Beverly Hills Mayor Willie Brien launched his campaign for re-election Sunday, highlighting the city's economic growth during his four years on City Council.
"I have always been a proactive leader that gets things done and I have a track record of success to prove that," he said during a speech at his campaign kickoff event.
Elected in 2009, Brien reminded residents that during his first term the council cut $30 million from the city budget over a two-year period without layoffs, preserving core services such as an emergency response time of three minutes or less. He also championed the reform of the city's employee pension and retirement medical programs, which will save Beverly Hills an estimated $90 million in liabilities over the next four decades.
"This past year we recognized a $10 million surplus in the city's budget and spent $5 million less than what we had projected in the budget to spend," Brien added. "The rate of [the city's] revenue growth is now exceeding the rate of growth of our expenses."
The mayor also noted recent business improvements, such as the 97 percent retail space occupancy rate in the Golden Triangle, as well as the streamlining of the city's permit process, allowing businesses to open shop in Beverly Hills in less than 70 days.
As part of his commitment to the Beverly Hills Unified School District, Brien reiterated his support for a strong Joint-Powers Agreement, for which the city pays the district for access to school facilities.
"I supported full funding of the JPA during the depth of the recession," he said. "I negotiated the most recent Joint-Powers Agreement, which support our schools with almost $10 million a year."
On the topic of city schools, Brien said that while he is opposed to routing the Westside Subway Extension under the Beverly Hills High School campus, he does support the project.
"Anyone who has concerns about traffic has to recognize that new transit options are critical to control the growth of traffic going through our city," he said. "Anyone who really wants to see redevelopment in the southeast [of Beverly Hills] has to recognize that the subway at Wilshire and La Cienega will spur the investment of tens of millions of dollars into our city."
Brien said the revitalization of the southeast part of town is one of his priorities for the future, along with the completion of the new Roxbury Park Community Center, the repaving of Santa Monica Boulevard and the restoration of Beverly Gardens Park.
City leaders supporting Brien's re-election bid include former Beverly Hills mayors Les Bronte, Linda Briskman, Vicki Reynolds and Donna Ellman Garber. Brien also has the endorsements of BHUSD school board President Jake Manaster, and current councilmen Barry Brucker and Julian Gold.
"The mayor has done a wonderful job in overseeing this city... We've cut city government spending by $5 million. We have $10 million in additional revenue," Gold said. "He's been a very effective mayor and I think that he'll do great things in the next four years."
Former school board member Myra Lurie said she is holding a coffee meet-and-greet for Brien's campaign on Jan. 30.
"I've known Willie for many years," she said. "He is, to me, the epitome of an intelligent, dynamic public servant with undisputed integrity and no ulterior motives."
An orthopedic surgeon and former chief of staff at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Brien served on the city's Parks and Recreation Commission and BHUSD school board before being elected to council. He also spent years volunteering with the Beverly Hills Little League and AYSO, and is himself a BHHS graduate with children who attended city schools.
"Willie is a brilliant surgeon who understands business and a dedicated public servant," Beverly Hills resident Shahram Melamed said. "He firmly believes it is his responsibility to look after our residents, our schools, our children and our elderly."
There are six council candidates running for three seats on the March 5 ballot.