Leader backs Bric, Gabel-Luddy for Burbank City Council

A down economy, ongoing police oversight issues, impacts of a new airport transit center and a behemoth Universal City development adjacent to Burbank, a possible high-speed rail corridor — the list of pressures facing this city abound and will be here for years to come.

It will be important in the coming years to set out on a course that will carry Burbank through in a way that accommodates the changes that fit in best with how residents see their city: a small, tight-knit community that just happens to be wedged between large metro areas.

It’s a tightrope to walk between how residents see their city and managing how the city will inevitably change. Which is why The Leader is endorsing incumbent Gary Bric — who has helped see Burbank through a bevy of hard issues that emerged last year — and newcomer Emily Gabel-Luddy, whose vast planning experience will bring an important point of view to the dais.

In the endorsement interview process, it was clear that all four candidates, including parole agent Jacqueline Waltman and city police commissioner Robert Frutos, are passionate about serving Burbank, and all were qualified to do so.

But in local politics, the skill sets of some candidates make them more natural fits depending on the local issues of the day.

Gabel-Luddy’s time on the Burbank Planning Board, combined with her extensive experience as a chief city planner for Los Angeles, make her adeptly qualified to scrutinize the massive NBC Universal mixed-use project slated for the border with west Burbank.

She believes the preliminary review of the nearly 400-acre site vastly underestimated the traffic and infrastructure impact to Burbank. We agree. Her time with the L.A. planning department, which is overseeing the Universal City project, will no doubt serve Burbank well as it fights to have its concerns addressed. Her expertise will also prove valuable as Burbank undertakes a comprehensive review of its Master Plan.

As for Bric, no one can discount his approachability and commitment to the community, especially when it comes to small business. As a small-business owner himself, his unique perspective has served the city well on the dais, and his ability to reach out across political divides has had a tempering effect on a number of issues.

His desire to see Police Department reforms through after having been at the council helm when charges of officer abuse and discrimination emerged speak to his commitment, and our trust that he will help guide City Hall through that badly needed treatment.

A vote for Bragg, Bunch, Reynolds

Despite all the blood-letting going on at school districts throughout the Southland, Burbank Unified has so far managed the state funding cuts with Band-Aids instead of amputations. Much of that can be attributed to fiscally conservative school boards and employee concessions.

But as incumbent Ted Bunch put it at The Leader’s editorial table, Burbank Unified now faces its “greatest crisis.”

A $25-billion state budget hole could mean a funding gap of $8.3 million for the district this summer, forcing some hard decisions about how to cut expenses after already having shed the fat last year. Meanwhile, several schools could face scrutiny for not meeting student testing benchmarks — and not because they’re bad, but because higher past test scores make it exponentially harder to make the same proportional gains under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

The community could be asked to consider a parcel tax or bond extension in two years to help pad against government funding raids, and to top it off, classroom technology isn’t getting any younger.

Incumbents Bunch and Roberta Reynolds clearly recognized the urgency of these issues in their endorsement interviews, making it clear that addressing employee costs — which make up the overwhelming majority of the district’s budget — would have to be an integral part of reducing expenses.

Their command of district program knowledge and policy was also clear.

And while incumbent Dave Kemp’s place at Burbank Unified — three decades with the district, two terms on the board, teachers union rep — is unquestionably solid, our decision to endorse challenger Gregory Bragg in his stead reflects our desire to see some high-octane business acumen on the board.

Burbank’s position as “Media Capital of the World” has had real benefits to the district, but Bragg’s business sensibilities should be embraced to enhance those ties as Sacramento continues its funding chokehold.

His desire to push classroom tech upgrades and interfacing between teachers and parents is also refreshing. That his children are enrolled in Burbank schools, combined with his deep involvement in parent-teacher associations, will bring a fresh perspective to the deliberative process.

Kemp has served the district well, but in this new economic order, residents will do well to at least stay with the curve in adding Bragg to the team.