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When 3 goes into 2, and my drug use

AS IF YOU ASKED

In recent weeks, I’ve teased some city movers and shakers for their

discomfort in finding worthy picks to endorse in the City Council

race. I’m actually sorry some of those jokes have come at the expense

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of candidates whose biggest supposed “negative” is that they haven’t

immersed themselves in City Hall.

But I’ll come back to that later, because one group out there had

NO trouble making picks. In fact, Burbank’s chapter of the Armenian

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National Committee made too many.

The Armenian National Committee is something of a cross between a

political party and the lobbying arm of an Armenian political party.

Armenians and Armenian Americans are traditionally less partisan than

many of us are used to, more apt to vote for candidates and platforms

rather than by party labels. Even leaders of local ANC chapters have

told me they can’t claim to represent more than 5% to 10% percent of

local Armenian Americans.

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Census figures don’t break out citizens of Armenian heritage, and

estimates of that local population veer wildly. There’s a constant

search for the fine line between a credible estimate that will entice

politicians with a potential voting bloc, and a figure that is a

clumsy exaggeration.

Still, there’s no question the ANC is the most visible

representative of a significant Armenian-American community. A list

of interests specific to the ANC in Burbank is much the same as that

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for any minority group in any city. The ANC would like to see city

employee ranks reflect the arguable Armenian-American population in

Burbank; a youth and athletic center aimed at diverting Armenian kids

from gang influences; and training for city workers -- especially

police officers -- to discourage ethnic stereotyping.

The ANC’s questionnaire for candidates also asked for comments on

the Section 8 subsidies and affordable housing programs, and about

establishing a “sister-city” relationship in Armenia. The ANC asked

candidates for their positions on installing a memorial to the

Armenian Genocide in a Burbank park, a proposal fraught with

controversy and highly emotional debate.

Also, like virtually any other minority political group, many

observers believe endorsements from local chapters of the ANC

strongly favor Armenians before the questions have even been asked.

The ANC has endorsed non-Armenians, but when Armenians are running,

most seem virtually certain to win an ANC nod.

Ultimately, Burbank’s ANC chapter endorsed candidates Jef Vander

Borght, Gary Bric and Vahe Hovanessian for City Council. It’s a point

that can sometimes slip past the best of us, but the problem is that

only two seats are up for election, and the ANC has made three picks.

(The ANC also endorsed three candidates for school board, and three

seats are up for election there.)

My calls to Burbank’s chapter of the ANC were not immediately

returned, so there’s no way to know whether picking a trio was an

embarrassing oversight or an implicit confession there were more good

choices than there are seats. Frankly, given human nature and

politics, one has to expect the ANC will categorically reject the

former, and earnestly assure us the latter explains the group’s

excess.

FORUM FOLLOW-UP

As mentioned previously, when I sat to watch last week’s forum of

council and school board candidates hosted by the local chapter of

the League of Women Voters, I was suffering from a painful abscessed

tooth. My reactions were so hostile I thought it better to reserve

judgment until after a dentist had done his cruel and evil work on

me.

That work was done, and I sat to watch a tape of the forum. This

time, I suspect the candidates enjoyed the benefit of another

extreme. Painkillers had me grinning amiably to almost everything

most of them had to say. Perhaps most significantly, I was able to

shake off an insidious premise that had, with the passage of time,

become part of my fabric.

There was a day when I firmly believed council candidates did not

need to be experts on city operations, or recording machines that can

spew accurate dates and dollar amounts on command. I allowed that a

strong set of principles was enough to qualify a candidate, and that

experience touted by some candidates was really a euphemism for

having gotten so close to the trees that they couldn’t see the

forest.

Alas, I was among those who first looked at the current crop of

council candidates and was appalled to realize only one of the nine

has significant experience in City Hall. Many of the others never set

foot in City Hall for any purpose before announcing a desire to sit

in the city’s highest office.

Watching the forum, I realized most of the neophyte candidates

were moved by some development or series of problems, and the desire

to provide common-sense solutions. Though I’ve allowed myself to veer

from those roots, the forum reminded me that familiar motivation

makes them every bit as viable as any incumbent running for a third

term.

The neophytes did reveal lots of ignorance. It was frustrating to

hear repeated mentions of City Hall having “helped” bring the Empire

Center and Costco to Burbank, referring to those traffic boondoggles

with low- paying jobs as an example of skewed priorities. I’d agree,

if only the city had lured the businesses.

Private land was for sale, a developer bought it and developed it,

and the businesses came. Bing-bang-boom. The city’s role was in

processing applications and permits. Surely more forethought could

have been given to some aspects such as zoning, but many candidates

are clearly under the mistaken belief the city paid incentives,

planned the projects, handed out scads of variances, and so on.

A couple of candidates also fell into familiar political traps.

Asked about potential budget cuts, one man declared some would be

necessary, but urgently pledged to oppose any that have an impact on

the police or fire departments, city services or city employees. I’m

not sure what’s left, but I doubt it could amount to more than $40.

Still, I was pleased to watch the forum and see that, assuming

some experienced colleagues and staff will fill in newcomers on the

major gaps in their knowledge, almost any interest group in Burbank

could find a couple of worthy candidates in the pool available. None

of them has been caught in a lie about their background or unfairly

smeared a competitor. Indeed, if we can view the lack of experience

as a lack of prejudice and rigidity, perhaps this is better than most

of the candidate fields we’ve seen in recent years.

OK. Maybe I took one too many of those pain pills.

* 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

willrogersemail@earthlink.net.


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