Council Selects New Mayor


At a special meeting on Monday night, the Glendale City Council selected councilmember Vrej Agajanian to serve as mayor for the coming year. Outgoing mayor Ara Najarian thanked his colleagues on the council, the city’s workers and the entire community then summed up the goals he had set for the city a year ago.

Najarian highlighted gains in the city’s use of and focus on renewable energy and its decisions in the repowering of the Grayson Power Plant and the city’s additional significant purchases of solar and battery storage energy; the adoption of lobbyist disclosure regulations (“We forced the lobbyists to come out of the shadows, say what they do, who they work for, and how much they’re getting paid”); and the adoption of the “strictest campaign” rules “of any city in Southern California, maybe in the state.”

He promised future meetings with the Glendale Community College leadership, and improvements in communications and coordination resulting from that work that benefitted both, the outgoing mayor noted. Commitments to street improvements (“especially after the rain”) have been met by the diligent work of public works, and Glendale streets are “better than our neighbors.’”

The City has acted to build and buy opportunities for affordable, low-income, and senior housing, Najarian added. The City is cleaner and greener. Eight parks are green zones using only battery-powered lawnmowers, edgers and trimmers, he said. On transit, plans for a Glendale rabid bus are moving through the planning process, as are plans for a city trolley and a micro-transit pilot geared at “getting people out of their cars.”

Najarian finished by reporting that the city won a long pending lawsuit challenging its transfer of funds to the city’s utility.

“We’re not going to have to pay back any money … just like the citizens of Glendale wanted when they voted to include it in their charter, twice,” he said.

Rules in some California cities allow for the direct election of a city’s mayor by a vote of the people. Other cities, like Glendale, rotate the position among the members of the council.

Councilmember, now mayor, Vrej Agajanian was elected to the council in 2017. This is his first time serving as mayor. In his first comments, Agajanian acknowledged the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic: “This invisible enemy that has turned everything upside down.” He urged forward-looking optimism and stated his goals to “aggressively invest in programs and services to bring an even higher quality of life to the people of Glendale.”

Agajanian laid out his priorities including addressing the need to add “a lot more” affordable housing and to “protect the beautiful city we call home, to preserve its rich history and cultural offerings. All of our neighborhoods are good places to live and I want to continue to invest in the infrastructure, the streets and the sidewalks.”

Agajanian grew up poor. When he told his wife that he and his family lived in one room, he told the council she did not understand that he literally meant only one room, for his parents and five boys.

“To their credit,” Agajanian continued, “my parents were adamant that their children get a good education.”

The mayor is a certified engineer, having worked at the San Diego Naval Medical Center, and he now owns two local TV stations where he broadcasts nightly, highlighting current events and news.

“I am committed to facts and figures. I was elected by the people, with no donations from special interests, no independent expenditures,” Agajanian said. “This seat belongs to the people of Glendale.”

The new mayor urged compassion, hope, honesty and leadership to face the moment. He closed with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”

At its regular meeting on Tuesday night, the council recognized the importance of libraries during National Library Week. The mayor appointed Greg Astorian to the city’s Civil Service Commission.

Councilmembers Najarian and Paula Devine urged the adoption of stricter measures to protect the public from the spread of the coronavirus. By a vote of 4-1, with councilmember Daniel Brotman voting no, the council mandated the wearing of protective facial coverings for all Glendalians outside their own property or car.

“These numbers are escalating, and we have to flatten that curve,” Devine advocated. “It doesn’t have to be a mask – bandanas, scarves, any kind of covering. Going outside without a mask will not only will you get fresh air; you could also get the virus.”

The council heard a measure to protect hospitality and hotel workers proposed by UNITE HERE Local 11 and opted to hear back about the portions of the regulations ensuring the “fair discharge and recall” of hotel workers and other aspects of the union measures.

Finally, the council debated the appointment of a new city clerk. Newly elected councilmember Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian served as the city clerk from his election in 2005 until his election to the council in March. Last week the council decided to make an appointment to fill the remainder of his term rather than expend the funds for a special election. Kassakhian argued for the appointment of current city clerk staff member Aram Adjemian as the best candidate to fill the spot given his work in the office for the past 18 years. A qualified candidate must reside in Glendale and be registered to vote. The council previously expressed an interest in only appointing a candidate who has pledged not to run for the office, which Adjemian has done, notwithstanding the lack of legal footing for so insisting.

The council voted 4-1 (Kassakhian opposed) to bring back potential candidates to the council meeting on April 27 for a vote on an appointment on April 28. If the council fails to act within 30 days of the creation of the vacancy, a special election will be mandated.

Registered Glendale voters interested in serving as the city’s clerk should direct their interest to the members of the council. The city clerk oversees elections, coordinates the administrative workings of the city council and its meetings, and is responsible for maintaining the city’s documents, public records, and archives. In Glendale, it is a full-time paid position.