Filipino American Friendship Monument Approved by Council


“I’m not happy with my vote on Grayson last week,” Councilmember Vrej Agajanian said at the beginning of Tuesday night’s meeting of the Glendale City Council. “I’m all for clean energy and clean air, but at what cost? Delaying the installation of the Wärtsilä engines worries me, based on GWP’s presentation. In my professional opinion, [it] will add extra costs, having multiple contractors operating at the same time. I just want it on the record.”

Last week, the council voted unanimously to delay the purchase of any fossil-fuel-powered engines, at least until the end of the calendar year, to give Glendale staff the chance to explore every possible clean and renewable energy alternative.

Fire chief Silvio Lanzas then provided the council a COVID-19 update: Effective March 4 the city aligned its mask mandate with that of Los Angeles County and, while the wearing of masks continues to be “strongly recommended” indoors, it is no longer required.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Lanzas told the council. “Today in LA County we saw 852 new cases and 39 deaths; 706 people are hospitalized right now.”

He encouraged the council to wait until early April to re-open meetings to the public.

Next, the council approved a Filipino American Friendship Monument to be erected temporarily adjacent to the Adult Recreation Center in Central Park, eventually being permanently placed in a “sister cities” plaza, following the park’s renovation.

“Honoring 30 years of community service, our gratitude and friendship, here is what the monument will look like,” said Editha Fuentes, representing the Filipino American Business Association of Glendale (FABAG), who shared a rendering of the monument. “It’s five feet high, four feet wide, with two flag holders for ceremonies, and hands clasped together.”

Fuentes thanked and acknowledged the donors to the project and recognized the leadership of Ruby De Vera for her strength and dedication “not just in Glendale.” [De Vera died in January 2021.]

“In gratitude and friendship to the city and its residents, this symbol of lasting friendship recognizes your unwavering support as you warmly welcomed us and fully embraced our heritage and culture,” she said.

Councilmember Ardy Kassakhian spoke in appreciation of Glendale’s Filipino community, acknowledged the contributions Filipino labor organizer Larry Itliong made to the gains of the farmworkers’ union, and gave a shout-out to Max’s of Manila in Glendale as the first location of the restaurant chain.

Community Services and Parks Director Onnig Bulanikian reported that the monument is consistent with the city’s public monuments policy and has been approved by the commission.

Finally, the council considered a proposal by Councilmember Agajanian to split the job of city clerk into two, one part-time and “ceremonial,” the other a full-time professional clerk to be appointed by the council. Agajanian also wanted the salary of the positions to be evaluated for cost savings. He went on to explain that his reasoning behind the proposal of creating a part-time job is “because this is what we do.”

“I’m a council member and I’m doing a part-time job,” Councilmember Agajanian said. “I’ve always had this feeling that there’s government inside government.”

Councilmember Ara Najarian responded that the issue is that anyone can get elected.

“Unlike on the council, where there are four others, there’s nothing like that for the clerk. I don’t want someone just because they’re popular,” Najarian said, and then compared the stipend paid to council members of approximately $30,000 per year to the annual salary of the city clerk, set by the council, at $150,000.

Councilmember Kassakhian spent 15 years as the city’s elected city clerk before being elected to the council in 2020. He describes the job as being the “referee of democracy.”

“I’m not in support of taking away choice from the voters of Glendale. I have more faith in the voters,” Kassakhian said and then suggested the council consider reinstating the chief assistant position in the clerk’s office during budget deliberations adding he wants a way to ensure the clerk becomes certified.

Councilmember Dan Brotman noted that “the question of appointing both the city treasurer and clerk has come up before and the voters want these to be full-time elected positions. It feels like an indirect evisceration of the position.”

Mayor Paula Devine weighed in.

“Timing is everything and this is not the right time to do this,” she said. “People prepare to run for office months before the election and it wouldn’t be fair to change the requirements now.”

“It will be too late after the election,” Agajanian asserted. Najarian said that the council should have assistants, too. Kassakhian expressed support for increasing councilmember pay, given the more than part-time nature of the job, to the average wage of the area but would do it prospectively to avoid any appearance of self-dealing.