A Note to the Renters Alliance Community

Yesterday I was in the middle of sending out an email blast to Alliance readers to summarize recent changes to the Beverly Hills rent stabilization ordinance. I also expressed my opposition to City Council candidate Nancy Krasne, our Vice Mayor, who was up for reelection. Shortly after I received a call from an angry Krasne. “How dare you?” she said and demanded a “retraction.” The balance of my Alliance list received that blast with two paragraphs scrubbed to soften my non-endorsement. I regret that.

I expected to take some heat for publicly opposing the reelection of City Council candidate Nancy Krasne. She’s as well-known as any councilmember and she has put in her time to make our city better over two terms as councilmember (2009 and 2013) and also as mayor.

Krasne was also instrumental in moving the rent stabilization ordinance issue for City Council consideration earlier this year and has spoken about it in the past. However I didn’t think that as mayor she would be the best advocate we could have in the year ahead. The rent stabilization ordinance would be amended some more and, for me, Councilmember Lili Bosse was our best bet.

So in an email blast to Alliance readers I included an explicit non-endorsement of Vice-Mayor Krasne. I pointed out that if Krasne is not re-elected, then Lili Bosse will take the Mayor’s chair (councilmembers rotate into office) and she would set the agenda for the rent stabilization ordinance policy process.

“The most important vote that a renters’ advocate may cast in the March 7th election is the one vote that we don’t cast,” I said, referring to candidate Krasne. I elaborated:

I CANNOT SUPPORT NANCY KRASNE FOR RE-ELECTION because she is an untrustworthy ally and an unpredictable policymaker…Krasne also likes to remind us that she’s helped senior renters who did face eviction…[but] her views on rent stabilization are unclear. Nancy Krasne at the last meeting was reluctant to support a rental unit registry, citing its cost and questionable effectiveness. Yet that registry is the single most important tool by which our city can hold bad-apple landlords to account for their unlawful actions.

The majority of my email newsletter recipients didn’t read that passage because I was in the process of sending it when an early recipient passed it to Nancy Krasne I suppose.

At first the caller didn’t identify herself. “How dare you,” she said, adding that I was trying to damage her candidacy and accused me of working on behalf of another candidate. It was Nancy Krasne. And it was true: I was working for another candidate (Frances Bilak).

I tried to assure Krasne that there was no coordination between my work with the Alliance and any campaign. She wasn’t buying it. (I might not have either.) I said that tenants were my only concern. In fact Frances Bilak never got a boost from my work with tenants’ rights or the Alliance.

But it was more the tone of the call that rankled. For eight minutes Krasne quoted my words back at length while taking issue with my opinions. She asked for no explanation of my views nor did she give me a chance to explain. She positioned herself as a champion of renters, which I did not contest.

She then demanded a retraction. I was unsure what ‘retraction’ meant when facts were not at issue, but I capitulated. The remainder (perhaps two-thirds) of my newsletter emails went out without the non-endorsement.

The troubling aspect of Nancy Krasne’s call was that she promised retribution.

That retribution would come via the Beverly Hills Courier, she suggested; with the newspaper’s help she could sink the other candidate’s campaign, she implied. I thought no campaign should suffer a vindictive take-down by the Courier (or any other news outlet) for the action of a third party.

While I don’t mind getting out front on an issue, or even being singed in the media myself, I didn’t want to damage another candidate. So I called Frances Bilak and fully debriefed the Krasne call. She took it with grace and graciousness — a true credit to our current Recreation and Parks Commissioner.

There was also Krasne’s suggestion that from the dais after reelection she could make my journey as a community advocate difficult. “When I’m Mayor you won’t have a minute at the microphone.” I thought, she could certainly diminish my effectiveness as an Alliance representative if she’s Mayor. This is exactly this sort of capricious quality that I had in mind when I described Nancy Krasne in my newsletter as an “untrustworthy ally” and an “unpredictable policymaker.”

It is the latter concern that motivated my opposition to her candidacy. I regret that all of my readers didn’t receive my fulsome thoughts on the election in that newsletter.

Update: Nancy Krasne writes:

Mr. Elliot…Your behavior and actions are totally unacceptable, your attacks are unwarranted and in the future, please keep your distance. I no longer feel comfortable in your presence. I am alerting the Police Department and the City Manager. I will no longer contact you except through normal business channels.