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Kassakhian to Serve as New Mayor

First published in the April 9 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

First-term Councilman Ardy Kassakhian looked back to President Theodore Roosevelt for inspiration as he prepared to take on the mantle of mayor for the first time this week.
“We must show, not merely in great crises but in everyday affairs of life, the qualities of practical intelligence, of courage, of boldness and endurance,” he said, lightly modifying Roosevelt’s quote, “and, above all, the power of devotion to a lofty ideal, which made great the men who founded the republic and preserved it.”
In perhaps bipartisan fashion, he also quoted the late president and fellow Bostonian John F. Kennedy.
The one-time city clerk succeeded Councilwoman Paula Devine for the mayor’s role during Tuesday’s meeting, a transition forecasted by the city’s relatively new mayoral selection process.
Kassakhian, who joined the City Council on the cusp of the coronavirus pandemic, vowed to continue shepherding the city through its various “reopening” activities, including by supporting local businesses with assistance.
He also talked of bolstering the city’s relationship with the Glendale Unified School District and Glendale Community College, arguing that the three entities can take advantage of their overlap to best serve the same pool of residents.
Playing off Glendale’s moniker as the Jewel City, Kassakhian said the challenges from the past two years have showcased the city is full of diamonds.
“We’re emerging from the long dark tunnel of the pandemic, civil protests and wars in far-off places, but which hit far too close to home. Unfortunately, we came out of all of this not quite sure if there isn’t more tunnel ahead or what may face us. I understand that the uncertainty now to many of us, including myself, may be more frightening than the actual virus was,” he said.
“As we come out of the last two years, know that, if you have survived, it is because you endured the most extreme conditions and pressures, emerging as diamonds that will make this city sparkle brighter than ever,” he added.
Kassakhian said he plans to actively consider candidates from “underrepresented voices” in the city for various panels and commissions, as part of the city’s broader effort to enhance its diversity and inclusiveness at the political table.
For property owners, he said he’ll continue efforts to improve and streamline processes at the city’s planning and permitting offices.
In terms of service, Kassakhian — recalling his own experiences as a boy growing up here — said he hoped to increase available outdoor space for children by proposing that the city work with the school district to open up schools’ playground spaces during off hours.
He also expressed interest in developing a “civic academy” to educate and expose children to various city functions and asked city staff to start work on Glendale’s first book fair.
One thing he pledged to keep up was robust debate in City Hall chambers, which he illustrated as part and parcel of having a group dedicated to doing what’s best for the city, but, at times, disagreeing on how to get there.
“For a lot of you, this back and forth, this ‘sturm und drang,’ that noise is everything you hate about politics, everything you don’t like about how government works,” he said.
“It’s why some of you may not vote. It’s why many don’t bother to watch council meetings or design review board or sustainability commission meetings. You ask, why can’t this be simple? Why can’t government just fix things and get it over with? I hear it a lot, but that back and forth, that clash, that chaos I’ve just described, that, my friends, is democracy. That noise is the very thing that makes this whole thing work, not just here but around our whole country,” he added.
As she passed along the gavel, many peers and other officials tipped their caps to Devine, who was mayor for most of the vaccine era of the pandemic.
“It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it? It’s been another difficult year, on many levels — dealing with the COVID epidemic and the issues that our residents and our businesses have had to endure,” she said. “Through collaboration and meaningful decision-making, my colleagues, staff and I have worked very hard to make the rebound from this pandemic a bit easier and a bit smoother.”
Devine highlighted such achievements as the Jewel City Vax Clinic, the development of permanent outdoor dining parklets in Montrose and the creation of the landlord/tenant and sustainability commissions as key developments from the past year.
She also touted the long-awaited opening of the Stone Barn Nature Center at Deukmejian Wilderness Park, the approval of the Scholl Canyon Landfill biogas power generation facility and the groundbreaking of the Armenian American Museum as major developments to improve Glendale’s stature in Southern California.
“Glendale is a premier city,” she said, “but we are still experiencing kind of our renaissance, as I call it — a renewal.”
Officials also extended condolences to Devine, who continued her leadership role after her husband, Art, died last year.
“You did it while facing your own personal loss, and I want to thank you for your service above and beyond what any of us could have expected,” Kassakhian told Devine during the meeting.

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