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Students exposed to grit of city politics

Youthful leaders find parallels between their jobs and those of City Council members.

March 02, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • Clark Magnet High School ASB President Lyova Zalyan, center, smiles as Glendale Police Captain Michael Rock, left, answers his question during Student Government Day at Glendale City Hall on Wednesday, March 2, 2011. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Clark Magnet High School ASB President Lyova Zalyan,… (Raul Roa )

The leaders of tomorrow looked across the table at the leaders of today — and the questions started flying.

What has been the city’s investment strategy during the economic recession? What are the moral obligations of law enforcement officers in the line of duty?

What role does political party affiliation play in your day-to-day duties?

The exchange came during the third annual Students in Government Day, hosted jointly by the city and the school district to expose student leaders to the inner workings of City Hall.

Participants included a dozen high-school students and the city’s top brass, including representatives from City Council, the Glendale Fire and Police departments and parks and recreation and public-works officials. They shared their own educational and professional backgrounds, as well as what inspired them to pursue positions of public service.

City Councilman John Drayman, a north Glendale native and the youngest of seven children, recalled his father taking him to City Council meetings when he was a child. He later served as student-body president at Crescenta Valley High School.

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“I got hooked on the whole idea on how this interaction works between people who are elected and people who are represented,” Drayman said.

The student leaders said they were able to draw parallels between their own experiences at their respective school sites and those of the City Council members and city officials.

“Our budget is cut low, and as much as we fundraise, we still have to work extra hard to get money for that rally or that other event we are planning,” said Glendale High School student-body President Cristine Dzhabrayan, 18.

And like those serving in public office, there is always criticism, no matter how they are working, the students said.

“As a leader, you have to make sure you are making the people happy and you are doing the right thing,” said Glendale High School senior-class President Levon Derkalousdian, 18. “You have to not think about yourself, you have to think about the people…I think that is definitely what the president, or senators or the mayor goes through.”

As for the role of partisan ship in city politics, said Mayor Ara Najarian, a registered Republican, not much.

Council members and city staff are at the front lines of government and there is no room for partisan politics, Najarian said. Instead, they focus on delivering effective public services, he added.

“When residents have a complaint, they are right up at City Council, they are not just raising their hand…sometimes they are shouting out their problems and their issues,” Najarian said. “We walk out of City Council, they are grabbing us. When we go to the grocery store or the pet store, people are tugging at our sleeves.”

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