New year will follow some familiar stories

Though it’s only the first day of the new year, the calendar is already packed for the Jewel City. A plastic bag ban goes into effect this year, the Museum of Neon Art is slated to open, the city looks to see how Chief Robert Castro will run the police department, and a crop of new fire recruit begins its training.

On the legal front, the criminal trial of former Councilman John Drayman is set to begin, the federal discrimination lawsuits brought by four Glendale police officers are on schedule, and the parents of Drew Ferraro — who took his life in 2012 — look to their day in court against the Glendale Unified School district.

And, that’s not counting the multiple developments in process throughout the city, a special City Council election, or the educators in Glendale’s public schools prepping for the Common Core. The forecast for 2014 is busy, with highs of frenzy and lows of drama.

Plastic bag ban

The second phase of the ban on plastic bags takes effect on July 1. The second phase will impact smaller grocers, food markets, liquor stores, convenience stores, drug stores, pharmacies and vendors at city sponsored events.

The ban, approved in January 2013, bans plastic bags and imposes a 10-cent charge on paper bags. The Glendale ban, modeled after one in Los Angeles County, aims to reduce plastic waste in the city’s landfill.

The first phase took effect in July at large grocery stores that make at least $2 million in gross annual sales, retailers with at least 10,000 square feet that include a pharmacy and farmer’s markets.

Several California cities have enacted similar bans, including Pasadena, Los Angeles and San Jose.

Drayman trial

Former Councilman John Drayman’s criminal trial is set to begin in April.

The trial date has been postponed several times since Drayman was indicted in May 2012 for embezzling at least $304,000 over seven years from a weekly Montrose farmer’s market he once helped run. He was indicted on several other charges including perjury, money laundering, fraud and filing false tax statements.

Drayman had tried to plead guilty in September in exchange for 300 hours of community service, restitution to the farmer’s market, a lifetime ban from public service and promising to pay $35,000 to the state Franchise Tax Board. However, a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge rejected the plea deal because it didn’t include Drayman serving time behind bars.

The trial is expected to be decided by a jury.

Museum, library changes

The Museum of Neon Art, Glendale’s first art museum, on the 200 block of North Brand Boulevard, is scheduled to complete construction by spring 2014.

Brand Library, which has been undergoing an extensive renovation, is set to reopen in March.

As the city completes the Brand Library renovation, officials expect to begin construction on a slew of changes at Central Library, which will include a new entryway as well as a new interior layout.

City election

A special city election to replace Councilman Frank Quintero, whose 14-month appointed term will be ending, is scheduled for June 2014. The ballot may also include a proposed tax measure. The City Council hired a consultant to gauge the likelihood of residents voting for a tax measure to increase revenues for the city’s libraries, parks, or public safety services. The consultant is set to present its findings in February with the council deciding soon after that on whether to place a tax measure on the ballot.


There are roughly 3,380 new multifamily units either under construction, entitled or in the entitlement process in 18 developments slated for South Glendale.

Entitled projects have been approved by the City Council, but may still have to go through plan checks and other city processes. Projects in entitlement are still being reviewed by officials and must be approved by the City Council.

Since January 2013, 434 units in three developments have been completed. The influx of apartment complexes is part of a huge development boom that has taken hold in Glendale. While some of the projects are set to be completed in 2014, some don’t have an estimated completion date.

New chief takes over Glendale Police Department

Glendale Police Department got a new police chief late in 2013.

Robert Castro began his duties as the city’s new police chief on Dec. 16 and was officially sworn in on Dec. 19, replacing retiring Chief Ron De Pompa.

And his performance as Glendale’s police chief will likely be under a microscope in 2014.

For his first months as top cop, Castro planned to meet with the department’s personnel and the community to talk about their needs. After working in Glendora as an officer and police chief for three years, Castro said he wanted to become more familiar with Glendale.

Castro said he believes in utilizing technology to improve public safety.

As a former police chief, he reportedly worked successfully obtained grants for several programs. He established a focused policing program that resulted in an annual 5% decline in injury-involved traffic collisions.

Castro has overseen grants for all of Los Angeles County for California’s Office of Traffic Safety for five years.

Glendale Fire Academy starts this year

Major changes are coming to the Glendale Fire Department in 2014.

The Fire Department will be a hosting a fire academy starting March 17, 2014 for the first time since 2010, when 10 firefighters were hired.

The push to hire new firefighters came after hiring was at a standstill due to a protracted recession, citywide budget cuts and operational changes in the Fire Department. Meanwhile, retirements continued.

After city officials announced last year the Fire Department planned to hire recruits, they received more than 3,200 online submissions.

In December, fire personnel were overseeing background investigations for potential candidates.

Soon after, 15 recruits will be selected to participate in the 14-week fire academy, which will include learning how to pull hoses, carry ladders, use fire equipment and rescue victims.

Once the recruits graduate from the academy, the new Glendale firefighters will be on probation for a year and can start earning an annual salary of about $68,700.

Four Glendale police discrimination lawsuits start

Eyes will turn this year to the remaining federal trials involving four Glendale police officers, who are suing the city, alleging they were subjected to harassment, discrimination and retaliation because they are Armenian American.

In late 2013, Lt. Tigran Topadzhikyan was the first of the group of five officers to undergo a federal trial, which he lost. Jurors rejected the lieutenant’s claims and sided with the city.

Topadzhikyan filed a joint lawsuit with Officers Vahak Mardikian, Robert Parseghian, John Balian, and Benny Simonzad in 2010 against the city and Police Department, alleging discrimination, retaliation and harassment. But they are expected to have separate trials.

Trials for Mardikian, Parseghian, Balian and Simonzad are scheduled to begin this year.

Balian’s case is tentatively set to start in April, according to U.S. District Court documents. Mardikian’s case may begin in June, while Parseghian’s case was scheduled for October.

Simonzad’s case could begin as early as November.

Glendale Unified tested on the Common Core

Educators in Glendale are training one another on the new Common Core standards set to be implemented by 2016, replacing standards California adopted in 1997.

Fifty-one classroom teachers from Glendale’s 30 schools are now helping to train their colleagues on Common Core skills, which encourage critical thinking from students as they analyze nonliterary texts and in-depth math problem-solving skills.

With the approval of Assembly Bill 484 by Gov. Jerry Brown in October, California schools have been authorized to transition from the current state standardized testing system, known as STAR, to new computerized exams that better reflect the new standards.

Students will take the new exams in March and June of 2014.

Using the new Smarter Balanced computerized test, a student’s correct answer to a question will prompt a more difficult question. A wrong answer will spur the computer to respond with an easier question. Some educators say the new system is superior to the multiple-choice test and lets teachers know a student’s strengths and weaknesses more precisely.

The district recently approved spending $750,000 to purchase 1,300 Chromebooks for students to take the exams on.

They were purchased with funds state officials gave the district to implement Common Core.

Drew Ferraro case moves forward

A trial for the Drew Ferraro case is scheduled for September 2014.

The parents of a 15-year-old Crescenta Valley High School student Drew Ferraro who jumped to his death on campus in 2012 filed a lawsuit against the Glendale Unified School District, alleging district officials turned a “blind eye” to the bullying that they allege prompted their son to take his own life.

Drew Ferraro jumped to his death from a third-story building at the school in front of other students on Feb. 10, 2012. Not long into the ensuing investigation, a Los Angeles County coroner’s official said Drew did not reference bullying in any of the “very telling” four suicide notes found on his body.

“They didn’t mention anything about being abused or being bullied,” Los Angeles Sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said at the time. “He gave a different reason for doing what he did.”

But Drew’s parents, John and Deana Ferraro, countered that bullying was a major factor in Drew’s suicide. In their lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in late 2012, the parents claim that beginning in his freshman year, Drew was bullied “because of his small size, demeanor and style” and “harassed for his attitude toward girls.”

Stanley Lieber, the attorney representing John and Deana Ferraro, said recently that he was hopeful both sides would resolve the case, and that the matter would go to trial if it wasn’t resolved.

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