Political Landscape:

Representatives for Republican Assembly candidate Sunder Ramani are arguing that his opponent is dodging opportunities to participate in debates ahead of the June 8 runoff election to represent Glendale, Burbank and parts of Los Angeles.

Ramani participated alone in a televised town hall Sunday hosted by the Armenian National Committee on Horizon Armenian Television. Democrat Mike Gatto did not attend the event at the Horizon studio in Hollywood because of a scheduling conflict, according to his campaign.

“The ANC has given Mike multiple dates and multiple times to hold that forum [on Sunday] and each time Mike told the ANC that he had a scheduling conflict,” said John Thomas, a political consultant for Ramani.

Although Gatto was presented with multiple date options for the forum, he could not commit to any of them.

The organization decided to hold the forum Sunday and offer Gatto a separate opportunity to participate in a televised town hall on his own, said Berdj Karapetian, a member of the organizing committee for the event.

“It was a good exchange, and we hope to give that same opportunity to Mr. Gatto,” Karapetian said of the hourlong town hall.

But Gatto's campaign argued that it didn't know the Sunday date had been set until a day earlier, leaving little time to back out of other commitments.

“The fact of the matter is something was scheduled and we had given them several alternate dates to do this,” said Mike Shimpock, a political consultant for Gatto's campaign. “We're happy to show up at something, but if we're given one day's notice about it, which is what we were?.?.?.?it makes it very unlikely that we will be able to attend.”

The Armenian National Committee, however, notified Gatto of the date options a week earlier and sent him a written invitation on May 12 to participate in the event, Karapetian said.

Regardless, Gatto argued that he has frequently debated with Ramani in forums, including four times over the last month and a half, and did not need to do so again.

“I am focusing my efforts now on speaking with voters,” Gatto said.

Larry Zarian, host of “The Larry Zarian Show,” said he has also had trouble coordinating with Gatto for debates.

Zarian has contacted the Gatto campaign at least six times to ask about his participation in an on-air debate to be held June 3, but has received no response, he said. That debate was set to be co-hosted by the Glendale News-Press, but Gatto's campaign has argued that Zarian has ties to Ramani that could make the forum slanted.

Zarian is friends with Ramani and has given $99 to his campaign, but argued that his personal views should not play a factor in a candidate's decision to appear in a television forum moderated by the News-Press.

“Gatto is a good candidate, a very nice young man, and I think instead of not wanting to debate he should invite and encourage debates,” Zarian said. “If a person is a worthy candidate, you want everybody to know about you and ask you questions. So I am surprised about this.”

Obama signs Schiff's press bill

President Obama on Monday signed a bill sponsored by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) that directs federal officials to examine how other countries treat journalists.

The Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act, named in honor of a Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and killed by terrorists in Pakistan, will require the U.S. State Department to research and identify countries where there were violations of press freedoms, according to the legislation.

“A free press is a central pillar of the rule of law of the function of the economy and so many other freedoms and liberties,” Schiff said. “Without it so much else suffers. So we hope that countries will be aware that their treatment of their press will be closely watched and it will have an effect on our relationships with them.”

Countries where press freedoms are obstructed, or where journalists are vulnerable to attack or kidnapping without concern from governments, will be cited in an annual report from the State Department, Schiff said.

It is unclear how significantly a violation cited in the report might affect relations with major world trade partners, like China, Schiff said.

“It really will be very much on a case-by-case and country-by-country basis,” he said.

Lawmakers eye international piracy

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) was among a group of lawmakers that presented a “watch list” of five countries that “continue to be major havens for intellectual property theft,” including Canada, China, Mexico, Russia and Spain.

The list, released by the congressional International Anti-Piracy Caucus, has special significance for companies and residents in Glendale and Burbank, Schiff said.

Sales of pirated media in other countries lowers revenue for area entertainment companies, he said.

“It costs the country billions of dollars, it costs us lots of jobs,” Schiff said.

The worldwide release of “Iron Man 2” was the latest example of piracy harming revenue, he said.

“Before it had opened up in the U.S. it was already being sold on pirated sites, and we've just got to step up to stop this because it's costing the American people dearly,” Schiff said.

— Zain Shauk

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