By Ted AYALA
Not even thunder and pounding rain coupled with near freezing Arctic temperatures kept the hardy residents of the Crescenta Valley away from gathering in Dunsmore Park’s Community Room last Friday night. What coaxed local residents out to face the storm that night was the opportunity to meet the candidates for Glendale City Council in an open forum where each candidate was allowed to speak about their respective platforms.
Hosted by the Crescenta Valley Community Association (CVCA) and moderated by the Crescenta Valley Weekly’s publisher Robin Goldsworthy, the forum proved a very enlightening and revealing glance at where their candidates stand on the issues of most concern to them.
Appearing before the audience were incumbent councilmen John Drayman and Dave Weaver, and their challengers: Chahe Keuroghelian, Garen Mailyan, Rafi Manoukian and Mike Mohill.
“This forum is not a debate. This is a forum for civilized discussion,” emphasized moderator Goldsworthy to the panel of candidates.
Beginning with a brief message of introduction from the candidates, Councilman Dave Weaver made clear his commitment to the city and his commitment to fiscal responsibility.
“This is a hard time and we have to live within our means,” explained Weaver. “But Glendale is a good city. We‘re rated among the very safest cities in the country. We‘re the envy of many cities.”
Challenger Mike Mohill followed with a rather more grim assessment of the present state of the city of Glendale, “I’ve witnessed a continual deterioration of our quality of life over the past 10 years,” before closing off his statement by likening Glendale to the city of Bell. Rafi Manoukian assured the audience that his previous work as a city councilman and mayor would make him well suited to face the pressures the city faces today.
A message of ethnic reconciliation was the touchstone of candidate Garen Mailyan’s platform. “This city has changed a lot in the past 30 years,” Mailyan said to the audience. “We need to speak to each other – Anglos and Armenians. We need to come together.”
Chahe Keroghalian also cited his work in the public sector and noted that creating jobs would be a key part of his work: “Job creation will be my number one priority.”
Incumbent John Drayman closed the introductions by noting his past work as a champion of the Crescenta Valley. “As the first native of the Crescenta Valley to be elected to the council and mayor, I take your concerns very personally,” informed Drayman. “I come here tonight to renew that commitment to you.”
One of the most pertinent issues facing the Crescenta Valley today is the issue of preserving the area’s unique feel while encouraging economic development. Weaver referenced the recent North Glendale Redevelopment Plan as being crucial to meeting the region’s needs and goals. “When this plan is finished, it will go a long way to preserving what you want.” Challenger Garen Mailyan disagreed saying that altering the region would be needed to spur economic investment. “Small town means no development. No development means no progress,” Mailyan tersely stated to the audience.
As reported in this paper last year, drug abuse is an increasing problem among the area’s youth. Goldsworthy passed on an audience question to the panel asking them what they would do to curb this trend.
Weaver was forthright about the problems and what he would do to curtail them. “We know there’s a problem [in the Crescenta Valley]–perhaps worse than other areas [of Glendale]. […] What the Glendale Police Department has done is restructured their systems so as to better cover the area. This method of policing will help a lot.” Mike Mohill offered a more compassionate approach that involved deeper parental engagement: “As long as there is communication between children and their parents, there is love and there aren’t drugs.” Rafi Manoukian suggested that better community outreach was needed, while Garen Mailyan cited the need for religious and spiritual intervention for those young people abusing drugs. Chahe Kerghalian echoed the sentiments of Dave Weaver by saying succinctly to the audience, “Get the police involved.” Councilman John Drayman, whose elder brother perished because of drug abuse, stated that the problem was more complex than many people believed. “Social pressures are completely different today than when we were growing up,” Drayman addressed the hall. “There is no simple answer here. It takes an investment of time and work from schools, families, friends, neighbors, and law enforcement to make a difference.”
The continued survival of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course was also brought to the attention of the panel. Asked whether they would work to preserve the golf course, the panel generally agreed to do so, with the exception of Garen Mailyan, who requested more time to study the matter.
Hot on the heels of recent community forums designed to open debate about the much fought over 710 Freeway extension, the panel had sharply diverging viewpoints. “I oppose any extension of the 710–absolutely,” proclaimed John Drayman. Mike Mohill, however, sharply disagreed noting that the Crescenta Valley had no more right to remain a special enclave of the city than other parts of Glendale. “We need freeways. We live in an urban area. We need to bite the bullet here, people.” Dave Weaver explained that it was too premature to take a definitive stance on the issue. “We need to further explore the alternatives.”
When asked about the present height restrictions for business buildings along Foothill Blvd., the panel had no real position save for the two incumbents who agreed that the matter needed to be explored more carefully, but that the new redevelopment plan also enjoyed wide popular support.
Closing the evening were brief messages the candidates gave to the audience. Both Rafi Manoukian Chahe Kerghalian reemphasized their prior stints as public servants as attributed that allow them to grapple the city’s current problems with ready experience. Garen Mailyan impressed upon the audience the importance he placed on ethnic openness and reconciliation. Mike Mohill laconically noted that, “Nothing in this city won’t change without any money.” Dave weaver acknowledged that the financial climate was stormy, but that better days are ahead. “The city has more than $600 million in reserves; $50 million in the general fund. We’re the envy of many other cities. […] My main responsibility is to watch for fiscal conservatism and provide the services you need.” John Drayman mused on the changes he has been able to effect on the Crescenta Valley. “When I was elected in 2007, the [CVCA] didn’t exist. This area was known as ‘happy valley’, where people didn’t care about [civic] issues and people just nodded off to sleep. That has changed.”
Mike Lawler, columnist for the Crescenta Valley Weekly and head of the Crescenta Valley Historical Association, was on hand to help ensure the panel remained well behaved. Lawler commented on his satisfaction in the event’s success. “We’re really pleased with the turnout,” Lawler said. “Like [John Drayman] said, people didn’t care abut city politics here before. But now that’s really changed.” Looking at the Dunsmore Park Community Room filled with people, he exclaimed, “Just imagine how many more people would have been here if it wasn’t raining.”