First published in the Oct. 23 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
A mayor’s speech doesn’t usually feature a video showing the city’s top elected official being covered in green slime. But this week in Burbank, one did.
About 500 business executives, community leaders and city officials roared with laughter in the Marriott Hotel’s convention center Wednesday as they viewed the video during the annual State of the City address. Mayor Bob Frutos — sans slime — watched from the stage while the clip, taken at Nickelodeon Animation Studio in Burbank, continued to play.
The clip and the rest of the video included interviews with local stop-motion animators and representatives of Handy Market, which has served as a location for film and television shoots, and Tansy, a home goods store whose customers include Burbank studios. The video, and Frutos’ speech that followed it, appeared to hammer the same point: Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Burbank remains a strong city — the “Media Capital of the World.”
“The city — its governance, its leaders — has a plan, has a vision,” Frutos said in an interview after the event. “We’re tackling on a lot of the issues that keep coming to us. We have flexible thinking [about] how we’re doing our policies going into the future.”
Returning to an in-person event after the pandemic pushed it to a virtual platform last year, the State of the City address is the mayor’s opportunity to show off Burbank’s goals and accomplishments to local organizations. Though this is Frutos’ second term as mayor, Wednesday marked the first time he had delivered the speech; when he was mayor in 2015, he was absent from the event due to an illness.
Now with a second chance to take the stage, Frutos kept up a lighthearted tone that was set by the opening video. His speech, titled “Behind the Tinsel” — referring to Hollywood’s nickname “Tinseltown” — provided a rundown of top City Council priorities including economic recovery, housing and homelessness, and public safety, and measures addressing them.
“We are the town behind the tinsel,” Frutos said in his speech. “We create the magic through hard work and imagination, and we share it with the world.”
The mayor touted the city’s “Chow Down Burbank” partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, a recent social media-driven campaign aimed at supporting local restaurants by allowing diners to enter raffles by sharing pictures of their food. He also mentioned the approximately $1.2 million in federal aid the city has directed to local businesses and renters, Burbank’s new homelessness services coordinator position, city clinics that offered vaccinations to BUSD and municipal employees, new electric vehicle charging stations and the hiring of dozens of new Fire and Police Department employees.
In the second of the two videos presented during the mayor’s speech, city staff members also highlighted several current developments. The Avion business park next to the Hollywood Burbank Airport, they said, is close to completion and will host an Amazon distribution center, Home Depot, Tesla Solar and Jersey Mike’s Subs eatery. Meanwhile, Warner Bros.’ Second Century expansion project is underway, as are multiple new apartment buildings throughout Burbank.
Hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, this year’s address attracted representatives from Netflix, Disney, Amazon, LaTerra Development and the Cusumano Group, among others. Elected officials such as Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, members of the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education, Glendale Mayor Paula Devine and many others also attended the event.
The chamber decided last year to focus on small businesses, which were feeling the brunt of the pandemic’s economic effects, according to board Chairman Steve Mora. As companies recover from the pandemic and workers return to the workplace, he said, city officials should make sure they’re listening to those firms’ needs.
Jamie Keyser, the chamber’s CEO, added that Wednesday’s gathering of people from small, medium and large businesses as well as local nonprofit and school representatives shows the breadth of Burbank’s community.
“This is really a group that shows the landscape of businesses and our community in Burbank,” Keyser said in an interview. “This is the focus of the new partnership between the chamber and the city of Burbank … how we can together get our arms around the business community and help it thrive.”