Q&A: Meet the City Council Candidates

Sharon Springer

First published in the Oct. 22 print issue of the Burbank Leader.

Three of the five seats on Burbank City Council are up for grabs, and five candidates have filed for positions on the ballot for the Burbank general municipal election on Nov. 8.
The five candidates are, in alphabetical order, diversity advocate Carmenita Helligar, social worker Nikki Perez, incumbent Councilwoman Sharon Springer, environmental advocate Tamala Takahashi and Burbank City Clerk Zizette Mullins.
With Los Angeles County mailing ballots earlier this month, most if not all residents can already vote.
Burbank voters can already submit the ballots sent via mail with no postage necessary or can drop them off at the official county ballot drop box located in front of the Buena Vista Library Branch, George Izay Park, and City Hall.
Residents will have an opportunity to submit their ballots in person. Robert E. Gross park will serve as an official voting center for four consecutive days from Nov. 5-8. Burbank residents can vote in person Nov. 5-7 from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., and from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on Election Day.
The Burbank Leader asked each candidate about their positions on issues most important to Burbank residents. Questions were chosen based on the top responses to the city of Burbank Community Opinion Survey 2022.

  • Candidate Headshot – Carmenita Helligar v2
    Candidate Headshot – Carmenita Helligar v2
  • Candidate Headshot – Nikki Perez v2
    Candidate Headshot – Nikki Perez v2
  • Candidate Headshot – Tamala Takahashi v2
    Candidate Headshot – Tamala Takahashi v2
  • Candidate Headshot – Zizette Mullins v2
    Candidate Headshot – Zizette Mullins v2

Q: State your case for why you should be elected to Burbank City Council.

Carmenita Helligar: I am an 18-year resident of Burbank. I chose to raise my family here in this beautiful city. I am the secretary on the library board. And I sit on BUSD’s DEI committee. I am a collaborator to my core. I will put what’s best for Burbank first in my decision-making. I have innovative plans for Burbank that will bring our city together and move us forward.
Nikki Perez: I am running because I love this city deeply and know it in a way that only someone who was born and raised here can. I know the experiences of our students in our BUSD schools, our working families and of our renters. As a social worker on the ground floor of the homelessness crisis, I want to bring that experience and passion to serve my hometown and to ensure that each and every person in Burbank can have the same — if not better — opportunities, experiences, and enrichment that I have had my whole life in our town.
Sharon Springer: Burbank needs my experience. During my first term, we balanced the budget, reduced homelessness, helped families, children, students, seniors, disabled and workers through the pandemic, supported our schools diversified our boards and commissions, passed a greenhouse gas reduction plan and approved housing with more than $30,000,000 in community benefits.
Together we will strive for safe neighborhoods and streets, affordable housing, excellent schools, childcare, senior and disabled inclusion. I will focus on opportunities for all, equity, economic stability, homelessness, sustainability, renewable energy goals and continued greenhouse gas reduction. Check SharonSpringer2022.com for endorsements by leaders we know and trust.
Tamala Takahashi: As a 23-year resident, parent and community advocate, I want Burbank to be a city where my kids can live and raise their families, and where my husband and I can retire. I believe Burbank can be environmentally sustainable, supportive of mental health services, have affordable housing (particularly for our workforce, families, and seniors), provide safe multimodal transportation, and support our small/micro businesses, all while being pragmatic with our budget. With my professional experience in nonprofits and mental health and deep knowledge of our city, I would be honored to be Burbank’s next city council member.
Zizette Mullins: I am a 40-year Burbank resident, a former small business owner in Burbank, have 35+ years of public service experience, and spent 10 years as an elected City Clerk. I have experience in all facets of government. I have been honored for my work mentoring young people. I hold a [bachelor’s degree] in business management and a master municipal clerk designation. As the clerk, I have participated in almost every council meeting and am fully informed on the present and future needs of our city. This city is my home and I want to utilize my experience and my love for it to benefit its future.

Q: What is your plan for housing and development?

Helligar: The first step is handling our water crisis. We need to incentivize all of our homeowners to change out their lawns to more drought-tolerant plants and grasses. Then create a gray water program for apartments and homeowners.
We need to focus on increasing the inventory of units in an efficient and sustainable way. A few steps I think that we need would be to have six pre-approved/pre-reviewed plans for ADU units. A homeowner chooses from one of the six plans it will cut through the time and speed up the process. Focus on any and all land that is available and survey and grade it to build homes.
Burbank needs to find a way to build more single-family homes/townhomes for this generation, and come up with rent-to-own programs. The new library that will be built is going to include housing. Some of the apartments should be subsidized for our teachers, nurses, fire. AD 2295 into law which is for teacher housing. Support the school district in making this a reality.
Perez: Burbank has long not done its part to meet state housing goals. In fact, we owe a RHNA allocation of 8,772 units. It’s not lost on me that at our past three forums, every single candidate has called for more housing, including more affordable housing.
The rising costs of housing, limited ownership opportunities, and rent increases are clearly front and center on the minds of many Burbank residents. To address this issue, we’re going to have to add more housing. I think if we want to take our city’s future into our own hands and develop intelligently, we need to be proactive toward housing legislation and organize our own plans at home.
We need to ensure that our zoning ordinances and area specific plans align if we want to develop on our terms and protect historic areas like Magnolia Park and the Rancho district.
Springer: I support development of affordable rental and for sale housing. Sacramento has taken away much of our local control. I will continue to focus on our goal of quality of life, and neighborhood protection, while supporting housing development in those Burbank areas with adequate utility infrastructure, available resources, and proximate public transportation. Housing is proposed within the Burbank Center Plan (including Civic Plaza), Media District Plan and Golden State Plan.
I will move forward with 100% renewable energy goals and water challenges in mind. Affordable housing is defined as that which the cost doesn’t exceed 30% of one’s gross income. In order to address our jobs to housing imbalance and pressure from Sacramento, Burbank City Council has adopted a goal of 12,000 units by 2035 and a commitment to achieving our Regional Housing Needs Assessment numbers. Every incentive must be considered, given high land and construction costs, the need to redevelop already improved land, persistent supply chain issues and rising interest rates.
I will continue with a policy to increased home ownership and I will support Burbank Housing Corporation, affordable rents, and an adequate, affordable rental housing supply. I support keeping residents, renters and owners, in their neighborhoods.
Takahashi: With a 3 to 1 jobs to housing ratio, one of the highest in California, our property value and rents are higher than surrounding cities. Our workforce, young residents, and families are the most affected by the high rent and cost of new housing.
Our city is losing its identity as a working-class city. But, we have to be proactive in streamlining the creation of new housing in smart ways. Without planned density, we will end up with chaotic density. We also must consider the infrastructure around our growing population, to include transportation and local business networks within neighborhoods to reduce car traffic.
To do this, we can focus on high-density housing near transit and services, gentle density near R1 areas, protected safe streets and walkable neighborhoods, and innovative programs to increase housing supply such as intergenerational housing, ADUs and cohousing. We can also look at opportunity areas on our business corridors for small mixed-use and multifamily units.
To this end, I am advocating for a housing task force, including community members, local organizations, housing authorities, and subject experts to create the best plan we can for our community.
Mullins: Affordable housing, or more importantly, the lack of affordable housing is one of the most critical issues facing nearly every city in the state.
Our current council has established a goal of creating 12,000 new housing units by 2035 but has not identified a path toward achieving this while also providing a mix of affordability that this community needs. We have also not prioritized the needs of low- and moderate-income seniors and workforce.
I look forward to working with the council, the Community Development Department and the community itself to aggressively pursue new development projects within the areas of the city that do not impact existing single-family neighborhoods.
The intent is to promote a broad range of housing with a mix of affordability, as well as high-quality senior and workforce housing to address the needs of these particular communities. The city needs to become proactive in pursuing first-rate development opportunities rather than just being reactionary when new housing projects are proposed.
Housing will be a priority for me as a council member.

Q: What is your plan to address crime?

Helligar: To work closely with BPD. And create best practices for outreach to our most vulnerable residents. Take a look at what new and innovative needs we can provide to BPD so they can keep our city safe. And as our population increases, we need to increase the staff of the BPD.
Perez: To address crime, we should be reinvesting our funds to ensure that our officers have the training, resources and tools they need to respond to the issues and concerns of Burbank residents.
There have been asks for diversity training that helps officers meet the needs of our growing ethnically diverse and multilingual communities, training and tools that help our officers meet the threats of active shooter situations in our schools, resources that help them combat street racing and traffic safety issues that have had deadly consequences for innocent young residents, and resources to meet the demands of a growing city, like more 911 operator staffing.
We are lucky to have a small and nationally recognized police department and if elected I’m looking forward to working alongside Chief Albanese to advocate to our federal, state and county partners for our department’s needs and to ensure the department has the resources they need to keep our community safe.
Springer: I will continue to support and provide the BPD the resources they need as a community-based, crime prevention-oriented, model agency so that all Burbankers are safe and that every one of us feels safe and protected. (joinbpd.org/)
I support the BPD’s commitment against bias, commitment to transparency and that all resources and reports are on their website. There is always room for improvement.
BPD has received high marks from CALEA, the OIR and their Community Survey. The BPD is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Through this accreditation, BPD voluntarily conforms to the most contemporary law enforcement practices.
The city contracts with the Office of Independent Review for regular audits including uses of force, complaints, personnel investigations and bias. Burbank has a police commission that regularly reviews the policies and practices of the BPD.
Since 2015, the commission has worked to assure alliance with President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The BPD undertakes regular Community Surveys in English, Spanish and Armenian.
Takahashi: Burbank is one of the safest cities in L.A. County, with one of the lowest serious crime rates. This is due to a number of factors, one being our high-quality police department and city services. That said, we can always do better, especially with the increase in petty crime and theft. Our police department provides fast response times, even for low-priority calls.
But as with many organizations, the staffing levels have dropped and it is difficult to continue this high level of service. For a safer community and less stress on our department, our officers and civilian staff need more resources to support them and their work. They have already had success with Streets Plus and the Mental Health Evaluation Team which we can continue to support and expand. I also support remote technology for police representation at trials and other streamlining of work processes so the officers can spend more on-the-clock time on community safety.
Safety also comes with partnership in the community. I support the department’s ongoing efforts to be present and accessible through meet and greet events and their educational programs like the community academy, safety updates, and neighborhood watch partnerships.
Mullins: I support the Burbank Police Department and I will work closely with them to provide the resources they need to continue to provide the best-in-class service for which it is known. The public safety resources of our city have long been recognized as among the best in the state. As a result, we have some of the most rapid police response times in California, as well as one of the lowest crime rates.
However, I recognize that there are substantial increases in crime rates in communities throughout California, and the effectiveness of our public safety resources is more important than ever. There is increased gang activity that must be addressed, as well as an increase in property crime. As a Councilmember, I will ensure that we have a well-funded, well-trained and community-based police force. This is crucial in maintaining the quality of life we have come to expect in our city.
It is also good to acknowledge that as the level of crime skyrockets in communities that surround us, our public safety resources remain steadfastly committed to protecting and serving our community with dignity, respect and justice but I also believe there is always room for improvement.

Q: What is your plan to address issues related to street safety (as in speeding, racing, collisions)?

Helligar: We really need more education on speeding and traffic safety. I think BPD and our transportation board should work closely together to not only educate our students but also the parents who are buying fast cars for their children. Then they should do a collaboration with local car lots that would put in place a program that again explains to parents the harsh statistics. We need to lessen the amount of traffic in the city and create safer streets for all residents.
Perez: As an avid runner, walker and dog owner, I know firsthand that too many of our roads and intersections are not always pedestrian friendly. We need to focus on infrastructure and solutions that provide safe and effective transit for all users of the road.
We have some extremely dangerous intersections, such as Olive/Verdugo, we also have streets like Glenoaks that see incredible speeds. Our community is still broken after the horrific tragedy that occurred on Glenoaks last summer.
Our solution needs to come in two parts: increased traffic enforcements and infrastructure improvements. Regarding infrastructure, some of these projects would be huge, such as actually redesigning our most troubled infrastructure, while some are small but impactful improvements such as more residential speed bumps/humps.
Magnolia Park could use flashing crosswalks on non-signaled intersections with extended bulb outs to reduce the walking distance and risk for pedestrians visiting our small businesses. I’d advocate for all of the above, alongside working to continue the city’s work to lower our speed limits on eligible streets as permitted by Assembly Bill 43 by Laura Friedman.
Springer: Street safety will require commitment, vigilance and using every available tool: Support BPD in filling vacant officer positions (joinbpd.org/), work with students and parents to break speed racing culture, adult and parent training with the goal of mentoring young people who will one day drive (set a positive example!), support Advanced Impaired Driving Technology, DUI checkpoints, implement roadway and other infrastructure retrofits to make speeding and other unsafe driving difficult or impossible, implementation of Vision Zero and Universal Design, implementation of Burbank’s Complete Streets Plan, implement protected alternative modes of transportation lanes.
My father was killed by a drunk driver when he was 45 years old, and my family sustained serious injuries.
I support this technology the “Advanced Impaired Driving Technology” section of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Bill, which mandates an advanced vehicle technology standard that is expected to prevent more than 9,400 drunk driving deaths annually [Burbank’s current efforts]; Traffic Enforcement and Education, which can be viewed in the BPD Newsletter, Vision Zero, end traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries; Universal Design, accessibility by people with a wide range of abilities, disabilities and other characteristics; Complete Streets Plan, and our bike map.
Takahashi: Street safety is a high priority in Burbank, as we have recently lost precious young lives due to our streets being used as race tracks. We also have several intersections with a high number of collisions as well as far too many incidents of pedestrian and bike fatalities.
As a short-term effort, our police department has done a great job cracking down on street racing along Glenoaks and the surrounding area. However, we need long-term, sustainable solutions to make our streets less attractive as race tracks, increase overall driving safety and decrease injury accidents. In order to do this, it is crucial we take the first step of making a formal commitment to attain zero traffic deaths and serious injuries.
Some of the next steps could be: street reconfiguration and design such as bulb outs, traffic circles, speed humps and narrowing lane width; lower speed limits; increased access for bikes and pedestrians (studies show streets that are designed for bikes and pedestrians have fewer accidents overall); use SB 932 to focus on high injury areas; and continue with education and safety information. We can get to zero fatalities, and it’s our responsibility to do so.
Mullins: Street safety is a very important and critical issue that many communities face such as the city of Burbank. Like many mothers and grandmothers, I worry and care about the safety of our children and would love to protect them from harm.
As a Council Member, I will work with the police department on expanding the dialogue with the youth/students and parents to continue raising awareness about the consequences of speeding and racing.
I will also work with the Burbank School Board Members on having joint community outreach programs to further educate the residents about the horrible consequences of speeding and racing. I support the police department’s enforcement efforts and will ensure that we have sufficient staffing levels for full enforcement, education, and community outreach.
I support Vision Zero, Universal Design and the implementation of Burbank’s Complete Streets Plan. Additionally, I support infrastructure retrofits to reduce speeding and speed limits where it is necessary.