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My Sunday Column: Watching as a New Councilman Discovers the Wonderful — and Dangerous — World of Politics

It is well established in all times and all places that even a little power tends to corrupt, especially when the power derives from being elected to public office.

That’s why it’s so interesting to get to know people right after they have taken the oath of office and to check in with them periodically to see how they are handling the temptations, the pressures and the opportunities that arise when everybody wants to be your friend — especially those who want favors.

With that in mind, I called Zareh Sinanyan, the newest member of the Glendale City Council, elected back in April after a particularly rough campaign in which comments he had made several years earlier on Youtube — hate speech of a racist and homophobic nature — had come back to haunt him and would have cost him the election, were it not for the efforts of the Armenian National Committee.

Not everybody in town wants to be Sinanyan’s friend; to this day his comments still shadow him. But his colleagues on the council and the city’s officials, as well as most people in the community, have welcomed him, though some have done so with a wary eye.

But no complaints have surfaced about how he has handled himself as an elected official. From perception and the observations of others, he’s not a long-winded blowhard or a tricky fox or a double-crosser; but as a politician, he’s got a lot to learn.

“It was very strange at the beginning,” he said over coffee last week as we talked about his first four months in office and his intentions for the future.

“Everybody knows more than you, so you try to keep quiet and absorb all you can and learn. I tried to become better informed and reach out to everyone on the dais. They have been great. We have a pretty dynamic relationship together.”

Watching how he handled himself in the tough debates recently on the upcoming electricity rate hikes, which will average about 30% compounded over the next five years, with most of the increase coming this year and next, it was pretty obvious that like every politician, his position had a lot to do with who brought him to the dance — in this case the Armenian National Committee, which strongly lobbied against the hike.

Sinanyan fought for 3% hikes every year and would have gone along with Frank Quintero’s push for 4% a year rather than the 8%, 7%, 5%, 2% and 2% increases that were approved.

With three votes in support of the plan, Sinanyan had a free pass to oppose it, so the issue that simmers too often below the surface in Glendale — the Armenian question — and his reasons for challenging the rate hike became issues that interested me.

“I have found myself in the position where I look after the interests of South Glendale in a way that I’m not sure others do. Drive around and you can see how it’s qualitatively different than North Glendale, where I live, and where people are more affluent. For South Glendale, the increases are a critical issue.”

The increase from $10 to $13 a month for low-income residents was just a “consolation prize, a backdoor solution” — and that’s the kind of thing Sinanyan says he wants to change.

“I ran on a platform that was, ‘Let’s make Glendale better.’ In order to do that, we need to make Glendale more business-friendly and we need to be more transparent,” Sinanyan said. “Let’s be straightforward, let’s be honest about what we’re doing, about what the needs are, about what’s motivating us. What I was saying is that sometime in the next five years, we’re going to raise salaries and then this whole model is going to collapse, so we’ll be having the same rate increase conversation again.”

One goal is to get rid of the transfer to the city’s General Fund of 11% of Glendale Water & Power’s electricity revenue as “surplus” when it clearly is not, since the city’s utility has been running through its reserves and delaying investment. The transfer dates back decades and has never been legally challenged. But activists have kept the controversy over it alive.

“I understand the necessity, that there’s a level of service that the public wants, so we need that money,” Sinanyan added. “What I don’t agree with is the way it’s done. We’re told GWP will be broke by 2017 the way we’re going. But it’s because of the transfer, so in reality, it is Glendale that will be broke, not GWP.

“Why are we playing this game? Let’s be honest. Let’s go to the voters and say you expect X and we’re getting Y amount of money, so to match X with Y, we’re going to need some kind of an increase somewhere.

“Maybe I’m being naïve, maybe I’m too green. I know it’s hard to pass taxes and easy to raise rates. But we should put our time and energy and political capital into this and say, ‘We don’t want to take your money and put it in one pocket and then transfer it to the other pocket to pay someone else.’ That’s where I’m coming from.”

Sinanyan wants to build relationships in all parts of the city to be a “sort of interpreter willing to do whatever it takes” to build bridges.

“I want our city to be known for substantive things because it is a great place to live and do business. This is a great city, but there is a lot of work to do to break down barriers, to help people understand each other better, to make Glendale better for everyone and not at the expense of one group or another.

“Do I know how to do it? Not really; time has its role and you have to be out there in the community.”

Having observed a lot of politicians, big and small, in a lot of places big and small, I can only tell you that politics is like heroin and like most addictions, few survive the experience intact and undamaged. It’s what makes keeping an eye on a newcomer like Sinanyan interesting as he tries to give life to his ideals.

(THIS COLUMN WAS PUBLISHED SUNDAY IN THE GLENDALE NEWS-PRESS)

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9 Responses to My Sunday Column: Watching as a New Councilman Discovers the Wonderful — and Dangerous — World of Politics

  1. Wayne from Encino on the Glendale City Clowncil says:

    Just another ship of fools!!! They rape 11% a year away from the utility to put in the City’s General Fund? WTF??? Sounds like L.A. City’s confiscation of funds. Then the New Armo Glendale Clownmember says “he watches out for the South Glendale fools who can’t catch a break.” Why a 3% increase? WHY NOT ELIMINATE THE 11% ILLEGAL TRANSFER FOR TWO YEARS and CUT the rates 2.5% a year for the next four years?? No, not in today’s crime wave of politicians! The New Clownman also says the “transfer hasn’t been challenged in Court?” THUS, IT HASN’T BEEN DEEMED LEGAL—SO GET THE HELL RID OF IT! Public Utilities are NON-PROFIT entities—they save hundreds of millions of dollars by being tax-exempt so that they can directly provide electric and power generation for the PEOPLE—they are NOT FOR-PROFIT CASH COWS!!!
    Come on Ron—Ask these kinds of questions and GET THE ANSWERS TO THEM! You see what happened to Detroit, Vallejo, San Bernardino, and other tens of billions of dollars of municipal bankruptcies (and many more comming.) Utility rates, bond measures, and fee hikes will doom every incorporated city in AMERICA. People will move, and move, and move—until finally forced to flee AmeriKa alltogether with what’s left of their wealth—unless this crap is stopped.

  2. ex valley says:

    Wayne wrote: People will move, and move, and move—until finally forced to flee AmeriKa alltogether with what’s left of their wealth—unless this crap is stopped.

    Wayne, you are too rational. You think Detroit politicians would ever imagine more than a million people leaving? Nah. Same in la or California. Though the weather is better – may slow down the flight.

  3. Wayne from Encino on the FLEEING MIDDLE CLASS says:

    Right on ex-Valley: The Fools who run these mega-cities never imagine A MILLION PEOPLE FLEEING FROM THEIR CORRUPTION! But that’s what is happening—thus the Electoral Map is 99% Red vs. 1% Blue in all these rotten-run Cities with their voter fraud, payoffs, and corruption. If Mexico or Canada ever figured things out and made a flat tax of 10% on businesses and persons (with no property taxes)—90% of the WORLD’S WEALTHIEST WOULD MOVE THERE TOMORROW! The Liberals clog the freeways, don’t build new ones, and wont build a train to Las Vegas and L.A. because THAT’S HOW THE MIDDLE CLASS WILL WORK—FLEE THE LIBERAL HELLHOLES AND LIVE IN THE PEACEFUL ONES.

  4. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Vacationing Ron says:

    Ron’s on leave. He’s tired of being overcharged for water and power, so he’s looking for a new place to live.
    Mayor Eric Garbage appeared on Doug’s morning show (McInterd in the Mornin’) and he allowed the Garbage to claim a “victory” for his DWP sellout! Then they discussed how Movie/TV Production is FLEEING L.A. SO BADLY, MAYOR GARBAGE HAS CALLED A “PRODUCTION STATE OF EMERGENCY!” Doug, who loses his mind at times, allowed Mayor Garbage to claim “we’ll Detriot didn’t let GM leave.” DID DOUG
    EVER REALIZE DETROIT FILED BANKRUPTCY? Then Doug allowed Mayor Eric Garbage to claim “unionized labor is alive and well.” STOOOOOPPPPIIIDD!!!!!
    No one in TV/Movie Production wants UNION LABOR, No one in production wants to deal with L.A.’s Corruption, and they’d rather go to places where they get TAX CUTS and 50% CRIMINAL LEGISLATORS running the show, vs. Mayor Garbage and his 110% TOTALLY CORRUPT REGIME!!!
    Yes, Doug McInterd, Kevin James, and Mayor Garbage—3 GREAT reasons TO MOVE THE HELL OUT OF L.A. CITY!

  5. Wayne from Encino subbing in for Vacationing Ron 08/31/2013 says:

    Ron’s looking at property in Arrowhead Lake! It’s 5,000 ft up in the mountains, and far out of the reaches of the evil fools at Spring St! Nothing is really going to happen today, tomorrow, the next day, as we all know the LOOONNGG vacation weekend awaits. If you’re traveling up the 5 frwy, SUPER UNLEADED FOR $4.01 can be purchased at Castaic Lake’s Traveler’s stop (the one with all the big trucks.) Regular unleaded for $3.68! And a full canister of coffee===$1.69!!!! Why is this possible? BECAUSE IT’S OUTSIDE OF THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES!! As you travel away from L.A.–you’ll find alot of places that do things right. On the other hand, you’ll find alot of places that imitate L.A.’s corruption and are SHITHOLES. I’ll start with Detriot, San Bernardino (the city, not the county for sure); Vallejo, Compton, and now San Diego City has to be added to this with the dumbos voting in a friggin Democrat! Who the hell needs another elected Democrat in California?
    Finally, the Sham Special Election of 2013 to fill 2JobBob’s old Sacramento Seat is up in a few weeks—It’s Brad Sherman’s Field Deputy vs. Sultan Bighead I.’s Field Deputy—I’M NOT MAKING THIS UP—BOTH DUMBOCRATS, BOTH JEWISH, AND BOTH FIELD DEPUTIES WORKING FOR JEWISH ELECTED HACKS! You’ve seen these mailers of the two fools===Matt Doombofuck and the other one Jeff Ebenstoopid as they try to show all of YOU how Jewish they are and how they help the homeless, elderly, and the veterans! BUT THEY’LL SERVE THE CAMPAIGN DONORS—NOT YOU, NOT THE HOMEOWNERS, AND SURE AS HELL NOT THE SMALL BUSINESSMAN!
    That’s why Ron takes time off from this blog—it’s just too much to deal with!

    • LA Moderator says:

      Now wayne, you’re leaving out a couple of other Democrats, with a north of the boulevard ethnicities. Okay, Damian Carroll went to Taft, but he was on Krekorian’s staff (not to mention Mike Feuer and Jack Scott)…so the fact that Sherman and the State Dems endorsed differently than the SFV Dems, shows the schism in acction.

      At least we won’t need to have a special election to fill the assembly seat vacated by Holly Mithcell resigning when she wins the special election to fill the seat vacated by Curren Price, who resigned after previously being re-elected to the seat he won in a special election to fill the seat vacated by Mark Ridley-Thomas…who only had to detour to Sacramento for 6 years because we were so foolish to have term limits.

      That’s our problem…if we only elect these peiople for life, we could save all kins of money!

      • LA Moderator says:

        I’m thinking they might cancel each other out…and since Kolslki has the mailing list (and Republican familiarity) from his last walk-throughs against 2JobBob, he may just get into past the Primary again.

        I’m torn though…my friend from Winnetka, running as can’t-call-me-Independant-since-that’s-an-unindependant-party, is the person who I’d like most. He learned how things work in functional cities near my old neck of the woods: His dad started as a part-time commissioner and did great things as he worked his way up to become Mayor.

        First time is always tricky to get traction, but keep an eye out in the future for Eric Lewis!

  6. teddy says:

    Wayne, we owe so much to Ron. I shall never forget him. But I know you also realize that he is who he is because he has always been that way. He has lived in many places and there are good and bad people no matter where one lives.
    I was born and reared in Chicago. nothing in LA politics surprises me. And my Dad was a small businessman and always was giving me things to do. I had fun but at thirteen I knew more than most kids how the real world functions. It was the start of Social Security and when that happened, my Dad told me that “No one lives to be
    65 – that money will all go to the government.” That was in the late thirties and early forties. FDR was the President. I am now 92 this year. Good lick world and welcome to it. By the way, I do have A/B Social Security benefits.

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