Burbank Council Candidate Q&A – Elise Stearns-Niesen

Elise Stearns

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? 

~ Although I’m not a big fan of this ordinance, it’s my understanding that a good portion of Burbank residents were in favor of it. I get a little nervous when we create laws/ordinances that dictate a person’s behaviors that are, albeit annoying, not illegal. I worry about civil liberties and where we draw the line on other behaviors. I would prefer that our police officers not spend time citing violators of annoying behaviors and rather cite folks that are a danger to our public safety (there is no clinical proof that second hand smoke is a danger to our health, only speculation). All that being said, and hindsight being 20/20, if a great majority of the feedback from city residents was truly in favor of the ordinance, I would have reluctantly voted in favor of it. 

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 would be open to exploring the filming permit process with hand-held cameras a little further. I believe the biggest concern for me is that of safety when external lighting and audio equipment is used. I don’t want to stifle small-scale productions, independent film makers and students from filming in Burbank, especially if they are filming on their own property. So, yes, I would be open to revisiting this ordinance. 

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 would be open to exploring the Home Occupation Ordinance. In these days of job losses and recession, I’m open to making changes that help folks be successful in their home occupations, so long as it doesn’t disturb the neighbors and add vehicle traffic to the neighborhoods. Working from home has many benefits; telecommuting will reduce traffic and lessen carbon emissions and parents can spend more time with their children and possibly reduce child care costs. 

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? 

~ I think dialogue with the school, the school district and police department would be the first plan of action. Brainstorm ideas with the school and parents to give incentives for carpooling to lessen traffic, consider permit parking on the street to reduce all day parking issues, and ask for more police officer presence at the beginning and ending of the school day. 

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’m certainly open to exploring a new Aquatics Facility. I know there are a lot of lap swimmers in Burbank that would appreciate a year round facility. That being said, I think the existing public swimming pools are aptly located, providing a summer outlet for our kids in different sides of the city. I’d be open to repairing our existing pools to continue to provide those neighborhoods with water recreation. I’d look for funding, perhaps not now, but when our economy bounces back, for a new aquatics center. 

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 always do my best to be open to dialogue with Burbank residents, whether through emails, telephone or in person. I truly hope to be a voice for my community. We may not always see eye to eye on every issue, however it is important to have reasonable, open discussions about things that matter the most to Burbank. 

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

~ I believe the Council Meetings have become unnecessarily long, which sometimes means the agenda items are discussed well into the night and even sometimes past midnight. I believe this is due in large part to an inordinate amount of time being devoted to public comment. I believe that on the vast majority of issues, a citizen’s point can be made within 3 minutes. Thus I would favor shortening the public comment time to 3 minutes, and strongly urge those participants to not repeat what has already been said. This is not to in any way squash free speech, but to help the council members stay focused on the agenda items. 

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)? 

~ Currently, everything that comes before City Council on Tuesday nights is open for review via the City of Burbank website and I believe in the City Clerks office as well as the main public library. I’m in support of open/transparent government. 

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? 

~ I don’t believe there is any one answer to the projected budget deficit. I think we need to look for varying solutions to the problem. I will look at every solution to the deficit before considering a rise in our utility rates (with the exception of water). I will look at ways to be more efficient, look to not cut any programs, but possibly look at under utilized portions of a program or low priority parts of a program to temporarily cut back on. I would be open to regionalization of services to help share the costs with our neighboring cities, so long as the quality of the service does not suffer. 

As for our water bills, I can’t make any promises. I know this is not a popular answer, but for the sake of being transparent, we are several years into a drought with our reservoirs being used up at a rapid pace. Even with the city’s efforts in helping residents voluntarily cut back on their water usage, we are looking at increases in our water bills. I hate to sound like an alarmist and be a bearer of bad news, but the reality of it is, we will most likely see a rise in our water rates over the next couple of years. 

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 like the idea of continuing to use City’s existing programs that help Burbank businesses continue to thrive, such as “Team Business” partnerships, Business Bootcamp workshops, “Business Bucks”, ect. 
I think the city’s partnering up with the Chamber of Commerce with the idea of ongoing round table discussions with city executives and business owners, as well as exploring the idea of a “city business trade show” may help our local businesses as well. I’m also open to “Buying in Burbank” campaigns, such as the “Buck Stop’s Here” over the holidays, in which some of the local businesses give special discounts for shopping in their stores. 

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. 

~ To be honest, I’m still learning about the different criteria that must be met to spend redevelopment funds, so I can’t say for certain how or when I would agree to spend redevelopment funds. I can say for certainty, that I have appreciated the city’s partnership with some of our non-profits in Burbank, such as FSAB and BTAC. Helping these organizations better serve the whole of our community, in my opinion, is a worthy investment. 

With regards to any development in Burbank, whether it be with redevelopment funds or not, I will always decide on a case-by-case basis, especially being mindful of any negative impacts a development will have on the surrounding neighborhoods. 

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? 

~ Unfortunately, I don’t believe the City is in any position to financially help out BUSD. However, the City has done a good job in partnering with our school district in the past. I would be open to more joint efforts with the district, much in the same way we have done with the JBHS field and stadium, BHS field and the Jordan Middle School renovation and parking lot. 

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 personally am not for term limits, because I feel the people have the power to vote a candidate in or out, regardless of how long a person has served on city council. However, I don’t feel really strong about this, and I would be open to putting this particular issue to a vote amongst our residents. I would trust the democratic process on this one and support what the majority would like. 

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 am against airport expansion. I am in support of the FAA Part 161 Process that requests noise relief through a mandatory night-time curfew. I am against noisy stage-2 aircrafts being re-directed from Van Nuys Airport. I am in support of a safer, quieter airport. If making the airport safer through modernization is needed, I would be open to those possibilities, in that they do not increase the number of gates, nor increase the air and vehicle traffic of the airport. I think we have a nice airport that serves our community well. I don’t wish to see it expanded. 

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 city is doing quite a bit toward bettering our environment by following as closely as possible to suggestions in the UN urban accords. We have a top-notch recycling center and our city has made it a priority to invest in alternative fuel vehicles. I am open to new ideas of sustainability. I think we can focus on making our city a more walk-able, bicycle friendly place, and also protect the open spaces we have. However, being green isn’t always cheap. I would prefer not to raise taxes of our residents in order to be green. I have faith that Burbank residents will step up voluntarily to do a better job of reducing, reusing and recycling, in its efforts to be a cleaner, healthier city. 

Contact Elise Stearns-Niesen: 
Phone: 818-843-5473 
Email: elisestearnsniesen@gmail.com 
Web site: http://www.voteelise.com Elise Stearns web site

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