Public should demand an end to bonuses

Thirty-nine thousand, two-hundred eighteen dollars later, Burbank citizens finally get to see which city employees received bonuses (“Bonus payout tally $4 million,” July 3). That’s how much the city must pay in court costs after a judge ordered Burbank officials to release bonus recipient names.

It would have cost nothing if city officials had been forthcoming with this information. They contended, however, that making these names public violated employee privacy provisions.

Now that the lists are public knowledge, it’s understandable why City Hall feared revelation. It is appalling.

In a four-year period, Ron Davis, the head of Burbank Water and Power, received $79,000 in merit bonuses, with a $22,000 award for fiscal year 2009-10. Then last year, he came before the City Council and said he couldn’t effectively run the department unless utility rates were raised. The council gave the okay for rate increases and also gave Davis a generous pay increase.

Pay increase, merit bonus, it’s all the same — more money in Davis’ pocket, paid for, of course, by taxpayers who are also saddled with the increased electric and water rates imposed upon them.

Another interesting bonus is the $10,000 awarded to Christopher Daste, director of Park, Recreation and Community Services. Upon assuming this post, wasn’t he immediately aware of the problem at DeBell, the city’s municipal golf course? It’s been ongoing for several years.

No, Daste waited until the situation became a crisis, then he appeared before the City Council to ask for a $2-million bailout package to keep the operation afloat. He certainly doesn’t warrant a merit bonus in any amount.

This next bonus payout is not nearly as egregious as the two cited. This one is only $2,200, awarded to Ericka Reinke, former Mayor Anja Reinke’s daughter. It would be interesting to know how many relatives of council members and upper management personnel are on the bonus list.

Once again, council members Jess Talamantes, Dave Golonski and Gary Bric have their names written all over this giveaway. After all, they are the same three council members who enthusiastically supported their favorite charity, the DeBell debacle, at taxpayer expense.

While these bonuses are nothing of the magnitude of Wall Street greed, they were funded by public money that could have gone instead to repairing and re-opening the Verdugo Park Pool, and could now be used for library improvements, or resumption of Got Wheels!, or funding the summer youth work program or to fully staff the fire department, or retaining the school crossing guards as city employees.

There are far more important things on which to spend tax money, but it will be up to the voters to determine who decides how the money is spent. The public demanded to see who got bonuses, now they should demand bonuses be permanently abolished and question why some of these employees got anything for their dismal work performance.

Molly Shore


DeBell tourneys need more coverage

I have read a great deal about the money that has been transferred to DeBell golf course (“City approves loan package to cash-strapped DeBell Golf Course,” June 8).

I am a member of the Burbank Men’s Club and play there regularly. Perhaps the reason that there is not that much awareness about DeBell is because there are never any articles about the events that take place there. The Men’s Club has a monthly tournament.

The Women’s Club has a monthly tournament, as well as the Burbank Senior Men’s Club. The Men’s Club has been playing cross-town matches with other regional golf clubs that are members of the Southern California Golf Assn.

The DeBell Men’s Club has won a number of matches at other Southern California golf courses and their clubs. However, there is never any notice in the Leader about anything that takes place at DeBell.

Perhaps if the sports department were to accord some attention to the events that take place at DeBell, the very same people who are currently in school would play at DeBell.

Art Solis


Editor’s note: Solis is a member of the Burbank Heritage Commission.

Time to get rid of park’s ‘Tinker Toys’

With much interest, I read the column on the upgrading of Johnny Carson Park (“Burb's Eye View: Mmm...That's good planning,” June 29) by Bryan Mahoney.

While some mention a show biz theme or sustainable plan, aren’t we overlooking the fitness of our kids? All too often in parks these days, I see playground equipment that is not sized for use by bigger kids. Let’s divert money used to paint playground equipment in bright colors to make more and bigger and better swings and monkey bars for bigger kids.

One thing that may be contributing to kids’ waistlines is a lack of appropriately sized swings and equipment to climb on. In days past, there used to be steel-gray playground equipment that could accommodate bigger kids. Some parks even had separate “toddler” sections for those six and under.

I recall the day when McCambridge Park had a wonderful big swing set, with swings grouped in twos on an ‘A’ shaped frame. The chains were long and the seats high enough so kids could tuck their legs under as they pumped.

Johnny Carson Park, not long ago, took out the two-seat swing set, and Verdugo Park only has two toddler swings. This is a terrible disservice to our older children who might wish to use appropriately sized playground equipment.

Let’s return to the days when parks had bigger swings with bigger chains, monkey bars and even rings for the gymnastically talented. It is time to upgrade parks by accommodating the needs of older kids and scrapping the “Tinker Toys” that, sadly, pass for playground equipment these days.

Jodi Lawson


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