Last week, the City of Burbank held its biennial primary municipal election. As usual, the Burbank Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) participated with endorsements, fundraising, and most importantly GOTV (get out the vote) work. It paid off! However, there was also a down side.
In the city council race, the top three vote-getters were the Burbank ANCA’s endorsees. Bob Frutos won outright and is now a councilmember-elect. David Gordon and Jess Talamantes will advance to the April 9 general election. In the city clerk contest, Zizette Mullins won. It was a squeaker, but she made it past the 50-percent mark. These winners owe their success to the Armenian community’s participation, which was at a higher rate than the overall population. That’s something to be proud of. In the school board race, results were mixed. No one got elected, but only one of the ANCA’s candidates, Larry Applebaum, advanced to the general election. The other, Armond Aghakhanian, placed fifth and will not advance.
Armond’s results are a bitter counterpoint to the otherwise excellent outcome that shows what working with everyone in the community can do. Unfortunately, there are sectors of the community that obviously cannot handle the thought of an Armenian being elected to office in Burbank. The message left on Armond’s campaign voicemail (that I discussed last week) is abundant proof of this sad and unacceptable phenomenon.
The other problem is Armenian voter response. Armond was bumped out of the race by only 119 votes! Well over that number of Armenians declined to vote. Imagine! What’s more, if just 236 more Armenians had cast their ballots and voted as the Burbank ANCA had recommended, another endorsed candidate would have been elected already.
There are many people out there who just don’t seem to understand how important it is to vote. A very strong GOTV effort still failed to overcome these people’s inertia. Many vote in “important” elections, e.g. when a governor or president is being elected, not realizing how much more impact a city council or school board has on their lives. From the water we drink to our garbage that’s hauled off, and from the quality of our schools to recreational and exercise space, these “lowly” elected offices really matter. Couple that with the extra needs a largely immigrant, and as yet not-fully-acculturated and familiar community has, and the gravity of local elections should become clear. Everyone should vote.
It’s even more heartening that strong bonds of cooperation are developing between the Armenian and broader Burbank communities, pointing the way to success in other towns where significant Armenian populations have resulted in large numbers of Armenian candidates running for office year after year. Of course, the best example of this is Glendale where in just over one month, a number of very strong, committed, and competent members of the Armenian community will learn if their campaigns were successful. They face stiff challenges. Fortunately, our best have also been doing their duty as citizens and residents, working with their neighbors, to build up their city.
Hopefully, this is the beginning of a string of successes. Burbank ANCA has also endorsed Measure S, which appears on the March 5 ballot. Please go vote for it. Please vote in Los Angeles on March 5. Please vote in Pasadena on March 5. Please vote in Glendale on April 2. Please keep voting, participating, and building bridges with everyone wherever you may live.