Lawmakers focus on recognizing Armenian genocide

Lawmakers representing Burbank and Glendale turned their focus to Armenia last week, holding meetings with representatives of the Armenian-American community and hosting events recognizing the Armenian Genocide, which took place from 1915 to 1923.

April 24 is the 96th anniversary of the beginning of the atrocity that left more than 1.5 million Armenians dead at the hands of Ottoman Turks.

On Thursday, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) led the Assembly’s annual commemoration of the genocide. Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Burbank-based Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, offered the invocation. The state’s official recognition, Derderian said in a statement, “gives us the spiritual strength to hold firm the essence of our Christian faith and heritage and to become devoted citizens of this blessed country of the United States of America.”

Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) is co-author of this year’s measure setting aside the week of April 18-24 for the state to recognize the genocide. Gatto introduced a measure this year extending the period of time that descendants of genocide victims can use California courts to pursue insurers for unpaid policies stemming from the time of the atrocity.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), author of legislation seeking congressional recognition of the genocide, sent a letter to President Obama last week asking him to use the word “genocide” when publicly acknowledging the history of Armenia. That is something Obama did on the campaign trail in 2008, but not since.

“I ask you to return to the clarity you so forcefully expressed in 2008, and stand with the ever-dwindling number of survivors, as well as the descendants of others, who survived the Armenian Genocide and continue to suffer the ‘double killing’ of denial, by referring to it as a genocide,” Schiff wrote.

The Turkish government strongly opposes recognition of the atrocity as genocide, and lawmakers who emphasize the United States’ reliance on Turkey as a key political and military ally in the Middle East have blocked genocide recognition efforts.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Schiff were among the two dozen members of Congress present at Wednesday’s Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide Commemoration. Sherman, who has pressed the State Department for a commitment to police potential aggression by Azerbaijan in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, also met this week with Bryan Ardouny, executive director of the Armenian Assembly of America.

Schiff met with Ken Hachikian, chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America.

The Glendale City Council has declared April as genocide recognition month, and the Burbank City Council is slated to issue a similar proclamation on Tuesday.

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Seeking to improve federal government transparency, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) on Thursday introduced legislation to improve government compliance with the Freedom of Information Act.

The act is widely used by journalists and others to obtain detailed information on government spending, spying and military activity, but the process is often cumbersome and it can take years to get the requested documents.

If passed, Sherman’s Faster FOIA Act would establish a 16-member advisory commission to study changes in the law that would provide more timely and meaningful responses to information requests. The panel would be required to make its report to Congress and the president within a year.

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Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) is used to hearing “no” when it comes to his effort to cap salaries of high-paid state workers, and he heard again this week.

For the seventh time, his legislation calling for a freeze on state salaries in excess of $150,000 a year was tabled by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. This year, Portantino sought to extend the freeze to workers making $100,000 a year, similar to what President Obama did on the federal level in November.

Such a freeze would affect 3,300 state workers, including many financial executives in the state public employee retirement and pension systems.

“This legislation sends a clear message that California needs to prioritize its limited resources and rein in spending,” Portantino told the committee. “It’s unconscionable that this bill does not move to the floor for immediate action.”

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Universal healthcare is the topic of the next Burbank Democratic Club meeting.

Lisa Patrick-Mudd, Southern California coordinator of the Single Payer Now! Campaign, will discuss a measure by state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) to enact a single-payer system in California. Previous efforts to create a universal healthcare insurance system passed in the Legislature, but were vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The club meets from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday at the Burbank Senior Artists Colony Theatre, 240 East Verdugo Ave. at San Fernando Road. For more information, call (818) 515-5908 or visit www.burbankdemocraticclub.com.

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Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich is looking for a few good artists. The L.A. County Arts Commission is offering 74 college undergraduates internships to gain business and arts administration skills. Interns receive $350 per week in the 10-week program.

For more information, visit www.lacountyarts.org.

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Lena Kennedy — an aide to state Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) who for several years has helped organize events such as the Women in Business dinner and women’s health fairs — has retired.

Liu encouraged organizations seeking to work with her office on special events to contact aide Talin Mangioglu at (818) 409-0400. Liu’s district office is at 710 S. Central Ave., Glendale, Suite 310.
 
 

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