Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tropico Station's 2013 Glendale Municipal Election Endorsements

I went to two community forums, have personally spoken with most of the candidates, have been attacked at a city council meeting by one of them (!), and talked to dozens and dozens of Glendale residents about who they support and why. And of course, I've been watching the incumbents on the dais for years. The research phase is over.

Here are the conclusions I've come to and why. I've also linked to the Glendale News-Press endorsements so you can see what they have to say.

I endorse Laura FriedmanSam Engel and Ara Najarian for City Council. Particularly at the candidate forums, they were much, much better informed than the rest of the field; usually by a large margin. The incumbents have a huge advantage in that they have been dealing with these issues day in and day out for four years, but in my opinion none of the non-incumbents besides Engel (and occasionally Roland Kedikian*) showed they could handle the complexities of managing our fine city.

I disagree with what Ara Najarian says pretty frequently, but he usually votes the right way, and his position on the board of the MTA is good for Glendale. Even though I disagree with him sometimes I respect his capabilities.

In her four years on the council Laura Friedman has developed a strong record of bike and pedestrian advocacy, support for the arts, and, with Ara, helped balance the city’s budget by negotiating for city employees to pay more of their pension costs while reducing salaries and maintaining the high level of services we expect in Glendale.

Sam Engel recently retired from years of service to the city as Neighborhood Services Administrator, and at the candidate forums showed a detailed understanding of Glendale issues and neighborhoods. I believe his years of experience would be an asset on the council. He and Laura are also the only City Council candidates to be endorsed by the LA County Democratic party.

I'm voting Ardashes Kassakhian for City Clerk. Ardy has encouraged me many times over the years to post more items encouraging voter registration and participation at city meetings and events, and has taken many proactive measures to promote the city and make public information available online. I believe him to be an honest and competent City Clerk. 

I've paid less attention to this than the city council race, but after talking to many people who pay closer attention to the school board than I, I am comfortable voting for incumbents Joylene Wagner, Chris Walters, Greg Krikorian...and newcomer Dan Cabrera. Of course, you can only vote for three, but I've heard many good things about the incumbents and think Dan Cabrera is a great guy. So there you go.

YES on Measure A
"Shall the Charter be amended to convert the position of City Treasurer from elected to an appointed position; the appointment be made by the City Manager; be at-will; that the City Manager may assign certain duties to other deputies or the Director of Finance; that the minimum qualifications shall be in the Charter by reference to the Government Code; that the bond and oath of the City Clerk be filed with the City Attorney?"

For me, the best case for Measure A is this particular election: there's only one candidate for treasurer who is even willing to run! The person entrusted to manage the city's money should be the best person in a pool of qualified applicants, not literally the only person willing to run for office.

Cities with appointed treasurers also pay significantly less to borrow money. From the National Bureau of Economic Research:

Cities with elected treasurers also had more debt on average, were more likely to have directly elected mayors and clerks, and had lower per capita income and a less educated population – all of which could also influence borrowing costs. Controlling for those factors, cities with appointed treasurers paid 13 percent less to borrow than cities with elected treasurers. 
To get at the issue of causality, this study further refines the sample to examine the 31 cities that held a referendum during the period to replace an elected treasurer with an appointed one. Ten cities approved such a change. From that sample, he finds that cities spend 23 percent less to borrow money if they have an appointed treasurer.

Councilman Dave Weaver wrote a letter in favor of Measure A to the News-Press that I would recommend reading.

Official Measure A arguments (all links are PDFs):

Glendale News-Press endorsement:
  • No on Measure A (their original endorsement said that the council would appoint the treasurer, it has since been updated to reflect that the city manager would appoint the treasurer with the approval of the council)

YES on Measure B
"Shall the Charter be amended to update accounting provisions to eliminate obsolete funds and to reflect generally accepted accounting principles, to ensure proper accounting by establishing separate water and electric utility funds, and to clarify existing language regarding fund transfers?"

Measure B brings existing city budget and utility revenue accounting and transfer practices up to date with Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. We should eliminate the contortions required to conform with accounting practices last defined in an era when it was still a great idea to put swastikas on lamp posts.

Official Measure B arguments (all links are PDFs):

Glendale News-Press endorsement:

NO on Measure C
"Shall the Charter be amended to reflect the correct title of the Director of Finance, remove obsolete language regarding petty cash handling, require that the budget be adopted by June 30, and eliminate inefficiencies in bond sales by allowing flexibility?"

I'm voting no on Measure C because it opens the door for conflicts of interest by Wall Street firms seeking influence in municipal elections. The SEC has called the municipal bond market "illiquid and opaque" and their investigations have found that bond firms made pay-to-play political contributions to get contracts, engaged in questionable sales practices and excessively marked up bond prices. Though Measure C may have some other benefits, those must be weighed against the risk of possible future malfeasance.

Official Measure C arguments (all links are PDFs):

Glendale News-Press endorsement:


Visit, the City of Glendale's official election portal. The Glendale News-Press has also been doing excellent election coverage, here are their endorsements. The "mailbag" section has also recently been full of arguments for and against just about everyone and everything, I'd recommend reading those letters as well to get a good range of opinions. You can watch the City Council and City Clerk candidates in action at the League of Women Voters candidate forum on Youtube.

*Though I am not endorsing him in this election, I want to give an honorable mention to Roland Kedikian. I believe that in this election, Sam, Ara and Laura are a better choice, but he impressed me at the forums with his reasoned thinking and dignified manner. I hope he stays involved with city politics.


Qalice said...

Thanks for putting an emphasis on the election! I agree with you about Sam Engel and Measure A. I think Ardy's too slick by half and I'm a little paranoid about the ANC's plans for Glendale, but it's welcome to read the opinion of someone who has put real research in. I'm with the League of Women Voters of Glendale/Burbank and helped out at the Glendale City Council Forum -- I've seen worse, but it's a continual surprise how people will run for city office without showing any knowledge of the city or how to run it.

Anonymous said...

I value your opinion on the candidates and propositions, thank you for posting. I will be voting two-thirds your recommendations for city council. Based on the candidate forum I attended and many rounds with city council, I'd like to offer Kedikian in lieu of Najarian. Kardikian seems equally community-friendly and more...for lack of a better term...'grown up' than Najarian who, oft-times during city council meetings, comes off as petulantly whiny. Friedman is so advanced and consistently on subject, it would be nice to see her in better company. Najarian's go-to re-elect is his "in" on the 710 Tunnel, but there's more to a city council member than this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your recommendations. While I agree with 2/3 of your recommendations to the City Council, I will be voting for Chahe Keuroghelian instead of Sam Engel. Frankly I feel the City Council needs someone with new ideas who has the moral courage to stand by his beliefs. Keuroghelian has spurned the ANC and Sinanyan and does not play the usual political games that have hindered the present day City Council. Sam Engel on the other hand is not new to the City and if elected will be playing the usual political games.

Anonymous said...

@Qalice: Ardy is no doubt heavily involved in Armenian causes, but he is a stand-up guy. I don't think he would be in the pocket of the ANC (or anyone else, for that matter)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info on the election. I like reading other peoples opinion. I can't help but notice people talking about the ANC. Could someone please post links about the ANC. I keep hearing people talk about them but I really don't know anything about them and their plans for Glendale. Thank you

Scott said...

The ANC is an organization that does do some really good things like push for recognition of the Armenian genocide and perform community service, but they also do local political lobbying with occasionally hardball tactics. Many non-Armenians incorrectly perceive the Armenian community to be a monolithic voting bloc represented by the ANC, but that is far from the case. Feelings about the ANC within the Armenian community are decidedly mixed. My own perception is that they are clumsy politically -- see their response to the Zareh Sinanyan scandal, which dragged what could have been handled by a simple apology into weeks of intensely negative attention towards their candidate and organization.

Anonymous said...

I went to the ANC website and still can't figure out other then what you mentioned what they are about. I watch the council meetings regularly and I keep hearing ANC. I wish they would spell out what they are about. That way I don't have to guess. lol Anyways if those people were ANC that attacked Laura Friedman regarding Sinanyan it had the opposite reaction with me. I really was looking for a change in city council. But the way she was treated and the way she handled it, it made me vote for her. They totally disrespected her. And why didn't they go after Najarian? He asked for an answer from Sinanyan too. It just made me mad. In my mind it was because she is female. She had the guts to stand up to hate speech and she got trashed. That night she earned my vote.

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised by Tropico's endorsements. I think the endorsements were decided before any real research or analysis and based on a personal agenda. The analysis and research stated were mentioned only to give the impression of credibility. Tropico is far from unbiased and I would not give any weight to its endorsements.

Anonymous said...

The ANC stands for the Armenian National Committee. While I cannot pretend to know everything about it, I do know that globally and nationally, some of its goals are to get recognition for the Armenian Genocide and to lobby for better relations between Armenia and other countries in terms of trade, assistance and support. Locally, however, they can be a grassroots organization that deals with whatever the community needs in terms of getting people's voices heard. I know that the Glendale ANC has done great work in providing services to the community. For example they have had free legal clinics open to anyone in the community. They have had Path to College programs for GUSD students and parents to learn about the college application process. They are a great benefit to the city of Glendale. Anyone who says anything negative about such an organization should be perceived as a racist as there would be no reason to disparage a grassroots organization who strives to help the people in its community.

Scott said...

Two anonymous comments in quick succession: an attack on me followed by a detailed defense of the ANC that says than any criticism at all of the organization at all is racism just a few moments later? Hmm.

What the anonymous commenter fails to mention is that there are two sides to the ANC - one side does valuable community work and should be applauded for those efforts. The other side is a political lobbying organization that uses hardball, bullying tactics, even at the level of local elections. Rather than responding to legitimate criticism, they attack anyone who is not blindly loyal to them, including me, as a racist. Yet, as an organization, they wholeheartedly support a candidate, Zareh Sinanyan, who doesn't deny making truly astoundingly racist and vile comments! I can't imagine tactics in Glendale that could be more divisive to the community or do more to harm the image of the ANC than their own actions in this election.

Anonymous said...

The ANC doesn't do anything but help itself. It's a horrible organization that used to have some credibility but have lost it all especially with me lately with their mafia-like tactics and their indoctrination of hate mongering. As an Armenian organization they are a poison and anyone dealing with them should be very weary for they look after no one but themselves and the furthering of their own cause.

As an Armenian I'm personally embarrassed that this organization has ended up the way it was, especially since it used to be much more promising. Having had relatives in the Armenian Genocide and understanding what my ancestors went through I find your comment that everyone against the ANC is racist is offensive and is probably another reason I can tack onto why I truly hate what's become of the ANC.

Also I would put my name down and not be anonymous but knowing what I know I truly do fear the ANC and what they can do to people that speak against them. Just look at what happened with Laura by just speaking out against Zareh. Ridiculous organization.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Scott. I had a good idea of who I was going to vote for, but dropped by your site before I headed out to the polls anyway.
So much drama for such a small city!