In the heart of Armenian Country, U.S.A., local elections and their campaigns have kicked into high gear already. Burbank, Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Glendale, more or less in that order, have dates coming up in February, March, April, and May, for primary and general elections. Candidates are vying for seats on city councils, school boards, and community college boards, and for the positions of city attorney, city clerk, city controller, city treasurer, and mayor.
The most important consideration for the Armenian communities of these cities is participation. In Burbank and Glendale, especially the latter, there is now a well-established pattern of higher percentages of voter turnout than the population at large for municipal elections. This should continue and expand. In other jurisdictions, this laudable behavior must also become the norm. The road to such success has been built on the efforts of Armenians who run for office. For good or ill, there are a number of those in this round of elections.
In this article, I will not go into a discussion of specific candidates and ballot measures. Instead, I will present an overview of the electoral playing field.
Burbank’s primary elections arrive first, on Feb. 26. Anyone who gets more than 50 percent of the vote wins a seat. Depending on how many unfilled seats remain, other candidates will advance to the general election on April 9. Six candidates are vying for three city council seats; five for two school board seats; three for the position of city clerk; and an unopposed candidate is running for city treasurer. Burbank runs all-mail elections, meaning all voters receive their ballots at home. By the time you read this, the ballots will probably be in voters’ hands. The Burbank ANCA has been issuing weekly news releases explaining its endorsements and how to vote. An active member of Burbank’s Armenian community is one of the school board candidates, generating excitement and anticipation, since no Armenian has held office in Burbank since 2006. But there is also the very important Measure S, a bond proposal to fund modernization of the schools in Burbank (more on this below).
There is a confusing twist to Burbank’s elections. Because Burbank falls within the borders of the Los Angeles Community College District, because elections for the Board of Trustees of that district are run by the City of Los Angeles, and because Los Angeles’ elections are on March 5, it ends up that (1) Burbank voters have to vote in two separate elections just one week apart; (2) the Feb. 26 Burbank-run election is all-mail, but the March 5 Los Angeles-run election is a traditional one with polling places and a separate, absentee voting by mail program; (3) School Bond Measure S appears on the March 5 ballot (a requirement in state law), so something this important is separated from the main Burbank election; and (4) Burbank voters must be extra vigilant so they do not miss out on their right to vote for Measure S and community college board members.
The City of Los Angeles is holding elections for its mayor, city attorney, city controller, and 8 of 15 city council seats. Simultaneously, the City of Los Angeles runs the elections for the LA Unified School District and LA Community College District, both of which cover dozens of smaller cities. In turn, many of these cities consolidate their city council elections with Los Angeles. The sample and absentee ballots for these elections have already arrived in people’s homes. Make sure you vote. And, if you want to vote from home, send in your absentee ballot request quickly, since you only have about two weeks to get it in on time. Armenians will have some interesting choices in LA’s election since 1 of 13 candidates running for the open seat in Council district 13 is an Armenian who is well rooted in the community, has been active, and is running a strong campaign with solid fundraising and voter registration work under his belt. In addition, two of the leading contenders for mayor (out of a total of eight candidates) have long and strong ties with the Armenian community and are reaching out through their close supporters to the tens of thousands of Armenian voters living within the city limits. This promises to be an exciting election. In all likelihood, many positions will remain unfilled; so many candidates are running that no one will get 50 percent or more. The highest vote-getters will advance to the general elections scheduled for May.
Pasadena shares the March 5 primary election day. While no Armenians are running for office there this year, the Armenian community in the city is very old, established, active, and engaged in political life. The Pasadena ANCA will be issuing its endorsements of candidates for city council and school board any day now.
Glendale is different from the other three cities discussed in that it has only one round of elections, not a primary/general system. In this “ground zero” city of Armenian political participation, whoever gets the highest number of votes wins, even if they haven’t garnered more than 50 percent. There are 3 city council seats up for election, with 11 candidates running, 5 of whom are Armenians; 3 school board seats with 7 candidates of which 2 are Armenian; 3 community college board seats, with only 3 incumbents running, so there’s no meaningful election; only 1 city clerk job, with the incumbent, who happens to be Armenian, running and drawing a surprise challenge; and finally, only 1 candidate running for city treasurer (also Armenian), but with an ironic twist—the Glendale ballot carries a proposal to change the rules to make the city treasurer an appointed instead of elected position, and if this passes, even when elected, the lone candidate won’t get the job! There may be some intrigue or political machinations going on with some of these elections, but we have time to discuss that later, since Glendale’s election date is April 2.
More details will follow for Glendale. But the most important thing to remember is this: VOTE, VOTE, VOTE. Our vote is our voice, and if we expect to get taken seriously when we raise issues of concern for our community, then we must participate. Get that ballot, and darken the circles next to the names of your favorite candidates.
Correction: In my recent article, “Thought for Food,” I referred erroneously to the “Pacifica Foundation.” It should have been “Pacifica Institute.” The former is a respectable organization that operates five listener-sponsored radio stations in the U.S., while the latter is a Gulen movement front organization. I apologize for this error, and thank the reader who caught the mistake and posted a comment online pointing it out.
Note: If you’re in the LA area, don’t forget to participate in the “Don’t Darken our Horizon” protest in front of the Charter Communications’ office in Glendale (6246 San Fernando Rd.) on Sat., Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.