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City Council hopefuls explain bid

Ben Dahan news editor

Evan Minniti staff writer

Below is a selection of questions and answers from candidates running for Beverly Hills City Council, in the March 7, 2017, election. Minor grammatical and formatting changes have been made. Their answers and opinions were not changed.

 

Frances Bilak

Why do you want to become a member of the City Council?

I want to become a member of City Council because I love the community and I believe I can represent all of the residents, homeowners and renters, and small and large businesses.  I was raised to understand the importance of giving back to the community and I have always been involved with public service.  I believe I can be a voice for the people and focus on the issues impacting them most.

What are your key platform positions?

As a member of City Council, I will work to:

  • Maintain the character of Beverly Hills by fighting over development and supporting reasonable development.
  • Create more off-street parking and develop comprehensive solutions to ease traffic
  • Improve our existing parks, create more green open space, and increase recreation opportunities for all residents
  • Ensure stronger communication between the City and the Beverly Hills Unified School District
  • Never use my position for financial gain or ever become a lobbyist

What are some challenges faced by the Beverly Hills Unified School District?

Our schools need to be world class. Facilities need to be upgraded and improved. All schools need to utilize and have the most up to date technology to prepare students for the future. The City needs to work much closer with our schools. I believe Measure Y on November’s ballot would have passed if we worked closer. Issues around the Metro going under the high school should have been more collaborative as safety is something that always needs to reviewed. Working together, we are all better.

How will you, as a community and city leader, address those issues and better the district?

In many ways, these issues come down to establishing stronger ties between the city and the school district. The city must work hard to support the school district and provide resources and support it needs as part of the strategic vision for the community. Beverly Hills is a world-class city and we deserve a world-class school system as well.

On the Recreation and Park Commission, I established a JPA liaison committee between Recreation and Parks and the BHUSD. In fostering this relationship, we ensured recreation facilities would be more accessible to the residents and heard the concerns of the BHUSD as they continued with construction on the school sites.  How was security and safety going to be handled?  How could we (the City and the BHUSD) work together to better and strengthen our community.   It was important that everyone be on board.  

On Council, I will look for creative mechanisms to strengthen ties and lines of support for the betterment of all generations of Beverly Hills residents.

Do you have a message for the students and youth of Beverly Hills?

Get involved in your community anyway you can. Volunteer at non-profits or senior centers, take an internship with the City. Learn about the issues and get to know the leaders in the community working towards these changes. Your voices are important and help shape the future of Beverly Hills.

 

Vice Mayor Nancy Krasne:

Why do (or did) you want to become a member of the City Council?

I never thought about running for the City Council, until a previous Mayor and City Manager told me to not encourage people to come to the City and voice their opinions. I was put on probation and told to keep my mouth shut as a Planning Commissioner. The City Manager was Rod Wood and thereafter I called his office the “Wood Shed” where I was frequently beaten up. I ran for City Council to be able to be truthful and honest  to the community.

What are your key platform positions?

I have already sunk two shallow groundwater wells so that we can retrieve two and a half billion gallons of shallow groundwater that is clean, with no pesticides or metals, and as soon as we get State approval it can go to the water treatment plant along with the new well we are drilling in the central basin to ensure our water needs for the next 500 years. I have restored two hour free parking in the city, when many of the other candidates would like it removed. I am bringing 1GB of fiber optic connectivity to every home in the city for less that they pay Spectrum for 60mb-300mb and put the fiber optic ring around the city ten years ago for better police and fire protection. I can’t get rid of our permanent rush hour, I wish I could. I have always been big on infrastructure needs and I know it is not exciting, but I want every utility undergrounded for aesthetic and safety reasons. The world has changed and we must change.

What are some challenges faced by the Beverly Hills Unified School District?

The disruption of so many schools under construction and the METRO going under the High School. Unfortunately, we have no jurisdiction over the schools, so our role is to be responsible and help when we are asked, but not interfere with the district. I wanted the district to purchase the property next to the high school, where Jimmy’s Restaurant was- and trade it for the oil well property. I was told to mind my own business, they didn’t want the children playing football in LA. In retrospect, BHHS plays in Long Beach, Downey, and Culver City, so what would be the problem, and the revenue from the building built on the well site would go to the district. It sounded like a win-win to me!

How will you, as a community and city leader, address those issues and better the district?

We have a JPA in place that needs justification to continue, but I would like to relieve some of the schools costs for Fiber-optic connectivity and security (with CCTV Cameras) all while allowing the schools to keep total control over the content and the student’s right to privacy and confidentiality.

Do you have a message for the students and youth of Beverly Hills?

Enjoy your youth, you will never be this age again and you will never be able to turn back the clock. I know each day may seem difficult, but it really is your time to dance!

 

Eliot Finkel

Eliot Finkel has not yet responded. If he answers, this post will be updated and his responses will be published.

 

Les Friedman

Why do you want to become a member of the City Council?

My wife, Simone, and I moved to Beverly Hills 32 years ago so that our children could attend the Beverly Hills Schools.  We immediately became involved in PTA activities and my wife became President of the Beverly Hills Education Foundation and later was Chairperson of the Board.  I worked all the events with her including the Carnival, Car Show, Walk and others. After our children graduated we both became involved in City activities. We participated in Team Beverly Hills.  I was appointed to the Beverly Hills Traffic and Parking Commission, where I currently serve,  and also served as Chair of the Beverly Hills Taxi Review Committee and I was a member of the City of Beverly Hills Blue Ribbon Commission on Santa Monica Blvd Reconstruction.  My wife currently is a Commissioner on the Beverly Hills Recreation and Parks Commission.

  Both of us believe that involvement in our community is what makes it so special. I want to further my involvement by becoming a City Councilperson because the decisions that will be made in the next four years will have a long lasting effect on the quality of life we as residents of the city will experience. Based on my past involvement I know that I can have a positive impact.

What are your key platform positions?

Traffic- We must develop a Traffic efficiency plan using technology and make plans for the future. We need to be SMART about traffic.

Parking- We need to provide more public parking so that self generated traffic (circling the block for a parking space) is reduced.

Development- It must reflect the character of our community and be smart for our city economically.

Public Safety- This must continue to be our number one priority.  We need to be sure that our Fire Department and Paramedics response time is maintained or improved.  We need to fully staff our Police Department so that we have visible patrols in our neighborhoods and streets.

I would like to see our Building and Safety department be more responsive to residents and businesses that are considering or are in the process of remodeling.  Delays result in additional expense to both the homeowner or business.

What are some challenges faced by the Beverly Hills Unified School District?

The school district is an independent governmental body which is experiencing a financial challenge. The City of Beverly Hills does provide approximately $10 million dollars a year through the Joint Powers Agreement with the School District. The school district in return allows the city residents to use its facilities. This agreement is an enduring and important one.

There has been mention of closing and selling one of the schools to reduce the budget deficit.  Selling a valuable asset should not be considered a way to resolve an immediate budget problem.

How will you, as a community and city leader, address those issues and better the district?

I pledge to work with our School Board to find mutually beneficial methods that will enhance the budget of the schools. All of my children benefited from attending BHUSD and two of my grandchildren are attending.  The school district should have had a seat at the negotiation table when the most recent development agreement was being discussed.

Do you have a message for the students and youth of Beverly Hills?

    When my wife and I moved to Beverly Hills 32 years ago it was for the schools. All of our children went to the Beverly Hills schools and all of them went to excellent 4-year colleges and graduated with degrees. Three of them went on to obtain advanced degrees. The Beverly Hills Schools provided the excellent background for their further education. The reason people move to Beverly Hills is for the superb Police Department, Fire Department and school system.  As a community we must make sure that all three remain strong.

 

Vera Markowitz

Why do you want to become a member of the City Council?

For any city to experience progress, it needs a fresh voice and perspective. That is what I offer. I am running because I care deeply about our current state of affairs (traffic, funding for schools, public safety, etc.) and our future. We need to have a collective vision for the future of our City and I want to lead this effort.

What are your key platform positions?

  1. Public Safety- Did you know that crime went up by 14 percent last year? I should know because my home was recently burglarized.
    • Here’s what I want to do: Provide our Police Dept. with necessary resources to hire more police officers and get more patrol cars in the neighborhood streets. We need to be forward-looking once the subway comes and more tourists arrive.
  1. Traffic Mitigation- Did you know that all the construction is causing this traffic? Also, do you know that the Waze phone app is impacting traffic for our residents? Just ask your neighbors living on Linden Dr.
    • Here’s what I want to do: I want to make Wilshire and Olympic main thorough fares. Also we need to coordinate the traffic lights with West Hollywood and Santa Monica. Because at present, they are not. And I want to have various town hall meetings with the Chamber of Commerce and residents to discuss how best to mitigate cut-through streets caused by the Waze app.
  1. Small Business- Did you know that up to 75% of the City’s General Fund comes from business taxes? Without them, we would not have the revenues we have today.
    • Here’s what I want to do: Cut the red tape in City Hall so that small businesses can start and thrive here. It not only can take up to two years for a small business to get the necessary permits and paperwork completed at City Hall, but also they must go through various departments that delay the process. I propose having an online platform, whereby each new small business gets assigned one City Hall employee who will walk them through the entire process in an efficient manner.
  1. Civic Engagement- Due to the lack of current leadership, there is very little civil engagement. Do you feel like your voice is being heard? Do you want to sit through a City Council meeting that lasts up to 3am?! I don’t.
    • Here’s what I want to do: Limit City Council meeting times. It’s too long and unproductive. I also want to the public to know what is going on. We need a regular, one-page newsletter or email that goes out to residents with the top three issues or initiatives facing the City.
  1. Term Limits- This is easy. We need to have term limits and it starts with me. We need fresh ideas and perspectives in this City and I will push to have a two-term limit for City Council members. If we require it of the President, then we should require it of our local officials.
  1. Lastly, “Over Development”- Do you feel like there’s too much development in our City? Well, you’re right.
    • Here’s what I want to do: I want to educate the public on the various types of  development. For instance, there is residential development for affordable housing. Guess what? We haven’t had a new apartment building in our City since 1980! We need affordable housing for our low-income and senior renters. But there is also commercial development. We need to have smart, green commercial development that makes sense for our City and sticks to the general plan of a 45-feet height limit and 2.0 FAR (Floor Area Ratio). And we can’t have it all come at once, like it is now.

What are some important issues facing the community?

See responses from above. Yes, there are many issues facing us!

What are some challenges faced by the Beverly Hills Unified School District?

The main one is funding. Beverly Hills schools needs additional funding to support buildings (infrastructure) and classroom learning. BHUSD is asked to reduce the budget this year by $5 million. That’s quite the short-fall.

How will you, as a community and city leader, address those issues and better the district?

This is easy. I ran a successful business for 30-years. We need more corporate sponsorship and support. That should be an easy win! I’d be happy to make those connections.

Do you have a message for the students and youth of Beverly Hills?

Our democracy is dependent on civic engagement. Where does it start? With your voice and vote. Once you turn 18-years-old, the first thing you should do is register to vote. The day will come when there’s a city/state/national issue you care deeply about and it will require a vote. The sooner you start, the greater impact you’ll see down the road!

 

Mayor John Mirisch:

Why do(or did) you want to become a member of the City Council?
I believe Beverly Hills is unique and want to make sure it stays that way.  I believe City Hall exists to serve the residents — not the other way around, and I want to continue promoting policies which reflects this and which puts the residents first.

What are your key platform positions?
Please look at www.reelectmirisch.com

What are some challenges faced by the Beverly Hills Unified School
District?
Academic excellence and college admissions.

How will you, as a community and city leader, address those issues and
better the district?

The City can continue to support the schools and help ensure student safety, but policies to increase the level of academic excellence and to enable our kids to get into the college of their choice lie within the purview of the School Board.

Do you have a message for the students and youth of Beverly Hills?
We’ve all heard the expression, “You can’t fight City Hall.”  We shouldn’t have to.  Each one of us can make a difference, particularly at the local level.  Local government is the best form of democracy when done right, because it is closest to home.

 

Jim Wayne

Eliot Finkel has not yet responded. If he answers, this post will be updated and his responses will be published.

 

Robert Wunderlich

Why do you want to become a member of the City Council?

Beverly Hills and our region face many challenges – growth, congestion, transportation, infrastructure, sustainable water supply, and others. Beverly Hills is a beautiful, walkable city with a sense of community and high quality of life. I want to be part of the solutions for Beverly Hills for now and for future generations. I want to ensure the City is environmentally sustainable, financially prudent, and a leader in providing police fire, and other vital services. I believe it will take a reasoned balanced approach to achieve that into the future. That is why I am running for City Council.

More personally I decided to run for City Council to continue my contributions to public service. I have served as the Beverly Hills Director on the Board of Metropolitan Water District, the government agency that is the water wholesaler for most of Southern California, for almost 10 years. It has been a wonderful, rewarding experience. I receive enormous personal satisfaction from my role as a public servant, addressing the many issues facing Southern California and intensifying my connection to the community.  For me, the next step is City Council.

What are your key platform positions?

Beverly Hills must strike the right balance for now and into the future – maintaining a vibrant economy that provides the support we need for our city services, while ensuring that our commercial sector is always in the interests of our residents and is consistent with the character and sense of community of our city.  Beverly Hills must ensure that the city is governed in an open, accountable, inclusive manner.

My priorities and specific means of addressing my priorities include:

  • Residential quality of life – Evaluate development based on what benefits residents.  Our City is attractive for residents and for businesses because of its distinctive character.  We need to preserve what has made Beverly Hills distinctive.  We should invest in our City to ensure that the character of our city is maintained and enhanced into the future.
  • Financial responsibility – Manage taxpayer dollars prudently.  Accelerate payment of unfunded pension and other retirement-related liabilities.  Our City will save significant money by paying off these liabilities now, rather than transferring them to future generations to pay.  We should dedicate a portion of one-time funds to accelerate payment of unfunded liabilities.
  • Accountable government – Govern openly and inclusively.  Implement an independent internal auditor, reporting directly to City Council, to ensure our City has proper checks and balances in place and to provide an independent public voice.
  • Support Police, Fire and Paramedics – Ensure resources are available to serve the aging population.  Increase neighborhood policing.  Enforce traffic restrictions.
  • Enhance infrastructure and walkability – Increase water conservation and develop additional sustainable water resources.  The City should dedicate a portion of one-time funds to provide funds for the Water Enterprise Plan, reducing the need for future water rate hikes.  Promote Beverly Hills as a walkable and bicycle friendly city.   Mitigate traffic impacts by ensuring that all conditions and timing of the Santa Monica Boulevard reconstruction and subway construction are enforced.

What are some challenges faced by the Beverly Hills Unified School District?

BHUSD faces the challenges of maintaining our schools as among the finest in the state, ensuring that our district is financially sustainable, and ensuring a safe environment for our students.

How will you, as a community and city leader, address those issues and better the district?

Maintaining our schools as among the best in the state is vital for the interests of our City.  Our schools are a critical part of the sense of community we have in our City and in attracting residents to our City.  On City Council, I will support the Joint Powers Administration (JPA), by which the City provides funding to the schools in return for use of certain school facilities.  I would welcome the opportunity to serve as the liaison between City Council and BHUSD to cooperate with BHUSD in addressing its issues. Professionally, I am an economist and business consultant.  I would seek to share my professional expertise to contribute to resolving the challenges facing our schools.

Do you have a message for the students and youth of Beverly Hills?

Education changed my life and made me what I am today. I attended public schools in New York City through high school. I was fortunate to earn scholarships to Columbia University and then to Harvard University for graduate school. That was a life-changing experience, not only because of my studies, but because of the people I met. My education provided both the path to my career and the means by which I became aware of the greater world of the arts, literature and political thought and engaged with my fellow students from diverse cultures. I encourage you to take advantage of your years in high school and college to pursue knowledge, both for whatever career you might pursue and to increase your perspectives and understanding of the world in which we live.

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