Five vying for one city council seat offer their perspective on how to improve Glendale.
By Jason KUROSU
his year’s candidates for one seat on the Glendale City Council took part in the second of two local forums Monday night at the Sparr Heights Community Center. Hosted by the Montrose-Verdugo City Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Dan Evans, the five candidates – Chahe Keuroghelian, Rick Barnes, Paula Devine, Vartan Gharpetian and Mike Mohill – argued for their place on the council and answered questions regarding key local issues.
Regarding the potential development of the former Rockhaven Sanitarium in Montrose, the candidates recognized the difficulties in retaining the site’s historical significance in the wake of development. Most of the candidates expressed their desires to keep the historical elements of the site through whatever the future may hold.
“I’m for keeping Rockhaven historical,” said Mohill, who said the city of Glendale purchased Rockhaven “with no plan” in mind.
“I’m against giving up the land,” said Gharpetian. “[The city of Glendale] purchased it specifically to keep it from being developed.” Gharpetian also said that the developments needed by the city are affordable, low-income housing, a type of development that would not be consistent with the surroundings of Rockhaven.
“This is an opportunity for the city to have something really exciting at that site while still retaining the historic value of that property,” said Devine. She suggested that certain developments could help attract outsiders to the site and the city.
Again concerning Montrose, the candidates were asked how they could resolve a perceived influx of restaurants and chains among the small businesses along Honolulu Avenue, increasing competition with “Mom and Pop” shops.
“I’m an advocate of small businesses,” said Keuroghelian. “I’ve always tried my best to bring their issues to the forefront.”
Keuroghelian said that, if elected, he would put together a business advisory board consisting of members of various chambers of commerce in order to tap into the challenges small business owners face, approaching the challenges from their perspective.
Devine said an issue was that the Glendale City Council can’t tell property owners what to do with their own property. Devine did say that the city can do things to increase shopping opportunities and, subsequently, attract customers to the area.
Mohill said that a good mix of chains and Mom and Pop stores was necessary. He suggested giving Mom and Pop stores tax breaks if they agreed to come into town.
“The large retailer, be it a restaurant or clothing store, has larger resources. We give tax credits to the big developers. We should give the Mom and Pop stores tax credits and help them out. If we help them out, they help the community,” he said.
Barnes said that too few business owners involved in the city’s inner workings have led to floundering small businesses.
“Maybe we need business people running the city instead of politicians. If you haven’t been in business, how do you know what to fix?” he asked.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to eliminate individual limits on campaign contributions, the candidates were asked whether they would refuse to accept contributions from developers and/or unions. All of the candidates said they had and would not accept independent expenditures in exchange for endorsements.
Devine was asked about her endorsement from the Glendale Firefighters Association.
“I’m not taking any money from them. I’m not seeking a donation,” Devine said, who also referred to the association as “second to none” and was “proud” to have received their endorsement. “They’re endorsing me because they feel I am the best candidate, since I am strong on safety.”
Barnes was asked about his endorsement by the Glendale Association of Realtors.
“I’m not going to be bought just because someone gives me an endorsement,” said Barnes. Barnes did say that he believes campaign contributions are a matter of free speech.
Keuroghelian spoke about the transparency of his campaign throughout the night, and continued thus in the discussion of contributions, saying that all the financial figures for his campaign could be found on his flyers and online.
“I have not received any organization’s endorsement. I have not received any developers’ financial assistance. I received the ordinary citizens’ contributions,” said Keuroghelian, who attributed the assistance received from “ordinary citizens” to their “trust in my platform.”
The candidates were also asked what could be done to combat a rise in vehicle and pedestrian fatalities in the city, which has continued to rise despite increased education on the matter. The candidates generally noted a lack of available police officers, leading to reduced enforcement of traffic laws overall.
“Traffic safety needs to be handled by the police department,” said Keuroghelian, who said nonprofit organizations could aid police in traffic safety efforts.
Gharpetian said that educating the public was still necessary and the most effective way to curb accidents. “Everything starts with family teaching.”
Gharpetian suggested such education could also be shown on public access television.
Barnes said that he had witnessed some of the reckless driving noted in the question that very day.
“Can we call the police and ask if there’s an officer nearby to handle it? No, we can’t,” said Barnes, who also bemoaned the dearth of police officers. “If speed bumps don’t stop speeders, cops do.”
Mohill had suggested earlier that Glendale eliminate its police and fire departments and instead contract out with county services. In keeping with his opposition to public money going to police pensions, Mohill said that going with county services would save the taxpayers money.
“We can save $60 million tomorrow if we switch to the county,” said Mohill, who mentioned other “wealthy, low crime” cities that utilized county services, such as Malibu.
Mohill also said that the money going to pensions has detracted from money that could be made available for more police officers. “We paid for law enforcement, but we’re not getting it.”
Glendale’s special election will take place on June 3.