Burbank Council Candidate Q&A – Garen Yegparian


Garen Yegparian

1. In 2007 Burbank passed a Second-Hand Smoke Control Ordinance to protect the public’s health & well-being, and which has since been emulated by numerous cities (Glendale, Pasadena etc.). Do you support the “SHSCO” & would you support an amendment to the ordinance to limit smoking in multi-unit housing?

~ I absolutely support the ordinance.  My great-grandfather, whom I had the good fortune to know, died gasping.  He was a heavy smoker until about 15 years prior to his death.  I despise the habit.  I do not think people should be allowed to poison others.  What they do to themselves is their own business.  Within the context of this principle, I would also favor expanding the ordinance’s reach.  However, I would not be in favor of constraining people from smoking in their own homes unless the building has a shared ventilation system that carries the toxics into others’ homes..

2. In late 2008 the Council updated Burbank’s Film Permit Ordinance to accommodate the use of hand-held cameras, but still prohibits the use of such cameras without a ($350) permit if external lighting/audio gear is used. Would you support amending the current fee structure to waive &/or lower permit fees for small-scale video productions?

~ I generally favor being supportive of small businesses.  In that context, amending the current fee structure, at least temporarily during the current economic downturn, is something I would favor. 

3. In 2006 the Council adopted a ZTA with AUP process to allow Music Lessons as a Home Occupation. Would you support revisiting our (10 year old) Home Occupation Ordinance to allow more reasonable & flexible home business usage to enable more people (media freelancers, moms etc.) to work-at-home?

~ I like common sense solutions and would be supportive of increased flexibility.

4. You all seem to agree that protecting our residential neighborhoods “quality-of-life” is key. We live adjacent to a school in a R-1 zone and my neighbors and I experience daily the negative impacts from peak-hour traffic, school noise & student interactions. Many of us have had our property damaged by students and soccer is now being played on weekends.  What can/will you do to protect our quality-of-life & safety?

~ The solution to this is long term. Improving public transit, making it reliable, clean, and cost efficient is the way to reduce traffic loads on all our neighborhoods and streets.  As to the noise, wherever possible, we should plant trees or shrubbery to damp it.

5. Do you support the building of a new Aquatics Facility to replace our aging swimming pools and year-round programs for all people & ages?

~ I am a lap swimmer who looks forward to year round availability.  Obviously, I strongly support building an aquatics facility, and have spoken to that effect at City Council and Park, Recreation, and Community Services Board meetings.  Our pools are beyond just “aging”.  Verdugo is effectively out of commission already.  We should strive for world class facilities and do it right.  I expect the committee currently studying the issue will present some good options.  This kind of opportunity presents itself less than once a generation—it’s been half a century with the current pools.  We should make the most of this opportunity.

6. If I support your candidacy, will you return my calls, read & respond to my emails, &/or meet with me (if necessary) to discuss an issue of importance? i.e. Will you be my/our representative?

~ I will respond to and meet with anyone, regardless of support for my candidacy.  That’s part of my duty as an elected official.  I can conceive of no other behavior.

7. Would you make any changes to the current Public Comment period at Council meetings or leave it “as is”? (Please specify any changes) 

~ One public comment modification I’d like to see is speaking to each agenda item immediately preceding its consideration with council members having the opportunity to interact directly with speakers.

On a related matter, I’d also like to evaluate the possibility of having public hearings on separate days from Council meetings with regular agendas.  Public hearings often require a lot of time, impacting the consideration of regular business.  With this separation, both would receive better attention.

 8. Accountability and open/transparent Government is important to most people. What steps will you take to ensure Staff’s responsiveness to information requests and the public’s access to documentation under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act)?

~ I fully support maximum access by the public.  I would prefer not to have to resort to FOIA, which to me evokes an adversarial relationship between City Hall and the public.  It should also be easier now to access information off the City’s website.  Currently, the website is lacking but, it will soon to be upgraded, enabling long term, easy access to documents sought by residents.

9. What specific cuts in spending will you propose in order to overcome our projected $7 million dollar plus budget deficit in 2009? Can you balance the Budget without raising utility rates or dramatically cutting City services?  Will you hold City Department heads accountable for wasteful spending & inefficiencies?

~ Much of our budget constrained.  Of the roughly three quarters of a billion dollars total, only about a fifth is in the general fund.  Of this, some 80% goes to payroll, so at best, less than $30 million is touchable.  Certainly, public safety is top priority.  But we must not take actions or make cuts that injure our health and long term viability as a livable city either.  I cannot be any more specific than this without the benefit of the extensive and detailed data I would be reviewing once elected to the City Council, particularly the input of those who have the most intimate knowledge—our department heads and employees’ union representatives.

How dramatic our actions to balance the budget will have to be depend largely on what happens in Sacramento.  We should energetically pursue securing our fair share of the stimulus package being worked on in Washington now.

Accountability is just plain common sense.  Of course I will not accept wasteful practices by anyone.

 10. With all of the recent business closures and job losses, what can we do as a community to maintain a vibrant local economy? What would you do to encourage employers to hire locally and the public to shop & dine locally?

~ I would advocate giving additional “points” to those bidders for City contracts who will hire and purchase locally.  Using our Public Information Office is another way of encouraging people to buy and play locally.  A concerted effort among the Chamber of commerce, rotary Clubs, and other business interests can partner with the city to achieve this goal of attracting retail businesses to our city.

11. There’s been some controversy over the past few years re the use of Redevelopment Funds for certain projects, most notably BHC & FSA. Where do you stand on these matters? How would you maximize our Redevelopment dollars to improve Burbank.

~ I both instances, insufficient attention to detail led to the controversy.  Everyone is now alert to this.  Future instances are unlikely to recur.  I think Redevelopment dollars are best used to support projects that contribute to the local business community’s vitality and enhance opportunities to improve our public transit system and expand its ridership.

12. With imminent budget cuts to School district funds, what if anything can you do to work with BUSD to ensure our children’s educational needs are met, as well as our school’s infrastructure needs?

~ Infrastructure needs at the schools are largely under control, including the pending upgrading of the fields with the City’s assistance.  Given the City’s tight budgetary circumstances, direct infusions of cash are unlikely to be feasible.  However, cooperative maintenance, purchasing, and other efforts might save both parties money that could be reapplied towards meeting children’s educational needs.

 13. Do you support Term Limits? Would you support a ballot measure that would allow the people of Burbank to vote on this issue? Will you vow to serve no more than 2 full terms?

~ I do not support term limits for legislative offices.  I think they penalize the individual for committing no transgression.  We also need look no farther than our neighboring large city and Sacramento to see the chaos and ridiculous revolving door of political-office-chasing term limits have created.  The solution to over-long tenures is leveling the ELECTORAL playing field.  There are various ways of doing this. I will be advocating that our next round of charter review (slated for three years from now) focus on our electoral system, including addressing this question.

As to my personal tenure in office, I am highly unlikely to want to serve more than two terms.

14. Where do you stand on Airport related matters such as the Part 161 Study, the possibility of noisy stage-2 aircrafts being re-directed from Van Nuys Airport, the B-6 Property and a new relocated terminal?

~ I support the energetic pursuit of curfew and the findings just adopted by the Airport Authority.  We should lobby our two Congressional representatives to shepherd this effort through the FAA.  There is no need for expansion at the airport.  Passenger numbers decreased over the last year, and even this terminal can handle more passengers, if necessary (though this is something I would discourage until we have improved access to the airport via public transit so we don’t add to our traffic congestion).  However, at some point a new terminal will be built for safety, handicapped access, and general modernization reasons.  With the courts’ findings in Burbank’s favor regarding determination of land use, it’s up to us to make sure a new terminal remains within limits acceptable to our community.

 15. Re the Environment; What specific things can we do that we aren’t already doing to improve our air quality and be more eco-friendly?

~ The biggest contribution we can make on the environmental front is to have more residents avail themselves of the programs we already have in place.  At a fundraising event, one of the guests who’s in the solar energy business complimented Burbank, saying we are at the forefront in providing good energy solutions.  But his observation, agreeing with mine, is that we have not done enough to get the word out among or residents.  In addition, we must secure more public transit funding to reduce the amount of pollutants dumped into our air.  This has the added benefit of reducing traffic and providing a viable alternative for short, in town, trips.

Contact Garen Yegparian: 
Phone: 818-563-3918
Email: yeghpairank@earthlink.net 
Web site: http://www.garenforcouncil.org Garen’s web site


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