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Glendale's 100,000 Armenians 07/10/2003
Glendale's 100,000 Armenians
Should Get Fair Share of City Jobs

 
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
 
In recent years, as tens of thousands of Armenian immigrants from several
Middle Eastern countries and Armenia moved to Glendale, there were
unavoidable tensions from time to time between these newcomers and old-time
Glendalians.
Most of the misunderstandings occurred due to the immigrants not knowing any
English and not complying with the behavior expected from them by their
mostly WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant) neighbors. The native
inhabitants were resentful that their Jewel City was being over-run by a
large number of foreigners. They accused the newcomers of committing such
"outrageous crimes" as speaking Armenian in the streets of Glendale and
playing loud music at late hours!
The immigrants, having escaped from the repressive regimes of their
homelands, were shocked to encounter such resentment and prejudice in the
"land of the free."
In time, however, the majority of the newcomers overcame their myriad
difficulties and became successful bankers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and
businessmen. The election of George Deukmejian as two-term Governor of
California, and Larry Zarian, an immigrant himself, to four terms on the
Glendale City Council and four-time Mayor, encouraged some of the newcomers
to run for public office. Several Armenian immigrants have been recently
elected to various Glendale city positions. Rafi Manoukian and Bob
Yousefian, currently serve on Glendale's five-member City Council. Greg
Krikorian is on the Glendale Unified School Board, while Ara Najarian and
Dr. Armine Hacopian are members of the Glendale College Board of Trustees.
One would think that now that Armenians have achieved a large degree of
success in various fields, they are no longer discriminated against in
Glendale. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Ironically, they are now
resented for being too successful! As the Glendale Armenian community is
getting more organized and becoming politically more active, it is getting
in the way of those who had a monopoly for a long time on running this city.
To get a more accurate picture of the number of Armenians residing in
Glendale, councilman Yousefian recently asked the city staff for a count of
Armenian families that receive electricity bills from the city of Glendale.
The results were astounding. Out of a total of 76,900 families that receive
such bills, 34,500 have Armenian surnames. In other words, there are close
to 100,000 Armenians or 45% of Glendale's population of 200,000. Despite
this large percentage, there are hardly any Armenians in the Glendale Fire
and Police Departments, and only a handful hold other city positions. In
fact, there is not a single Armenian firefighter and only six police
officers of Armenian background out of a force of approximately 300. In
general, out of 1,700 full-time city employees, only 75 (4%) are Armenian.
For some reason, Yousefian's request did not sit well with Dave Weaver, a
member of the city council who has never missed an opportunity to criticize,
object to and vote against just about every Armenian-related initiative. In
a lengthy commentary headlined, "Machinations at City Hall almost too much
to bear," published in the Glendale News Press on July 5, Weaver criticizes
the rest of the Council for going "against the ethics and values that I was
raised and schooled on by my parents."  He accuses his fellow council
members of striking "back room deals."
After casting such generalized aspersions, Weaver specifically attacks
Yousefian for wanting to know the number of Armenians in Glendale. "What's
he up to now?" Weaver asks. He accuses Yousefian of bringing up "the race
card" and making "inflammatory ethnic statements," while presenting himself
as someone who is "promoting racial harmony."
Weaver's latest t irade against Yousefian revolves around the request for a
conditional-use permit for the newly-built Renaissance Restaurant in
Glendale which is owned by several Armenians. Yousefian and Manoukian voted
to grant the permit, while the other three council members turned it down,
even though the owners were willing to comply with all city council
requirements.
Armenians have contributed tremendously to the prosperity of this city in
recent years. The large and politically active Armenian community should
stand up for its rights and not allow itself to be bullied by closet
racists. Since Armenians are almost the majority in Glendale, they should be
entitled to their fair share of the city's jobs and services. It would be in
Glendale's best interest to have qualified Armenians represented
proportionately to their numbers in the Fire and Police Departments as well
as in other city staff positions. Glendale Armenians are not asking for any
special privileges -- just their fair share!
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