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Excitement over library isn’t waning

As If You Asked

I’m late in mentioning the new library Burbank opened in early

December, but the Buena Vista branch facility, and the Abraham

Lincoln Park surrounding it, are so spectacular the excitement hasn’t

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waned.

If you haven’t visited the corner of Buena Vista Street and

Verdugo Road, it’s worth the trip no matter where you live in town.

From the library’s classic Spanish-style architecture to the obvious

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high quality in the decor and appointments, the city’s latest capital

improvement is virtually flawless. With the elegant and ingenious use

of stained glass filtering sunlight through a sculpture at the

building’s entrance, and gentle hills landscaped into the 2-acre

park, the results of attention to detail are everywhere.

It’s natural that a new civic building would outshine its

predecessor. But the new Buena Vista library tosses the old one to

the dustbin of memories. Many might be nostalgic for the period

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during which the old library was built in 1948, but save for its

potential for other good uses, little about it inspires affection.

Users of the new library will enjoy a facility that is not only more

functional and efficient than the old, but also one that enjoys many

more stylistic touches. Indeed, the library has so many surprising

and attractive features, it’s hard to believe government played a

role in it.

When efforts to build the new library finally began to build steam

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a few years ago, council gadflies used City Hall’s enthusiasm to

skewer Councilman Dave Golonski, roundly deriding the effort as his

personal pet project. Seeing what was built, today no one is

ridiculing it as Golonski’s pet, though he’d surely enjoy accolades

from the community if anyone were clueless enough to try pinning the

“blame” on him.

Considering work that’s been done that largely benefits the

Magnolia Park region, including the library, the Chandler Bike Path

just getting underway, and the millions spent on shopping-district

improvements, and then after looking at all the attention given to

the Media District to the south, and the downtown area to the east,

I’m prompted to wonder when a fraction of that care and cash will be

dedicated to the blight my neighborhood in the northwest part of the

city has to put up with.

The hillsides enjoy the rapt attention of city officials when

locals gripe about speeding traffic, and amenities like Wildwood

Canyon Park and the Stough Nature Center keep popping up. But on my

side of town, planners seem to have decided we should serve as the

“Gateway to North Hollywood,” a sort of transition phase to help

acclimate folks headed there, or to the airport, to what lies ahead.

It’s ironic that, of the only substantive municipal improvements

the area has a chance of enjoying in the near future, it’s the

potential for replacing our own library, the Northwest Branch, if the

upcoming ballot Measure L is approved by voters. That’s ironic

because, though outgrown and pedestrian in its dated design, the

current library and the adjacent park on Victory Boulevard is --

relative to the area -- a diamond in the haphazard, rundown rough.

As dismal as the city looks between Vanowen and Burbank

boulevards, in an area roughly bounded by Hollywood Way and Buena

Vista, I suppose it’s a gift that we can leave our own armpit of the

city for the grandeur of the Buena Vista Library.

Don’t let my bitterness over the lack of fairness for the one area

not traditionally home to council members, or even on the path most

have routinely traveled on the way to City Hall, besmirch the new

library. It is a glorious and laudable success. It’s also something

of which all Burbankers can be proud.

TEACHING ME A LESSON

I owe an apology of sorts to the Burbank Teachers Assn. Last year

at about this time, we all saw the Burbank Unified School District

start down a road to implosion, countless chickens coming home to

roost. Over several months, we learned enormous errors were made in

the process of creating a budget for this year, that easily

anticipated expenses and price hikes caught the district by surprise,

and that previous warnings of poor bookkeeping and sloppy practices

from financial auditors had been largely ignored over a period of

years.

The board’s tradition of looking down its collective nose at

annoying laws about public meetings and prohibiting elected officials

from making decisions outside the confines of meetings was advanced

and protected by district officials. They paid lip service to our

right to know, but never made even an insincere, cosmetic effort to

address documented concerns raised by factions as disparate as the

community, the Los Angeles County District Attorney or City Hall.

Through all that, the BTA howled. The teachers’ group eventually

took a step unprecedented in recent memory, issuing a “vote of no

confidence” in the school board. But based upon long experience with

employee groups of various sorts, from utility workers to cops, I

fully expected the BTA’s ire would be tempered in the months that

followed. Indeed, I expected the growing and unrelated fiscal crisis

now gripping schools throughout the state would dilute what has taken

place in Burbank.

I’ve dealt with public-safety workers who were livid one day,

urging me to expose a policy that “put lives at risk!” But the next

day, after closing a 2% gap in budget talks, or perhaps with a

concession in overtime or days off, what was supposedly a

matter-of-life-death literally vanished. The formerly outraged

answered my follow-up questions by saying, “You must have

misunderstood.”

Some associations, here and elsewhere, have demonstrated that

endorsing a despised candidate with the advantage of incumbency is

safer than backing a challenger whose ideology might be more

appealing. The logic dictates incumbents often feel entitled to

certain endorsements, and so may hold a grudge if rejected. But

challengers who surprise everyone by winning are expected to

recognize the political realities and shrug off an endorsement

slight.

I expected more of the same from the BTA. I said so in this space.

But when it came time to make endorsements last month, the BTA cited

its standing vote of no confidence in incumbents and picked a trio of

newcomers. I’m not mentioning them here because advertising the BTA’s

choices, which have already been reported in this newspaper, isn’t my

goal.

Whether voters agree with the BTA’s picks remains to be seen. But

the fact is that I was skeptical the group would stick to its guns,

and this year live by the rhetoric of last year. The BTA did that.

So, (gulp), I was wrong.

* 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 at willrogers

email@earthlink.net.


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