First published in the Oct. 1 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
The Burbank Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Burbank held a candidate forum between the five city council candidates on Wednesday, Sept. 28, at Woodbury University.
Each candidate sought to distinguish herself from the others before election day this November, answering questions related to her leadership style, qualifications and plans to tackle issues related to homelessness, economic recovery, small businesses, transportation and civic engagement.
Three of the five seats on the council are up for grabs. The five candidates are social worker Nikki Perez, environmental advocate Tamala Takahashi, incumbent Councilwoman Sharon Springer, Burbank City Clerk Zizette Mullins and diversity advocate Carmenita Helligar.
Two Incumbents, Mayor Jess Talamantes and Councilman Bob Frutos, did not file papers for reelection. Their terms will expire on Dec. 19 when new members will be sworn in.
Leadership Burbank is a local nonprofit whose mission is to identify, educate and motivate current and emerging leaders in Burbank to develop ideas and solutions that make Burbank a strong, sustainable and vibrant community.
“We appreciate your participation in getting to know the candidates and how they will provide leadership, if elected, to benefit our city’s future,” Chair of Leadership Burbank, Karen Volpei-Gussow, told forum attendees.
Jamie Keyser Thomas, president of the Chamber of Commerce, kept candidates on time during the forum. “I am so proud to be a part of this — the Burbank Chamber of Commerce [and] Leadership Burbank collectively being together to showcase five amazing women running for three seats on our Burbank City Council. To listen to each and every one of them talk about their priorities for our city was absolutely inspiring. It’s going to be hard to decide, but how lucky are we to have five amazing candidates?” she said after the forum.
Perez, a social worker, talked about her background working in homelessness and for the state legislature. She prioritized getting ahead of homelessness and housing issues, making sure people know Burbank is open for business, and improving transportation by strengthening regional partnerships with other municipalities.
“We all want the same things, we want a nice affordable place to live, we want a place that is sustainable, both economically and environmentally, and we want a place where we can all call home. … We may have different ideas about how to get there. But I think that’s important too,” she said during the forum.
Environmental advocate Takahashi would focus on streamlining and building a more sustainable transportation system, consolidating and increasing access to resources for homeless individuals, bolstering small and micro businesses, and prioritizing biking.
“We can solve new issues with the same old ideas. We have to come up with different ways to solve problems. … If we gather behind a goal, it’s important to keep working to find a solution that everyone’s compatible with,” she said.
Springer emphasized the importance of consolidating homeless resources, prioritizing street safety, and creating a first-class public transportation system.
“I believe that different opinions can make the outcome better. It takes listening to the different opinions in a calm manner that can result in the most inclusive outcome. It’s not about being strong, being the smartest one in the room, and it’s not to win. It’s to collaborate to reach the best decision. My goal is to represent you, represent the city of Burbank, and what’s best for Burbank,” Springer said.
Mullins discussed being a goal-oriented “consensus builder,” holding job fairs and other programs to help small business meet staffing needs, matching homeless individuals with the proper resources, and engaging and streamlining the city’s community outreach.
“Our common goal is to serve our community. Our common goal is to do programs that will in fact, benefit the entire community. Working together as a team, motivating individuals, listening to the issues — and truly listening — motivating staff and the people you work with in the community is what is needed to get the job done,” Mullins said.
Helligar discussed holding more direct engagement forums with the community, creating shuttle programs for large businesses to take cars off of the streets, and bringing Burbank’s diverse community together through inclusivity.
“Burbank as a city needs to do more outreach, because a lot of people who aren’t seen or heard or those who don’t feel safe don’t have a way to communicate with the city and get their needs met,” Helligar said.
The Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Burbank will hold another forum on Wednesday, Oct. 12, in the Dolores Huerta Middle School Auditorium beginning at 6:30 p.m. to hear from the candidates running for school board. This will also be a free, informational event open to the residents of Burbank.