This is the first part of a two part series looking at the top 10 news
stories of the year in Burbank
PROVIDENCE COACH AND MENTOR DIES
Despite temperatures hovering near the 100-degree mark, more than 800
mourners packed into St. Finbar Church on Aug. 23 to pay tribute to Paul
Sutton, the Providence High School teacher and coach who succumbed to
colon cancer a few days before.
Sutton, who was just 41, had been diagnosed with the disease a 18
months earlier. He left behind a wife, two children and a legion of
relatives, friends and former and current students who credited the coach
with having a profound impact on their lives.
“Everyone looked up to him,” Sutton’s uncle, Buzz Brown, said at the
memorial. “He was a catalyst. He was a people builder.”
Sutton was well-known in Burbank, not only for his tenure at
Providence, but for his time at John Burroughs High School, where he
graduated in 1976. At Providence, Sutton coached cross-country, track and
basketball, where his teams won three league titles during his 14 years
at the helm. He also served as the school’s athletic director.
Sutton’s athletes credited him with taking a personal interest in
their development as people. More than just a coach, he was a mentor and
a friend to hundreds of students at Providence.
Tim Edgar, who played basketball and ran track for Sutton before
graduating from Providence in 1990, summed up the feelings of many of
“He was the kind of person who made you a better player and a better
person,” Edgar said.
A QUESTION OF PRAYER
The City Council was caught off guard on Nov. 23 when activist Irv
Rubin of the Jewish Defense League delivered a blistering speech during
public comments that accused Burbank of violating the Constitutional
separation of church and state by allowing Christian prayers before
meetings. Rubin has since filed a 1st Amendment lawsuit in Los Angeles
Superior Court asking for a state injunction to stop the Burbank
Rubin argued that by allowing prayers that specifically refer to Jesus
Christ, the city singled out Christianity above other religions. If
prayers are to be read, their content must be completely nonsectarian, he
City officials have been quick to defend Burbank’s prayer policy as
both legal and appropriate. Mayor Stacey Murphy and City Attorney Dennis
Barlow have said that it would be an egregious violation of free-speech
rights to tell people what they can and can not say in their prayers.
Besides, they pointed out, Burbank invites members of all religious
groups to give an invocation and city officials are not involved in the
selection of who delivers the prayer. That duty is left to the Burbank
The Leader has received dozens of letters about the prayer issue from
Burbank residents. Most of the writers have come down squarely in support
of the current city policy, but a fair number have come from residents
who say the typically Christian invocations make them feel uncomfortable.
Burbank will respond to Rubin’s lawsuit this month.
PET SHOP MURDER
The execution-style murder of businessman Sarkis Antonyan remains as
much a mystery today as it did Sept. 14 when a gunman walked into Pets R
Us and shot him several times as sat behind the counter.
Antonyan, 27, a Glendale resident, was married and his was wife was
pregnant at the time of the slaying.
Although Antonyan had no criminal record, police said the murder had
many of the earmarks of a professional hit. Nothing was taken from the
store and the entire incident took place in a matter of seconds. After
the shooting, witnesses said they saw a man running down an alley next to
the store and get into a light colored Honda Accord.
Police have acknowledged that the investigation was initially slowed
by trouble communicating with witnesses, many of whom spoke only
Armenian. Among the leads that police have looked into were a civil case
stemming from auto dismantling business that Antonyan had been a partner
in and unconfirmed reports that the FBI had been conducting a stakeout of
the Victory Boulevard business sometime before the murder. Witnesses told
police that Antonyan had recently fled to Armenia because of threats
But while the trail has seemingly gone cold, Burbank police say they
have not gotten up of hope of finding Antonyan’s killer. Anyone with
information about the case is urged to call the Crime Stoppers hotline at
MALL FOR SALE, CAROUSEL IN PERIL
One big story quickly became two in September when word leaked that
Center Trust, which has overseen Media City Center since 1997, would sell the financially troubled shopping center to Zelman Development Companies
for between $50 and $70 million. As part of major overhaul of the
9-year-old mall, Zelman president Ben Reiling said the historic Looff
carousel would have to go.
Led by Sunland resident Nancy Hutchins, a descendant of carousel
builder Charles I.D. Looff, fans of the antique amusement began a
campaign to keep it in Burbank. Hutchins gathered thousands of signatures
on a petition and she and others convinced the council to formally ask
Zelman to keep the carousel at the mall. Expressing support for keeping
the carousel but pointing out that it had little say in the matter, the
council agreed to write a letter.
By early November though the deal for the mall fell apart when Zelman
couldn’t meet Center Trust’s asking price. The news came as a blow to
city officials who have seen millions go down the drain on the shopping
center. Center Trust is the descendant of Alexander Haagen Properties,
which built Media City Center. The city has invested about $69 million in
redevelopment funds to aid development of the mall and still owes $51
million to Center Trust in tax rebates being paid off at a rate of about
$2.6 million a year.
The collapse of the Zelman deal was good news for carousel lovers,
whose protestations had failed to convince Reiling to change his mind.
The mall remains for sale, however, and their fight may not be over.
Four Times The Fun
Colleen and Richard Whitman may have got a little more than they
bargained for when she began taking fertility drugs at the age of 39, but
they are not complaining. On the contrary, the Burbank couple are
counting their blessings over the birth of their quadruplets at Valley
Presbyterian Hospital on Aug. 28.
Delivered by caesarean section more than two months premature, the
babies each weighed less than three pounds at birth. Two of the quads
were quickly out of danger but two others struggled and one, Cole,
underwent an operation to unclog his urethra. By Nov. 30 though, Cole was
able to join his brothers Chad and Garrett and sister, Kathryn, at home.
The Whitemans -- who both work for the city of Burbank -- also have an
11-year-old daughter from Colleen’s previous marriage and they are in the
process of adopting a 2-year-old boy who is their foster child. In a
year’s time, the Whitman household has gone from three to eight.
“The definition of a ‘preemie’ is laughter and heartache,” Richard
said. “The first two weeks were the worst. They’d look good one day and
the next day they looked horrible -- especially with Cole.”
Much to the Whiteman’s delight, the quads all made it home for the