Council Faced Controversy, Difficult Choices in 2013


Now that 2013 has been cast behind, how will Glendale remember the work of the past year by its city council? Will it remember its work positively, as a recent survey conducted by the Rose Institute of State and Local Government intimated? Or will it remember 2013 in a starkly negative light, as some of the council’s detractors have argued?

To be sure, the past year had its fair share of controversy.

Dave Weaver’s mayoral term has gained the scorn of local critics, most notably Mike Mohill and Herbert Molano. Coming under repeated fire have been the mayor’s tactics at shortening and streamlining council meetings, which his critics attack as being heavy-handed attempts at curtailing debate. Upon the start of his term, Mayor Weaver shortened the period of public comment on agenda items from three minutes down to two. The mayor even shortened the two-minute comments down to a single minute during a meeting on Dec. 10 –  an act which drew a rebuke from Molano.

“That means that if there is something of real value before the council, like spending taxpayer money, you’ll have two minutes to present your argument, give examples, synthesize the problem, and give a conclusion. If you have suggestions, tough luck,” rued Molano on his blog.

Weaver also drew criticism from the local Korean community in July when he was the sole member of the city council to express opposition to the erecting of a statue commemorating “comfort women” – women forced into prostitution for Japanese military stationed abroad in Japan’s colonial empire and during the military expansion of World War II. The mayor opposed the statue on the grounds that the city needed to devise a master plan before moving forward with any such monument. He later appeared on Channel Sakura, a Japanese television production and video-sharing website with a conservative perspective, explaining that Glendale should not have stepped into a dispute which he regards as an international one between Japan and South Korea.

“I don’t think we ought to be involved,” he said in a video posted on the site. “We just shouldn’t have [approved the statue].”

Controversy also flared during last April’s election between Councilmember Laura Friedman and then-candidate Zareh Sinanyan over the latter’s racist and homophobic tirades posted online. Sinanyan and his supporters accused Friedman’s camp of deliberate sabotage, claiming that the charges against the candidate were trumped up. It was only a few weeks after Sinanyan’s electoral victory that he finally acknowledged that he was the author of those remarks.

But the past year in the council has also seen major successes. Reports from city staff indicate a tenuous improvement in the local economy, while the aforementioned Rose Institute survey indicated that residents and businesses not only look upon the work of the council and the city as overwhelmingly positive, but are also open to new taxes to ensure its continued efficacy.

This past year was also when the council’s rearrangement of the Tournament of Rose float process helped to avoid the controversy from last year. Instead, residents and local supporters were unified in their praise for this year’s entry, “Let’s be Neighbors,” which features former Glendalian and 15-minute celebrity Meatball the Bear.

Mayor Weaver praised the float at the council’s last meeting of 2013, stating that he was looking forward to the positive attention the float would receive at the head of the 2014 Rose Parade.

Perhaps the float’s optimism augurs well for the city in 2014.