Yes. Glendale, like many cities of its size, is effectively run by a small group of people. These are the ones that show up to every event, serve on the city’s nonprofit boards, serve as commissioners on city boards and, yes, run for public office.
This is not a criticism of such individuals, who work long hours to make the Jewel City sparkle. But this pool is too small, and we risk becoming staid if only a self-selected few have their turn at the wheel. One way to increase participation is to increase the pay. Glendale City Council members have an annual salary of about $17,000. Though that figure is itself a bit misleading, as it jumps to around $56,000 when health, retirement and other benefits kick in, no one pays their rent with a Blue Cross card.
And that’s part of the point. Essentially every member of the council, past or present, is retired, affluent or both. They also tend to live in the city’s priciest ZIP Codes.
Increasing the pay of the council is first step in what we believe residents should seriously consider: Full-time council members and full-time pay. No member of the council works less than 40 hours per week, and we believe the city would be better served if they could step away from their regular occupations while serving the people of Glendale.
Yes. Under the Voter Rights Act, a city can be forced into creating voting districts — as opposed to an at-large system — if minority groups are effectively shut out from positions of power. Despite the accusations of lawsuit-threatening attorneys with dubious motives, it’s hard to see how Glendale has such a problem.
Armenian-Americans have two seats on the City Council, and hold the positions of city clerk and city treasurer. True, there are no current Latino or Asian elected officials in city government, but members of these groups have recently held — or currently hold — elected positions here.
Still, we urge Glendale voters to approve Measure D, and move the city toward district elections. Why? Because there is a clear geographic bias in voting patterns. All but one current elected official — and nearly every candidate — lives north of the Venture (134) Freeway. Verdugo Woodlands seems to be particularly well represented, while downtown, Adams Hill, Tropico and a whole host of other neighborhoods are shut out.
Perhaps because of the low salary, no one in our less affluent area can afford to run for office, but positions of power should not be reserved for those with means. Measure D will help solve this problem.
Yes. For many of the same reasons we urge voters to approve Measure D, we also urge the approval of Measure E. This is a more complicated measure, as it asks voters to give Glendale Unified the authority to change its election rules. Currently, the district acts as a sort of adjunct to the city of Glendale’s charter, and even allowing the possibility of a change requires a charter vote.
This quirk means voters in unincorporated La Crescenta or the Sagebrush territory of La Cañada — areas served by GUSD — cannot vote on Measure E. Only voters within Glendale’s city limits can do so.
A yes vote does not mean that GUSD will go to district elections, only that the board of education would be permitted to do so. That move would not require a separate vote, though we urge the board to see the measure’s approval as a referendum to move in that direction.
Yes. City budgets have been squeezed for numerous reasons: rising pension and healthcare costs, the collapse of redevelopment agencies and others. Residents are rightfully wary about the usual ways cities can increase revenue — fines, taxes and fees. But the transit occupancy tax — assessed on visitors to our city — is an easy one to swallow, because it impacts people who are just passing through, requiring them to chip in for the public amenities they enjoy during their time here.
The current tax rate is 10%, a rate that has remained unchanged for about 25 years. An increase to 12%, as is proposed under the measure, is unlikely to have visitors fleeing to other cities’ hotels. Think about it: when traveling, when was the last time you considered the “transit occupancy tax” when choosing where to stay on vacation or business?
The increase will give a bit more breathing room on the finance side for some of the things Glendalians take for granted: libraries, the Alex Theatre as well as police and fire service. One caveat, however: City officials should not see an approval as a way to deal with looming fiscal crises, particularly on retiree pensions. Hard decisions will need to be made on that front, and soon.