A 30-year veteran of the public sector, Emily Gabel-Luddy began her service to Burbank a decade ago when she was appointed to the Planning Board. She brought her experience of working for the Los Angeles Department of Planning at all levels, including history as a zoning administrator and establishing the Urban Design Studio that focused on developing tools to integrate pedestrian and urban infrastructure to create more walkable neighborhoods.
After leaving her post in Los Angeles, Gabel-Luddy began lecturing for the landscape architecture program at the USC School of Architecture.
“This is not the time for on-the-job training,” she said. “I have the time and the passion to devote myself to the work that is needed for Burbank.”
Why are you running for Burbank City Council?
Public service is important to me. As a professional city planner with more than 30 years of practical experience working with diverse communities to address a full range of environmental, traffic and land-use issues, I believe I can bring an important perspective to our City Council deliberations.
What are the major issues or problems facing Burbank?
As evidenced by the empty storefronts and vacant office buildings we all see, Burbank is facing the same economic challenges that have affected us all over the past two years. Even though Burbank is in much better shape than many other cities in the region, I believe the economy is clearly the single largest issue we face since it affects everything we do.
I want to do everything I can to support a strong local economy and would like to pay particular attention to developing business opportunities within our existing stock of storefronts and buildings.
My goal is to maintain police, fire, public works and protect our senior citizen, parks and library services in the manner we have come to expect. This means taking a hard look at where city money is going to ensure that services to Burbank’s residents are maintained before we agree to any discretionary spending, especially when so many of the residents I have met walking door-to-door are doubling up, out of work, or renting a room to help pay the mortgage. We need to maintain the proper perspective on where hard-earned tax dollars should go.
Traffic impacts are a primary reason why residents oppose development projects in their communities. One only has to look at the Five Points intersection, or the drive-through lane for the In-N-Out burger at the Media Center to know that Burbank has to do a better job of transportation planning. During 30 years as a professional planner, I have seen what can be achieved with good transportation planning, and I want to use my professional experience to help advance quality transportation planning in Burbank.
How will you approach continued budget cuts?
There are two main issues, and these are closely related: the current budget deficit, which is the result of the current economic problems facing the region, and the growing structural deficit Burbank faces. The structural deficit is a longer-term annual occurrence driven by the gap between anticipated revenue and long-term financial obligations, including city pension obligations. No one group or individual brought this problem on us — and there are probably as many theories as there are people in a room — but we bear a common responsibility to keep our city stable financially.
I would call for a special task force involving representatives from City Council, the city manager, employee representatives and key stakeholders to develop practical ideas on how to solve the structural deficit over the long term. All parties at the table — all willing to solve it for the good of our community as a whole.
What is your No. 1 concern for Burbank residents, and how will you address their concerns on the council?
My No. 1 concern is making sure that the issues confronting Burbank residents are what set the agenda for our city staff. Going door to door has been a humbling experience. It has introduced me to the range of concerns our residents have.
For some, it is traffic and speeding. We can clearly do better than Five Points, and apply new techniques to slow down traffic. This is where I would like to bring my experience to thoughtful council deliberations.
For others, it is government transparency. Here, the saying “sunshine is the best disinfectant” is the best way to go. I worked for a city and have had experience with council discussions that were considered “privileged.” We need to be as transparent as possible — to keep our electorate and taxpayers informed about our city’s direction. My salary was public all my working career; this was something I accepted because the taxpayers paid it.
Other residents I spoke with are concerned about water and power bills. We live in an arid climate, no getting around it. Going forward, my effort will be to communicate more about conservation, recycling — we should be making our city more sustainable over time — as we are stewards of it now for our future generations.
Name: Emily Gabel-Luddy
Occupation: Los Angeles city planner and university professor
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Occidental College; graduate degrees from University of Massachusetts and Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
Endorsements: Rep. Adam Schiff
Assemblyman Mike Gatto
Marsha Ramos, former mayor, city of Burbank
Jeff Vander Borght, former mayor, city of Burbank
Dave Golonski, former mayor and current councilmember, city of Burbank