From a dust up over a giant bunny pedestrian decoy, to revelations that an affordable housing developer under investigation for fraud funneled thousands of campaign contributions to City Council members, the news cycle was all over the map in 2010. Even a chicken that set up shop at a busy intersection at Glendale Community College got its 15 minutes of fame.
Let’s not forget the UCLA dropout who caused a national media sensation when she decided to run away instead of telling her Glendale family that she’d been faking her college career. Her disappearance prompted fears that she had been kidnapped, or worse. There was also the devastating mudflows triggered early this year in the Station fire burn areas.
Here’s a look at some of the stories that dominated the news cycle of 2010:
NANCY SALAS: On May 12, police deemed 22-year-old Nancy Salas’ disappearance suspicious after discovering her cell phone and car keys at home.
The massive search that ensued took a turn when police discovered she had told her parents she was graduating from UCLA, where she had not been enrolled since fall 2008.
Nearly two days after Salas was reported missing, she entered a downtown Merced carpet store, called 911 and reportedly told Merced police that she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted — claims that were later found to be untrue.
She was later charged with filing a false police report, and sentenced to three years of probation and 100 hours of community service after she pleaded no contest in a Merced courtroom. The case got national media attention, but unlike some other missing person stories, it ended with relief.
BUNNY STING: Drivers got an eyeful — and police officials got an earful — when an officer donned a large bunny costume as part of a pedestrian sting that nabbed motorists who failed to yield to the brazen bunny.
Police cited 24 motorists on suspicion of failing to yield to the bunny as it walked across Central Avenue near Garfield Avenue, but complaints from some drivers to the City Council soon found their way to the Police Department.
Councilman John Drayman came down especially hard on the enforcement tactic, calling it a “stupid traffic stunt” that was “breathtakingly dangerous.”
The bunny costume was soon ditched.
DIMMED HORIZON: Tighter controls on how City Hall divvies out federal block grants were called for after the Glendale News-Press reported that the City Council allocated hundreds of thousands of dollars to New Horizons Family Center, even though the nonprofit was in severe debt and owed back payroll taxes.
The nonprofit’s weak financial situation eventually forced it to give up on major expansion plans that sapped a large share of federal block grant money doled out by the City Council, prompting questions on why officials didn’t see the trouble before the failure, especially at a time when other agencies were clamoring for the money.
The land that was supposed to host a new building was put on the market, with proceeds from the sale earmarked for repaying the $300,000 in federal funding that was appropriated by the City Council to the now-abandoned project.
ADI TIES: The ongoing fraud investigation into a prominent affordable housing developer, Advanced Development Investments Inc. — which allegedly bilked Glendale out of millions of dollars — has some anxious readers, no doubt, but revelations that the company had funneled thousands to past and current City Council members through subcontractors was also troubling.
Subcontractors, some of whom have received subpoenas as part of the federal fraud investigation, said they had been pressured by ADI to donate thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to council members in cities in which projects were under consideration. And several ADI subcontractors were hired by Councilman John Drayman to remodel his condo, although he denies he knew of the connection.
The revelations has renewed interest in additional safeguards and ethics rules for the future.
MUDLFOWS: Dozens of homes in La Cañada Flintridge were either destroyed or severely damaged in February after a series of storms caused mud and debris to rip through the neighborhoods below the Station fire burn areas.
The majority of the damage was caused after a large boulder shook loose and plugged the Mullally Debris Basin. For some homes, it meant mudflows clear up to the roof line, and prompted officials to initiate a massive excavation and expansion plan for the foothill basins — a plan that has so far appeared to work well in handling the current round of winter storms.
GUSD LEADERSHIP: Supt. Michael Escalante retired early this year, clearing the way for his main deputy, Dick Sheehan, to take over a district left hemorrhaging by state funding cuts. Sheehan, in turn, inherited a volatile stage in which the teachers union was locking horns with district officials over proposed cuts to help bridge the local funding gap.
The stalemate eventually led to a candlelight protest outside the home of school board President Greg Krikorian before the two sides reached an agreement that saves the district $12.8 million over three years through a mix of unpaid furlough days for all employees and increased contributions toward medical benefits for some teachers, custodians, board members and administrators.
CARUSO PLANS: City Council members gave owners of the two adjacent properties to the Americana at Brand 45 days to ink a redevelopment plan, or agreement to sell to the mall’s developer, Rick Caruso — setting into motion a timeline that tracks under the ominous threat of eminent domain proceedings.
Golden Key Hotel owner, Ray Patel, publicly rebuffed Caruso’s $6-million offer, and complained that the City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency, effectively clipped his wings as a business owner by setting the 45-day deadline.
The owner of the adjacent vacant building declined to discuss any potential offer he may have received from Caruso, but it remains clear that Patel is, for now, holding out.
OFFICERS SUE: Armenian officers and one former officer filed a joint lawsuit against the Glendale Police Department, alleging years of discrimination, derogatory comments and harassment because of their race.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court also contained allegations of myriad on-the-job discrimination and harassment incidents, and accused police command staff of failing to respond when confronted with complaints of the discrimination.
City Atty. Scott Howard rebuffed the claims made in the lawsuit. The issue continues to work its way through the earlier court stages.
PEDESTRIAN SAFETY, OR LACK THEREOF: Mayor Ara Najarian called the robust number of pedestrian-related traffic collisions in Glendale “an epidemic” after a Tujunga woman was arrested on suspicion of gross vehicular manslaughter for striking and killing an 80-year-old man who was using a crosswalk on Columbus Avenue.
Police say she was texting on her cell phone at the time, a charge her attorney vigorously denied.
Of the roughly 660 collisions that resulted in injuries this past year, six were fatal, according to the Glendale Police Department. Sixty-four collisions involved pedestrians.