Candidates Kick-Off Election Season!

Candidates Julian Gold, Lili Bosse and Lori Greene Gordon kicked-off their campaigns at 11 a.m., noon and 12:30 p.m respectively. (The other two candidates on the ballot did not hold a kick-off event.) Tightly-scheduled and even overlapping campaign events are the rule for these kick-offs and thankfully they are often in the flats so the only challenge is to time one’s arrival with time to graze, catch the speech and then move on.

The Golden Vision

Councilmember Julian Gold is one of two city council incumbents up for reelection (for two available seats) and after nine years on the council dais he knows he has to make his case for four more years. “The question I’ve been asked often,” said the candidate, “is ‘Why are you running?’”

Gold first noted amenities that distinguish Beverly Hills as a nice place to live. Streets in good repair and manicured parks, for example, what he called “the basics of what we want as residents are there — and we take them for granted.” He moved on to list library renovations, police crime teams, and a new nurse practitioner at the firehouse as examples of “services that other cities can only dream of.”

Gold added, “We can’t afford to rest on our laurels — there is more to do.” He then pivoted to the future.

The city will change more in the next four years than we’ve seen before, he said. Retail is changing; the subway is coming; new luxury housing will be built near the Hilton. “On both sides of the city and in the middle we are looking at the change… and we want to be the ones to direct our future.” What was needed was “a common vision” to guide the change.

“That’s the work that needs to get done, and that’s why I’m running,” Gold said. “I’m more than able and willing to do it and with your help and support I will get reelected.” The thrust of the speech was returning an experienced hand to the council dais to manage the city in an era of change. Visit the candidate’s website to learn more about the golden vision.

Candidate Gold would probably be the first to admit that his speaking style will not inspire social movements. He’s a low-key but good communicator who puts substance above flourish. As mayor (twice) he has focused on process and management. And his kick-off event was no surprise: it was well-enough but not crowded (perhaps a consequence of the early 11 a.m. slot) and checked-off all the boxes for a kick-off: bagels, lox, introduction from a former Fire Chief, and ample time for selfies.

Gold campaign kickoff 2020
Gold’s kick-off was better-attended than it looks here as people spread out around the grounds.

Team Lili

Councilmember Lili Bosse is an incumbent seeking reelection to a third term. Her kickoff was up next and it was something of a departure from the buttoned-down tenor of the first. As a two-term councilmember and twice mayor she has cultivated a relatively high profile. Her outreach to the community over the years was rewarded with ‘Team Lili’ spirit and the best attendance of the three kickoffs today.

“Our community is all about valuing our past and having hope for the future,” she said, ticking off accomplishments: a tough no-smoking ordinance, a first-in-the-US retail tobacco sales ban, a new city auditor, and a restored Beverly Gardens Park (the Bosse family was a top donor). Notably Bosse also called out the new rent stabilization ordinance as an accomplishment. She continued:

I initiated our Healthy City program: healthy people, healthy economy and healthy government. Every Monday in front of city hall, all of our city staff, our residents and visitors walked. We visited close to a hundred businesses together. It was the best of our community. What was the best day of the week? [Monday! said the crowd.] I’ll be walking this city and I want you to walk with me…Say yes to a healthy city! [Yes!] And yes to a healthy city! [Yes!] And yes to healthy people! [Yes!] And yes to a healthy economy! [Yes!]

“We have accomplished a lot together and we still have a lot more to do together,” she added.

In looking ahead Bosse touched on some of Gold’s themes. “We need a strong financial and strategic planning,” she said, tipping her hat to the prudence that generally characterizes Gold’s approach before suggesting a contrast. “What we need more in many ways is imagination and vision Right?” (Right! came the cheer from onlookers). “Our eastern and western gateways are going to be reimagined. Retail is changing. The next four years will determine the generations to come.”

Bosse announced a new ‘Just in Case’ emergency-preparedness program (“We have to be the healthiest city, the safest city, but also the best-prepared city”) and pledged to televise city council liaison meetings for the first time. “When anything is happening behind the walls of city hall you’ll know about it and be able to participate.”

In terms of style, Bosse makes it personal. “Vision with heart and vision with hope,” she said. “And of course I will always be accessible to everybody. This is not campaign-speak — it’s who I am.” Read more about ‘team Bosse’ at her website.

Bosse campaign kickoff 2020
Bosse spoke from the crowded back porch to a yard packed with event-goers.

Lori’s Story

Candidate Lori Greene Gordon’s kickoff even was the third and final of the day, starting just a half-hour after Bosse’s (and significantly overlapped the event). Gordon attracted a healthy crowd that was evidently interested to hear about this challenger to two incumbents. Current Mayor John Mirisch introduced Gordon as somebody who will “fight for Beverly Hills.”

We couldn’t catch all of her speech but Gordon on her website calls out resident fees that are too high and the need for ‘smart development’ and development permit streamlining (which may or may not capture the collective imagination). She takes a dig at “outrageous council expenditures” and in particular Bosse’s signature B.O.L.D. (businesses open later days) promotion program. Naturally a challenger should embrace a change agenda while incumbents celebrate past accomplishments.

“Why am I running for city council? I’m the right person at the right time to bring the right kind of change,” she said. “People come to me when they have a concern about a project,” the current planning commissioner said. “Hotel impacts. Hillside development. I co-authored the basement ordinance.” That’s the spirit she will bring to city hall, she said.

The challenge of running as a challenger is to distinguish oneself when campaign themes hew to the familiar: protect neighborhoods, maintain good relations with the school district, and keep up the tax base as retailing undergoes a major shift. But Gordon alone among the three candidates opened the floor to questions.

Those questions included, What about construction impacts that affect neighborhoods? And, How to stop city council from “ramming” development agreements through without full consideration by the council? “Developers tend to get what they want,” one questioner said. It was a reminder that even in a place of plenty there is some degree of discontent upon which a challenger can capitalize.

Gordon campaign kickoff 2020
That landing is tailor-made for Gordon’s kick-off speech.

In Sum

The campaign kick-offs reminded us that despite our big-time zip code and flashy shops Beverly Hills is really a small town at heart. These events brought us together around the metaphorical Sunday brunch table. Friends, neighbors and a particular kind of city hall hanger-on, one who simply can’t get enough of local politics, were out to hear about vision from the candidates themselves.

Kick-off Sunday with its back-to-back campaign events is akin to college bowl games on New Year’s Day. There’s one game after another and by the end we’re all looking ahead to Super Bowl Sunday. Only here there is no sports book and the big game in town is Tuesday March 3rd, not the Super Bowl.

The election now moves into the next phase: flyers! Expect a blizzard of letters and postcards introducing the candidates to voters who may hardly know ‘em. Kick-off Sunday was a great way to get a sense of them, though.