City Council Must Show Leadership and Build Community

• News • By Linda Bessin , Medium • View Original »

Burbank City Council is made up of and elected by citizens from our community. We look to our Councilmembers for leadership and guidance and depend on them to help preserve the safety and well-being of our residents. During the COVID-19 crisis, our elected officials were tested and we saw an absence of leadership and responsibility.

On March 4th, Los Angeles County declared a public emergency. The County Health Department announced the “safer at home” order to begin March 20th. Despite the fact that Burbank had no pandemic disaster plan, our City Council did nothing during that period to prepare. In fact, they met on March 17th and then adjourned for five weeks. Their next public meeting was not held until April 21st. The reason they gave was that the City Manager was in charge and that City Council was not responsible for any part of managing this crisis. Keep in mind at that point that our current City Manager had been in that position for six months.

While residents wondered how and where to buy food, where to get tested, how to get treatment, and how to stay safe, our City Council walked away. Our City Council does not represent us at their convenience. If they are not willing to step forward and lead during a disaster, then we need new Councilmembers with a fresh viewpoint, a sense of responsibility, and an understanding that they represent all of their constituents, especially in a time of crisis.

City Council also needs to represent and hear from all of our city. The majority of the Burbank population has no access to City Council. Most people cannot attend a City Council meeting on a Tuesday evening and wait to speak during the Public Comment period. Regular town halls with Councilmembers and other public and easily accessible events should be standard for Burbank. Art shows and other Burbank events provide plenty of opportunities for Councilmembers to meet with constituents, Accessibility should not be reserved for only a few.

Councilmembers also need to make themselves available so that they can build community. There are many sections and populations in Burbank that are ignored and purposely not being heard by our city government. Those residents are now finally speaking out and we need to make sure that these voices remain part of how our city is governed and how decisions are made. City Council should be a governing body that cares about the important issues that affect all of us. We as a community care deeply about each other and all our neighbors. These values should be exemplified by the words and actions of our elected officials.