The Beverly Hills Sunshine Task Force met for a second time this week following on last month’s initial meeting, wherein participants highlighted instances where the city falls short on sharing information. In that meeting, several new initiatives were proposed to nudge the city toward open government principles. On this month’s agenda was a staff presentation on West Hollywood, Walnut Creek and little-known city of Villa Park’s efforts. But in this 1-hour meeting we focused instead on proposals for an ombudsman and greater lobbying disclosure. There was scant time to address other issues as suggested last month much less ‘next steps.’ Here’s the recap.
Mayor John Mirisch’s transparency-focused Sunshine Task Force (agenda) held its inaugural meeting this past Tuesday. A handful of folks from all corners of Beverly Hills came together to talk about what can be done to make City Hall more open and to make public information more accessible. The mission as framed simply by the Mayor: “To shine a light upon the workings of city government to encourage public participation.” With two sitting councilmembers, two former mayors, various neighborhood leaders and a bike advocate at the table, there was no shortage of diagnoses or suggestions for a cure.
Incoming Mayor John Mirisch gives the BH Weekly an interview to preview his priorities, including local government transparency and fiscal prudence, and talks about his roots in Sweden (celebrated in the city’s Council instillation ceremony). Soundbite: “Working together to become the best version of Beverly Hills that we possibly can and to be a lighthouse city when it comes to local government, transparency and community.”
Beverly Hills pulled out all of the stops to celebrate the installation of the new City Council this past Wednesday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences theater. From a taste of Sweden to incoming Mayor John Mirisch’s recipe for community right here in Beverly Hills, the ceremony hit all the high notes after a season of Council discord and a partisan election characterized by negative attacks. Yet this new Council’s installation suggested that change may actually be in the air. Of course the potential for change comes every two years, but in our parochial burgh, it’s usually only the Council nameplates that rotate even as our entrenched resistance to open government endures. Will the coming two years … Continue reading
We’ve wrapped up another municipal election here in Beverly Hills with candidates returned to their Council seats and a third open seat filled by an experienced governing hand. While that may suggest steady as she goes, as we explored in an earlier post there are signs that this ship may be tacking closer to the wind, and perhaps even on a new heading toward greater accessibility and transparency in local government. Here we look more closely at the returns to see what they suggest about the concerns of voters.
Last post we last looked at the establishment vs. anti-establishment battle that played out in this election. But for such a small town, the networks of influence are difficult to tease out. For old Beverly Hills hands, though, the alliances, favors and grudges are etched in memory. We’re not old hands, however, so for some indication of how the stars do align here we took a look at the campaign contribution and spending reports for the 2013 municipal election. Fortunately, all candidates file Form 460 detailing contributions, contributors, and expenditures. Unfortunately, it only scratches the surface. Let’s started!
In a previous post we looked to campaign mailers to see what they said about City Council candidates. We learned that candidates adopt themes of leadership and integrity but often don’t do much to talk about issue specifics or highlight concrete differences between them. In comfortable Beverly Hills, a disengaged electorate wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at a projected $40 million parking operations deficit, much less scrutinize platforms for positions on water rates, park renovation, and pension obligations. On-the-stump sparks don’t generally define our elections, but what does get attention is an ugly campaign. And this cycle has been a whopper!
How long should our city hold on to official emails? That was the question before City Council in early October when policymakers declined to revisit our city’s email retention policy. The discussion came at the request of councilmember John Mirisch. He supports transparency and expressed a concern that the Beverly Hills policy of deleting official emails after only 30 days works against the spirit of the California Public Records Act. Because city email communications are presumed not to be public documents and deleted after 30 days, the Beverly Hills policy stands out as among the region’s least transparency-friendly. Before City Council was this question: Need City Hall recognize email as an official form communication and thus worthy of retention as … Continue reading
Beverly Hills City Council today recommended a limited set of improvements today for two candidate corridors under the city’s Bike Route Pilot Program. Per direction provided to staff, sharrows and signage on Crescent Drive and Burton Way will be installed once implementation particulars are brought back to Council for approval (at some unspecified date). While the recommended measures on two routes are less than cyclists really need, we must note that this is the first time a policy-making body in Beverly Hills actually gave the nod to bike facilities. This could be the beginning of a bike-friendly city network, or a distraction from the real planning we’ve yet to do. Time will tell!
Better Bike over the last week has met with three of our five City Council members (including the Mayor) and touched base with our contacts in Transportation, at the school district, and at Library to assess progress toward a more bike-friendly city. During these dog days of August (and aren’t we grateful it’s not been very doggy?) we can report that progress is not very positive to date, but can turn on a dime with policymaker support. Here’s a rundown of our initiatives and an overview of where we are (or aren’t) starting with the good news.