Candidate enters GCC race late

DOWNTOWN — Glendale Community College will pay the city about $85,000 to run its Board of Trustees election since a fourth candidate, Vrej Agajanian, entered the race for the three seats on the ballot, according to the city clerk’s office.

If challenger Ann Ransford and incumbents Armine Hacopian and Anita Quinonez Gabrielian had been the only candidates in the race, there would have been no need for an election, but with four candidates vying for the three seats, there will be one, Assistant City Clerk Rita Buchanan said Monday.

Sergei Aftandelian, an elementary school teacher who had previously declared his candidacy, will not be running in the election, Buchanan said.

Agajanian, an engineer and host of ABC Live TV on Channel 26, hopes to bring a new approach to the board and a focus on media, he said.

“Through my TV experience, we can change the dynamics in the college,” Agajanian said.

Although Agajanian does not have board experience to match the incumbents, or college experience compared with that of former 36-year college employee Ransford, he argued that he is tapped into community concerns as a TV host and wants to see the college grow in a new way.

Agajanian ran two unsuccessful bids for Glendale City Council in 2005 and 2007, but is shifting his attention to the college because he hopes to help it through the financial crisis by developing new programs, he said.

The college has temporarily lost $4 million in construction funds because of the state’s cash shortage, and could lose millions more once the Legislature crafts a solution to the state’s deficit, which is estimated to grow beyond $40 billion within 17 months.

Part of Agajanian’s vision for helping the college would include the creation of a broadcasting training program or radio station, similar to that found at Pasadena City College, which has a relationship with Southern California Public Radio (89.3 FM), he said.

But Agajanian’s hopes for the college were met with opposition from at least one faculty member, who called him before he turned in his candidacy forms Feb. 3, the deadline for registration, Agajanian said.

Ramona Barrio-Sotillo, the public information officer for the Glendale College Guild, the college’s faculty union, called Agajanian after hearing that he was considering a run for the board without having contacted faculty members first, she said.

Barrio-Sotillo, a Glendale resident and professor at the college, called as a concerned voter and tried to discourage Agajanian from running, she said.

“I would hope that he would consider the cost to the college at a time when he didn’t really take the time or the trouble to get to know us, to even contact the Glendale [Community] College faculty,” she said.

Agajanian questioned why Barrio-Sotillo would ask him not to run without asking the other candidates the same question, because all four of them were forcing an election, he said.

Barrio-Sotillo did not make the same request to the other candidates because they had all declared their candidacy more than a month before the filing deadline and had been involved in communication with campus groups, she said.

But the cost of Agajanian’s apparent last-minute decision to enter the race was troubling, she said.

“He hasn’t really been active on our campus, and considering that this election is going to cost the Glendale [Community] College district [$85,000] at a time when we’re going through budget cuts and cancellation of classes, we appealed to his humanitarian side . . . and hoped that he would consider the cost to the college during this budget crisis.”

The other candidates have all been preparing for campaigns, regardless of whether there would have been an election, they said.

Although they were concerned about any costs to the college, it was necessary to use funds to support the democratic process, they said. The money is used to support the costs of operating polls and processing ballots, among other processing fees incurred by the city.

“It would be great if we could save the college money, but this is an election, so that money has been budgeted for the election process anyway,” Hacopian said.

Elections are necessary in good times and bad, President and Supt. Audre Levy said.

“We don’t want to ever discourage that from happening because of budget reasons,” she said.


 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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