It might be time for Glendale to take another serious look at district representation for City Council.
Political activism in Adams Hill grew out of a plan more than 20 years ago to build high-density apartment complexes in South Glendale with little concern for its impact on the surrounding neighborhoods' quality of life. Adams Hill organized and became a rich resource of votes for politically friendly council candidates and it has served our neighborhood pretty well.
Unfortunately, political influence is based on a group's ability to organize around an issue and make its case before the dais. In Glendale, that influence has come from homeowners associations, business interests and cultural organizations with enough time and money to be heard.
For most of the 40% of Glendale that lives south of the Ventura (134) Freeway, this system doesn't work. Political activism is a luxury item. Organizing neighborhoods requires feet on the ground, a structure with resources, enough free time to hold meetings and a mechanism to assemble and disseminate information. For most of the residents in South Glendale struggling in this economy, it just isn't possible.
Under these conditions, how can their concerns be channeled into effective representation? Not even Adams Hill can pretend to effectively represent what those along the San Fernando corridor or the high density complexes north of Green street need from their city and it isn't fair to dismiss them simply because they don't have the means to organize. It is also unrealistic to assume that council members are always paying attention.
The disparity becomes clear with small issues. When a low-income housing project met resistance in northern Glendale, it was put on hold while such projects are routinely green lighted in the south. This is not to imply that these complexes are a bad thing, quite the contrary. It is simply a little suspect that the distribution of these projects is decidedly skewed away from spheres of political influence. If these projects are a burden, they should be shared by everyone.
The proposals to raise fares on the Bee Line and reduce services disproportionately affects southern Glendale. Even though the fares are inexpensive and could justifiably be raised a small degree, the four-fold increase in fairs and reductions in service in the less economically affluent areas would have a dramatic impact on struggling residents ability to get to work and meet the needs of their families.
A $1 ticket may not sound like a lot, but likely a view held by those who haven't had to ride a bus since grade school.
Of the 27 National Night Out events dotted around Glendale, most were put together by a coordinated effort among neighborhood associations, including our small gathering in Adams Square. The event in Pacific Park took place in large part due to the efforts of Lenore Solis, who has struggled for several years to empower the residents of that neighborhood. There was no council member or government office specifically tasked to support that event, even though the area desperately needs that kind of support.
Except for a few voices who attempt to speak on behalf of southern Glendale, there are no council seats directly tasked to represent them. In fact, there has not been a sitting council member from this side of the 134 Freeway for as long as I have lived here. As long as the political and economic power rest on the other side of the freeway, it's unlikely to change any time soon. Unless it was forced to.
I believe district representation can be properly executed to ensure that all of Glendale has a voice on council. While care would have to be taken to avoid a turf war, the current state of Glendale's union details the effects of a war that the south lost a long time ago.
MICHAEL TEAHAN lives in the Adams Hill area of Glendale with a clear view of the Verdugo Mountains so he can keep an eye on things. He can be reached at email@example.com.