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It’s time for the council to take back City Hall

AS IF YOU ASKED

It’s long past time for the Burbank City Council to stop rolling

over on command. Individually and collectively, council members have

allowed themselves to be treated as the equivalent of a dancing bear,

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grumbling and potentially dangerous, yet still seemingly terrified of

being scolded.

Yet another opportunity is presenting itself for the council to

decide between giving in to the irrational, screeching demands of a

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reckless handful of self-appointed czars, or standing up to

demonstrate leadership and a willingness to stake out a principle and

stand by it. Perhaps this time, officials will make the right choice.

Within in the next several weeks, delegates representing Burbank,

Glendale and Pasadena, along with representatives of the Airport

Authority operated by those three cities, will go to Washington,

D.C., to meet with the new administration of the Federal Aviation

Administration. Some hope to weigh FAA interest in a new terminal for

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Burbank, one conditioned on local demands. Others say they hope the

FAA tells them what to do. Still others appear to have similar but

vague goals, or no goal beyond the appearance of unity

The only person I know of more cynical than I am about the trip is

Airport Authority president Chris Holden, who also is a Pasadena

councilman. But our dark opinions come from vastly different places.

Indeed, mine is partly premised on Holden’s contempt and his

contemptible attitude. He stopped contributing to any side of

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substantive airport issues long ago. Having thrown up his arms, he

seems to keep his seat only because no one else in his city wants it,

and maybe because he likes having woes to gripe about.

He might also enjoy feigning wide-eyed surprise and puzzlement

when his nuclear bombs -- in the form of chatty notes to the FAA --

whip Burbank into a frenzy. Surely no one able to dress themselves

can be as clueless and befuddled as Holden’s act implies he is.

My other doubts are based upon the conflicting, diverse and

occasionally nonexistent plans of those advocating the summit. Still,

the trip is on. Many dispute my views on its potential, and I’ll move

on from there, if only because I have to.

An effort is underway to convince Burbank’s council to let a local

political action committee pick citizens to accompany and oversee the

city’s delegation. Their travel would be paid for by taxpayers, and

they’d ostensibly provide folks back home a reliable and credible

rendition of what is said.

There is no sign the proposal will be formally discussed by the

council, and so demands from the group known as ROAR (Restore Our

Airport Rights) might be effectively ignored, save for some

back-and-forth during public-comment periods at meetings. That’s

unfortunate, but not because I think the demagogues at ROAR should be

catered to. Rather, the council should put the matter on an agenda,

then in full and strident voices, give a lecture to the presumptuous

and self-impressed little band that has deemed itself the

representative of the people.

Council members could start by sharing the common-sense rationale

they argue in private, things like the patent lack of fairness of

choosing one group. Wouldn’t the city then be obliged to pay for a

studio exec to join in, and a non-voter, and a journalist, and a

Republican, and a veteran, and a representative for virtually every

other segment of the community with a stake in airport developments?

And, by the way, what do we need a council for if those who are

elected can’t be trusted to represent us? Let’s throw the bums out,

not pay for baby-sitters!

That speech could build to a crescendo, with officials enumerating

to the extent possible the mistakes, misstatements, deceptions and

acts of utter stupidity the founders of ROAR have perpetrated on this

city just in the past year or so.

Out of concern for appearances, to “go the extra mile,” and to

“bend over backward,” this and recent councils have yielded time and

again to the absurd demands of ROAR. It’s time for the City Council

to take back City Hall.

This is not a call for elected officials to disregard “the

people,” or advocacy of anything less than council accountability to

residents. When an official screws up, ignores good advice, or is

caught telling a lie, give me a torch and pitchfork, and let me near

the front as we storm City Hall. If they break their word, we vote

someone else in or, if the sin is urgent enough, we throw them out.

ROARers like to point at the record number of voters who approved

their Measure A, a deeply flawed ballot initiative forbidding city

approval for any airport construction without a super-majority vote

of approval from citizens. The major conditions for even being

permitted to ask for that approval were an enforceable curfew on

night flights and limits on future airport growth. The initiative

became a referendum on those conditions, one that was unnecessary.

Of COURSE most Burbankers want and deserve those conditions. Both

were effectively promised in the early 1970s, when we first stepped

in the airport quagmire. ROAR may as well claim a corner on community

sentiment because they oppose police officers shooting traffic

scofflaws.

The point at which ROARers stop showing deference to the wisdom of

voters is when it comes to recognizing who voters have chosen to

represent them in every recent election and, just as important, who

they’ve rejected. For example, ROAR’s archenemies have been handily

elected and re-elected, and both of ROAR’s founders were soundly

dumped. And now the loudmouths presume to insist they’re the ones the

community trusts?

This summer, the council assembled a committee to study airport

issues. ROARers refused invitations to join, instead choosing to

catcall from the bleachers. One said the invitation was an attempt to

use his “good name” to lend credibility to a corrupt process. Well,

the council should now sarcastically explain they’re terrified of

soiling the Washington trip by being caught in the same desperate

scheme.

Also notable, campaigning for the next city election is underway.

Not one of the all-knowing ROAR founders is running. Not one will

face the same test of fire undergone by those whose duties they want

to usurp. They don’t want to face an election. They want to shout and

scream, accuse and charge, and then demand to be APPOINTED to

represent us. True enough, that’s a great shortcut. But the council

should stop giving them access to it.

Rather than timidly ducking the situation and declining to

formally discuss ROAR’s demand, I hope the council finally takes up

the gauntlet. The public deserves to hear the rational side of the

debate, but now it’s hearing only from ROAR, with only silence coming

out of City Hall.

* WILL ROGERS’ column appears in every edition of the Leader. He

can be reached 24 hours a day at 637-3200, voice mail ext. 906, or by

e-mail at will.rogers@latimes.com or willrogersemail@earthlink.net.


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