A few years ago, I initiated my HEALTHY CITY concept - healthy people, healthy government, healthy business. I view all of my work on behalf of the city through that lens - before every decision, I ask myself this question:
"Will it contribute to the health of Beverly Hills?"
B - Budget Accountability
O - Open Government
S - Safety & Security
S - Strategic Planning
E - Education
FISCAL ACCOUNTABILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY ARE MY TOP PRIORITY. Together, they are the key and the foundation to maintaining our quality of life and all of our city services and standards.
With this purpose in mind, I strongly supported the suggestion by Councilmember Bob Wunderlich to create the new position of CITY AUDITOR - reporting directly to the City Council. The auditor's responsibilities include conducting timely, objective financial and performance audits of all city departments. Our goal is to identify and eliminate inefficiencies and wasteful practices throughout city operations.
Our overall very good financial condition is the result of several factors - solid budgetary practices, reasonable cost control measures, and on-going efforts towards increased oversight and efficiency. We must continue to streamline city processes - save time - and reduce costs. And, of course, our focus must stay on long-term, sustainable financial planning so that we are always able to maintain the high level of city services our residents, businesses and visitors require.
As I continually explore opportunities to ensure our City's financial well-being, the contributions of our business community are very clear. I meet frequently with business owners to listen to their ideas and concerns about doing business in Beverly Hills. A small business owner on little Santa Monica Boulevard told me about the hardship he was experiencing with the loss of on-street parking near his store. I spoke with other owners in the area and they all expressed the same concern. That conversation resulted in the restoration of the parking and some relief for those important local businesses.
It was also during several meetings with business owners, that I began to hear a repeated concern that the explosion in on-line shopping could have a very negative effect on retail sales in our city. It is well known that brick and mortar stores are closing all over the country. I worked closely with business owners, our Chamber of Commerce, Conference and Visitors Bureau, Rodeo Drive Committee, city staff, and all of my council colleagues to come up with BOLD -a new, solution-oriented marketing concept for Beverly Hills. With a unanimous 5-0 council vote, the city started the process of creating a fresh, inviting shopping environment, experiences and programs. We are working constantly to retain our current businesses and attract new ones to our city. Beverly Hills depends on sales tax and TOT revenue to maintain our quality of life and city services and it is essential that we do everything we can to support our business sector in this challenging time. This requires a flexible, creative approach and the willingness to listen to our businesses and try new things.
As city council liaison on the Subway MTA Ad Hoc Committee, I am working closely with our business partners to monitor and mitigate the negative effects of the on-going subway construction as much as possible. There is no denying that this process is disruptive to our city and we should all make a personal commitment to support our local businesses as they deal with the unavoidable effects of the construction - we owe it to them and our city.
A Healthy Government is one that is transparent, accessible and open.
Our residents must have access to their elected officials and their City Hall. They must be included and consulted in all city planning and decisions.
I have worked hard to ensure these goals, and Beverly Hills does pretty well in this respect - but we can still do more.
When I was Mayor, we began to televise all monthly Mayor's Cabinet meetings -this provided a convenient, additional way for our community to be informed and aware of city operations and the work efforts of individual commissions. Now, I am going to urge my colleagues to take another step toward more open government and arrange to have all city council liaison meetings televised as well. This will open another window and create more transparency about the day to day work going on at City Hall - and this can only serve to benefit our community.
A good example of our recent efforts toward more open government is the process leading up to our new Rent Stabilization Ordinance. During the course of many months, the city had over 30 public participation meetings dealing with this very complex issue. We listened to the concerns of renters and property owners -everyone had multiple opportunities to express their thoughts and contribute input for the ordinance. I believe that the final product reflects the fact that the process was open, inclusive and fair. Once again, Beverly Hills was a leader on an important issue facing our entire State and a model for good government. However, this is a dynamic, ongoing issue -soon, our newly formed Rent Stabilization Committee will begin its work - in public - within the guidelines included in the ordinance. We will continue to participate and ensure that our community goals are met.
The detailed, public budget process we go through every year is one of the best examples of our open, healthy government. Any interested person can come to City Hall, hear all reports from each department; learn about revenues, projections and expenditures; listen to council questions, and give their input - or they can watch the meetings televised - and submit comments by email or text. Our budget process is not an empty exercise - my goal is always to make informed, deliberate decisions about every dollar we spend - in the most transparent way possible.
We are currently working our way through multiple public discussions regarding the renovation of La Cienega Park. It is the goal of the entire city council to listen to the community - to hear their desires and visions about what we need to include as we plan the new park and community center - one that we will use, benefit from and be proud of for many years. I want La Cienega Park to be a crown jewel in our HEALTHY CITY of the future - and the best way to ensure this is an open, inclusive process.
MTA Purple Line
Beverly Gardens Park Ribbon Cutting
Safety & Security
There are many reasons people choose to live in Beverly Hills - but one of the most important is the safety and security provided by our amazing first responders - the Beverly Hills Fire and Police Departments. We all depend on knowing that if we need help, they'll get to us in 3 minutes.
There is no greater responsibility that a council member has than making sure our police and fire departments have everything they need to do their jobs and protect the health and safety of our city. That means that adequate staffing levels and state of the art methods and technology are absolutely essential.
I strongly supported our fire department's recent request to add some very important new services for our community -including the Nurse Practitioner Program, the Mobile Stroke Unit, and a local Stop the Bleed training program. Our Healthy City initiative is still a top priority of mine and I am certain each of these new programs will be a great asset.
These days, every city in the nation is concerned with issues of crime - and Beverly Hills is no exception. There is nothing more important to our community than the safety and security that our police department provides - and we have to be full partners in their efforts. I am urging every resident and business owner in our community to avail themselves of the police department's valuable programs and schedule a home or business visit to evaluate their security measures in place and recommendations for improvement.
I have fully supported the police department's ongoing programs to implement crime prevention technology citywide - this includes ALPR (automatic license plate readers) and CCTV (closed circuit tv) systems, and a new focus to use social media to disseminate information to the public. I am supporting more and more visible signage throughout our city informing everyone of our ALPR and CCTV cameras - signage adds to the deterrent effect of this technology on potential criminal activity.
The police department is currently involved in the process of hiring additional officers - I totally support this timely effort to bring our department up to full complement so that we can have more officers on our streets and in our neighborhoods on a regular basis.
This year I will be spearheading a JUST IN CASE initiative - this has come about after many fact-finding conversations and listening to residents and businesses in our city - I have discovered that in case a disaster or catastrophic emergency occurs and the 911 emergency system is overwhelmed, many people wouldn't know where to go, what to do, or how to get help. These days, everyone seems to rely on their phones and computers for up to the minute information - but we need a plan in place recognizing that tech communication sources may be temporarily challenged during a catastrophic situation. My goal this coming year is for our city council to expedite the development of a comprehensive, efficient program (JUST IN CASE) that will inform and educate the people of Beverly Hills on some very basic issues of emergency preparedness. But don't misunderstand - this is NOT about having an earthquake kit - this is about making sure that all of our residents, visitors and employees would know WHAT TO DO, WHERE TO GO for shelter, and HOW TO GET HELP in a catastrophic situation. I believe this program will provide one more necessary level of safety to our city when we could need it the most.
BHPD Annual Pancake Breakfast
Feeding the Seniors
The City of Beverly Hills is a great example of the power of vision in planning. During my years serving as member and chair of our Planning Commission, I was reminded over and over again that our city today still reflects the vision and values of our founders over a hundred years ago.
In the middle of nowhere except for some horse trails and bean fields, they saw a future Beverly Hills as a special residential community - beautiful, wide, tree-lined, streets of single and multi family homes; smaller, well-located commercial areas; a centrally located civic center; and wide, grand boulevards. And luckily, our community has worked hard to protect and preserve those planning decisions made all those years ago - even as Beverly Hills has evolved into a world class city today. The bean fields are long gone - but our beautiful residential neighborhoods and vibrant business districts are a testament to 'strategic planning' more than a century ago.
Our founders faced many difficult challenges in the early 1900's - and the ones we face today, in 2020, are even more complex. We respect our history and traditions - our low rise, low density zoning and patterns of development - and we also recognize the need for reasonable, strategic growth so that our future quality of life and stability are ensured.
We have completed the renovation of our historic Beverly Gardens Park; established a Cultural Heritage Commission, a Historic Preservation Ordinance, a Mills Act Ordinance and a Trousdale View ordinance. We are currently conducting the public process of planning a new, renovated La Cienega Park and Community Center - one that will reflect the vision and meet the needs of our entire community.
We are also continuing the public planning process of our essential Complete Streets Program - as we include access for all users - walking, biking, transit and vehicles - for people of all ages and abilities - the future livability of Beverly Hills depends on this effort - it is that important.
Subway construction is proceeding through Beverly Hills - and creating unavoidable disruptions and delay as it goes. We are working with our local business partners and MTA to monitor and mitigate the effects. We are currently working on determining the appropriate location for a north portal in order to ensure smoother operations in the city once the subway is up and running.
All of these projects have something important in common - each is the result of including the people of Beverly Hills in the planning process and listening to their concerns and ideas every step of the way. Recently, there was a new condo project proposed on North Oakhurst Drive. During the public hearings, many residents came and spoke about their concerns that the building would be too big, out of scale and overwhelming to their neighborhood - and that it would create additional parking and traffic impacts on their street. I listened to them, analyzed the details, agreed with the residents - and subsequently voted to deny the project. Public participation is essential to the planning process in our community.
One of the biggest planning issues facing every city today - including Beverly Hills -is the housing crisis sweeping our state. Cities are caught between their need to create new housing and their own visions of appropriate development levels. We have been conducting a comprehensive study of the current housing issue as it relates to Beverly Hills, our codes, and our needs going forward. Soon, that study will be complete and we will begin a hearing process to fully discuss the details - including possible nexus fees, inclusionary housing, affordable housing, minimum unit size in multi-family developments, etc. Any decisions we make will be the result of public participation, and thorough analysis by the city council of the potential benefits and consequences for our city.
Our Beverly Hills Strategic Planning/Southeast Task Force Committee - composed of interested resident and business stakeholders - is meeting regularly to discuss how the future of the east side of Beverly Hills should function, look and feel. The subway and our new La Cienega Park will bring huge potential to re-define the whole area and our community needs to include thoughtful planning that will result in the quality of life and vibrancy we all want in this long-neglected, but very important, part of our City. Rather than simply re-acting to project proposals, we must partner with property owners and pro-actively plan TOGETHER.
The gateway location-western edge of Beverly Hills also has a very important project coming up - the owners of the 9900 Wilshire property have indicated they will be coming to the City for consideration of a new development proposal. This particular site has been the subject of intense discussion and attention in the past and surely will be again as we embark on another thorough public planning process before making any final decisions.
It is not an overstatement to say that the planning decisions we make during the next four years on these important issues and projects, will have a tremendous effect on the quality of life and stability of our City for generations to come.
Beverly Hills Chamber, Fred Hayman Visionary Award
Bike Share Ribbon Cutting
Wally’s Ribbon Cutting
Dog Park Ground Breaking
Our Beverly Hills schools are an essential part of our traditions and values as a community. I am a proud Beverly High graduate, as are my sons Andrew and Adam. My support for Beverly Hills schools is lifelong and unwavering. I got my start in public service in PTA and as President of BHEF. I was proud to spearhead the first Walk for Our Schools and the first Apple Ball.
I believe that a strong commitment to public education is the duty of every member of our community. A quality public school system is as important to our city as our world class police and fire departments - the three of them together are the foundation of a strong Beverly Hills.
Our school district has faced some complex challenges over the past several years - including the oil well removal, subway litigation, school reconstruction projects, and the new middle school configuration - these have not been easy times. But I am optimistic and confident that for our BHUSD - the best is yet to come! As a council member, I have proudly served on the BHUSD and PTA liaison committees - and as Mayor, I was proud to sign the current JPA. I have also supported the implementation of CCTV cameras and additional security measures for the protection and security of our schools.
Supporting our schools is vital to the future of Beverly Hills and we all have to do this together.
Beverly Vista Middle School Opening Day
BHUSD Art Show