Week in review

County officials have contracted with Los Angeles-based Union Rescue Mission to operate this year’s homeless winter shelter at the Burbank armory, less than a year after a last-minute push to host the shelter there forced community dialogue over the city’s role in homeless services.

The commitment comes three months earlier than it did last year, when county officials were scrambling to find an alternative to the Glendale National Guard Armory, which had hosted the tri-city area shelter for more than a decade but was unavailable amid major renovations.

They were further hampered by the fact that none of the traditional Glendale-based social service organizations was willing to take the shelter project on, citing budget and staff burdens.

Only after Union Rescue Mission agreed to take on the shelter just a couple of weeks before the Dec. 1 start date did officials shift their focus to Burbank’s armory — igniting a citywide debate on the potential effects of hosting a winter shelter for the homeless.

David Martel, a contract manager for the county Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said the rescue mission’s contract to operate the winter shelter at the Burbank armory, which is near Bob Hope Airport, was approved for $383,704.

Monthly payments will be made as the Union Rescue Mission starts to prepare for the same operation, only under much less strenuous circumstances, he added.

The early commitment this year leaves the Glendale Homeless Coalition, which helps set policy initiatives among dozens of service providers in the city’s Continuum of Care network, to focus on other priorities this fiscal year while playing a more supportive role to Burbank.

During the coalition’s first meeting since returning from a summer break on Thursday, president-elect Natalie Profant-Komuro outlined a more focused work plan for the group as it heads into the winter season.

 The City Council on Tuesday moved to eliminate the city arts commission, voting to create a task force that would develop the framework for an independent, city-subsidized nonprofit organization to carry on the commission’s task in its stead.

The move capped off weeks of speculation that the Arts & Culture Commission would likely be dissolved — its members reassigned to an independent arts council that would tap the talents of Glendale’s professional arts community in an effort to reinvigorate the effort to implement the city’s official arts strategy — after Mayor John Drayman asked that the idea be considered.

For months, the arts commission has languished under lack of resources in its effort to realize the Strategic Plan for the Arts in Glendale, a comprehensive blueprint on how to advance arts and culture citywide that the City Council adopted a decade ago.

As had been widely expected, the City Council deferred much of its response to Drayman, citing his longtime involvement in the arts as an advocate and professional.

The council voted unanimously to bring back a resolution that would officially create the task force, which would then return by the end of the year with a proposed framework of how the nonprofit arts council would operate and fulfill the strategic plan for final consideration.

The task force would include representatives from the City Attorney’s Office, the school district, arts professionals, current and former arts commissioners and other stakeholders.

Two men and two boys were charged Wednesday with carjacking a motorist at gunpoint and engaging in a three-day crime spree that spanned from the city to Tujunga, police said.

The four were taken into custody Sunday night after a pursuit through the city, Glendale police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

The District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday charged Nicolas Ventura Jr., 18, of Lakeview Terrace and Sergio Rodriguez, 20, of Sylmar with five counts of robbery, one count of carjacking, one count of attempted carjacking and one count of evading a police officer, which is a felony.

The counts also carry a special gun allegation.

Ventura was being held on $675,000 bail and Rodriguez on $625,000 bail.

A 15-year-old Sylmar boy and a 15-year-old Lakeview Terrace boy also were charged with five counts of robbery. They will be tried as minors.

 A former Bank of America employee was arrested in connection with two federal indictments alleging that he filed fake tax returns and stole more than $400,000 from people’s bank accounts, officials said Thursday.

Antoine David Haroutunian, 46, of Glendale was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly using his job at the bank from 2001 to 2003 to get people’s account numbers, signatures and identification numbers, Internal Revenue Services spokesman Michael Moriarty said.

Haroutunian and others used the account information to impersonate the account holder to withdraw funds after he was fired from his customer service position at the bank, Moriarty said.

Haroutunian was indicted on 12 counts of bank fraud, with each charge carrying a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison and a fine of $1 million, Moriarty said.

Bank of America lost more than $400,000 because of the scheme, officials said.

Officials with Goodwill Industries said this week that sales and donations have increased at all Southern California stores — including its Glendale location — in August from the same point last year as shoppers look to Goodwill’s relatively cheap goods in an economy that has complicated consumer pocketbooks.

Of Goodwill’s 55 retail stores in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, revenue is up 7% from August 2007; donations have shot up 17% at those centers, Community Relations Specialist Jeremy Schlittenhart said.

At the 1622 W Glenoaks Blvd. Goodwill retail and donation center, sales have soared 15% above last year’s level, and donations have inched up about 2% from August 2007, he said.

Goodwill has been able to weather the economic storm by expanding its customer base and re-branding its image from bargain-basement thrift store to a destination for treasure hunters and middle-class shoppers looking to save money, Schlittenhart said.

And with most schools starting on Tuesday, Goodwill is emphasizing its backpacks and children’s clothes for parents of students ramping up for a return to class.

“Back to school for less” signs line the windows and dot the store’s interior while supplies and clothes fill the racks inside the 6,800-square-foot store.

On Nov. 4, California voters must decide among a dozen propositions that could significantly affect the state’s transportation, energy and law enforcement.

Of the 12 issues to be voted on, Proposition 4, which would require a 48-hour waiting period and parental notification before minors could get abortions unless a judge granted a waiver, has raised strong objections and vociferous support in Glendale and throughout the state.

Objections to the proposal have been spearheaded by the Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, which has mounted a more than $2-million campaign through 26 regional facilities that dot the state.

Other forces working against the measure, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the California Family Health Council, have raised about $300,000.

Hoping to defeat the measure, Planned Parenthood has dispersed its supporters throughout the state, including Glendale. Volunteers are passing out leaflets on California college campuses, such as Glendale Community College, and have called potential voters to ensure they vote on Nov. 4 against Prop. 4.

High schools are also a focus for some fighting the measure, highlighted by significant opposition from the California Teachers Assn., the largest teachers union in the state.

The Glendale Community College men’s soccer team opened up the home portion of its schedule Tuesday with a 3-1 nonconference victory against Los Angeles Harbor College.

Jose Rodas, Nelson Bustillos and George Chacon each scored a goal for the Vaqueros.


“It’s calming to know we’re not in this alone, but something needs to start shifting soon.”

— Glendale Community College President/Supt. Audre Levy on the impact of the ongoing state budget stalemate.

“We had to throw a dart at the budget board in June, and yet state legislators continue to be irresponsible.”

Mary Boger, vice president of the Glendale Unified School District, on how the budget impasse in Sacramento is unfair to school districts that were forced to meet their own budget deadlines in June.

“We’ve been joking about being staycationers, but really, when it’s not by choice, you can only laugh for so long.”

— La Crescenta resident Carrie Hunt, who stayed home over the Labor Day weekend because of financial constraints due to the economic downturn and high fuel costs.

“Public education and student performance continues to move in the right direction.”

— State Supt. Jack O’Connell on the improved Academic Performance Index scores for California schools.

“I am really afraid at the end of the night because I don’t know what is going to happen. I wake up to any noise I hear.”

— Glendale resident Arlon Larsen of her lost sense of security after her home was burglarized.

“This is a deeply flawed measure.”

— Assemblyman Paul Krekorian on Proposition 7, a November ballot measure that would require all electric utilities in California to acquire 40% of their electricity from solar and clean-energy facilities by 2020 and half of its power from renewable energy by 2025.

“It’s just too expensive at other stores.”

— Goodwill store manager Sofi Davodian, on news that revenue is up 15% and donations about 2% from last year.

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