Broad List of Subjects Tackled at Council Candidate Forum


Glendale takes its local elections seriously as demonstrated by the number and variety of council candidate forums that were held across the city in advance of Election Day on Tuesday, March 3.

“But this one’s the granddaddy of them all,” Northwest Glendale Homeowners Association (NWGHA) board member Sam Engel boasted as he sorted through piles of index cards with questions from forum participants to be addressed by the eight council candidates who are running for three council seats.

On the evening of Thursday, Feb. 13, attendees to the candidate forum packed the community room at the Brand Library.

“We’re going to need a bigger room,” Engel joked about the turnout, which was standing room only and estimated at topping 170 attendees.

Glendale Police Officer Association president Ben Bateman attended the forum. The police union has endorsed candidates Greg Astorian, Paula Devine and Vartan Gharpetian.

“[They’ve] demonstrated commitment to the community and to public safety,” said Bateman of the reasons for the endorsement. For this election, the police union partnered with the city’s firefighters’ union and worked together to make a common endorsement. They have not made financial donations to any of the campaigns as of press time.

“Some of the candidates were not interested in an endorsement,” added Bateman regarding the organization’s endorsement process.

The teachers union, Glendale Teachers Association, has endorsed Ardy Kassakhian, Gharpetian and Leonard Manoukian, while the County Federation of Labor, the larger umbrella labor group, favor Kassakhian and Devine in the upcoming election.

NWGHA president and emcee for the event, Peter Fuad, allowed timed opening remarks then brisk replies to numerous questions covering issues that varied from trash pick-up to historic preservation to helping to address homelessness and, finally, questions from the audience.

In alphabetical order, the candidates made their opening cases, answering the question, “What makes you uniquely qualified to serve on Glendale’s city council?”

Candidate Greg Astorian responded that he brings decades of engagement and involvement and will add common sense and facts to the goal of improving the quality of life for the people of Glendale. And that’s not an ice-skating rink,” he added, earning applause for the barb.

Dan Brotman claims unique skills as an economist with advanced degrees and years working in private sector technology. A part-time economics professor at Glendale Community College, Brotman founded the Glendale Environmental Coalition that advocated for the city to re-power the Grayson Power Plant with renewable energy. He said he is a “proven organizer who can get things done.”

Incumbent Paula Devine has served five years on the council, including one year as mayor. Her highest priority is “listening to you – and my track-record proves that out.” Devine listed her priorities as traffic congestion, safety, pedestrian and bicyclist safety, the environment and housing.

Vartan Gharpetian also runs as an incumbent and was elected to the council in 2015. He emphasized his commitment to public service and hopes to continue to focus on issues of housing, public safety and historic preservation.

“If it affects you, it affects me,” he said highlighting his commitment to representing his constituents.

Ardy Kassakhian was elected Glendale City Clerk in 2005, the youngest Glendalian elected to that office.

“I love this city,” he told the crowd. “I learned to ride my bicycle on Cedar Street and took my driver’s test at the DMV on Glenoaks. Many of my classmates left Glendale.”

He outlined his goals for keeping Glendale as a choice for people who want to live here, fighting overdevelopment, and building a “brighter future for all our children.”

William Keshishyan offers himself as a “youthful, fresh face,” armed with current urban planning and policy education from the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy.

“I’ve started three businesses here, employ more than 180 local residents,” he said. Keshishyan believes more focus is needed on planning how the city grows and develops and delivers services.

Leonard Manoukian has been a planning commissioner, community and political leader and advocate, and AYSO coach for many years. An attorney for the state, he views the recent and current development in Glendale as the wrong kind and claims that his greatest strength is that he is “not an incumbent.” Manoukian envisions a “brand new approach to the way it’s been done before.”

Susan Wolfson works in municipal finance for the city of La Cañada Flintridge and is a CPA. What she hears as the top issues are traffic, safety, overdevelopment, and said her campaign goals are aimed at “working to protect the quality of life here in Glendale.”

One of the first questions asked was about city services, suggesting problems because code enforcement is complaint-driven rather than proactive, limited by reduced staffing.

“A telephone call will do the job,” someone answered, not necessarily responsive to the question.

Tentative city plans for franchising the collection of commercial and multi-family trash came up early in the back and forth.

Devine commented, “There’s been no decision about trash being outsourced,” acknowledging that workers are “afraid for their jobs. We don’t have enough trash drivers – they’re calling in sick and such.”

“On strike unofficially,” several murmured across the audience.

Gharpetian replied to a question about district elections (currently Glendale votes for councilmember at-large, not by localized districts).

“I’m not in favor. As it is now, I can go to five council people. With districts, I would only have one [person] to call,” he said.

Kassakhian answered a question about encouraging home ownership. Wolfson posited that the city could not “build our way out” of its current housing challenges. Keshishyan wants to provide guarantees to landlords to incentivize building and renting to tenants of modest means. Manoukian urges a comprehensive plan to protect the city from state overreach such as SB50. The only way to keep the state out of local planning, he implored, is to have fulsome local plans.

The Northwest Glendale Homeowners Association does not make endorsements, Engel explained. They host a forum for every local election, candidate or issue, and publicize them widely.

“You come here, you listen, you make up your own mind,” he said.