Letter to the Editor:
I first met Tamala at Toastmaster Club* 6 years ago. Having been with the club for many years, Tamala achieved the highest level of educational achievement in Toastmasters. She is not just a good speaker on the surface. I love listening to her speech because of the content, more importantly the logic and critical thinking she put into the content. She is also a great organizer for the club, serving various functions, and organized leadership events at international toastmaster conferences.
As I know her better, I am awed that she has homeschooled all her three children while working, done a lot of volunteering works and later on served on boards and commissions in our city.
Since the beginning of this year, Tamala hold a “Freeway Side Chat” at IKEA, once a week. It was an opportunity to have open dialogues with residents. From these chats, Tamala gathered the concerns and suggestions from Burbank residents for our city. But not only that, she took action right from there, e.g. she helped a senior resident to find where to apply for senior housing, joined the Equity Diversity and Inclusion committee at BUSD after discussion with voters about the importance of equity issues in our schools. The week before school closure due to COVID-19, I stopped by to talk to her about my concern on homeschool, because some schools have already been closed in other parts of the country by that time. She then hosted two zoom seminars on homeschool for parents like me, which provided fundamental suggestions to help us with this crisis.
During the COVID-19 quarantine, she continued to hold the “Chat” online by posting videos on her Facebook page. In those posts, she continued shared information about things we all cared about, e.g. police policies, Burbank’s rental assistance program, things discussed in city council and school board meetings.
No matter you make up your mind for any city council candidate or not, I recommend you follow Tamala’s Facebook page. There is rarely a post about “voting for me”, most of the contents are useful information for our life, epically for Burbank residents. For example, you will find business reopening updates, family friendly activities in Burbank, cooling center info during hot waves, Burbank housing survey, etc. She has communicated discussion on city council or school board meetings, summarized work done by BUSD DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) committee, and held discussion on Burbank measures. As a parent who deeply cares about our children’s future, Tamala also shared sustainability efforts across the country. In another word, while some other candidates using FB to promote themselves, Tamala has used FB as a platform to serve the community and build a bridge for communication.
Back to the days when we were both at Toastmaster Club, we talked about our favorite quotes and inspirations at several meetings. Tamala’s favorite one is always this: “Be the change you want to see”. And she has truly fulfilled it all these years I have known her. She has a natural sympathy for people and advocates for those who may not have much voice. She not only cares about the critical issues but has taken the time to learn the reasons behind and move forward to tackle the difficulties.
Tamala has served our city in many ways for a long time. No matter elected or not, I know she will do the same as she has always been doing. However, I do believe she would contribute much more for our city as a leader in the Burbank City Council.
We need a leader who asks “how can I help”, not the ones repeating “vote for me”. We need a leader who studies the issues in further details, not the ones who simply shout emotionally. We need a leader who solves the problems, not the ones only voice their criticisms.
Please join me in electing Tamala Takahashi to Burbank City Council.
*Toastmaster Club: a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs.
Thank you for reaching out. And thank you for being an engaged voter in Burbank.
Here's a brief overview of my position on affordable housing, rent control, and measure RC.
Affordable housing - In California, especially in areas like Burbank, housing costs have been driven up by high demand and low supply. We have a 3/1 jobs/housing ratio, and we have a high quality city, so there is a large demand to live here. With a 1% vacancy rate, the supply is not available, and it creates a high cost market. This is not just here, but everywhere in the world, actually. The more jobs and the better quality city, the higher the cost of housing.
The solution is more housing. I have a comprehensive view on that, but to put it briefly - we need to build middle income and workforce housing both near transportation corridors and hubs, as well as "gentle density" which is a combination of ADUs, small scale upzoning, and small mixed use projects. The way to do this is somewhat complicated, due to the cost of building and zoning restrictions. We can talk about more if you'd like to go more in depth.
Rent Control - I support AB1482 as a price gouging and housing stability measure. I don't support rent restrictions meant to control housing market costs. Simply put - it doesn't work. The data doesn't support it as a tool to bring down housing costs, and in fact, shows the opposite in California. The individual situations of rent being increased is complicated, but most of those individual situations can be addressed with AB1482, and mediation. That's why I support expanding our current landlord/tenant commission to 7 members, and marketing it more broadly, including requiring that all renters in the city are provided information by their landlord of this commission, as well as the Housing Right Center's information, to make sure that everyone is on an even playing field.
Also, about 50% of our renter market in Burbank is owned by "mom and pop" landlords, not large scale landlords. Those are the ones who would be affected by rent restrictions because they own the majority of the older housing. The large scale developers would be largely unaffected, as they have newer housing, and might actually benefit, because they would be able to raise their rents even higher without the competition of the mom and pop landlords. What that means, is that some renters will benefit at the expense of others.
Measure RC - I have questions and concerns about the details of the rent control portion of the measure, but the most problematic part is the third portion of it, which will change the city charter without using a charter amendment petition process. It will also create an unelected, unaccountable governing body, in the form of a commission that would encompass a new city department, to specifically manage rent regulation, rent hearings, litigation, and enforcement. It would create its own budget, and whatever budget it came up with would have to be partially, or wholly, funded by the general fund, depending on what the commission decides. The council and city manager don't have any way to reject their budget except with a lawsuit. We are already in a $20M+ deficit in the city budget. And even if the commission decided on a conservative budget, which is estimated $4-6M, I'm not sure where the extra money will come from. This is about what it costs to fund our public library. This commission would also be able to hire staff, set their salary, and pull staff from other departments. They would also have the freedom to give themselves a salary if they deem it necessary. They would be a governing body over policy, while also hosting hearings with judicial authority, and direct authority to use staff resources. The city council has the first two powers, but the third is very limited. The new commission would technically have more power in the city than council. And lastly, once this is set in place, it is permanent. And the only way to change the structure, is to put another ballot measure up for the next election. So, for this reason, regardless of whether rent control is good or bad for our city (and that's a discussion I believe absolutely necessary to have in our city), this measure is not good governance.
As a parting note, whenever I get this question, I never know where people stand on the issue, and often times they are asking if I agree with them. I want to share that whether or not you agree with me on this issue, I do believe that we need to have the conversation around housing costs and availability. My view is that we, as a city, need to adopt policies that work to that end. I start from there and work backwards to see if the policies put forward will work to address it. So if you have a differing view on this, I am more than willing to discuss it with you. And if you do agree with me, I hope that as we move forward we will all keep an open mind to do what's best for our city as we get more information and have more discussion.
Thank you again for reaching out! Have a wonderful rest of your weekend.
On August 31st, Governor Newsom signed legislation to protect renters and landlords until 2021.
"Under the legislation, no tenant can be evicted before February 1, 2021 as a result of rent owed due to a COVID-19 related hardship accrued between March 4 – August 31, 2020, if the tenant provides a declaration of hardship according to the legislation’s timelines. For a COVID-19 related hardship that accrues between September 1, 2020 – January 31, 2021, tenants must also pay at least 25 percent of the rent due to avoid eviction.
Tenants are still responsible for paying unpaid amounts to landlords, but those unpaid amounts cannot be the basis for an eviction. Landlords may begin to recover this debt on March 1, 2021, and small claims court jurisdiction is temporarily expanded to allow landlords to recover these amounts. Landlords who do not follow the court evictions process will face increased penalties under the Act.
The legislation also extends anti-foreclosure protections in the Homeowner Bill of Rights to small landlords; provides new accountability and transparency provisions to protect small landlord borrowers who request CARES-compliant forbearance; and provides the borrower who is harmed by a material violation with a cause of action."
If you have questions about your particular situation, contact the Housing Rights Center or the Burbank Landlord/Tenant Commission.
Homelessness crisis is worse than it's ever been. It's going to take innovation and dedication to address it.
This article is an excellent overview of the current homelessness crisis. I recommend reading the whole article, but here are some bits that stood out to me.
• 151K unsheltered individuals in California (251 in Burbank, BTW)
• Most unsheltered are “invisible” to the average resident
• 70% of unsheltered live locally before becoming homeless.
• Black and Latino residents make up the highest percentage of unsheltered by far.
• The most represented age range in emergency shelters are newborns.
• Emergency shelters are the least costly to build, but are costly to maintain, and often degrade into unsafe conditions, where unsheltered feel more safe on the street.
• It’s time to reimagine emergency shelters into a hybrid model of “navigation centers” where the focus is on rehousing and 360 degree services.
• Emergency sheltering programs partnering with motels and churches, with 360 degree services, are the most effective in rehousing, most cost effective, and most likely to be safer.
• Permanent supportive housing is the expensive to build outright, and it’s the most needed. Finding innovative ways to create housing, such as converting motels, are becoming more attractive to nonprofits that serve the unsheltered.
• Of course, helping people stay in their homes is the first line of defense against homelessness.
The most needed services for the unsheltered are:
• Eviction counseling and defense
• Emergency rental assistance
• Rapid rehousing programs
• 360 services such as mental health care, physical health care, drug addiction support, children and family support, job placement, and legal assistance.
Cities around the country are facing up to 20% shortfalls in revenue. And Burbank is no exception.
Many cities are also recognizing that while it’s a challenge to help small businesses keep their doors open, it’s much easier than recovering from a large number of businesses shutting down.
Burbank has already helped a number of our small and micro businesses with small grants. Whether the money comes from outside grant sources, corporate sponsors, or squeezed from the limited civic budget, many cities understand the value of helping small businesses survive. They are worth the long term investment to avoid even worse consequences to the local economy in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Some of the innovative ways that cities have used stimulus funds and local relationships:
• Charlotte, North Carolina - using CARES funding to create a workforce training program to train for local jobs in advanced technology and green energy. <- Burbank already has a workforce program, that can be leaned into during COVID
• Charlotte, North Carolina - offers grants for business innovation during COVID and for businesses that hire those who have been laid off due to COVID <- Burbank can do this, especially for our larger “small” businesses and franchises
• Akron, Ohio - created an app that gives “points” for using local small businesses, It’s receiving double the anticipated usage, and 125 businesses have signed up. <- This would be fantastic in Burbank!
• Detroit, Michigan - 10 non profits came together to create the “New Economy Initiative”, which invests in diversifying local industry to withstand industry focussed shocks. The NEI also provides training and workshop, helping businesses with processes like writing a business plan. The group has also been able to pool its resources to obtain more grants for the local economy than the local city government could do alone. <- Burbank can do this!
• Detroit, Michigan - partnered with the city’s Civil Rights, Inclusion, and Opportunity Department to ensure that the most affected populations were receiving the help they needed. <- Burbank needs this too.
Cities can be innovative, as we’ve seen here. Even with budget shortfalls, there are ways to protect our local economy and small/micro businesses while we work our way through COVID and beyond.
More information about these programs can be found here:
These past days have been a testimony to the distress and pain in our communities, brought to the forefront by the senseless, public murder of George Floyd.
Peaceful protesters, including here in Burbank, are shining a light on this tragedy, crying out together, pleading for change, and for those in authority to pay attention. At the same time, our community is anxious we might potentially be the target of opportunistic havoc. It is my deep hope that the peaceful protests for justice are not overshadowed by unacceptable violence. It is my hope that we listen to the voices of those suffering above the noise of the detractors. And that we turn this pain into meaningful change.
We’re seeing Police Departments across the country take a formal stand against dangerous physical restraints, by showcasing policies that ensure fair policing. It’s our city leaders’ responsibility to stand side by side with those who uphold fairness and equity. This is an important step towards national de-escalation and building and reinforcing local community trust that our police will protect every single one of us.
We may be a small, quiet community, but we can address the inequality, intolerance, and racism that tenaciously hides in the fabric of our culture. We can do this by coming together and listening, even if that means having tough conversations when we would rather look the other way. Even if it means bringing up topics that might be uncomfortable to get to the truth of what can be done better.
To achieve this, one lesson we can take away from the past few challenging months, is the importance of having competent, honest, compassionate, effective leaders in elected office. From the White House to the County Board of Supervisors to City Hall, if we want a healthier, more just, more prosperous society for every one of our neighbors, we must invest our time and energy in a government that will work to create that future.
We can begin here, in our city, by joining governments across the country in assuring we demonstrate collaborative policing (Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights - https://civilrights.org/wp-conte…/…/Policing_Full_Report.pdf) and by forming an independent coalition, to find ways to guarantee fair treatment, inclusion, equity, and equality in our community. This is how we truly become the World Class City we aspire to be.
We are resilient, we are capable, we will get through this. I believe in our community, and in our world, as frustratingly flawed it can be at times, that we can work together, and create a better future for us all.
Please connect with me anytime with your experiences, ideas, questions, concerns, and stories.
In kindness and unity,
Tamala Takahashi is a 20 year Burbank resident, nonprofit trainer, and longtime community member. She is running to support small business, to increase housing security and availability, and to bring in more resident engagement.