Apathy, lack of candidate forums contribute to low election interest

March 22, 2011|By Gretchen Meier,

With the mail-in ballots for the April 12 general election out, the voter response could be even lower than the 14.3% who participated in the primary.

The tepid response, some politicos say, can probably be attributed to the quiet Burbank campaign culture, where just one election forum is organized for the citywide races for school board and City Council.

Even as ballots were sent out on Tuesday, the two council run-off candidates, Bob Frutos and Emily Gabel-Luddy, continued to make phone calls, send e-mails and knock on the doors of prospective voters in an attempt to drum up election interest.


“I’m disappointed, and I think it’s important to have another forum before the General Election to learn about the issues,” Frutos said.

Candidates participated in a single forum before the primary election, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Glendale/Burbank and broadcast on television from Burbank City Hall.

In Glendale, it’s a whole different ballgame in which candidates, especially for City Council, could be asked to participate in roughly a dozen election forums hosted by a wide cross section of the community, from homeowners associations to industry groups.

Between talking to voters and managing their campaigns, candidates participate in around one dozen forums hosted by community groups.

“To get ready for the forums, mentally, really takes a lot of your time and you have to be 100% on your game,” said Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, who was first elected to the City Council in 2005. “Mixed in with that, there’s a little bit of boredom from hearing the same questions, and sprinkle in your other life, it’s a difficult two months.”

The volatility of the campaign rhetoric and rigor of candidate supporters is also far more energetic in Glendale.

“It’s not a period I look forward to or look back fondly on,” Najarian added.

Part of the reason could be the difference in city make-up, Burbank City Manager Mike Flad said.

“Burbank is less neighborhood-centric and more of a homogenous area compared to Glendale,” Flad said. “I’m not entirely sure why, but I know it has always been a pretty small number.”

The Burbank Assn. of Realtors has hosted community forums for City Council and school board candidates in the past, but opted for meet-and-greet sessions this year due to the smaller candidate pool, organizers said.

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