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A look back at the top Media City stories of 2018

Despite efforts from pro-Measure QS supporters, such as Burbank High teacher Lori Adams, the Burbank Unified School District's attempt to raise a little over $9 million a year via a parcel tax was officially defeated Friday.
Despite efforts from pro-Measure QS supporters, such as Burbank High teacher Lori Adams, the Burbank Unified School District's attempt to raise a little over $9 million a year via a parcel tax was officially defeated Friday. (Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

Facing a structural budget deficit, the Burbank Unified School District placed a parcel tax, known as Measure QS, on the Nov. 6 ballot, but it failed to get the support of two-thirds of voters required by a stipulation in Proposition 13.

The 10-cents-per-square-foot tax on real estate property, which had no expiration date, was expected to cost the average Burbank homeowner $170 a year, while generating just over $9 million annually.

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The biggest chunk of the parcel tax expenditure would have been a one-time 3% raise for all district employees, which would have totaled approximately $3.3 million.

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Though the measure came close, it ultimately failed with 25,413 “yes” votes, or 64.33%, versus 14,093 “no” votes, or 35.67%. It would have required 66.7% of the vote to pass.

Money from the parcel tax would have led to some personnel hires and facility repairs as well as keeping lower class sizes.

The measure’s defeat means the district will likely need to make cuts, as it’s expected the district will have a $3.14-million deficit by the 2020-21 school year.

The Burbank Teachers Assn. voted 424-76 to ratify terms of the 2017-18 contact, which provides district teachers with their first raise in two years along with back pay. Here, members of the BTA protest outside City Hall.
The Burbank Teachers Assn. voted 424-76 to ratify terms of the 2017-18 contact, which provides district teachers with their first raise in two years along with back pay. Here, members of the BTA protest outside City Hall. (Tim Berger / Burbank Leader)

Members of the Burbank Teachers Assn. put pressure on Burbank Unified officials for a pay increase after completing the 2016-17 school year without a raise.

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Teachers spoke during several school board meetings this spring and summer, while holding two large marches on April 19 and on Aug. 16.

Union members even received some solidarity from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who skipped a district awards ceremony on April 6 to show his unity with labor.

After months of discussion, the district and the association agreed to a 2% salary increase, retroactive to July 2017.

Union members approved the contract, 424-76, on Sept. 28, while district officials adopted the revised budget, which was approved by the county on Oct. 18.

While teachers received a pay hike, they suffered a blow with the defeat of Measure QS, the district’s proposed parcel tax.

The bill’s failure in November halted an additional 3% pay increase for district teachers.

Burbank High students march and chant along Glenoaks Boulevard during Wednesday's walkout as part of a nationwide demonstration protesting gun violence and to remember the victims killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida.
Burbank High students march and chant along Glenoaks Boulevard during Wednesday's walkout as part of a nationwide demonstration protesting gun violence and to remember the victims killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida. (Miguel Vasconcellos / Burbank Leader)

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, hundreds of students at Burbank and Glendale schools mobilized this past March, calling for an end to gun violence and for lawmakers to enact gun-control legislation.

Students at several high schools including Crescenta Valley and Burbank highs were allowed to hold walkouts during class time, with some carrying signs with messages like “Enough is Enough” and “We want gun control now.”

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Other campuses such as Rosemont Middle School in La Crescenta staged “die-ins,” where students pretended to be dead on campus.

A Prius takes a ride down a wave of mud in Burbank during this week's storms, as seen from Instagram.
A Prius takes a ride down a wave of mud in Burbank during this week's storms, as seen from Instagram. (Burbank Firefighters Local 778)

The first major rainstorm of the year in January brought a torrent of mud sliding down Country Club Drive in Burbank.

One video taken during the rain showed a Toyota Prius racing down Country Club Drive as its driver tried to get ahead of a debris flow.

With the rush of mud, residents and city officials had to contend with battered vehicles, downed power lines and a sheared gas line after a recreational vehicle became upended during the storm.

A contentious debate over whether or not a vocal arts group and its competition-winning show choir should remain a part of the Burbank Unified school system ended on a positive note in July, when stakeholders on both sides said they were determined to negotiate a way to stay united.

Calls for the Burbank Vocal Arts Foundation to split from Burbank Unified started after the foundation fell $50,000 short of its $700,000 funding goals, compounding its leaders’ frustrations that it is prohibited from some types of fundraising and account-keeping by California’s public-education code.

Following hours of tearful testimony in late July, students, parents and Burbank school officials began to sound hopeful they could find a way to raise the money necessary to support the foundation while not excluding families without means to pay for costs such as costumes, trips and stage-production expenses.

“It’s amazing what a difference six days can make,” said Armond Aghakhanian, school board vice president, after the meeting where a consensus was reached. “We went from accusations to ‘Let’s work together.’”

The operations and development committee of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority held a special meeting on Thursday to hear from residents about their concerns regarding NextGen.
The operations and development committee of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority held a special meeting on Thursday to hear from residents about their concerns regarding NextGen. (File Photo)

In 2017, Burbank residents voiced their concerns about the possible negative effects the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen, could have on the community around Hollywood Burbank Airport.

NextGen, the Federal Aviation Administration’s satellite-based transportation system being rolled out at airports across the country, was geared toward making flights more efficient.

However, residents have complained that flights out of Hollywood Burbank have been much lower and have increased noise levels since the implementation of NextGen in Southern California.

Earlier this year, residents from Studio City and Sherman Oaks began attending meetings regarding the airport and NextGen, letting officials know they feel there has been an uptick of aircraft activity over their hillside homes.

In October, consulting firm Landrum & Brown determined that flights out of Hollywood Burbank were, indeed, flying further south over Studio City before making turns to fly north on their ascents.

However, the consultants could not definitively determine if the shifts in flight paths were due to NextGen.

On April 19, Burbank Mayor Will Rogers passed away after battling stage 4 liver cancer and non-alcoholic cirrhosis. He was 60 years old.

The council member announced in September 2017 that he was diagnosed with the illness and that he did not know how long he had left to live.

He also revealed then that he had been cleared of any cancer four times over the past two years, but his diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma, one of the most common forms of liver cancer, was more serious than his past bouts.

Rogers, a Minnesota native, was best known for his time as a columnist for the Burbank Leader. He moved to Los Angeles in 1979 to pursue an acting career. He also wrote for several other publications, including the L.A. Weekly.

The Burbank City Council ultimately appointed Tim Murphy, a past council member who ran Rogers’ campaign in 2016, to fill in the vacancy left by the late council member until the end of his term in October 2020.

Pickwick Gardens’ owner Ron Stavert, the Los Angeles Kings and American Sports Entertainment Co., or ASEC, announced earlier this month that they will be partnering to revive the aging ice rink at the Burbank facility.

The Kings and ASEC will become the new operators of Pickwick’s ice facility, which will be renamed the L.A. Kings Ice at Pickwick Gardens, at the beginning of 2019, and there are already plans for them to invest about $1 million to make much-needed repairs.

Stavert, whose family has owned and operated Pickwick Gardens since 1955, agreed to enter into a 10-year lease with the Kings and ASEC after spending several years planning to see if it was possible to replace the Pickwick complex with housing.

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Those plans with Shea Properties fizzled as another housing project in the same neighborhood was shot down by the Burbank City Council.

The banquet and conference halls, as well as the bowling alley, will still be managed by Stavert.

Austin, Texas-based Touchstone Golf will be the new operator of the DeBell Golf Course in Burbank for the next five years.
Austin, Texas-based Touchstone Golf will be the new operator of the DeBell Golf Course in Burbank for the next five years. (File Photo)

The lengthy saga of DeBell Golf Course’s financially troubled past entered a new chapter earlier this month when the Burbank City Council selected golf course management company Touchstone Golf to be the new operator of the par-71 course.

The Austin, Texas-based company will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the course and the restaurant on the site for the next five years.

The move to bring in Touchstone was considered by some council members to be the last swing at saving the weathered golf course, which has been a drain on the city’s finances.

Although Touchstone is being brought in to turn the financial tide, Burbank officials agreed to front the company $1.35 million for operational costs for the first six months of the contract. Touchstone officials are confident that they will recoup that money.

Touchstone becomes the latest operator after Scott Scozzola decided to opt out of his contract with Burbank in March. The city was then obligated to hire three operators to oversee DeBell components until a new operator was chosen.

Scozzola and his family had been the operators of the golf course since 1971.

The merchants in Burbank’s Magnolia Park neighborhood have been struggling over the past years because of rising rents, parking issues and finding a balance between a quiet community and a bustling business area.

In October, the Burbank City Council discussed the issues plaguing the unique neighborhood, which is known for its quirky mom-and-pop shops.

Several businesses, such as Porto’s Bakery, Tony’s Darts Away and Morphe Brushes, have found success in the corridor. However, smaller businesses have struggled due to a lack of customer traffic.

There have also been issues with vehicular traffic and parking near popular stores. Burbank has had to ask Morphe to cut back on its new-product release events, which drew in hundreds of customers to the store but left the neighborhood in disarray.

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