BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
It seems we as a society still have a lot of growing up to do. Here we are, 24 years after the first time Armenians ran for city council in Glendale to better represent that significant segment of the city’s the population, and we’re still encountering hate (Larry Zarian had served already, but his election was in a very different context). What’s worse, the hate isn’t even limited to Glendale, nor to non-Armenians hating Armenians. This manifests itself starkly in the context of elections because political forces use the latent hate to further their chances of being elected.
Let’s start with Burbank. Unfortunately, some of what I encountered when I ran for city council four years ago is still out there, and it has come to bite Armond Aghakhanian who is running for school board. The Burbank-area news site, burbanknbeyond.com, had run the news about ANCA’s endorsements in the city. This elicited a posting from one “Roxanne” that reads:
“I cannot believe the change in Burbank in the last 20 years 🙁 The Armenian people took over Glendale now our lovely Burbank. All they think about is themselves. I will have to move soon! Most of my friends I grew up with here are gone. It’s very sad. My grandma came in 1937…looks like the time has come. DO NOT VOTE FOR Armond Aghkhanian. Please save our Burbank!!”
You can see for yourself at (http://burbanknbeyond.com/02/sections/politics-news/elections-2013-politics-news/armenian-national-committee-of-burbank-announces-endorsements/). Just to be clear, this in no way should impugn the website’s integrity. I know the folks running it and they are decent, dedicated people doing their best to make local news accessible in the modern media age.
This “taking over” theme is exactly the notion that I was confronted with. Obviously, there are people out there who see participation by citizens in the electoral life of their home cities as somehow inappropriate. While this is unfortunate, we shouldn’t let it interfere with our duties as enthusiastic participants in public life—be that electoral/political or otherwise. The only way to overcome this hate (mostly based on misplaced, undue fear) is to keep engaging and show everyone we don’t have horns and are no different in our motivations than anyone else. In time, the malicious people who stir up this hate will fade away and die off, while most of our other neighbors will see that there is nothing to fear.
Simply put, voting and otherwise participating is a big part of the solution to the hate problem. So make sure you return your Burbank ballot, ASAP. Everyone has received it by now. If you haven’t, contact the city clerk (818/238-5851) to receive a replacement, or contact the Burbank ANCA for help (818/562-1918, Info@ancaburbank.org). The endorsed candidates are:
City Council: David Gordon, Robert “Bob” Frutos, and Jess Talamantes Board of Education: Armond Aghakhanian and Larry Applebaum City Clerk: Zizette Mullins
In Glendale, the ANCA has not yet made concluded its endorsements process, but it’s obvious that the best candidate for City Clerk is Ardashes Kassakhian, who is the incumbent. He has drawn a challenger, which is unusual under the circumstances, and may point to other political calculations by other political factions within the community. This promises to be an exciting race requiring strong participation and support by the Armenian community for Ardashes.
For school board, Greg Krikorian is running for reelection, so that’s an easy vote. But two other seats are up and there is another apparently qualified Armenian running, plus non Armenians who seem competent, and perhaps even worthy of our community’s support. Watch for more details on this front too. And for City Treasurer, as I explained last week, Rafi Manoukian is running unopposed, but may end up being denied the job if voters pass an amendment to the city charter changing the position from elected to appointed. This is a strange one, and will be interesting to watch.
Another obvious candidate to support, based on his years of activism in Armenian and Glendale civic life, is Zareh Sinanyan running for city council for the first time. Ara Najarian, an incumbent, is also running for reelection. There are a total of three seats up for election, so watch for the third name. But what is most worrisome in this race is the presence of spoilers.
I will focus on just one example, who shall remain unnamed, since I’m more concerned with this destructive phenomenon than any single individual. The candidate I’m discussing ran for city council four years ago, too, garnering 2,795 votes, which translated into 4.60% of the vote, and placing ninth out of twelve candidates. Now this person is no dummy. It would obvious that posting such a poor showing means it is highly unlikely this candidate has a chance of winning. It’s not as though it was a strong, respectable, but insufficient showing. It’s pretty flat-out hopeless. So why run again? I can only think of bad intentions motivating such a person to run. Whether triggered by anti-Armenian forces or personal vendettas, this person will hurt the chances of other Armenian candidates who do stand a chance of getting elected and have something to contribute to the City of Glendale. We have to find a way to stop this bad behavior.
Fortunately, in Los Angeles’ Council District 13, where Sam Kbushyan is one of a dozen candidates vying for the open seat, such ugliness is absent. Perhaps it is because that area is so full of various minorities that people recognize they are living in the country that is the best example of various nationalities coexisting amicably. It will also be interesting to see who will emerge as the top-two vote getters and advance to the primary. Turnout is traditionally so low that anything can happen, including Kbushyan making it into the general if the large Armenian community in Hollywood (a big part of the district) goes to the polls in large numbers.
Ultimately, what’s important is for everyone to vote, please do, by mail or in person. It’s our civic duty. It’s in our community’s best interest. It’s in our personal best interest.