Week In Review

Asthma rates have increased significantly in Glendale over the past three years, city health officials were told Thursday.

The rate of those 20 years old and younger who were diagnosed with asthma jumped by about 40%, and adults age 25 to 64 saw their diagnosis rate jump 105%, according to a report to the Glendale Healthier Community Coalition.

Health officials did not know whether the increase was due to better reporting and diagnostic testing, or if it was related to environmental factors.

While the increased rate of reported asthma caught many at the meeting off guard, other trends were more predictable, health officials said.

Heart disease remains the city’s No. 1 killer, claiming about 34% of all deaths. Cancer is the cause of death 23% of the time, and strokes claim about 6.5%, according to the survey.

Glendale, with a population of about 207,000 people, also continues to have a higher-than-average proportion of adult smokers, with close to 20% lighting up on a regular basis, the survey found.

 A plan to close a projected $9.9-million gap in the city’s budget for the next fiscal year with 5% cuts across all city departments on Tuesday came laden with citywide program reductions, hiring freezes and potential layoffs in a report to the City Council.

The plan, presented during a special budget study session, included provisions for increasing transfers to the general fund from Glendale Water & Power and other enterprise accounts, while at the same time reducing outflow to other programs, such as the capital improvement project budget.

The Community Development & Housing Department may have to lay off a customer service worker after last year cutting two code enforcers, Director Madalyn Blake said.

Glendale Police Department officials said a 5% reduction in the department would cut available overtime hours that officers use to staff many of the city’s popular community service programs.

Six firefighter positions would also be shed from the Fire Department, including the public information officer and a fire captain position, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins told the City Council.

A public hearing on the entire general fund will be held on June 10.

 Permanent campaign finance reform appears headed to the 2009 ballot after the City Council on Tuesday nudged a possible ordinance closer to formation.

By the end of Tuesday’s meeting, a clearer picture formed of what a campaign finance reform package might look like, after several on the council voiced support for an across-the-board donor limit of between $250 and $1,000.

Mayor John Drayman asked that a possible ordinance be fast-tracked to be up for council approval within the next few weeks.

 Construction on a disputed Flower Street extension over the railway tracks to San Fernando Road will begin this summer, after the City Council on Tuesday narrowly approved a $2.6-million contract for the work.

The amount was 27% less than what the city estimated the project would cost in April.

The project joins a related move in April to create a $2-million account to pay for safety improvements along the rail corridor as part of a settlement agreement last year between the city and Metrolink as well as the state Public Utilities Commission.

The project’s forward movement came despite opposition from nearby residents who said the future rail crossing, which will come with Flower Street’s extension, is sure to create a dangerous and potentially deadly intersection.

Glendale Fire Chief Harold Scoggins and Fire Department critic Bruce Philpott presented opposing views to the City Council on Tuesday of the staffing needs of the department.

One of Philpott’s central points was that the Glendale Fire Department could still function effectively, and would save the city money, if it reduced the number of firefighters staffed on fire engines and fire trucks from four people to three people.

Staffing trucks and engines with three people would save the Fire Department about $9.4 million a year, Philpott said, as the fourth person could cover some of the overtime hours accumulated by other firefighters.

Scoggins rebutted many of Philpott’s premises and conclusions, arguing that four-person crews allowed firefighters to mount attacks on fires faster, keep residents safer and prevent injuries to firefighters.

 A month after opening statements, when prosecutors said Juan Manuel Alvarez purposefully caused a 2005 train wreck that killed 11 people, Alvarez took the stand Tuesday, telling jurors he had no intention of killing anyone other than himself when he parked his Jeep Cherokee on the train tracks..

During three days of testimony, Alvarez told jurors of his suicidal intentions that had gone awry and was grilled by Deputy Dist. Atty. John Monaghan, who accused Alvarez of lying on the stand.

On Tuesday, Alvarez said he awoke at about 5 a.m. on Jan. 26, 2005 to the sounds of Spanish-language radio and rain outside his Los Feliz apartment on Brunswick Avenue. After taking a shower and getting dressed, Alvarez left his home and drove to a gas station en route to a new job that had given him a new state of mind after a period of depression and hallucinations, aided by his addiction to methamphetamine.

But, as he drove to the gas station at about 5:30 a.m., suicidal thoughts crept into his mind when he envisioned his wife, Carmen, and her imagined lover goading him from the rear of his vehicle, he testified.

So Alvarez filled up his SUV and two water bottles with gasoline and searched for a “dark place, an isolated place,” he said. “I drove around, because I didn’t know the area.”

He testified that he doused his hair, back and car with gasoline but changed his plans as a result of the searing pain and odious vapors that covered his body before making his way to the Metrolink train tracks that divide Glendale from Los Angeles.

On Wednesday, Monaghan sought to portray Alvarez as a remorseless and violent danger to society, saying that he often lied to family members and intimidate other inmates in jail following his arrest.

On Thursday, Monaghan said Alvarez never poured gasoline on himself, accusing him of lying on the stand.

The Glendale Latino Assn. awarded 16 seniors from public and private schools in Glendale and La Crescenta with a total of $12,000 in scholarships during an awards ceremony at the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club on Thursday.

The scholarships provide motivation for the students, and bring the community together to support Latino students seeking a higher education, said Mercy Velazquez, president of the association. The association raises the funds for the annual scholarships through its business networking events and through sponsorships from businesses and individuals.

The state Senate approved two education-related bills Tuesday that aim to give schools and teachers more economic flexibility as California schools stare down the prospect of $4 billion in cuts to state schools amid a $14.2-billion budget deficit.

The bills were pushed through by state Sen. Jack Scott, chairman of the education committee and who recently was named the next chancellor of the California community college system.

The class-size-reduction bill — which was set to expire July 1, 2009 — makes permanent legislation that allows kindergarten, first-, second- and third-grade classrooms in public school districts in the state to continue adding up to two more students per class while continuing to incur minimal penalties.

The Crescenta Valley High softball team saw its season conclude Tuesday with a 3-2 home loss to La Serna in a California Interscholastic Federation Division III semifinal contest.

The Falcons finished the season at 29-1. They entered the postseason as the division’s top seed after winning the Pacific League championship.

Crescenta Valley posted playoff victories against Hemet, Highland and Santa Monica before falling to La Serna. The Falcons grabbed an early 2-0 lead but couldn’t hold the lead.

Crescenta Valley standout junior shortstop/catcher Baillie Kirker finished the season with an area-best 18 home runs.

NOTABLE QUOTABLES

“Every program has a constituency, and everyone will feel the effect of the reductions.”

— City Manager Jim Starbird, on the proposed 5% across-the-board cut in city services to close a projected $9.9-million budget shortfall for the next fiscal year.

“I am just shocked, and I never thought this day would come.”

— Councilman Ara Najarian, after several homeowners associations representatives publicly supported Glendale fire critic Bruce Philpott’s proposal to reduce fire engine staffing in order to save the city money.

“The playing field is not level, and I don’t know how you’re going to get it down to level.”

— Councilman Dave Weaver, on how campaigns are funded and operated in Glendale.

“I don’t agree that we’re in such bad shape financially that we have to look at the manning of fire engines in this city. I completely and utterly disagree.”

— Councilman Frank Quintero, who joined two other colleagues in publicly opposing Bruce Philpott’s money-saving proposal to reduce fire engine staffing.

“You have to have the right amount of people on the scene to do the job right.”

— Glendale Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, on why staffing four firefighters per truck and engine is preferable to three.

“She embodies Pat more than anyone who could have won.”

— Glendale High School student Natasha Aftandilians, on classmate Henrietta Movsessian’s qualifications for winning the Pat Navolanic Memorial Award.

“I feel terrible, and I ask for forgiveness. I never meant to hurt anyone.”

Juan Manuel Alvarez, during his first day of testimony about his role in the Jan. 26, 2005, train derailment that left 11 dead and 184 injured.



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