While the elections are past us in Glendale, some of the impact from the campaigns will linger.
In the last several election cycles, there has been a trend in Glendale politics that is very disturbing, especially regarding the City Council races. This trend has been driven by those attempting to maintain the status quo through a destructive strategy of fear-mongering to influence voters.
In this election, we heard a rallying cry that “special interests” are conspiring to take over Glendale. City Council members and candidates participated in events where this was discussed. At one event where three City Council members and two school board candidates were present, the invitation said, “Maybe certain special-interest groups, groups that win by absentee ballots, may not want you to go to the polls to vote on Tuesday April 5? Maybe they are trying to keep the news under the radar? Maybe they are counting on low voter turnout?”
I attended that event and asked, “Who are these “special interests?” John Drayman and Dave Weaver did not directly answer the question. Instead, both council members attacked the city clerk, making baseless insinuations that he was involved in a conspiracy to keep the elections under the radar.
The facts show that voter turnout this time was no different than in the past. “Special interests” is code for Armenian-American voters, and because of their large number, the assertion is that they could greatly change the direction of our city.
In another example, a campaign ad in the Crescenta Valley Weekly read, “On April 5th, some are hoping that you won’t vote. On April 5th protect your interests. On April 5th vote local. On April 5th re-elect John Drayman.”
Fear-mongering against any group is the ugly face of race politics and runs counter to our American values. Elected leaders should speak out against these negative messages, not actively support them.
Using division as a path to power has long-term destructive consequences. It is in the interests of the city to encourage legitimate and qualified leadership from all segments of the community to evolve into positions that serve in city affairs, reflecting the rich diversity of our city. This is necessary so that all groups integrate and find their place in our American society, as one city.
Tens-of-thousands of hard working and taxpaying Armenian-American families have made Glendale their home and have a stake in the city’s future. However, incumbents are using the Armenian community as a scapegoat, making its members a common “enemy” to rally people against. The polarization of the city’s politics and the intentional vilification of the entire Armenian community by those willing to play dirty politics is harming Glendale.
This leads to an interesting hypocrisy. On the one hand, the Armenian community is criticized for not integrating into American society. Yet one of the most important symbols of integration for a citizen is the right and responsibility to vote. However, when those citizens are encouraged to vote and do so in large numbers, people in the status quo feel threatened and start cooking up conspiracy theories. This is when the fear-mongering begins.
We need leaders who are ethical and mature. There is no excuse for this kind of behavior from some of our elected leaders. This election has once again shown the true character of certain elected leaders who are willing to harm Glendale for their personal gain.
Glendale’s evolution is at a critical juncture. I believe our city needs leaders who put the city’s interests first by bringing everyone together and bridging the divide that has been created, not further widening it.
A future free of discrimination is the common American value we all should desire and that our children deserve. To achieve this, we must hold our local elected leaders accountable to a high standard of behavior and pursuing a constructive vision that moves all citizens forward together.
ZANKU ARMENIAN is a Glendale resident and a corporate communications professional. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.