By Gavin Quinton
During an annual joint meeting of the Burbank City Council and the Burbank Unified School District this past Tuesday, their members voted to form a joint subcommittee dedicated to discussing school safety and safe-driving initiatives, among other items of mutual interest.
Officials held the joint meeting in the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May to discuss how to prevent a similar tragedy in Burbank.
Police officials presented a report to the joint committee on school safety preparedness and another report on safe-driving educational outreach in Burbank schools.
In his report to the city and BUSD, Capt. Adam Cornils addressed the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“I don’t have to know all the facts to know that there were failures there … If you were to unplug the Uvalde incident and drop it into Burbank, you would see a very different response,” he said.
Cornils told the council and board members that BPD officers are prepared to respond to threats on Burbank campuses. Police have developed site plans for each Burbank school to help officers better navigate building layouts.
Additionally, school resource officers are empowered to investigate criminal threats, including provocative posts on social media, Cornils said.
In the past three years, resource officers have conducted 30 threat assessments and made three arrests of students who posed a criminal threat and had “kill lists and named victims,” according to officials.
If a threat is identified, but it’s not imminent, that student is connected with services, Cornils said.
Recently, members of the public called for restrictions on the number of local gun stores after the opening of Gun World’s new location in June. Burbank has 14 firearms dealerships — about one gun store for about every 7,500 Burbank residents, the second most in the United States.
School board members Armond Aghakhanian and Steve Frinter voiced similar concerns during Tuesday’s meeting given the close proximity of those stores to local schools.
The City Council will hear a comprehensive report on the issue from city staff on July 26. During that meeting, council members are expected to vote on a moratorium on new gun stores in Burbank, a move that could buy them time to look into potential threats and solutions related to the number of gun dealers in the city.
The joint board also reviewed topics related to the rising issue of excessive speeding and street racing on city streets, specifically near schools.
Tamala Takahashi, a local advocate who is running for City Council, is the mother of two children who were involved in two separate biking accidents on Burbank streets — one left her child with a broken leg.
“Our kids deserve a community where they can walk, bike and drive safely to school, to their friends’ houses and to activities,” Takahashi said.
“Right now, I cannot even imagine the difficulty parents must be feeling sending their kids to school … Do we have to wait in Burbank until tragedy hits here at home to be motivated to make changes?” she added.
Aghakhanian, Vice Mayor Konstantine Anthony and Council Member Nick Schultz each advocated in favor of developing solutions, such as speed-limit reductions and speed bumps to combat speeding problems, though the board primarily focused on BPD’s pilot outreach program called “Mindfulness for Young Drivers.”
The program’s goal is to educate teens about the dangers of unsafe driving behaviors and distractions. Officials said more than 1,300 9th-graders have participated in the program.
BPD and the joint board discussed expanding the program to more schools, and the possibility of adding a refresher course for 11th-graders.
Ultimately, there was a consensus among the council and board that continued cooperation would be necessary in order to effectively approach the complicated issues discussed during the meeting.
“My greatest fear is that we have all of this momentum and it dies for lack of a follow-up,” Schultz said before making the motion to establish the subcommittee.
The joint subcommittee will meet quarterly and consist of the mayor and vice mayor of the city of Burbank, the city manager as well as the school board president and vice president and the school district’s superintendent.