Robin Rowe Proposes Beverly Hills Skyway

BizFed PAC 2020 made an update to their candidate questions, requested a second interview

Skyway

BEVERLY HILLS (robinsrowe.com) 2020/1/23 – BizFed PAC is a political action committee registered in California. This questionnaire seeks to elicit your views on the important jobs and economic issues facing our region in the 2018 election cycle.

Robin Rowe: Thanks for including me.

Your answers will determine who the BizFed PAC may invite for personal interviews, and may lead to BizFed PAC endorsement and contribution.

While I do not seek endorsements or contributions, I am happy to answer questions.

BACKGROUND

Tell us a little about yourself, your background in the region, and why you are running for office.

I’m a technologist and innovation manager. Moved to the area in 2004 to work at DreamWorks Animation. I’ve created technology used to produce visual effects for many major motion pictures and to animate a hit cartoon series.

Former chief technologist and enterprise manager at defense company SAIC. Navy research scientist. As a professor, I’ve taught C++ software design at the Naval Postgraduate School and the University of Washington. I was technical director of television broadcast news at a mid-market NBC station and built the Chicago NBC-TV studios. I’ve written for Popular Science and Popular Photography.

Since 2016, I’ve been a member of the Beverly Hills Technology Committee that advises the city council. Two city councilors urged me to run for office.

A technologist is needed on the city council. It takes the decades for the city council to make changes. And, the council seems unable to focus on more than one issue at a time. An explanation is the council hires technology consultants to do study issues one by one, which can take a year. Just about every city decision now involves technology. Having a technologist on the city council speeds up the process, will help our city council get more done.

CAMPAIGN

Please describe your key issue priorities if elected to local office.

I’m not a single-issue candidate. Beverly Hills has many pressing issues that need to be addressed at the same time.

  • Cut delays. The city council recently passed an “urgent” change to an unreasonable zoning law that’s been driving out our restaurants, a law from 1974.
  • Sane regulations. Make more corrections like the zoning and city tax changes recently done to attract new restaurants.
  • Quiet enjoyment. Restrict leaf blowers that disturb residents with noise and pollution.
  • Tourism. Make Beverly Hills a more exciting shopping destination by improving transportation within the city.
  • Transportation. A skyway of elevated cable cars as public transportation within Beverly Hills.
  • Traffic shaping. Use AI to decrease traffic congestion.
  • Mitigate pollution. Some areas of Beverly Hills have twice as much air pollution as others, address using technology.
  • Spotless streets. A cleaning crew, similar in concept to our Ambassadors security crew, to keep our streets as spotless as Disneyland.
  • Capital. Open a business innovation center to nurture new businesses and attract new sources of capital.

What is your fundraising goal and actual funds to date?

Zero. I don’t accept donations.

Why is it important that candidates not accept donations? A former Los Angeles County planning official plead guilty to taking bribes from developers and contractors. Using that official as an informant, the FBI arrested a prominent Beverly Hills developer as being a source of those bribes.

That developer has a record of making contributions to help elect local politicians. Politicians who then appoint planning officials. That I don’t accept donations from developers, or anyone, means I can serve everyone fairly.

Please list previous positions held in the city in which you are seeking office.

First time running for office.

Please list other endorsers and supporters of your campaign.

For the same reasons I don’t seek contributions, I don’t seek endorsements. I appreciate the enthusiastic support of my neighbors, the residents and the businesses of Beverly Hills.

What is your relationship with your local business community? Please list memberships and leadership positions held in your local Chamber of Commerce and/or other business advocacy groups.

I’m an organizer of the USC Innovation Conference with the Marshall School of Business. Through Venture Hollywood, I’m a frequent moderator or panel speaker at venture events that nurture startups.

Chairman of ISO/ANSI 56007, defining the world standard for innovation process idea management. CFO Alliance subcommittee chairman and whitepaper author, best practices for companies to mitigate cyber risks. ASIFA animation society member.

POLICY

Los Angeles County faces a critical housing shortage. How will you lead on housing availability, production and affordability in your city?

To build the 3,000+ residential units we are generally expected to need, and having very little undeveloped land, we will have little choice but to go up.

I’ve lived in Chicago and am inspired by the famous Lake Point Tower there. Many say it’s the most beautiful residential tower in the world. The iconic 70-story building houses 1,600 people in 857 units.

Beverly City zoning requires one-bedroom units be a minimum of 1,000 square feet. To build affordable housing we need to cut that size drastically, actually do the opposite. Require that developers build many smaller units for each large luxury unit they build. Otherwise, we’ll get a glut of luxury condos with half being vacant like in Manhattan.

How would you prioritize transportation and other funding sources for the movement of people and goods in your community and our region?

Build a skyway. That is, elevated cable car gondolas, as a public transportation hub within Beverly Hills. Safe, quiet, green, convenient, inexpensive and fast to build.

Skyway at the Great Wall of China, June 2019
Skyway at the Great Wall of China, June 2019

Without looking at it, some city planners have objected aesthetically, expect a skyway will look like a ski lift. Paris is building a skyway. The Portland Aerial Tram won an AIA architectural award, is a city landmark.

For ground transportation, traffic shaping using AI can significantly decrease traffic density and cut air pollution. It’s important we have an expert who understands traffic control on the council.
As a technologist, I helped design the safety-critical Linux embedded system that is our nation’s traffic control system, including for some of the traffic lights in Beverly Hills.

What is your stance on Proposition 13? Would you support or oppose “split roll” property tax proposals? Do you support or advocate for any other changes to Prop 13?

The split roll initiative says its intended to increase funding to K-12 public schools and community colleges though higher taxes on businesses. Beverly Hills currently charges double the rate for business tax compared to Los Angeles. Looking at the empty storefronts in Beverly Hills, we should be searching for ways to make it easier for retail to flourish here, not increase taxes.

How do you plan to address issues of homelessness in your City?

I founded the Free Laptops Initiative that has given free laptops to the homeless so they can apply for work online to get jobs.

We have three kinds of homeless in Beverly Hills.

  • Residents, often hard to spot because they are concealing that they are homeless
  • Commuters, who live downtown in Skid Row and take the bus here to beg during the day
  • Dumped, often mental health patients or substance addicts, who were given a one-way ticket from some other city, were exiled here

We need to measure and mitigate the unique problems faced by each of these groups. We have programs to help homeless residents. That we can expand.

The migrant homeless are a challenge. It could exceed our resources to help every homeless person in the world who wants to come here. We want to help everyone, but let’s help our residents most. We may ask cities where those homeless were last homed to help.

Every community should care for their own. Many can’t because their local healthcare system is being dismantled. States that lack healthcare are exporting the homeless and uninsured to states that do. Their politicians then criticize us, and social services generally, as we struggle with the load.

Los Angeles County suffers from the highest poverty rate in the nation, by some estimates as many as 1 in 4 county residents live in poverty. What do you believe are the root causes of this issue, and what as an elected official will you do or have you done to address the situation in your community and in our region? 

Food security. As a Beverly Hills leader I will allow no resident to go hungry. The federal government recently cut 750,000 people from the SNAP food stamps program and has more cuts planned. Work-to-eat policies are cruel and trigger suicides. Victims of poverty often turn to drugs for escape. Some will overdose deliberately when it seems hopeless. Adults and children will need local support more than ever to avoid malnutrition, starvation and despair.

I would open a help line that residents may call 24/7 if they are hungry or concerned that their neighbors may be. Coordinate with local grocery stores and restaurants so that wasted food is directed to those who desperately need it.

The root causes of U.S. poverty are many. The most egregious is unchecked military spending building weapons of mass destruction. The amount spent on nuclear weapons, which can never be used without destroying the planet, is the size of the national debt. The future U.S. budget for nukes will double that cost.

What is the status of your city’s pension obligations? How will you address any shortfalls?

Beverly Hills has unfunded pension liabilities of $255M, plus $109M in retiree medical. We need to get those numbers down, and don’t seem to be. The city council recently announced an $18M budget overrun and asked the budget be tweaked by shifting funded earmarks back into the general fund. That would increase unfunded liabilities, make overruns less obvious.

Beverly Hills typically runs a $50M surplus annually during a good economy and a $25M deficit during recessions. Against an overall budget of about $250M. When Beverly Hills last had a shortfall, the city was able to cover it with a short furlough and other belt-tightening measures.

Many cities and counties have adopted or plan to adopt a local sustainability plan. What would be your priorities in such a plan?

Los Angeles released a Green New Deal Sustainable City Plan in 2019. The Beverly Hills City Council hasn’t kept up. Our Sustainable City Plan is from 2009, the General Plan from 2010, the Economic Sustainability Plan from 2011. I would adopt the good ideas from the L.A. plan to move ahead quickly.

I live in Beverly Hills and walk to city hall. All city officials of Beverly Hills are designated as Emergency First Responders.

Only 6% of city staff live here, due to a lack of affordable housing and little commitment to hire local. That most officials don’t live here means they may be unable to perform their duties as first responders during an emergency. A significant city sustainability shortcoming.

What happens after a big earthquake? Roads may be impassible. Telecommunications and the power grid may be down. Beverly Hills needs to hire local, not be staffed largely by commuters.

Live and Work in Beverly Hills is my program to encourage hiring locals and to enable our commuters to move here, get those who work here to become locals by giving them better access to affordable housing.