City Council Candidate Interview: John Mirisch
When John Mirisch first returned to Beverly Hills after spending more than 13 years abroad, he was stunned.
“I care a lot about the City. I wasn’t happy with the changes. I would like to preserve that which makes the City unique,” Mirisch said. “What is particularly special is that it is a small town in a large metropolis. At the same time, it is international, cosmopolitan, glamorous and cozy.”
But it’s becoming indistinguishable from Los Angeles, he said.
“Some buildings are just too big,” Mirisch said. “I am in favor of development as long as it’s controlled and sensible.”
His concerns about the City’s changes motivated him to start writing.
At first he published letters in The Courier, which evolved to his well-known blog, blogbeverlyhills.com. The only Beverly Hills-focused blog, his online controversial musings, are the topic of conversation in local coffee shops.
He touches not only on his opposition to projects like The Beverly Hilton, but also the school district and its administration.
“My son is 18 months, I will absolutely put him in the City’s schools,” said Mirisch. “I would love for him to have the same experiences and advantages I had growing up.”
Mirisch is a fourth-generation Beverly Hills resident. He attended Hawthorne and graduated from Beverly High in 1981. His sister, Amanda Goldberg, and brother Richard Mirisch, also attended Beverly High.
In high school, Mirisch was editor of Highlights. He later attended Yale University, where he published a column in the school’s newspaper.
His summer internship led to a career in film distribution. He has worked for companies such as 20th Century Fox, and U.I.P., which allowed him the opportunity to live and work in Austria and Sweden.
He moved back to the U.S. to work for IMAX. He first lived near his office in Santa Monica. When he and his wife wanted to start a family, Mirisch relocated to the City he was raised in.
“When I started my family I wanted to be in Beverly Hills,” he said. “I have roots here, it’s a very special place.”
He immediately became active by publishing his blog, attending City Council and school board meetings, and spearheading the recent “No on H” campaign opposing the Beverly Hilton Revitalization Plan.
Mirisch’s motivation is preserving the uniqueness of Beverly Hills, he says.
“We are a garden City, I would like to see us live up to that,” he said. “I am frustrated because I have gotten the sense following City Council and speaking at City Council meetings, they are listening to the special interests of the lobbyists and not the residents. Our voice needs to be heard first.”
If elected, there are key issues Mirisch would like to address:
• THE GENERAL PLAN- Mirisch intends to implement a general plan that reflects his vision of maintaining the charm and cutting edge of a world class City. Generally, the three stories, 45 feet zone requirement for building, is a “good recipe,” he says.
He intends to keep it this way.
• TRAFFIC- The piecemeal approach to traffic management is not working, he said. The City Council looks at traffic as each project comes along, but not as a whole, he said. Mirisch intends to develop a traffic management plan to better reduce traffic intrusion in residential neighborhoods and will address through traffic.
“It’s not ok to throw up our hands and say, ‘What are we going to do?’”
• ETHICS AND TRANSPARENCY- Allowing a person who has served on the City Council or planning commission to come back and lobby for a development project, is not acceptable, said Mirisch. Although the City requires a City Councilmember or planning commissioner to wait 30 months before he or she can come back to lobby, it’s not long enough, said Mirisch.
“The spirit of public service is not to come back and enrich one self. We expect this in Sacramento and D.C., influence pedaling, but when it happens in our own backyard it’s a problem.”
As a result of listening to former mayors who are now lobbying for development projects, the City has been leaving a lot of money on the table, Mirisch claims.
“We are not negotiating the best deals,” he said.
An example he says is the 9900 Wilshire project. Mirisch said the City should have taken a certain amount of money on the condos. All profits made after the developer made back costs and a profits, should be split with the City 50/50.
The City should have shared the ups he said.
• ALTERNATIVE REVENUE- With the development of Montage, the City Council said the City would be financially sound, he said. Then they approved William Morris, 9900 Wilshire, the Beverly Hilton and now introduced new taxes- this is a problem, said Mirisch.
Looking at alternative revenues, such as sharing in the ups of projects, is something Mirisch said he is committed to doing.
“As mentioned if we make better deals, this is a source of tremendous revenue.” “We need to take a long hard look at our budget and look at areas to make cutbacks without cutting services,” he says.
Mirisch said his negotiating experience with European distributors gives him the upper hand when negotiating “better” deals for the City.
In addition, Mirisch said he is committed to:
• Maintaining the world-class services Beverly Hills is known for.
• Supporting the public schools.
• Retaining and recruiting entertainment companies.
“I think I have a fresh new perspective,” said Mirisch. “I am not a good old boy. I am someone who has had an international perspective, but am rooted in Beverly Hills. I have a passion, but I am willing to take a stand. I am not saying things because they are politically correct. Going along to get along is dangerous.
“For the good of the residents I am willing to take a stand to always put the residents first.”
John Mirisch will be hosting his kickoff on Jan. 11 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the home of Ruth Kraft at 622 N. Trenton Drive.