By Mary O’KEEFE
This week CV Weekly will introduce readers to four of the eight candidates running for the Glendale City Council. They will be presented in the order in which they appear on the March 3 ballot. Videos of all candidates can be viewed at www.glendalevotes.org. Click on “Candidates,” then on each candidate’s video link.
“I brought you here … so you know the reason you had the opportunity to come to America, to come here because these souls gave their lives,” said Greg Astorian of the words his uncle spoke to him when he arrived in America from Iran.
When Astorian arrived at La Guardia Airport over 40 years ago his uncle took him to a cemetery that had graves adorned with American flags. His uncle wanted him to appreciate the sacrifices that were made in the name of the United States.
“He said, ‘Study hard, prosper and pay it forward,’” he added.
Astorian has carried that moment with him since that day.
“For the past 30 years I have been in commercial real estate. I lease storefronts to mom and pop [businesses] and I sell investment properties on a small [scale],” he said.
He raised his son and daughter in Glendale, and both are graduates of Glendale High School. He “pays it forward” by volunteering on a number of projects and with organizations including Kiwanis of Glendale, Salvation Army and Ascencia. He feels running for Glendale City Council is another part of paying it forward.
Astorian believes in turning negatives into positives. At the beginning of his campaign he sent out informational election flyers to Glendale residents. By mistake, flyers in Armenian were sent to some who did not speak Armenian. One Crescenta Valley resident was upset when he received this, going to social media to ask why he was not sent the flyer in English.
“It was a mistake,” Astorian said. “He was upset and had every right to be … All of a sudden it turns into a racial conversation. That is when I picked up the phone and called [the resident].”
The resident agreed to meet him and that meeting lasted over an hour.
“He was gracious enough, and bold enough, to go back on social media and speak of our conversation,” he said. “It turned into a positive experience and he ended up endorsing me. I think there is a desire for people to start building on what we have in common as opposed to what tears us apart and divides us.”
For information on Greg Astorian’s campaign and plans, including on issues like housing, visit www.gregastorian.com
Candidate Susan Wolfson moved to Glendale in 2007 and since then has been watching a change in her city, and in the state, that has caused her concern … enough concern that she decided to become a candidate for this year’s Glendale City Council.
Wolfson works in La Cañada Flintridge as the city’s account clerk. It is her job that has made her more knowledgeable about municipal financing.
“I see things happening in our city and would like to have more of a role [in its future],” she said.
Wolfson also ran for a Glendale City Council seat in 2017.
“It was my first time running and everything came as a huge surprise,” Wolfson said. “This time I know much more, and what to expect.”
Because of her background in accounting she has taken an interest not only in the city finances but also how the city responds to state legislation. She is concerned about recent bills introduced through the state legislature that deal with changing the zoning laws and how single-family-home neighborhoods could be altered.
“All of these bills are a way of the state legislature defining [rules and laws under the jurisdiction of] local agencies. So I don’t know why are we having local elections if the elected officials aren’t allowed to make up their own minds,” she said.
She wants Glendale to stand up against these types of sweeping bills and maybe work with other cities.
She hasn’t always lived in Glendale. She grew up on the west side of Los Angeles, went to UCLA and then to Texas for her master’s program. She received a master’s degree in environmental health and toxicology and her second master’s in accountancy and taxation.
“I financed my own education [by] working in offices,” she said.
She became interested in accounting and chose that as a second field of study. After college she worked as a research assistant at a hospital specializing in cancer research. She moved to Burbank from Texas and then to Glendale.
Her concerns for Glendale include quality of life issues including open spaces, traffic, housing and city finance.
“We have to protect the city. It is a jewel and I will fight to protect it,” she said.
For more information, visit www.glendalevotes.org.
Paula Devine wasn’t sure what she wanted to do after retiring from teaching but she knew she wanted to serve others, and wanted to do something for the city she had called home since 1982.
Moving to Glendale was her husband’s suggestion. He had grown up in the Los Feliz area and knew Glendale was a nice place to live. They found a lot and built the house where they still live.
“When we moved in it was like we were in a different world,” she said. “It was open and everything was so convenient for shopping, grocery shopping and places to eat. It was a nice friendly city.”
In those early days both she and her husband were busy with work; he worked for the City of Los Angeles and she was a teacher in Alhambra.
“I was at school from 7 a.m. to sometimes 10 at night,” she said.
Devine also coached girls volleyball. It wasn’t until retirement that there was time to volunteer. She started with City of Hope and then there was no stopping her community service. She has served on several advisory boards including Adventist Health Glendale Foundation and Glendale Latino Association. In addition she is a member of several civic organizations including Kiwanis of Glendale.
She was on the Glendale Commission on the Status of Women for eight years where she learned to work with the community and to be a problem solver. Through the Commission she helped create workshops for girls on a variety of subjects including safe dating. She was able to help establish a fund that Glendale police could access when they found women, and families, in need.
Since the fund was started more support organizations, like Ascencia, have been established in Glendale but the need is still there.
“Even now we still have college kids living in their cars,” she said.
She and the present City Council are working to establish a food recovery program where restaurants can donate food to organizations that support others.
As the only woman on the Council she feels she brings a different perspective to issues. She said she has always been treated fairly by her fellow councilmembers.
“We are all able to work together,” she said.
For more information on Paula Devine visit votedevine2020.com.
Ardy Kassakhian is originally from Boston, Massachusetts. His mother was born in Athens, Greece and his father was born in Jerusalem. They met as undergraduates and were admitted to the United States to continue their education. His father, an environmental chemist, worked across North America until he finally landed, with his wife and three sons, in Glendale.
His mom, also a chemist, was a schoolteacher with Glendale Unified School District, and retired from Clark Magnet High School a few years ago.
“Glendale is my home [town]. I remember riding my bike in the [neighborhoods] and getting my driver’s license at the DMV on Glenoaks [Boulevard],” Kassakhian said.
He was accepted to UCLA as a chemistry major. He soon realized this was not the career for him so he changed his major and earned a degree in history.
While in college he was active in social issues, bringing attention to rising tuition costs and the need for equal rights for all. He also became interested in Glendale politics.
He, along with his peers, found that many Armenians had become citizens of the United States. They approached the City to ask that information be provided in Armenian. Thus began his long fight to support the underserved communities so they could have a voice.
While in college he worked in Washington, D.C. at the Center for Public Policy where he learned how government works and what people could do when they felt their government was unresponsive. He worked in the private sector for a while.
“When the [Glendale] City Clerk, my predecessor, announced his retirement I felt it was an opportunity to run for that seat,” he said. “[I wanted the office] to be a bridge between the public and the government that it is supposed to serve.”
Despite all the work done vote turnout is still low in Glendale.
“I realize that no matter what we do … we also need leadership at city hall,” he said.
As city clerk, he has heard residents’ concerns ranging from housing to traffic.
“I [want to ensure] a brighter future for the next generation, just like my folks did when they came here,” he said. “I don’t want to be a councilperson that tells people what they need; I want to be a councilperson that listens to people.”
To learn more about candidate Ardy Kassakhian, visit https://ardykassakhian.com.