Robin, why are you running for Beverly Hills city council?
Important city decisions hinge on understanding technology, which is changing rapidly. While it’s great that we have a city council advisory committee that meets to discuss technology solutions, it isn’t enough. Beverly Hills needs a technologist in the room, on the council.
Like many citizens, the 2016 presidential election motivated me to become involved in politics. I had moved to Beverly Hills in 2004 and live just a few blocks from city hall. I reached out in 2016 to our mayor, to ask what I can do for Beverly Hills, being a technologist. He suggested joining the Beverly Hills Technology Committee, which I did.
I’m grateful to have learned so much about our city during my three years serving on the committee.
Beverly Hills faces issues that require technology to address. Beverly Hills has a five-member city council. City council members have asked for my help, suggested I run for office. I’m ready to serve the residents of Beverly Hills. The city council will be stronger, accomplish more for Beverly Hills, having me on the council.
What solutions are you proposing for Beverly Hills?
Prohibit leaf blowers.
When I talk with residents, I ask if anything bothers them about living here. In general, residents want to experience the quiet enjoyment of our lovely city. Everybody seems to dislike leaf blowers. They’re loud and the fumes linger. Residents tell me, please stop the leaf blowers. Use a rake or broom instead. Residents feel frustrated that the workers disturbing them are people who don’t live here, and complaints to landlords, who don’t live here either, get ignored.
New on-street parking permit mobile app.
Parking in Beverly Hills is tight. We have a city system that residents call in nightly requests for parking passes. Those calls are annoyingly time-consuming to complete. When they don’t get dropped, then you have to start over.
Even when you make it through the parking pass process, your car may get a ticket anyway. The passes are self-printed. City parking enforcement may miss seeing it in your window or maybe someone was tired that night. It was at 4am in the morning. Even when we know we’re in the right, who has time to fight a ticket issued in error?
On-street parking passes is an issue that has long frustrated residents. Let’s provide residents with a mobile app to streamline the parking process. A few taps, and done. And, let’s integrate it with the city’s parking ticket system to block tickets for cars that the city knows were issued permits. Not leave it to the discretion of whoever is working parking enforcement that night to decide if he or she notices a permit in the window. The system will know whether that vehicle has a valid parking permit from the license plate number.
AI Traffic Shaping to reduce traffic congestion and cut pollution.
Let’s reduce traffic congestion and pollution by using AI technology, make traffic move better. We’ve all experienced the frustration of bad traffic light synchronization. Sometimes when driving we encounter every light turning red. AI can make traffic lights work a lot smarter. MIT research suggests AI can cut traffic density by half. That cuts pollution, with fewer vehicles idling at stop lights.
Automated traffic software is already helping first responders. Fire engines transmit a signal that tells traffic lights when they are approaching, to turn the light green for them. In the future, everyone’s car will network with traffic control like a fire engine does. Everyone will see more green lights.
Let’s open a collaboration between Beverly Hills and the traffic shaping research universities. Make Beverly Hills a world leader in adopting traffic shaping technology. Besides reducing traffic congestion and pollution, who wouldn’t like to always be getting green lights?
The cost of producing green power is dropping below the cost of burning coal. And, conventional power plants with high voltage lines are not only polluters, they’re dangerous. PG&E has filed for bankruptcy, citing civil liabilities of $30 billion for megafires started by its power lines. Including the fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people. I saw firsthand the result of the Ojai fire. A huge valley, as far as I could see, all ashes. It looked like the surface of the moon. Let’s have safe, sustainable, non-polluting, city power.
The city’s residents are already installing solar panels. For example, there are solar panels on the building where I live. Panels installed by the landlord, not by me. Power from solar panels goes back on the power grid, sent perhaps hundreds of miles on power lines. Keeping it local would be more efficient, safer and make our local power grid more resilient. Let’s build a microgrid with energy storage in Beverly Hills.
Because it’s been in the news, everyone is concerned about the measles. While the measles is a serious issue, nobody in the U.S. has died of the measles since 2015. However, the CDC reports 1,300 deaths so far this season from the flu.
While there are vaccines, it’s impossible to predict which strain of the flu will be active before it happens. There are four types of flu, called A, B, C and D. Just type A has 200 strains. Each season the CDC tries to predict which flu it will be. They formulate one shot that will fight the four most likely strains. Even if we have the right vaccine mass produced and ready, and know what strain is active now, and start inoculating for it immediately, it still takes two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective.
Furthermore, it’s not only the flu. A school district in Colorado with 22,000 students was recently shut down to stop the spread of norovirus. Let’s take smarter preventive measures. Let’s stop putting our infectious disease sufferers onto our city’s Senior & Disabled Bus Service and into hospital waiting rooms where they may make others sick or catch something worse themselves.
Let’s test a trial program, provide concierge doctors to make house calls in Beverly Hills to check for contagious diseases, for free. Block all infectious diseases from spreading. Transporting doctors instead of patients can be cheaper and safer than the way we do things now.
Business innovation, more high-paying jobs.
The Triangle, the central business district in Beverly Hills, is important to residents as a neighborhood. The city council passed an urgent resolution recently to ease parking restrictions on restaurants in the triangle. Restaurants are key to having a vibrant neighborhood. We have restaurant spaces in the Triangle that have been vacant for a year, unable to find tenants.
It’s great that the council has acted. Two new restaurant leases have already been signed. However, the restrictions lifted were from laws passed in 1974. Let’s solve business issues faster, be more proactive.
Let’s create a business innovation center in Beverly Hills. A co-work place to brainstorm business ideas and collaborations between residents and companies, foster startup businesses founded by Beverly Hills residents, and nurture fresh brands launching here to make Beverly Hills a truly unique shopping experience.
Continuing education for higher paying jobs.
Having high-paying jobs in Beverly Hills matters. The Bureau of Labor reports a steady decrease in unemployment from 10% in 2010 to a low of under 4% today. Yet, most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and working longer hours than ever. Many must sacrifice family life to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. More low-wage jobs, working harder for less money, is not what we want.
A path to higher paying jobs is education. Let’s offer city residents access to distance learning courses through universities, for free, with the goal of residents not only starting but completing higher degrees.
Infrastructure: Improve public transportation by adding a Beverly Hills skyway.
In 2025 the Rodeo heavy-rail subway station opens. Where will all these new people coming to city center go? Let’s connect Beverly Center mall, Rodeo Drive, and the Hilton Hotel. And with the cooperation of Century City, connect our skyway to the Westfield Mall adjacent to Beverly Hills. Building ultralight rail is cheaper and faster than digging heavy-rail subways. It’s also a tourist attraction.
Having a skyway for tourists may reduce the demand for tourism buses in Beverly Hills. It can eliminate vehicles that pollute, reduce traffic congestion and address the issue that the buses are intrusive to their privacy of some residents.
Tourism: Destination Beverly Hills.
Tourists spend more than $2.3 billion a year in Beverly Hills. That’s significant business. We have more than 7.5 million tourists visiting Beverly Hills each year. Improving public transportation gives us the capability to have more tourists without having more cars. Better transportation, fewer cars, shopping all connected, makes Beverly Hills a better tourist destination. We can increase tourism and decrease traffic.
Infrastructure: Building the best high speed residential and business Internet.
A key responsibility of government is providing infrastructure. Building better infrastructure empowers residents and businesses. It increases the value of homes and businesses. Let’s continue building the world’s fastest residential and business Internet.
A challenge we face is that a big telecommunications company owns our utility poles. I predicted years ago, sitting on the tech committee, that the city would encounter delaying tactics, would see our resolve tested. While the telecommunications giants are required by law to allow us to place our cables on their right-of-way, it isn’t specified when. Delaying us idles installation crews, drives up our costs. We should keep going, not falter.
A sitting city councilman recently questioned whether competing with a big telecommunications company makes sense. Some say we can trust big international companies to provide the best and cheapest services to Beverly Hills. Really, should we? Are we to rely on the goodwill of a faceless corporation that has pledged their profits always come first? And it will be just one company, a monopoly free to dictate prices to us without any competitors.
Let’s not have Beverly Hills at the mercy of a big company deciding when and what services we get and at what price. Let’s complete building the fastest residential Internet in the world.
Beverly Hills housing
California is experiencing a housing crisis. The oft suggested solution, building more housing, doesn’t work for Beverly Hills. There’s no undeveloped land here and residents don’t desire to change the character of the city by increasing density. Increasing density could make living here like living in Manhattan.
With starting a local building boom being off the table, that suggests creating more high-paying jobs here so people can afford more. Let’s do that by opening a city business innovation center.
Helping the Homeless
Let’s take better care of our homeless and build an improved safety net for our residents to prevent them becoming homeless. As a first step, as leaders in Beverly Hills, let’s pledge that no resident of Beverly Hills will go hungry. People will need local support more than ever to avoid starvation. The federal government recently cut 750,000 people from the SNAP food stamps program and larger cuts are expected.
Let’s open a help line that residents may call 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.
Beverly Hills can better address homelessness in many ways, such as providing a safety net for vulnerable families and retirees who face being forced into homelessness.
We need to work on humane solutions to the problem of our non-resident homeless. Some from downtown L.A. are commuting to Beverly Hills to beg. Some were dumped here from out of state or other cities as a quick fix to their own homeless crisis.
Something being discussed in city council, that we shouldn’t expect to work, is to export our homeless to other communities. It’s true that real estate for housing is much cheaper elsewhere, that it seems to make financial sense. And, it is tempting to make the homeless someone else’s tough problem. However, other communities may not appreciate having the homeless sent to them as our solution.
Federal solutions to California homelessness recently proposed by the current federal administration, of tearing down homeless encampments and then arrests for trespassing, would result in mass incarceration. California is resisting that idea on humanitarian grounds. Moreover, an insurmountable obstacle to homeless incarceration is the cost.
It costs $81,000 a year on average to incarcerate someone in California. For what it costs to incarcerate here, it would be cheaper to make them students at USC, which only costs $73,254 a year. Compared to the price of incarceration, sending the California homeless to UCLA would seem a bargain at only $33,901.
A solution that makes sense for the homeless, or anyone struggling, is to offer them treatment if sick, provide education that makes them productive, and help them in finding useful work so they can support themselves. I lead an initiative that has given free laptops to the homeless in Los Angeles. Without a computer, it’s very difficult for a person to apply for work.
While giving the homeless homes may be great whenever we can figure out how to fund it, giving them free computers and free mobile phones is something we can afford to do immediately to help them get themselves back on their feet.