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Olive Avenue Confidential: Readers can help stories get told

A lot has happened in Burbank over the past two months or so, making this a pretty cool place for a newspaper columnist to be.

Way back on July 7, my first Leader column focused on calls to expand the role of the city’s Police Commission, which last month took a significant step toward greater relevance by holding its first town hall meeting since the need for police oversight reform became painfully apparent last year.


Commission members have complained that the council-appointed advisory body has for far too long been held back from any real power to play an oversight role or even communicate with the public effectively.

Tensions behind the scenes peaked just prior to the Aug. 18 town hall after the council decided to run — or, as some commissioners put it, hijack — the event as a joint meeting, which also prompted expectations along Olive Avenue that the commission’s big night would flop.


While some complained that the meeting’s structure ran a bit too formal and public comment wasn’t fully addressed, what’s most important was the place was packed.

Now it’s up to commissioners, who meet again Sept. 15, to figure out what to do next.

Meanwhile, one fair criticism of the town hall is we didn’t learn all that much about ongoing lawsuits against the city by recently fired officers.

The omission seemed a little strange until I found that few City Hall insiders claim to know any more about it than what’s in the newspaper, with council members and other top officials intentionally keeping themselves out of the investigative loop, citing police privacy protections and other legal concerns.


So when interim Police Chief Scott LaChasse told the town hall audience there was no tail wagging his dog on department reform decisions, we know he wasn’t kidding.

Another big story this summer was an oldie but goodie: Concern over the potential future expansion of Bob Hope Airport.

At first, second and third glance, plans for a new Empire Avenue ground transportation hub make good sense in terms of reducing the airport’s traffic and pollution impacts on residents.

For some, however, the plans appear a little too well thought-out. With the feds still pushing for a new terminal and local officials lobbying for an airport-adjacent high-speed rail stop, critics fear the transport hub is only Step No. 1 in a grand airport expansion scheme.


Because council members discussed legal advice about the airport only in closed session — under the auspices of potential litigation, no less — the question is not if but when this tale will continue.

A sleeper of a story, but an outrageous one nonetheless, was the revelation that the Burbank Unified School District can’t account for all spending related to its $112-million 1997 school facilities bond.

Though many in power seem content simply to move on, new Supt. Stan Carrizosa showed laudable commitment to maintaining public trust by calling for a forensic audit of bond spending, and fortunately he’s found support on the Board of Education.

Kudos are also due for the City Council’s decision last month to fund transitional housing for emancipating foster youth and other local teens at risk of homelessness.

But there are many stories yet to happen and others I just haven’t heard about yet, which is where you come in.

Please tell me what you think is important among the goings-on in Burbank during our next official Leader meet-and-greet, happening from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at De Bell Clubhouse Grill, 1500 Walnut Ave.

Hope to see you there.

JOE PIASECKI is an Annenberg Fellow with USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and a contributing editor for the Pasadena Weekly. He can be reached at