Elected officials, voter participation and North Glendale all go together

North Glendale has historically been the cradle from which elected officials hail. It’s also home to the neighborhoods with some of the highest voter participation rates.

All the current City Council members live north of the freeway and in the past three decades, only one has lived for a long period of time below it. Councilman Ara Najarian, who supports at-large elections, lived for about two years below the freeway, but he now lives in a hillside home near the Verdugo Mountains.

It’s a fact of political life that has periodically prompted calls among City Council candidates for district representation, as in Pasadena or Los Angeles.

Among them this year are Herbert Molano and Chahe Keuroghelian, who have charged that the best interests of residents in South Glendale are quashed by those in the voter-rich north.

“Without local representation and advocacy, generally, the money is sucked out of South Glendale and put where the voters are,” said Molano who lives in northwest Glendale.

About half of Glendale’s population lives below the freeway, which is also where just 28% of the roughly 79,000 eligible voters in 2011 lived, according to information provided by Political Data Inc., a Norwalk-based consulting firm.

While the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder has the latest registration count at about 98,000, Political Data Inc. only includes those registered during an election that were alive and lived in Glendale at the time.

Brockmont, tucked beneath the Verdugo Mountains, had the highest turnout in 2011 and 2009 — 41% and 44% respectively. Meanwhile, of the southern neighborhoods, City Center, home to City Hall, had the highest turnouts in 2011 and 2009, 30% and 28%, respectively. It is followed by Mariposa, generally bordered by East Chevy Chase Drive, South Chevy Chase Dr., South Brand Boulevard and Colorado Street, with 26% and 29% in those elections.

The difference in voter participation could be caused by a number of reasons, including home ownership, according to Paul Mitchell, a consultant for Political Data Inc.

Statewide, homeowners are more likely to vote than renters — and in Glendale, the difference can be stark. In Brockmont, 78% of eligible voters in 2012 were homeowners, compared to 23% in City Center and 17% in Mariposa.

And Mitchell noted that if it weren’t for the relatively high Armenian vote in some southern neighborhoods, the participation rate likely would have been even lower. Of those that voted in the City Center and Mariposa, 57% and 69%, respectively, were Armenian.

Of the 12 candidates for City Council this year, only Keuroghelian and Jefferson Black — who said he doesn’t think Glendale is large enough for voter districts — live south of the Ventura (134) Freeway.

Most of the candidates running for three seats on the City Council say the elections should remain at-large, where all council members represent the city as a whole.

“I wouldn’t want to create a situation where we have fiefdoms,” incumbent Councilwoman Laura Friedman — who lives in the Brockmont neighborhood — said at a recent candidate forum.

She added that with five council members, residents have broader representation.

While the city has directed millions of dollars to northern open space and park resources, it has also sharpened its focus on areas below the freeway in recent years. Officials often point to the Pacific Park Pool, Central Avenue Road improvements, the Adult Recreation Center and a planned water-main revamp in Adams Hill as examples of their dedication to southern neighborhoods.

Candidate Zareh Sinanyan said rather than cutting up the city, Glendale should prevent stagnation on the City Council.

“I’m not sure [districts] are necessarily the answer,” Sinanyan said at a forum. “Term limits may be a better solution.”

Despite the generally higher voter participation rates to the north, the neighborhood with the lowest turnout in 2011 was Riverside Rancho, home to the Glendale Narrows Riverwalk, with 16% of eligible voters casting ballots.


Follow Brittany Levine on Google+ and on Twitter: @brittanylevine.

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