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A community of scale — and how ordinary people changed something for the better

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column started out as a look at Bob Hope Airport’s troubles but I found they were nothing compared to how this important community asset had become a pretty good citizen since ordinary citizens rose up in protest about noise and expansion. One of the people who played a key role in that transformation as a protester and Mayor/Councilman was Dave Golonski who believes change was possible in Burbank because of its size and “people’s pride in the city.”
My Sunday Column in LA Times community newspapers

Discussing American  Airlines pulling out of Bob Hope Airport, Executive Director Dan Feger told airport commissioners how,
in a recent team-building exercise, senior staff had reviewed the book,
“Who Moved My Cheese” — a story about two mice and two mouse-sized
people caught in a maze together.

“It’s a very cute little book,”
Feger said. “It talks about change and sometimes people don’t want to
change, but if you make the change, the change actually yields a much
better result. If you keep doing the same thing, stay on the same path
and hope the world will change around you, it probably won’t happen.”

American’s departure could mean a loss of up to 7.5% of the airport’s
passenger traffic and millions of dollars in revenue, forcing yet
another re-design, yet another scaling back of costs, for the planned
$100-million-plus intermodal transportation center and parking

“The world has changed,” Feger said.

The Bob
Hope Airport world has changed a lot over the last 20 years, but it took
a bruising and costly political and legal war to bring it about — a war
sparked by a grassroots movement that is a model for how ordinary
citizens can stymie rich and powerful interests and change the political
culture of their communities by fighting for what they believe in.

had been a push for a massive expansion with a new 27-gate terminal –
even talk of making it an international airport — has given way to a
voluntary curfew by the airlines, the sound-proofing of nearby homes, an
agreement with the city to put off the terminal issue until 2015, and
the completion of a study that officials said justified a permanent

Expansion has given way to fixing traffic flow and
parking problems around the airport, and to plans to connect Metrolink
and the Orange Line Busway to the airport. The airport has tried to mend
its relationship with City Hall and with the community through
outreach. A survey of residents is now under way to help guide future

“What you’ve seen over time is that it finally dawned
on the airport that it really is the Burbank community that will make
those decisions, the community who is in control of whether or not they
will get a new terminal,” said long-time Burbank City Councilman Dave
Golonski, who played a key role over the last 18 years in helping to
bring about the changes.

“Once they realized that, I think they
really made a good-faith effort to mitigate the traffic and other
problems, to get the curfew. They have become much more cooperative and
tried to understand what the impacts are on Burbank, which is a long way
from where it once was.”

Golonski’s journey from ordinary
citizen to city leader started, as it does for so many, with a problem
in his neighborhood — a row of houses behind his house became abandoned,
graffiti-covered eyesores after a developer bought them to tear down
and build in their place a large three-story apartment complex.

organized “Enough is Enough” to fight the project and got his neighbors
to string their Christmas lights in April to get visibility for their
protest — efforts which got the project killed.

Emboldened, he
championed a tough “smart growth” ballot initiative to cap the number of
housing units and commercial space that could be built one year.

“It was the most highly outspent ballot initiative in the history of California,” he recalled, making its defeat inevitable.

he was learning about City Hall disturbed him so much that he ran for
the City Council, losing in his first try, but winning election in 1993.

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7 Responses to A community of scale — and how ordinary people changed something for the better

  1. Anonymous says:

    An inspiration for our neighborhoods in the SFV/
    Thank you. Sent it to my daughterr and her famiy in Burbank. Thank you!

  2. Anonymous says:

    This is precisely why it has become clear that the City of Los Angeles needs to be broken into about 7 cities where “communities of interest” can be freed to work for their common good.
    Communities of interest that might be logical cities include: San Pedro, South Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, San Fernando Vally, Northeast Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, and the core of Los Angeles (downtown, Mid Cities, Echo Park, Silverlake, Hollywood).
    A few years ago, the San Fernando Valley tried to cleave itself from Los Angeles. While well intended, no single part of the City can do it by itself. The various parts would have to work together to engineer a succession from the City of Los Angeles.
    Under this scenario, the biggest question would be how would the separate cities share the municipal assets of the City? This would be accomplished with the creation of joint powers authority in which all of the former parts of Los Angeles would own and operate the DWP, the Airports, and Harbor as a regional authority.
    Such an idea is not so far fetched with enough concerned and committed people working toward the goal.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I agree. How do we get around the different entities that have so much power over our lives?
    Does that illegal move by the State Legislature still have power so as to prevent our mmaking these personal choices in our lives To start, let us vote in the next election in support of Cary Brrazeman for comptroller and Kevin James
    for Mayor plus newcomers like David Hernandez and David Barron and the others who will run for Council Districtd which need to be part of tthe breakup, combining to make new cities. What say you?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Any effort to break up the City of Los Angeles into pieces will take a great deal of discussion with stakeholders and planning. It will likely require state legislation similar to some of the changes to law that allowed the San Fernando Valley to undertake its effort.
    Neighborhood Councils, which are a joke to appease the unhappy communities ill-served by the City Hall crooks, are a good place to begin the conversation — except for those Neighborhood Council that have been co-opted by the apologists of the political machine that has seized control of our political process.

  5. Anonymous says:

    No one said or thinks it will be easy. Rome was not built in a day. But…are you satisfied with things as they are now – out of control?
    Or are you planning to move? We have to decide what we want and then go for it. This was the way it was for the people of George Washington’s
    day and I think change is necessary today. For my children, grandchilden and yours as well.
    I think we need to stick up for ourselves. Don’t

  6. Wayne from Encino says:

    Thus, this tells me that enough Angelinos are FED up AND WANT TO FLEE L.A. that this O.C. realtor would spend that kind of $$$ to reach an L.A. market. L.A. is going to loose 50% OF ITS TAX BASE within the next 5 years as “the 1% to 5%” sell their L.A. homes, take the loss, and use the cash to buy OUTSIDE OF L.A. COUNTY OR AT LEAST L.A. CITY.
    People you don’t ever hear from publicly are making plans IN DROVES to move out of LAUSD and Garcetti/Alarcon controlled cities and areas.
    This gigantic transfer of wealth out of this Liberal Hellhole will then necessitate a breakaway of parts of L.A. City. It’s VOTING WITH YOUR FEET that will resolve this, nothing else can work.

  7. Anonymous says:

    i went to the chinese new year parade this wee kend and Zev, Jan and Wendy were in the parade riding in convertibles,when each went by i yelled at them, told them how corrupt and useless they are. i got mykids and friends to boo as loudly as possible too. A lady said you are ruining the parade. I told her if she knew anything she would boo too. i felt great all weekend, and highly recommend this to all..

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