CITY HALL — Anja Reinke was elected to her first term as mayor Monday, with second-year Councilman Jess Talamantes tapped to fill her previously held seat as vice mayor.
In a reorganization ceremony that reflected on the accomplishments and setbacks of 2009-10, Talamantes nominated the attorney and Realtor to the center seat on the dais to cap the final year of her first term.
Reinke was unanimously confirmed to the post.
A former police commissioner and board member of the Family Service Agency of Burbank, Reinke said the theme of her one-year term would be a renewed focus on the past, present and future of Burbank, as official plan to recognize 2011 as the city’s centennial.
“I think we need to look to the past to give us some perspective for the present and for the future,” Reinke said. “And sometimes you have to look at the past and realize that things that seem so earth-shaking today may not be as earth shaking when you look backward.”
She committed her term to ensuring safe and clean streets, swift responses from police and fire personnel and a push toward making the city more sustainable. As mayor, she inherits a stack of police lawsuits, criminal investigations into officer misconduct and excessive use of force and mounting terminations.
“Usually if there’s problems in a city it’s because there has been a breakdown in a system. And we’re looking into fixing systems that aren’t functioning as properly as they should,” she said. “And I hope to get the best fixes that we can get during the year that I am the mayor to address those issues.”
She also takes the helm of the City Council as it prepares to weigh a proposed budget that incorporates rate hikes, service reductions and position freezes, but no layoffs or cuts to benefits. Still, the Police Department morass will continue to take a toll financially, officials said.
“That’s where we’re going to have problems on the budget,” Gary Bric said in an interview before ceding his mayoral post Monday. “You can’t ask the city attorney’s office to cut 5% when we’re going to be throwing in another $2 million to $4 million they’re going to need.”
As mayor, Bric made public the FBI’s probe into the department, but continued to take fire from those who heaped blame on his ceremonial post.
“I don’t know what more the city could have done,” Bric said. “We didn’t request the FBI to come in. But we started an outside investigation and an internal investigation once we found out there might be turmoil in the department.”
He was recognized Monday for his candor and ability to maintain decorum on the dais, particularly between Councilmen David Gordon and Dave Golonski.
“There’s a lot more depth to Gary Bric than I think a lot of people see on a Tuesday night, or hear when you’re making a joke,” City Manager Mike Flad said.
Although the mayor is largely a ceremonial post, they have broad influence over the council agenda and in running public meetings. Reinke will also be at the helm during the next citywide election in April 2011, in which she and Bric would be up for reelection
Gordon, who has twice been elected and is the council’s second-longest-serving member, had expressed interest in the vice-mayorship, but some of his colleagues said privately that they wouldn’t support him based on his never voting to approve a budget and his earlier call for then-Chief Tim Stehr to step down.
After the meeting, Gordon said he was uncertain what qualified or disqualified a candidate for the nomination, but was supportive of his colleagues’ decision.
“There are many important issues facing the city right now,” he said.
Talamantes spent 32 years as a firefighter with the city while serving on several boards and commissions.
“Obviously there are a lot of budget issues and a lot of legal issues coming down,” he said. “My whole career, I dealt in tough situations, minute-to-minute lifesaving decisions that you have to make. I’ve been dealing with these kinds of tough decisions my whole [working] life.”