Glendale got introduced to a whole a new meaning for "knock knock" in 2012, and became the focus of international media coverage after becoming the object of desire for two television stars — Kim Kardashian and a black bear with a taste for residential trash. Hardship struck at City Hall and other local agencies. And tragedy hit Glendale Unified.
The year 2012 was all over the map. So lest we forget, here's a look back at some of the bigger stories of the past year.
No longer third
The city of Glendale — long-known as the third most populous city in Los Angeles County — lost that rank to Santa Clarita following that city's annexation of several unincorporated communities.
The annexations, which were approved by the county's Local Agency Formation Commission, took Santa Clarita's population from 176,000 to about 203,000 in November, pushing it above Glendale's population of 192,000.
Officials in Glendale had repeatedly referred to the city's rank as the county's third largest city when discussing the community and pointing out the city's political significance.
Although Mayor Frank Quintero called the rank Glendale's “claim to fame,” others at City Hall played down the drop, contending little difference exists between the No. 3 and 4 spots.
While Santa Clarita expanded, Glendale's population has been on a steady decline in recent years, which has been blamed on a lack of new developments and affordable housing for low-income families.
The loss of Glendale's third-place rank does not affect the city's chances of receiving state or federal grants and funding.
Rash of burglaries
An organized crime group targeted affluent neighborhoods in April this year, prompting two police pursuits.
The thieves were South Los Angeles gang members who targeted high-end homes in the San Fernando Valley, Glendale, Burbank and Pasadena, police said. The “knock-knock” burglaries were so named because the thieves typically knocked on a home door to ensure no one was inside before entering and ransacking it.
At least 10 men were arrested in Glendale in separate incidents, including residential burglaries and a theft of cellphones at an AT&T kiosk at the Glendale Galleria.
In one of the home break-ins, police locked down a neighborhood near ABC studios for seven hours as they searched for suspects. They eventually found them — one of whom was hiding in a crawl space inside a garage.
Soon after the break-ins, police stepped up enforcement near all freeway exits in an effort to keep any future burglars from fleeing the city and vowed to keep the public informed about the thefts.
The thieves stole small items of high and quick resale value and typically hit during the day, when homeowners were at work.
Los Angeles Police Department officials recently released photographs of more than 11,000 pieces of jewelry and watches that were recovered from knock-knock burglary suspects in an effort to track down the owners.
Public support poured in for an 81-year-old Glendale woman who lost her life savings to a lottery scam, forcing her to abandon any plans to retire from her longtime job as a waitress at the landmark French restaurant Taix in Los Angeles.
Thousands of dollars were donated to help Antonia Becerra, who works at the restaurant for 44 years. Becerra was conned out of at least $40,000 this year after scam artists convinced her that she had won $2 million and a new Mercedes, Glendale police said.
But to secure the supposed cash and car prizes, she transferred the money to the scam operation, which also swindled her out of her car by convincing her to sell it and to send in the proceeds.
She eventually ran out of her life savings and was left without a car or a prize.
Soon after, police began collecting donations to help get Becerra back on her feet and pay bills she had fallen behind on.
Becerra also received checks from donors, some from as far away as New York.
Voters saw a sometimes contentious battle in the 43rd District state Assembly race this year with incumbent Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) facing off against longtime Glendale Unified school board member Greg Krikorian.
The campaigns got nasty at times with allegations lobbed from both camps.
Midway through the campaign, Krikorian — a Republican who has touted being a fiscal conservative — answered questions about his wife, Christine, walking away from $49,000 in credit card debt after she emerged from Chapter 7 bankruptcy proceedings last year.
Krikorian was added to the bankruptcy case as a co-debtor about a month after it was filed because the bankruptcy court noted that Christine Krikorian had failed to list him in her filing.
Greg Krikorian said his wife incurred the debt and he was unaware of it until she broached the subject about three years ago.
On the other side, Greg Krikorian has argued that Gatto doesn't technically live in the district, with the assemblyman's real residence being in Sacramento.
During a debate between the two men in October, Gatto responded by pointing out that the Legislature is in session in Sacramento three-quarters of the year, so all lawmakers “have places” in the state capital.
“If you have a young family like me, you need to choose between leaving them back here and having them come back and forth with you, and I chose the latter, and I apologize to nobody for that,” Gatto said during the heated debate.
Reality television star Kim Kardashian caused quite a stir after revealing ambitions to run for mayor of Glendale in a clip from her sister's TV show, “Khloé & Lamar.”
Kardashian technically isn't able to run for mayor of Glendale, since the ceremonial post is appointed annually among sitting City Council members.
Kardashian's announcement was criticized by many, but Councilman Ara Najarian showed his support, offering her the role of “honorary chief of staff.”
Najarian also invited Kardashian to attend the annual Armenian genocide commemoration event at the Alex Theatre in April, but Kardashian instead opted to release a 43-second public service announcement via YouTube.
Najarian later proposed that the city invite Kardashian to ride on Glendale's Tournament of Roses Parade float, suggesting that her appearance would be a public relations boon for the city.
The idea — which was met with criticism from both the public and other council members — was withdrawn after it was discovered that Kardashian had already been booked for a New Year's Eve event at a Las Vegas nightclub.
Four local high school students have been invited to ride atop the city's float instead.
In an effort to close a $15.4-million budget gap, the city of Glendale issued dozens of layoff notices to city employees and offered early retirement incentives to others.
Although only five employees were eventually let go, around 122 employees opted for early retirement, which accounted for well over half of expected savings when the city closed on a budget in June.
“The greatest benefit will be the savings over future budget years as we maintain the lower staffing levels,” said city spokesman Tom Lorenz.
Public Works and Community Services & Parks were among the departments hardest hit by the retirements, with top-level employees — such as Traffic and Safety Administrator Jano Baghdanian — leaving their posts.
The five layoffs included a senior civil engineer, an accounting services specialist and an assistant project manager.
'On the cheap'
Days before class returned to session in the fall of 2012, top administrators at Glendale Community College arranged a town hall meeting for staff, during which Vice President Mary Mirch shed tears as she and others discussed the workload reductions they would make to slash millions from the annual budget.
With 85% of the college's budget earmarked for salaries and pensions, the college cut the workload of 98 classified employees by at least one month — an 8.3% salary cut — to save the college $500,000.
“Simply put, California's trying to do education — from pre-school all the way up to post-doctoral work — on the cheap,” Interim Supt. Jim Riggs said, adding later, “I'm sorry that this has had to happen.”
Students faced their own challenges as 5,000 of about 13,600 students landed on wait lists for classes this fall.
The passage of state Proposition 30 brought some reprieve. It saved the college from laying off 20 employees and doing away with 500 classes.
At Glendale Unified, officials revealed that $1.5 million once set aside for textbooks were now paying employees' salaries.
In the last five years, Glendale schools went without $150 million it expected from the state, which contributed to $30 million in cuts to clerical staff, school counselors and librarians.
After the passage of Proposition 30, Glendale officials walked away from further slashing their budget by $11 million to $12 million. But they were still left with a $15 million structural deficit in the fifth consecutive year that teachers and district staff have gone without pay raises.
No Race to the Top
In November, Glendale Unified officials hoped to win $40 million from the Race to the Top grant.
But the district needed the signature of Tami Carlson, president of the Glendale teachers union, because of the conditions of the grant, such as requiring that teacher evaluations become tied to test scores.
Glendale school officials negotiated with Carlson and her bargaining team for weeks, but she refused to sign when the district couldn't promise it wouldn't lay off up to 125 teachers to combat a $15-million deficit.
In the end, school officials sent the 503-page application to Washington, D.C., anyway, and it was officially rejected in December.
A student tragedy
The death of 15-year-old Drew Ferraro shook the community when the sophomore jumped to his death from a three-story building at Crescenta Valley High School in February.
What may have caused Drew to take his own life has remained a mystery.
His toxicology results revealed trace amounts of the anti-depressant Citalopram, and he was being treated for depression.
His parents, John and Deana Ferraro, believed bullying played a key role in his death and filed a $2 million claim against Glendale Unified alleging school officials failed to protect him from constant bullying.
Los Angeles Sheriff's Lt. John Corina said shortly after Drew's death that bullying was not raised by friends, teachers or family members during the early part of the investigation.
Following Drew's death, John and Deana Ferraro established Drew's Voice — an anti-bullying organization with resources on its website for anti-bullying and suicide prevention.
In August, Glendale Unified rejected the Ferraro family's $2-million claim.
Former Glendale Councilman John Drayman still has months — if not years — to go before his criminal case comes to an end.
Drayman, who was indicted in May for allegedly embezzling at least $304,000 over seven years from the Montrose farmer's market, has seen his case stalled multiple times. He's now on his third attorney.
Drayman was once president of the Montrose Shopping Park Assn., a business improvement district that promotes the Sunday Harvest Market on Honolulu Avenue. For years, Drayman was the only one who counted the money collected from market vendors.
In 2011, Glendale police launched an investigation into claims that Drayman had embezzled money from the market. The former councilman has maintained his innocence throughout.
Prosecutors allege Drayman also committed perjury when he excluded income sources on political filings, when he allegedly submitted a bogus credit application in 2010 to a mortgage lender and falsified tax returns.
He made his $200,000 bail in May thanks to supporters putting up a $16,000 bond.
After nearly a decade of planning, Phase 1 of the long-awaited Glendale Narrows Riverwalk opened to the public on Dec. 12.
The $2.1-million project, which features a half-mile trail along the Los Angeles River, park areas and horse facilities, faced years of construction and funding snags.
Officials say that the next phases of the project should not take as long to complete.
Construction on the next part of the project — a trail bridge over a storm drain near DreamWorks Animation at Flower Street — is set to begin soon and will be funded by a $975,000 grant from the state.
The project's first phase was covered mostly by state grants and money from Measure R, a half-cent sales tax approved by Los Angeles County voters in 2008.
The overall project will be capped off by a pedestrian bridge over the L.A. River that would connect to Griffith Park, but officials are still exploring funding plans for that phase.
Glen Steiger — general manager of Glendale Water & Power since 2008 — resigned in May one day after city officials began investigating his expense reports for possible double-billing. Steiger, for his part, cited personal reasons.
City Human Resources Director Matt Doyle requested expense reports from the Southern California Public Power Authority, where Steiger served as president.
Steiger submitted the reports for a March conference he attended on behalf of the authority, according to records obtained through a public records request.
The implication is that Steiger's expenses may have been reimbursed by both the city and the authority for the same conference.
The Southern California Public Power Authority's executive director, Bill Carnahan, said it was the first time Glendale officials had asked to review expense reports submitted to the agency.
Following the request to review the reports, Steiger resigned from both the city and his position as president of the Southern California Public Power Authority.
City officials declined to comment on the resignation, referring only to Steiger's earlier announcement that he had resigned for “personal reasons.”
Steiger, 63, championed new technology during his tenure and was a key figure in bringing $70 million worth of so-called “smart meters” to the city.
Despite budget challenges facing Glendale Water & Power, city officials hailed Steiger for his leadership of the utility after the announcement of his resignation.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun