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Burb's Eye View: A new mayor with new challenges

July 26, 2011|By Bryan Mahoney

With the speeches over, Jess Talamantes was free to roam the crowd of thousands filling Olive Avenue. He’d already danced with Mickey and Minnie on the steps of City Hall, bantered with a band and weatherman Fritz Coleman, and now he was free for the last order of business at Burbank’s centennial party: join his neighbors not as mayor of Burbank, but as a father, brother, husband and friend.

That was a few weeks ago — a fortuitous honor that he be elected by his City Council peers to serve as mayor on the 100th anniversary year of the incorporation of the city.

Now the party’s over, and he’s back to business. Talamantes is in full swing working his “new” job as mayor — a duty he’s able to perform full time thanks in large part to being retired. On day 87 of his mayorship, the former Burbank firefighter has already seen his share of controversy on two major land issues in Burbank — and the conversations around Walmart and DeBell golf course are only beginning.

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That’s not even touching the $8-million budget gap facing the city this year, an issue Talamantes is looking to the community to help solve.

“I have asked people to tell me where to cut. There are not that many people who have come forward,” he said earlier this week.

In fact, if there’s one single hurdle the former Burroughs High School running back is trying to clear, it’s the issue of community input. When meeting with Walmart representatives about their newly acquired property at the Great Indoors location adjacent to the Empire Center, he asked them to get the community involved first.

“Our first recommendation [was to] get the public involved,” he said. “Get the community involved and hold meetings all over. And then we’re very receptive to hear your proposal.”

Walmart has yet to bring anything official in front of City Council, and Talamantes would not weigh in on whether he felt the retailer was “right” for Burbank. He does, however, want the Great Indoors building to be filled soon after its employees vacate on Aug. 31.

The city’s recent economic successes with locating independent TV station KCET and the headquarters for DC Comics in a Burbank office building, as well as the opening of a 24-Hour Fitness, could mean a quick turnaround in the unlikely event that Walmart leases the space.

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