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Fiscal challenges addressed

City Council hopefuls discuss issues including transportation, development and employment at forum.

March 25, 2009|By Christopher Cadelago

BURBANK — Candidates vying for three seats on the City Council squared off Monday in their first debate since the primary and perhaps the only joint forum before the April 14 election.

The six candidates concentrated on the economy, job creation and retention, traffic and transportation, development, and the environment at the round-table sponsored by the Burbank Assn. of Realtors at the association’s Magnolia Park headquarters.

Kimberly Jo, who has served as the chief information officer for Los Angeles County, began the discussion by framing the challenges to come. The city manager’s office last month implored department heads to cut 5% from their budgets for the coming fiscal year because of an expected $7.2-million deficit in 2009-10, which could grow to $15 million by 2012-13.

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“From the perspective of residents, we face mounting foreclosures and unemployment,” said Jo, who also spent time as a consultant on traffic, planning and economic development throughout the San Fernando Valley. “Essentially, it amounts to the unraveling of all the assumptions and everything we know to be true.”

“We’re at a crossroads,” said incumbent Mayor Dave Golonski, first elected in 1993 and the council’s longest-serving member. “But considering everything, we’re in pretty good shape.”

The city in 2001 slashed its budget by 10%. The 5% budget cut for next year is projected against revenue. Golonski said the city, by freezing positions and asking senior managers to forego pay raises, likely avoided staff cuts in 2001, and he hoped the city would take a similar approach this year.

“I hope that the mayor is correct when he says that we don’t have to cut police officers,” said candidate Elise Stearns-Niesen, a lifelong Burbank resident and substitute teacher for the Los Angeles Unified School District. “Keeping our police and fire departments at full capacity is really my biggest priority.”

Still, incumbent David Gordon, who is finishing out former Councilwoman Stacey Murphy’s term, called it unwise to make predictions when factors such as the financial standing of California are so uncertain.

“We need to get a handle on spending,” said Gordon, an optometrist, who for 27 years has operated out of an office in Magnolia Park.

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