Residents heard from the 10 candidates running for City Council during the Southwest Beverly Hills Homeowners Association’s candidate forum on Feb. 1 in City Hall. The candidates are running to fill two seats on the council in March 5 election currently held by Mayor Julian Gold and Councilwoman Lili Bosse. Andrea Grossman, founder of Writer’s Bloc, moderated the forum.
Candidates Alissa Roston, Craig Corman, Mary Wells, Myra Demeter, Russell Stuart, Hamid Omrani, Tiffany Davis, Sharon Persovski, Robin Rowe and Nooshin Meshkaty outlined their visions for Beverly Hills. They also discussed their qualifications and what they plan to accomplish if elected to the City Council. The order of the candidate statements were randomly selected, with Persovski opening the forum. A designer with a focus on architecture and the environment, she cited her experience on the Centennial, Technology and Strategic Planning committees, and as a city architectural commissioner.
“I am proud to say that I have been a Beverly Hills resident since 1999. My two children attended and graduated from Beverly Hills public schools. It is an honor to be a part of such a vibrant community,” Persovski said. “I’m running for office because we need a strong leader who has creative solutions for difficult problems.”
Roston cited her long-standing ties to Beverly Hills, her experience as former chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission and a twice-elected member of the Beverly Hills Unified School District Board. She has also served on the Pitzer College Board of Trustees for the past 14 years.
“Serving on the City Council demands a comprehensive grasp of governance, policy and finance. My 40 years of service and professional experience in finance have given me the insight and skills to lead our City Council during this pivotal time for the city,” Roston said. “My top four priorities are increasing public safety, collaborative city planning, financial accountability and communications and outreach strategies. The reality is the council will make hundreds maybe even thousands of decisions over the next four years. I encourage you to assess the disposition of the candidates, consider how they approach each various issue and evaluate their expertise. I’m proud of my record of always trying to find balance and to make the best decisions for all involved in any way that I can.”
Davis cited her familiarity with city affairs, as well as how other cities operate. She has also lived in Nashville and Cape Cod, and said those areas have lessons for how a city like Beverly Hills should be governed.
“I have a deep history here going back over 20 years, but with a broader perspective of living in two other cities similar to Beverly Hills, both known for tourism and both with rich histories,” Davis said. “I bring the perspective of those two ends of the spectrum and can help guide us forward with a measured approach to growth so we can recapture the magic of 50 years ago while also remaining relevant and fiscally healthy. I am a renter who wants to ensure we don’t lose our control over development. Isn’t it time to have a renter on council? We have a real opportunity to revitalize the forgotten parts of Beverly Hills, bringing back the village feel, while also satisfying the state’s mandate to add over 3,000 housing units, but it will take creative, thoughtful community development. I welcome that challenge.”
Meshkaty said she is running for City Council as the “community’s candidate.”
“I have lived in Beverly Hills for decades. I graduated from Beverly Hills High School and started my efforts [on] public and community services as soon as my firstborn started kindergarten. I have worked diligently to successfully advocate for our community for decades, from PTA president to the board of education, as well as working on multiple city commissions. I know what it takes to roll up my sleeves and get the job done,” Meshkaty said. “Our residents have been concerned about the lack of information and transparency as major projects go through the system. This is why I will form smart, inclusive channels of communication ensuring our city government is well connected to our residents and businesses. Awareness is important, and it will help ensure that our major projects are well understood at the start.”
Rowe touted his role as the only progressive candidate in the field and called into question other candidates’ qualifications. He also said his background designing threat awareness systems for the military will help the city with technological advancements in the future. One of his proposals is to build a skyway tram to take people between the Metro stations and destinations in the city.
“My opponents, the opposition, is going to tell you that their experience is on the planning commission and the Beverly Hills school board, neither of which I have served on. And I would just point out the Beverly Hills planning commission was what produced the flawed Cheval Blanc project that was rejected by voters. They also produced the flawed affordable housing plan that’s been rejected five times by the state. I don’t think those are great qualifications to be leaders on the City Council,” Rowe said. “I hope that you like the progressive choice.”
Corman, an attorney who previously served on the city’s planning commission and cultural heritage commission, said he is focused on solving problems.
“I’m running because I think [voters] recognize the city is facing some unprecedented challenges we haven’t faced before. And I think it’s going to take some leadership, deep knowledge of the community, some wide ranging experience in city government and also to be honest, the ability to read and understand laws,” Corman said. “I think I have those skills and I have demonstrated that in city government.”
Wells distinguished herself as the only sitting member of the BHUSD Board and elected official running for City Council. She said her experience in solving complex problems qualifies her to take on a larger leadership role.
“I’m the only current elected official that’s running for City Council. I’ve lived in Beverly Hills for over 15 years,” Wells said. “My success can be measured by my results. I transformed our district’s security and safety program and cleaned up our construction program, saving tens of millions of taxpayer dollars, and implemented a strategic plan to address academic achievement, mental health, bullying and antisemitism. I’m running to bring my proven leadership, my experience and fresh ideas to City Council.”
Stuart, as a security company owner and licensed gun dealer, said he brings a unique perspective the council. He said he is the only candidate with the experience to keep the city safe.
“I was a military officer, a Los Angeles County probation officer. I’m the only person up here whose ever served in uniform. I’m the only person up here who is a registered Republican, so I do come at things as a conservative,” Stuart said. “I want to focus on public safety, and bringing more accountability and transparency into our government.”
Demeter, who currently serves on the planning commission and has previously served on the Health and Safety Commission and BHUSD Board, said she has an extensive understanding of issues facing the city. She said she heard from other residents about their concerns and decided to run for City Council to ensure those concerns are addressed.
“My experiences have prepared me to be a powerful voice for you on the City Council. In response to our community’s concerns, I propose practical solutions,” Demeter said. “I will invest in public safety to enhance the department’s efforts to harden our homes and businesses against crime and take immediate action to address antisemitism, to address traffic. I will suggest responsible development that produces walkability and reduces dangerous driving and speeding. My campaign is about giving a voice to each resident of Beverly Hills. I am committed to preserving the unique charm of our city while embracing the changes and challenges ahead.”
Omrani, a designer and home builder, cited the need to prepare for the future, particularly in addressing the housing element and creating space for future growth.
“I have worked and I have lived here in Beverly Hills [for 40 years] as a design-builder. My background is that I have [experience] in design and architecture,” Omrani said. “You have many, many problems in this city that you have to resolve. We will have a new city in the next five years so we have to solve it. There is no budget for that, there is not any preparation. The next five years will be very difficult for the city. Unfortunately, the City Council is not ready for that.”
A video of the full candidate forum, which is 2 hours and 36 minutes long, can be viewed at vimeo.com/909296014. The public can also hear from candidates at two additional upcoming forums.
The Beverly Hills Active Adult Club’s City Council candidates forum on Friday, Feb. 9, from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. at the Roxbury Park Community Center, 471 S. Roxbury Drive. For information, call the Roxbury Park Community Center at (310)285-6840.
The Beverly Hills Property Owners and the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles is also holding a candidate forum on Monday, Feb. 12, from 1:30-3 p.m. at the offices of KW Commercial, 439 N. Cañon Drive, Third Floor. To register, visit aagla.org/events.