Robert Frutos’ City Council victory Tuesday marks the first election since 1999 in which the rare act of an incumbent being unseated is a certainty.
Frutos’ win in the primary leaves four candidates — including three incumbents — to compete in April for the two remaining seats, meaning one incumbent is guaranteed to lose his seat.
Having lost the City Council race by a mere 86 votes two years ago, this year, Frutos surpassed the next-highest vote-getter by more than 550 votes, suggesting Burbank residents are ready to ditch the status quo.
“They never forgot about me from two years ago,” Frutos said of voters when reached Wednesday. “People want an elected body that’s responsive to their concerns.”
Throughout election night, Frutos maintained a steady lead as city officials released voting results by batches of precincts.
“People are ready for an elected official to represent everybody across the whole city equally and fairly,” Frutos said.
Upon entering office, Frutos said he hopes to stop the city from spending money appealing verdicts of lawsuits filed by former and current police officers that have already been through trial.
To date, the city has spent roughly $7.1 million defending itself against a slew of lawsuits, which center on claims of discrimination and wrongful termination. The city has appealed the outcomes of two, in which the plaintiffs were collectively awarded $1.4 million in damages and $1.7 million in attorney fees.
He also hopes to give interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse the option of making his position permanent.
The search for a permanent police chief was put on hold in September pending the selection of a new city manager. Officials expect to hire someone for the top job — currently being filled on an interim basis by Ken Pulskamp — in June.
“I want to save money,” Frutos said. “Why are we going to spend a couple hundred thousand [dollars] in search of a chief instead of just making [LaChasse] the chief?”
The savings, he argued, could help fund street repairs or revive community programs, like “Holiday in the Park” in Magnolia Park. Last year, the event was scaled back after tenants in the district disbanded a partnership that brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for events and promotions.
“People really want fresh eyes looking at current problems,” Frutos said.