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,
grumbling and potentially dangerous, yet still seemingly terrified of
Yet another opportunity is presenting itself for the council to
decide between giving in to the irrational, screeching demands of a
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
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
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
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
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
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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.