Here are my first two columns for the new Sunday edition of the combined Glendale News-Press & Burbank Leader:
Column 1: Jan. 30, 2011
Trouble Even in Paradise
The bumpy roads and broken sidewalks and overgrown trees end when you
leave the city limits of Los Angeles and enter Burbank or Glendale –
there should be signs saying, “Welcome to Paradise.”
In contrast to the warring factions — business, civic, neighborhood
groups — fighting over crumbs from the table of power in L.A., people
along Olive Avenue in Burbank and Brand Boulevard in Glendale seem
content as I chat them up. Most are unaware City Council elections are
fast approaching — Burbank’s first round is in February and Glendale’s
is in April — and those who do know seem little concerned about who
It isn’t apathy; people are happy with the way things are. After all,
94% in Burbank are satisfied with city services, according to a recent
poll, and 90% in Glendale based on the last time the city asked.
Having fought for cityhood for the San Fernando Valley, and having
worked hard to help make Los Angeles the great city it can be, I relish
the opportunity explore smaller neighboring cities that seem to be
thriving while L.A. is dying.
My first stops in my exploration are the offices of the people in
charge, offices that are not guarded by armed cops or metal detectors,
suggesting they don’t regard the public as dangerous enemies as in L.A.
Burbank City Manager Mike Flad talks about growing up in the city and
moving up through the ranks during his more than 20 years on the city
payroll. He talks about civic pride in a city “where so many were born
and raised and still live here” and how they respond generously “to meet
Yet, few residents show up for council meetings, the blogs about city
issues are sporadic, and civic engagement beyond the occasional
neighborhood controversy seems low.
“Kumbaya, that’s the attitude of a lot of people,” Flad suggests. “We can do better.”
(READ full column)
Column 2: Feb. 6, 2011:
Tough Times for Local Police
Two young women approach Glendale police sergeant and city spokesman
Tom Lorenz as he stood in front of the police station Friday. They ask
if he knows how they can find out the names of the six officers put on
paid administrative leave over charges of misconduct.
She got a traffic ticket, one woman says, and wondered if it was
written by one of those officers, and whether he would come to court if
she fought it.
“I can’t tell you their names,” Lorenz says. “The officers have a
Bill of Rights that protects their identities while they’re under
It has been a busy couple of days for Lorenz and Police Chief Ron De
Pompa, with the Los Angeles Times quoting anonymous sources about
misconduct involving six officers: three officers going to party in Las
Vegas in a police car, a cop accused of an off-duty road-rage incident,
another who got involved with a suspect’s wife. The incident involving
the sixth officer was not disclosed.
They are in their offices in casual clothes. They are scheduled to
work 80 hours over nine days, so it’s their day off, a day they often
spend at work.
De Pompa is embarrassed by the “peak of separate and distinct
incidents” of six misconduct cases, all dropping at once, incidents that
could tarnish the department’s reputation and raise questions about his
255 officers and whether his “zero tolerance” policy is effective.
“We will not tolerate going down this path while I’m chief,” he says.
“We expect our officers to abide by the three rules of this department
His rules are clear enough:
“Never break the law to enforce the law.”
“Honor the public trust — do the right thing for the right reason.”
“Practice respectful policing — every contact counts.”