First published in the Jan. 7 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
“Take care of our good city, sir.”
That’s what outgoing Burbank Mayor Jess Talamantes told Konstantine Anthony before passing him the title of mayor last month. They are the same words former Mayor Bob Frutos said when he passed the mantle to Talamantes in 2021.
Appointed during the most recent City Council meeting on Dec. 19, Anthony will lead the panel’s proceedings in his first full meeting as mayor on Tuesday.
“This appointment has significant personal impact for me because it shows that I’ve found meaningful purpose in my life, to serve others. But there’s also a huge societal impact that shows Burbank is ready for much-needed progress on the real-world issues facing our residents,” Anthony told the Leader.
Anthony made waves in Burbank during his election campaign for City Council in 2020, earning more votes than any candidate before him. This outcry of support is what led to his initial appointment as vice mayor, and ultimately his new role as mayor.
During his campaign in 2020, Anthony snared the spotlight for his bold policy, which included eviction and rent control reforms, a citywide increase to the minimum wage and a universal basic income pilot program.
Anthony predicts that he may have the opportunity to discuss some of that policy in 2023, alongside a City Council made up of several newcomers to the panel. Councilmembers Zizette Mullins, Nicki Perez and Tamala Takahashi swore their oaths during the Dec. 19 meeting.
“I think this is a very unique opportunity for Burbank to take a giant leap forward,” Anthony said. “We now currently have five council members. The senior most being only there for two years. We have a [fairly] new city manager, a very new city attorney and a new city clerk. It’s time for big changes, long overdue changes, to come to fruition.”
Anthony said he hopes to build upon the momentum the city has already made in delivering homelessness services. “I’m hoping to tackle the two homeless sites and get those up and running by the end of my first term.”
Burbank has started on a path toward building its first two homeless shelters — including one tiny homes village — and a larger service center for Home Again L.A., a “one stop shop” where those experiencing homelessness can access case management, rental assistance and rapid rehousing.
The fight to make sure no one sleeps on the streets of Burbank doesn’t end there, Anthony said. “As mayor, I’m hoping to finally have a discussion on rent control and tenant protections. I want to take a look at citywide wages, and how the cost of living has increased far beyond the minimum wage.”
Burbank’s median housing price of $1 million contributes to a skewed jobs-to-housing ratio of 3-to-1 in Burbank. This means that two-thirds of those working in Burbank live outside the city limits. In response, the city hopes to increase access to affordable housing, inviting those who work in the city to put down roots.
Recognizing the need for affordable housing, the City Council in 2019 addressed a major component of this multi-faceted affordable housing “puzzle” by setting a goal to facilitate the building of 12,000 residential units through 2035. Since then, several large multi-family housing complexes began development in the city — far more than previous years.
“What we can do to remedy that level of development is to put in place requirements for local hires, apprenticeships, job training, and on the job training. How can we build up the next generation of workers in the city? Not just in the construction trades, but in tech, in animation and in media?” Anthony asked.
Anthony also has plans to create a media jobs fair in Burbank, bringing studios and entertainment unions together to create opportunities for young people looking to join the industry, he said.
Sooner or later, though, Anthony said that progress will come. He believes that fresh faces on the council, coupled with the momentum of the last two years, will be what is needed to bring lasting change to Burbank.