Harold Scoggins named fire chief

Harold Scoggins became Glendale Fire Department’s first black chief, starting in May this year.

Scoggins took over for Chris Gray, who resigned in August 2007 as the department’s fire chief to head a fire department in Northern California.

The City Council confirmed Scoggins on April 30 for the position after it received praise regarding his qualifications, service record and community involvement.

Former Assistant Fire Chief Don Biggs took over temporarily as the department’s chief as the city carried out a nationwide search for a permanent replacement for Gray.

Scoggins, who is an 18-year department veteran, was selected over two other candidates, including Operations Deputy Chief Steve Howard, who were vying for the post.

Scoggins joined the department as a firefighter in 1989 and worked his way through the ranks as an engineer, captain and battalion chief.

Brand gets metered parking

The era of free parking along Brand Boulevard drew to a close in December with the installation of multi-space meters, frustrating motorists who had grown accustomed to the restriction-free storefront stalls.

In addition to the new meters, which accept cash or credit cards and remotely sync with Glendale Police parking enforcers to reveal delinquent stalls, all existing on-street parking rates in the downtown corridor increased from 60 cents to $1 an hour. The hourly rates for surface lots were also increased to 75 cents.

Enforcement periods were also extended from 6 to 10 p.m. seven days a week on Brand, with other main downtown streets remaining free on Sundays.

The new parking meter plan was approved by the City Council as a way to increase turnover on the main boulevard and push more drivers into the city’s underutilized parking garages.

Business owners had pushed for the meters as a way to prevent their own employees from taking advantage of the free on-street parking and blocking valuable storefront spots from potential customers.

Former treasurer sentenced to jail

The former treasurer of the Glendale Bears Youth Football and Cheerleading organization was sentenced Dec. 8 to serve time in jail for stealing $31,222 from the group.

Louella Lucas Ragland, 39, of Los Angeles got 180 days in jail and three years probation after taking a no-contest plea for felony embezzlement.

She was working as the Glendale Bears’ treasurer during an enrollment drive, where the money had been collected. Glendale Bears parents and organizers tried contacting Ragland to get the money after the drive, but she disappeared.

When Ragland was arrested, she reportedly confessed to taking about 30% of the organization’s funds, but evidence showed she stole the entire amount.

The organization was left without any money and will start its season next year with a debt of $15,000.

Man charged with slaying girlfriend

A Glendale man was arrested and charged this year in the May 30 death of his ex-girlfriend, who was found strangled to death inside her home.

A judge on Aug. 5 ordered Grigor Grigoryan, 39, to stand trial for the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Yvette Hakopian, assault on a peace officer, leaving the scene of an accident and evading a peace officer as well as causing injury.

Police identified Grigoryan as a person of interest after Hakopian was found dead about 2 p.m. May 30 in her home in the 600 block of West Stocker Street.

Los Angeles County coroner’s officials confirmed that Hakopian, 35, of Glendale died from strangulation.

Hakopian’s mother called police after discovering the body.

Investigators searched for Grigoryan to question him about Hakopian’s death.

Police found Grigoryan driving a vehicle about 6:30 p.m. and tried to pull it over. Grigoryan didn’t stop and led police on a chase through Los Angeles and Hollywood.

The chase ended after a police car intentionally hit Grigoryan’s vehicle at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street, forcing it to stop on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Budget delay hits schools, others

A historic state budget delay, in which legislators sought to close a multibillion-dollar deficit, finally ended Sept. 19 when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a spending plan a record 81 days late.

Local medical, educational and political institutions in Glendale took a steep hit from the nearly three-month delay, while the fears of some were realized while state politicians worked to hammer out a bipartisan means to cover the deficit.

Glendale Community College officials spent $17.7 million from their general fund during the lapse, while the Glendale Unified School District was forced to use about $100,000 a month to cover its basic costs.

More than 2.2 million Medi-Cal participants in Los Angeles County were also affected, with some local pharmacies reporting that they were forced to turn away some patients while the state lagged in its reimbursements.

The final result pleased few, though Democratic Assemblyman Paul Krekorian said the $104.3-billion spending plan was the best legislators could come up with given the constraints of a divided Legislature.

If no budget was signed, “people would continue to suffer, and schools would continue to guess about their budget,” he said. “At the end of the day, we would not have been able to achieve any results.”

Recession hits Brand Boulevard

A spiraling economy and national recession had local implications this year when at least three businesses were forced to close as profits continued to dwindle. Linens ‘n Things, Mervyns and the last remaining Guy Schmidt car dealership on Brand Boulevard all closed their doors for good in 2008, each business reflecting a different facet of the troubled economic state.

Linens ‘n Things shut its doors in August, three months after the struggling retailer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection May 2 and announced that its weakest-performing stores — 20% of its 589 locations — would close, including the Glendale location. A rising tide of home foreclosures and decreased demand for home furnishings contributed to the company’s misfortune, officials said.

Meanwhile, Mervyns announced in October that it would close all its 149 stores throughout California and the Southwest after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The mid-level chain in the Glendale Galleria was squeezed by lower-priced retailers on one end and more expensive outlets on the other, failing to find a middle ground.

Guy Schmidt, which closed in September and had specialized in Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac and GMC automobiles, was hit by soaring oil prices and a credit crunch, resulting in lessened customer demand for larger cars. About 50 workers were out of a job while the 10-acre lot of vehicles was shipped back to regional auto centers.

Glendale business officials, while concerned about the closures, were optimistic that Brand Boulevard would continue to perform strongly with the Americana at Brand and the Glendale Galleria leading the way.

Strike leaves cities without a script

Burbank and Glendale, two cities whose businesses are reliant to a large extent on the film industry, were shaken early this year by a costly, 100-day work stoppage at the hands of the Writers Guild of America.

The strike, which ended Feb. 27 and featured numerous demonstrations at area production companies, resulted in increased residual payments for new media projects and established a new system for the union to calculate how much writers will receive from recurring new media projects.

But as officials worked to hammer out a deal, the local economy and its studio production workforce took a hit as local job and aid centers in Burbank and Glendale reported increased demand from out-of-work writers and production crew members.

Economists said writers lost more than $256 million in wages, while below-the-line workers — those not in the union but involved in media production — lost more than $444 million. The strike cost L.A. County more than $2.5 billion.

During the strike, out-of-work writers flocked to NBC, Warner Bros. and other production companies, holding regular demonstrations with some help from high-profile celebrities and politicians.

Business in each city appeared to return to normal after a deal was reached in February, with restaurants, media permits and hotel bookings all at pre-strike levels, officials said.

“All the signs are positive and everybody’s raring to go,” said Gary Olson, then-president of the Burbank Chamber of Commerce.

Teachers, district spar over contract

Teachers clashed with Glendale Unified School District officials during tense contract negotiations that will remain unresolved going into 2009.

The Glendale Teachers Assn. made a proposal in December calling for no blanket salary increases for three years while continuing current contracts, requests that would make the district vulnerable to fluctuations in funding during the state’s historic budget crisis, district representatives said.

Although the union proposed no across-the-board raises, its current contract would force the district to account for increasing health and welfare costs, as well as individual pay raises resulting from gains in education and experience, officials argued.

But the district had previously accounted for the increasing costs three years into the future and had made a worst-case estimate that showed it would still be able to cover the cost of raises, health and welfare out of its reserves, teachers said.

With the threat of midyear cuts as high as $8.8 million and the uncertainty of future budgets, officials made a counterproposal that would allow it to renegotiate health and welfare payments annually.

The district would not accept counterproposals without those flexibility measures, and teachers responded by choosing to stop negotiations until Feb. 4. 

College sees mass retirements

An unprecedented number of Glendale Community College employees retired this year, even during the nation’s recession, because of a generous incentive package that will help the college cut costs, officials said.

Many of the 43 management, staff and faculty members who retired would not have made the choice if they weren’t offered the supplemental package, an effort to encourage older, more expensive employees to leave their positions so that they could eventually be filled with much lower-paid replacements, said Gordon Alexandre, president of the Glendale College Guild, the college’s faculty union.

“This is close to double what we had in the past,” Alexandre said in December of the retiring employees. “And that’s because the incentive is better and the economy is worse. Why stick around if the incentive is good and the money for education is being cut?”

Although the retirees will help the college financially during a state budget crisis that may result in up to $4.5 million in midyear reductions, it will come with the price of losing experienced instructors.

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