By Julie BUTCHER
The Glendale City Council started its Tuesday meeting with a commendation for Steven Small and the Glendale Association of Realtors for their generosity in helping solve a problem that was raised at last week’s meeting.
The last caller of that evening, Teresa Romo, told the Council that she was a retired teacher and COVID-19 survivor at the Glendale Post Acute Center and that the residents there were desperately in need of devices to communicate with their families and to stay occupied during these tough times.
Small contacted Councilmember Paula Devine and the two proudly announced the donation of 50 iPads to the facility.
“We’re committed to doing everything we can do to help make Glendale the best it can be, and we hope this inspires a movement [of helpfulness],” Small told the Council.
Romo called on Tuesday night to thank the Council and the realtors, noting that there are other facilities in similar need.
Councilmember Ara Najarian reported on Metro activities, encouraging the use of public transportation (Najarian represents the northern Los Angeles County cities on the Metro board). He also provided information on a commissioned study offering free fares on all the system’s transit lines.
“It’s not as totally a far-fetched idea as it might sound,” he explained. Only 20% of the agency’s billions dollar budget comes from fares paid. He mentioned but did not actively pursue future consideration of “looking at reduced or free fares on Glendale’s Bee Line.”
“We don’t have the same financial resources as Metro, but the point is to get people out of their cars and onto public transportation and we should look at everything that might help,” he said.
He finished with an update about a new Metrolink program: on weekends, children (under 17, up to three children per adult) can ride the trains for free. Adult fares “anywhere Metrolink goes” are also reduced on weekends to $10.
“The trains are sanitized continuously. And they go to the beach,” Najarian added before offering Metrolink’s website: https://metrolinktrains.com/.
Councilmember Ardashes “Ardy” Kassakhian raised several issues for future consideration: first he proposed the study of public Wi-Fi in light of the challenges of distance learning, terming it a “21st century public utility issue. It’s important that the city take steps.”
Kassakhian additionally requested the Council study public financing for local elections and proposed renaming the police community room for former GPD officer Rick Reyes.
“[Rick] served in our police department as an officer and helped start the school resource officer program, served as the only police officer ever on the city council and served as mayor during the mid-’90s,” Kassakhian said. “Given his breadth of service to the city, I can’t think of a more deserving person to name that room for.”
Next, staff updated the Council on two relevant pieces of legislation passed by the state legislature: SB 793 bans the sale statewide (and possession with intent to sell) of tobacco and nicotine products in flavors other than tobacco effective Jan. 1, 2021; and AB 3033, which protects renters from COVID-19-related evictions.
Under the legislation, no tenant can be evicted before Feb. 1, 2021 as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19-related hardship accrued between March 4 and Aug. 31, 2020 if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship according to the legislation’s criteria. For a COVID-19-related hardship that accrues between Sept. 1, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25% of the rent due to avoid eviction.
Tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid amounts to landlords, but those unpaid amounts cannot be the basis for an eviction. Landlords may begin to recover this debt on March 1, 2021, and small claims court jurisdiction is temporarily expanded to allow landlords to recover these amounts. Landlords who do not follow the court evictions process will face increased penalties under the Act.
The legislation includes additional protections:
• Extending the notice period for nonpayment of rent from three to 15 days to provide a tenant additional time to respond to a landlord’s notice to pay rent or quit.
• Requiring landlords to provide hardship declaration forms in a different language if the rental agreement was negotiated in a different language.
• Providing tenants a backstop if they have a good reason for failing to return the hardship declaration within 15 days.
• Requiring landlords to provide tenants a notice detailing their rights under the Act.
• Limiting public disclosure of eviction cases involving nonpayment of rent between March 4, 2020 and Jan. 31, 2021.
• Protecting tenants against being evicted for “just cause” if the landlord is shown to be really evicting the tenant for COVID-19-related nonpayment of rent.
City staff introduced the newly hired sustainability officer, the first ever hired by the city, and he led the council through a PowerPoint presentation on a proposed Sustainability Commission. David Jones joins the City of Glendale from the City of Lancaster where he served as the city’s environmental compliance manager. Educated in the U.K., Jones also spent nearly 10 years managing the University of North Carolina’s Office of Sustainability in Charlotte.
The Council approved the general overview and outreach plan.
Finally, the Council debated the purchase of new Tasers. Councilmembers expressed concerns regarding emails they had received opposing the proposed contract to replace existing Tasers using up to $595,315 in funding budgeted from asset forfeiture funds. Police Chief Carl Povilaitis explained that the Tasers would replace the department’s existing Tasers, which utilize outdated technology and cost approximately $100,000 per year to maintain.
Todd Leonard from the Glendale City Church wrote to the council, “I am writing to ask the Council to table the police department’s request to enter into a five-year agreement to purchase Tasers for its officers. There are number of reasons, but I’ll focus on the most important one.
“In a moment when our city’s people of color, Black and Brown, are pleading for police reform, this action of adding more tools to enforce law and order will communicate that Glendale is still Glendale. The symbolism is clear.
“I ask you as our city’s leaders to not approve another item that is used to keep people in line until the police department, city manager’s office and concerned citizens, like those on the Coalition for an Anti-Racist Glendale, start discussing ways to improve community care, which will not only reduce violence but increase citizen happiness.
“If, after initiating new approaches to community peace and well-being, the use of Tasers needs to be explored again, that will be the time to do so.
“Thanks you for prioritizing a forward-thinking approach to governance and law enforcement.”
The Council approved the request, acknowledging the issues raised, noting the need to maximize non-lethal tools available to law enforcement and expressing confidence in the Glendale Police Department’s record and approach.
Councilmember Dan Brotman teased out the concerns in a back-and-forth with the police chief.
“So this contract actually represents a wash considering the repairs, training, cartridges and, if we don’t do this, it’d cost $129,000 to repair the units we have now, then $80-$100 ongoing?” he asked.
Chief Povilaitis responded that the improved technology would be more effective and safer and is already in the budget.
Brotman clarified, “If we don’t do this, we’re not taking away the police department’s Tasers. I’m concerned about this narrative being out there and I want that to be clear. From my point of view, I want to keep our police officers safe and to reduce the need for deadly force. I want to be frugal with resources and I want to be sensitive to the community on these issues.”