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Eight Running for Three Council Seats

First published in the June 4 print issue of the Glendale News Press.

With election day coming up on Tuesday, the City Council race stands as Glendale’s most competitive local election, with eight candidates vying for three at-large seats.
Depending on how the ballots fall, voters can re-elect three incumbents, bring in a whole new squad or mix things up a bit. The three victors will represent all of Glendale for four-year terms, joining the current mayor, Ardy Kassakhian, and the previous mayor, Paula Devine, on the dais in City Hall.
The eight candidates all come from various backgrounds and experiences, and bring a plethora of goals to the table in their aims to help take the Jewel City to the next level. Some have prior — or current — electoral experience, while others are mounting their first-ever campaigns. Regardless of their experiences, whoever wins will face the same issues and forks in the road — topics that include transportation infrastructure, open green space, housing development, energy generation and what direction to take law enforcement.
The candidates are Vrej Agajanian, Elen Asatryan, Dan Brotman, Jordan Henry, Karen Kwak, Ara Najarian, Anita Quiñonez Gabrielian and Isabel Valencia-Tevanyan.
In the midst of early voting, and ahead of Tuesday, the Glendale News-Press has asked each candidate to respond to a series of questions about their campaigns and what has motivated them to seek this political office. All candidates were asked the same questions.

  • Elen Asatryan
  • Dan Brotman
  • Karen Kwak
  • Jordan Henry
  • Anita Quiñonez Gabrielian
  • Ara Najarian
  • Isabel Valencia Tevanyan


Voters may find the locations for voting centers and ballot drop-off boxes by visiting glendalevotes.org. Those with mailed ballots have until Tuesday to postmark their return envelopes and may also drop them off at ballot boxes or voting centers.

Q: What qualities and/or policy proposals do you believe set you apart from your opponents in this election, and why should those be important to Glendale voters?

Agajanian: I am the only candidate who is a professional engineer. This background in science has provided me with a unique insight on Council, especially with decisions regarding adopting new technologies and the environment.
As a business owner, I want to help small businesses to succeed and encourage more business ownership. When the pandemic hit, many businesses in Glendale did not qualify for PPP loans because they were family owned (they couldn’t provide a list of standard employees). As mayor, I ensured we provided $4 million in local pandemic relief to small businesses in Glendale, which saved many from bankruptcy.
Asatryan: For more than 20 years, I have helped residents and small businesses cut through the bureaucratic red tape at City Hall; advocated for access, clean energy, affordable housing, more parks and green spaces, safe and walkable neighborhoods; and established programs for better access to services for our families, youth, and seniors. I am extremely well-versed in the issues facing our diverse neighborhoods and communities and know how to get things done. For me, there is no us vs. them and our City Hall is the house of the people. I will bring to the council the courageous and empathetic spirit of a community organizer and my professional background in policy and public affairs to chart a new course for the city we love. Glendale residents deserve leaders who will go to bat for their constituents and help our small businesses thrive.
Brotman: I have worked as an economist at the Federal Reserve, a finance executive at Cisco Systems, a professor at Glendale Community College, and, for the past two years, as a sitting councilmember. I spent 18 years of my life living, studying and working overseas. In my spare time, I founded the Glendale Environmental Coalition and led the fight to replace the aging Grayson gas plant with clean energy. I treat my position on council as a serious, full-time job, and am known as someone who can be counted on to respond promptly and substantively to every email, text or call I receive. I tell it like it is, even when the answer is not popular. Beyond that, I am not someone who blindly accepts staff input and recommendations; I take the time to research issues myself and to get opinions from experts in the community. I make independent judgments based on these efforts. I am comfortable with complexity and am non-ideological when it comes to policy questions.
Henry: Having earned a master’s in landscape architecture, I know that the best community planning starts with the community itself. I work for the Los Angeles City Department of Public Works as a landscape architecture associate, where I plan-check and permit construction in the public right-of-way. I know how local government works, and I want to increase transparency, efficiency and accountability in Glendale city government. I propose building a publicly accessible database for permit applicants to view where they are in the queue relative to other projects. I also propose incentivizing city employees to meet hard deadlines for plan check reviews to ensure Glendale residents and taxpayers are better served by our government.
Kwak: I rent a one-bedroom apartment in South Glendale — this fact alone sets me apart from all other candidates. Renters are 67% of Glendale, yet all five current Councilmembers are homeowners in the north. Glendale’s people need to be represented fairly.
I am the only non-incumbent who has shaped policy in several ways:
• I convinced the City Council to align the city’s back-rent repayment plan with the state’s plan; it passed 3-1-1 on October 20, 2020.
• I worked with the Council to create the Tenant-Landlord Committee, which passed 5-0.
• My comments on tenant co-ops/TOPA, the Right to Counsel, and Anti-Harassment laws were incorporated in the Housing Element — a state-mandated document that guides Glendale’s housing policies for eight years.
I have worked with the personalities at City Hall, and have new ideas and several policy proposals ready to go.
Najarian: This is a critical election for the city of Glendale. Many candidates state that they will “transform” and “change” Glendale. I think this would be a mistake because I view Glendale as one the greatest cities in all of California. I have been a leader who has brought Glendale to where we are today. It is important that we elect an experienced and capable councilman who is committed to the residents of Glendale. I am the strongest candidate in the support of law enforcement. Support doesn’t mean only by budget allocation, but by words, deeds and encouragement of our police officers. No other candidate can match my contributions to the city in the field of transportation and traffic safety. As a LA Metro board member and now chairman-elect, I have ensured and will continue to ensure that Glendale gets its fair share of transit dollars and funding for roadway, pedestrian and bike safety improvements.
Quiñonez Gabrielian: Voters who support me will be selecting a proven leader in many relevant fields with experience that will ensure Glendale continues to be a premier city for all.
• A retired executive with a long and distinguished career with AT&T, with experience in operations management, financial management, planning, coordination, negotiation skills, government affairs and community engagement
• An education leader with a long list of accomplishments on the Glendale Community College board of trustees for 15 years, including three times as board president
• A community advocate and supporter who has served a wide variety of Glendale organizations successfully and for over 30 years, including as city commissioner and vice chair of the Community Development Block Grant Committee
• An immigrant from Nicaragua who came to this country as a child and lived the immigrant struggle, married an immigrant from Armenia and built a strong family
• A mother of three accomplished and professional young women who has promoted women’s empowerment and parity socially, politically and economically through education, civic engagement and community service
• A small business owner, joining four generations of small business owners and understanding the unique challenges and the hard work required to succeed
Valencia-Tevanyan: I want to give people in need of mental-health care the ability to receive the help they need immediately, no questions asked. I want to invest in our mental-health care and focus on a more preventative approach by dealing with certain issues they face early on instead of treating people when they are in the middle of psychotic breaks. I want the people of Glendale to understand that this is not an issue we can just ignore because it can happen to anyone, especially in our own families who are unable to deal with certain problems and issues, and if not dealt with appropriately, can lead to more serious problems down the road for the individual, the family, and the community at large.

Q: What would you consider to be a signature political issue of your campaign, and how are you prepared to begin the work to achieve your goal if you are elected?

Agajanian: My signature issue has always been government transparency and accountability. I won my first election in 2017 while out-funded 5-to-1 against an incumbent (their campaign and special interests). While on council, I passed a new code of ethics that holds city officials to a higher standard of conduct.
During the pandemic, I was also the only councilmember to keep an open office even as City Hall had closed its doors. I wanted residents to have access to a city official during that turbulent time, and I was able to provide information and free resources to thousands of residents.
Asatryan: I would like to change the culture at City Hall to be proactive vs. reactive, where policies are made based on a vision of what we want our city to look like 10, 20, 50 years from now. I’d like to see representatives and staff have a helpful, empathetic attitude towards residents and small businesses vs. creating bureaucratic barriers — from our permitting department to our economic development department, and ensure we adopt smart development that incorporates affordable housing, sustainability, green spaces, and makes our streets safe and walkable. My experience as a community organizer, city commissioner, and a businesswoman has more than prepared me to tackle these challenges.
Brotman: My signature issue is to address the long-term environmental challenges facing Glendale residents. It was this effort that propelled me into politics and I’ve continued this work while on council, pushing to get to 100% clean energy by 2035 and advancing policies to electrify buildings, vehicles and gas-burning landscape equipment. I have also been leading efforts to reduce waste by eliminating single-use plastics for food service. Just as importantly, I have been working to address the problem of extreme heat by ramping up our urban forestry efforts and by testing the use of cooling materials for our streets and parking lots. Closely related to this is my work to encourage more walking and biking by making our streets safer.
Henry: While I generally support the adoption of solar and battery technology, the Grayson repowering project is a necessary investment we need to make as soon as possible. The five natural gas generators are efficient and can eventually be powered by hydrogen — this is a great transitional technology for our city. Plus, a massive Tesla battery will be used for power backup. Our current council voted unanimously against their own commission’s unanimous support for the expansion and inadvertently increased the cost of the project by nearly $100 million. If Glendale fails to approve this project, utility rates will increase, rolling blackouts will occur, and poor, elderly people will suffer the most.
In January, State Senate Bill 9 became law, which will rapidly urbanize our residential neighborhoods. Up to 8 units can be built on single-family parcels with minimal to no off-street parking required. Traffic and emergency response times will worsen, and property values will be affected. We need to join other cities to fight this overreach into Glendale’s local zoning authority.
Kwak: We have a pressing need to pass a Right to Counsel law. Right to Counsel laws are already working successfully in New York and other cities, and can be easily adapted for Glendale. Most renters in eviction cases have no lawyer and are 98% likely to lose their case without one. The law needs to be applied fairly. Plus, it is easier and cheaper to prevent homelessness than to try to fix it after an eviction tsunami.
In the longer run, I will push for the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) so that renters can buy the buildings they live in, build equity and control their own housing, and for public banking to finance those purchases.
Najarian: A signature political issue of my campaign is to keep Glendale one of the top safest cities in the United States. Safety includes not just police response, but also maintaining an excellent emergency response by our fire department. Public safety is the cornerstone of what makes Glendale a “premiere” city and I will do everything in my power to keep it as such. I will never let Glendale spiral down into what has happened to the city of Los Angeles regarding crime and homelessness issues.
Quiñonez Gabrielian: A signature issue of my campaign is to protect the beauty and character of the many neighborhoods that make up our beautiful city from state legislation, specifically SB9, while developing the required housing units allocated to Glendale. I propose balanced development that will utilize adapting underutilized office buildings and commercial sites to housing units. This will take internal planning and funding, community engagement, negotiating with property owners and securing additional funding for infrastructure to support the development.
Valencia-Tevanyan: One signature political issue of my campaign is for parents to retain their rights over what their children are taught in our schools. There needs to be transparency between the parents and the teachers regarding the course curriculum of their children. The focus of our schools is to make sure that our children are prepared academically in all the major subjects and be able to think logically in order to assist them in their growth to becoming contributing members of society. All other things outside of academics should be left to the discretion of the parents.

Q: The city currently has a number of proposals and projects in varying stages of development and study, many of which could impact recreational and green space, transportation and pedestrian infrastructure, or the city’s energy portfolio. Pick one of those projects you anticipate strongly supporting or opposing, and explain why you picked up that particular one.

Agajanian: Glendale is now a leader in renewable energy. Clean energy consists of 64% of our energy portfolio. I helped to lead the charge to make Glendale a more sustainable city.
When I was mayor, we created a sustainability commissioner to advise council on environmental issues. I also helped to add 39 hybrid patrol cars and replace over 1,400 streetlights to LED. We also voted to change our city buses to CNG, which will be phased out with electric city buses.
Asatryan: Plans mean nothing if they’re not actually implemented. I anticipate not only strongly supporting but ensuring we actually invest funds to properly implement the pedestrian safety plan, the upcoming sustainability plan, and revisiting the downtown specific plan to ensure we are incorporating the recommended green spaces and art that were in the initial plan. Furthermore, I will oppose the environmentally unfriendly and fiscally irresponsible Grayson Power Plant project if staff does not come back with cleaner energy alternatives. I will also bring back the Scholl Canyon power plant project affecting our Glenoaks Canyon residents and start the overdue process of cleaning up the Scholl Canyon landfill.
Brotman: I don’t take simplistic approaches to complex issues, so none of the projects on the table today lend themselves to a simple support or oppose position. I want us to be able to meet the city’s energy needs without adding fossil fuels, and don’t believe GWP has maximized opportunities for clean energy, but the jury is still out on whether we can entirely avoid some backup fossil generation. I like the idea of turning the Verdugo Wash into an active walk-bike and park corridor, and I believe we need to think big and imagine the possible. But whether it is technically or economically feasible to do this while maintaining the Wash’s flood control function and protecting the quality of life of adjoining properties, is something we still need to work out.
Henry: Our current City Council is simultaneously increasing housing development while also actively trying to restrict the flow of traffic in our city. While their hearts are in the right place, we cannot allow the city to bring in more people while also impeding our ability to drive through Glendale. This is unacceptable because traffic is already a serious problem throughout much of our city.
Kwak: I walk around Glendale because I have never owned a car. Therefore, it is personally important to me to implement and fund the city’s pedestrian plan to improve safety for both walkers and drivers.
Najarian: For years decades the Glendale residents have sought a high-quality transit line to connect them with the growing LA County transit system. We are on the cusp of bringing an electric transit service to the downtown area, which will connect us with Pasadena and Burbank. The transit line will include bicycle lanes and will serve as a calming effect on some our roads that crazy speeders abuse the most. [Bus-rapid transit] is coming soon to Glendale, and it will serve to improve our quality of life by encouraging people to get out of their cars to travel.
Quiñonez Gabrielian: As I met with residents from all parts of our city to hear their concerns and their vision for Glendale, traffic and pedestrian safety was always on their list. I will strongly support an integrated traffic study and ensure the funding and implementation of a plan, developed with community engagement to increase traffic safety. I will ensure funding and implementation for this plan and the pedestrian safety plan.
Valencia-Tevanyan: It is very disappointing to see all the new buildings that have just been constructed in our community are now becoming a huge burden to our city. Glendale has been filled to the brim with traffic that was once limited to certain peak hours, but now it seems like every hour of the day is filled with slow-moving and dangerous traffic. That is without considering holidays and the summer vacation for many families. Many voices in our community have offered up potential solutions to the increasing traffic problem, but they have always been swept under the rug and never given a chance to be discussed. This is the consequence of not preventing potential issues in the near future. It is important to modernize and change, but never move too fast before we are able to handle ourselves.

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