Let's stop the personal attacks

Congratulations to David Gordon on being elected to the City Council ("Gordon wins in tight race," Wednesday).

I appeared before Gordon many times when he was on the Planning Board and, whether we agreed on something or not, I found him at all times to be open and available to me. No one bringing a project before the Council or Planning Board could ask for more, and I always appreciated my dialogue with him. I wish him much success as he joins the council because the success of any member of the council is success for the city as a whole.

My intent in writing this is to address the inevitable spin and character attacks that, unfortunately, have become the driver in election campaigns at the expense of the issues themselves.

I acknowledge the inevitability of political polarization that exists in this country but I do not accept the character attacks and misrepresentations that seemed so prevalent throughout the just-concluded Burbank election. The political arena is a rough-and-tumble life that is not for the weak of heart. That is one thing upon which all people on all sides of the political fence can agree.

As an attorney and historically frequent speaker before the Planning Board and City Council, I respect completely the 1st Amendment rights of citizens to speak their mind. To imply in any way that I do not support their constitutional right to speak is wrong. What drove me to write this are the personal attacks against Bill Wiggins throughout the campaign each Tuesday night by the group of people supporting Gordon. Very serious and onerous words were used against Wiggins and were total misrepresentations of his record and his commitment to this city.

Hopefully, now that David Gordon is sitting on the other end of the podium, he will come to understand the true meaning of responsibility and accountability.

Upfront and to make it perfectly clear, I am a longtime friend of the Wiggins family and I voted for Bill Wiggins, not against David Gordon or anyone else. As a human being, Wiggins is honest, committed to his wonderful family, committed to this wonderful city and I treasure his friendship. Whether anyone agrees with him or not -- sometimes I have not -- the fact is he has volunteered to serve this city in any number of ways and has a track record of community involvement and service that those who called him names could never understand much less even begin to match. I am a better person in my life because Bill Wiggins and Marilyn Wiggins are my friends.

I would hope, perhaps naively, that in future local elections we in Burbank do not sink into the slime of what we see in state and national elections: character assassination at the total expense of the issues. Just because someone, in this case five good people, chose to sacrifice his/her personal life for a chance to run for Burbank City Council and serve this wonderful city, does not mean that irresponsible people supporting one candidate should get up and call other candidates names. I was sorry to see that in this past campaign, especially to a degree that I do not believe I have seen before in Burbank.

To Michael Dontanville, David Gordon, Vahe Hovanessian, Amy Lawrence and Bill Wiggins, I tip my hat to you all for having the community spirit and dedication to run for public office. I have nothing but admiration and respect, although not for some of the tactics noted above, for the spirit you brought forth. To Gordon: congratulations and best wishes for much success as you join the council. Your success, as noted above, is our success.

One other comment. Everyone in Burbank should note that 11,311 votes were cast out of a total number of eligible voters of 46,847. That is 24.1% of our eligible voters who exercised their constitutional right to vote. That is an absolute disgrace and we, as a city, should be ashamed. A mail-in ballot that took all of 1 minute to complete and mail and only 24.1% of our registered population chose to do so. Please, when the time comes, exercise your constitutional right to vote. For whom you vote is your choice, but just vote. Far too many members of our military services have died face down in the mud protecting our right to do so.

* JACK O'NEILL is a Burbank resident.

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