Forum focus is traffic safety

NORTH GLENDALE — Traffic safety and the city’s growing revenue shortfall emerged as the hot topics among City Council hopefuls during a forum Saturday, with candidates throwing out ideas for luring new businesses to Glendale and discouraging reckless driving.

All nine challengers and three incumbents attended the forum, hosted at Oakmont Country Club by the Royal Canyon Homeowners Assn., where answers to questions on a range of issues frequently turned back to the two major city concerns.

Some candidates pushed for a greater police presence to enforce traffic laws, even in the face of budget constraints, while others targeted wasteful spending as the cause of the city’s limiting $8.4-million deficit.

Councilman Ara Najarian argued that the city has been making efforts to reduce speeding, particularly on Glenoaks Boulevard, where police have tracked cars moving as fast as 100 mph, he said.

But even so, dangerous driving has continued to be the city’s greatest safety concern, he said, adding that one solution might involve radar-enforced cameras to cite drivers who violate speed limits. That technology is currently illegal in California.

“We either have to increase the enforcement with live officers or lobby Sacramento to permit us to use radar-enforceable [cameras],” he said.

Challengers argued the city has been lax in its efforts to improve traffic safety, particularly around schools.

The problem extends beyond the area near Toll Middle School, said Chahe Keuroghelian, while responding to a question about traffic problems around Toll, where a 12-year-old girl was struck and killed by a distracted driver on Oct. 29.

Keuroghelian voiced concern about cars speeding on Verdugo and Monterey roads, near Wilson Middle School.

“That’s a location that’s waiting for a disaster to happen there, while we speak,” he said.

Challengers insisted that the city should be able to find the funds for more police officers, either through unspecified state grants or through budget cuts.

Funds for more officers could help to reduce traffic problems, Lenore Solis said.

“Believe it or not, you know when you see an officer, you slow down,” she said.

Laura Friedman pointed to other cities that appeared to be demonstrating a commitment to safety, while Glendale was not.

“While Los Angeles puts more police on the streets, we take our police off the streets,” she said.

Council members argued that the city has remained among the nation’s safest under their watch, even with recent reductions to the police force that have come because of budget constraints.

Still, they said, there are several other ways for officials to save money.

Some city departments could be merged to cut costs, Councilman Frank Quintero said, singling out the Community Development and Housing Department as overlapping in responsibility with other offices.

Councilman Bob Yousefian said city lawsuits were a major contributor to “waste.”

“We should not continue to litigate cases that we end up losing millions of dollars,” he said.

But the incumbents’ suggestions for changes were late and came after years of inaction on the council, Keuroghelian said.

“We are hearing them say ‘We could have,’ ‘We should have,’ ‘We need to,’” Keuroghelian said. “Well they didn’t do it.”

As some candidates proposed cost-cutting measures and expressed an interest in seeking new revenue sources, only some put their specific fund-generating ideas into the public sphere.

Michael Teahan proposed a friendlier business climate in the city that would attract more entrepreneurs to Glendale. But he also suggested a business license tax to help boost city revenues.

Friedman said she would push to make Glendale more welcoming to the entertainment industry, as a filming destination or as a base for operations, claiming that the approach could help shrink the deficit through fees or taxes collected from those companies.

Several candidates suggested developing a plant at the Scholl Canyon Landfill that could turn waste into biofuel that could be sold for use in cars.

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