-man shows produced as fundraisers for a local charity. All that is without noting my employers were informed from the start, and that, technically and officially, the charges against me were reduced and dismissed more than two decades ago, the records theoretically expunged. Indeed, the fullest accounting to date was published in August on my own campaign web site, and it remains there today at www.Rogers4Council.com.
For any noting that occasionally over the years I’ve written at length about the records of some candidates and office holders, there has always been a distinction between those who, even in the face of ample records and evidence of arrest, deny any such event ever took place, and those who have themselves brought up their records in the distant past. To cite two examples, one candidate prosecuted for a then-recent, relatively minor charge in a well-documented case initially responded to a query by denying any knowledge of the case, and claimed to be the victim of political enemies. That became a prominent report. In another election a short time later, a candidate with a drunk driving arrest many years earlier was the first to publicly report the incident, and even offered documentation. That arrest record barely left a ripple.
I’ve been consistent in applying this standard, and hold myself to the same.
Public Records Lawsuit: Will Rogers vs. City of Burbank et al. – Los Angeles Superior Court – BC058589
2nd District Court of Appeal – B073586
Filed: June 26, 1992
Case Type: State civil
Status: Judgment for Defendants
Summary: As part of an investigation into a taxpayer-funded trip to Las Vegas, Rogers requested expense reports from City Council members and other high-ranking city employees. City officials denied the records existed, and Rogers filed suit. Rogers has an account of this on his campaign website.
After the suit was filed, the city provided Rogers a portion of the documents requested. However, one type– hotel and telephone bills –had the telephone numbers the officials called or received redacted. Rogers claimed the numbers should have been included. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge disagreed, however.
Rogers appealed the case, but he was ultimately unsuccessful. An effort by city attorneys to have the case deemed frivolous – and to force Rogers to pay its legal expenses for the case – was denied.
I’m proud to be associated with this case, and believe it stands as an example of an unyielding commitment to public access and standing up for what is right, even at the risk of great personal cost.
I personally filed suit to see bills incurred by council members and paid for by taxpayers. Days later the City released some of those records, this after insisting for months those records did not exist. But I eventually lost the rest of the case thanks to a then-recent California Supreme Court decision that let the city keep cell phone records secret, even as taxpayers paid for official phones, some of which billed as much as $400 per month. But abuses of the secrecy privilege, including the discovery of an official using my case to hide his support for a child molester - a molester also involved in Burbank council election campaign, led the state legislature to change the law, opening many of those records to the public.
The city tried to have my case declared “frivolous,” compelling me to pay the city’s legal costs. That motion was rejected by the court, which noted the records that were released after I filed suit, and the reasonableness of the legal question about releasing phone records.
As a direct result of my stories and this case, Burbank City Council members began identifying and paying for personal use of their city-paid phones. In addition, the Council established policies for travel and other expenses incurred by elected officials, requiring conventional, reliable documentation, and automatically making the records public. Spousal travel and other excesses were also prohibited.
Anticipating this case could prompt legitimate questions, since the instant my campaign web site first went live it has included a page providing more detail on Rogers vs. Burbank, and I suggest you review that page a www.Rogers4Council.com
Personal Injury Lawsuit: Susan Spanos vs Will Rogers et al. – Los Angeles Superior Court – BC058589
Filed: July 10, 1996
Case Type: State civil
Summary: Spanos, at the time a member of the Burbank City Council, claimed that Rogers, who was at the time a columnist for the Burbank Leader, sexually assaulted her following a January 1996 council meeting. She reported the alleged incident in April of that year, and filed suit against Rogers and the Leader after the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office declined to press charges.
Prosecutors said at that Spanos had a history of threatening to ruin people who got in her way politically, and they were concerned about her honesty regarding the matter.
Specifically, they noted that Barbara Golonski, the wife of then-Mayor Dave Golonski, reported Spanos told her on April 6, 1996 that Rogers was “going to get his.” That date coincided with the publication of a Rogers column critical of Spanos, and the date she reported the supposed incident to the police.
“This, together with the negative character evidence regarding victim’s vindictiveness will undermine her credibility before a jury,” prosecutors stated.
Spanos agreed to dismiss the suit in July 1997, after Rogers agreed not to countersue. Rogers, according to his attorney, paid no money to Spanos.
In the midst of the suit, Spanos checked herself into an Anaheim medical facility, where she was treated for depression as well as cocaine and methamphetamine abuse. This belied a statement from her husband at the time, Ted Spanos, who said that his wife was being treated for depression after going off her prescribed medication.
Her medical records, revealed as part of the suit, state she went on a drug binge in January 1997 at a hotel, “and has been smoking and inhaling speed and cocaine, doing one to one and a half grams of cocaine every day. She states that she become extremely paranoid and unable to take care of self. Apparently, her husband found her and hence this admission.”
Spanos served a single term, from 1993 to 1997.
It never occurred to me this would be perceived by anyone as being a “legal issue” for me, inasmuch as two years of criminal and civil investigation demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that this was, is and shall remain a skeleton in the closet of the former city official who filed a false report.
As the claimed victim’s own husband told police, they made the accusation in hopes it would convince her council colleagues to name her mayor in a few weeks, a figurehead promotion that most of her colleagues were opposed to due to her bizarre behavior over the prior year.
Police and District Attorney investigators subsequently learned and reported the councilwoman had, prior to filing her accusations, announced to multiple individuals that she would punish me for critical columns I’d written about her, as well as punishing one of her council colleagues for failing to support her. She specifically said she’d accomplish this by leveling accusations that would destroy our careers, our families and our lives, all while garnering her “national coverage.” In declining to file charges, the District Attorney’s office also noted that, on the day she went to police, after reading a column critical of her published that same day, the accuser told a witness interviewed by police she was going to “get” Will Rogers.
Investigation stemming from the subsequent civil case uncovered the accuser’s decade-long struggles with drugs, including abuse of prescribed medications, as well as cocaine and amphetamines, personal involvement with certain local players that constituted a pattern of conflicted interests in the conduct of city business, and documenting countless examples of bizarre behavior and poor judgment taking place well before the multiple dates covering a period of several weeks provided at various times for the supposed attack that allegedly prompted the accuser’s dubious behavior.
The “settlement” ending the civil case consisted ONLY of the accuser withdrawing her fraudulent case with prejudice (the charges cannot be leveled again), and my agreement not to countersue. For anyone who has been victimized via two years of an entirely fraudulent criminal and civil case, one wherein the accuser has been repeatedly and thoroughly discredited and the subject of heavy fines for repeatedly disregarding court orders, my agreeing to have nothing more to do with attorneys, hearings or litigation expenses for the foreseeable future was not viewed as a concession, but as a gift to me.
I’ve made a commitment to campaign as I advocated others should in almost 20 years of columns covering City Hall. To that end, because per City Charter our elections are non-partisan, and to remain consistent with what I advocated, I’ve declined all partisan endorsement interviews because they exclude qualified candidates based on party membership.
As of this writing, one professional organization has issued one endorsement (picking the only candidate who is in that same profession), and two city employee groups have announced endorsements. None in this trio first interviewed all the candidates. And because they met in private, we don’t know what the employee groups asked for or were promised by the candidates endorsed.
As of this writing, no organization has announced endorsements after interviewing all of the candidates.
I’ve been endorsed by a broad array of individuals, from neighbors, colleagues and friends, through activists, executives and major business owners. This is a partial list indicating the breadth of that support:
Robert “Bob” Olson
Congressman Adam Schiff