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Council Votes to Take 'No Position' on Measure J

The decision follows a dozen public comments, more than two hours of council discussion and a half-hour recess.

The City Council voted 4-1 at Tuesday's study session to take no position on Measure J, a Nov. 6 ballot initiative sponsored by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that would extend the Measure R half-cent sales tax until 2069 in an effort to expedite regional transit projects.

The decision came after a dozen public comments, more than two hours of council discussion and a half-hour recess during which Councilman Barry Brucker and Councilwoman Lili Bosse drafted a resolution on Measure J for the council to vote on. The wording of the resolution ended with the sentence, "The City Council and the City of Beverly Hills does not take a position in support of Measure J."

Mayor William Brien and Councilman Julian Gold joined Brucker and Bosse in voting for the resolution. Vice Mayor John Mirisch cast the dissenting vote.

"I think that not supporting something is not the same as opposing it," Mirisch said. "I think that's what we would have needed."

The discussion prior to the recess brought out many views from the council members. Gold was conflicted with the council taking a stance on a ballot initiative, and Bosse and Mirisch supported the idea of representing the community on the matter. Brucker said he wanted to have a resolution drafted before any vote was taken, while Mirisch said they could "simply say 'no.'"

Bosse suggested the council adopt the same language used by the Beverly Hills Unified School District in its resolution opposing Measure J, which passed unanimously at the Oct. 9 school board meeting. One project that would be expedited by Measure J is the Westside Subway Extension (WSE), an expansion of Metro's Purple Line subway, which calls for tunneling under Beverly Hills High School. 

Both the district and the city have filed lawsuits against Metro in an effort to stop it from routing the WSE under BHHS, citing safety concerns and plans for future development at the campus. However, Brien sought to disentangle Measure J from the city and school board's pending litigation over the subway's placement.

"Metro has chosen the route. Measure J does not impact the route," Brien said. "Measure J is not a vote regarding the route. It's regarding accelerated funding for Metro projects throughout the entire county."

Representatives from the Beverly Hills PTA Council, Bus Riders Union, CORE California, Southwest Beverly Hills Homeowners Association and Beverly Hills Municipal League attended the meeting, along with some district parents and school board members, to request that the council take a stance against Measure J.

For some who spoke at the meeting, the conflict with Metro over the WSE remained raw.

"Before you take a vote on Measure J, you should review how Metro has treated this community," said PTA Council President Jennifer Terrell-Schwartz, referring to Metro's refusal to tunnel along Santa Monica Boulevard so the subway could avoid the BHHS campus. Metro contends that the safest way to pass through Beverly Hills en route to Century City is to go below BHHS, rather than Santa Monica Boulevard.

Board of Education member Lewis Hall, who said he was speaking as a private citizen and not a member of the school board, chastised the Metro Board of Directors for the way it has dealt with residents' concerns about the WSE.

"By saying no to Measure J, you are not taking a position against mass transit," he said. "What you are saying is that you are not ready to commit [billions] of your children's money to a Metro board that is arrogant, irresponsible, unreasonable and has demonstrated an utter lack of sensitivity to the community's needs."

Out of the 12 people who spoke during the public comment period, one came out in support of the measure.

"Measure J is not an issue of whether or not we should be tunneling under the high school," said A.J. Willmer, president of the Rotary Club of Beverly Hills, who was speaking as a private citizen. "Measure J is about whether we are going to affordably, for a generation or more, build this infrastructure cheaper and faster than we could without Measure J."

Editor's Note: The article has been amended to reflect that A.J. Willmer made his statement as a private citizen.

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George Vreeland Hill October 25, 2012 at 02:12 PM
We must all vote no on Measure J. While it is clear that we want better transportation, the facts are that Metro puts there own needs and greed before that. This is about giving Metro 30 more years to 2069 and they simply can't be trusted. Long before that time is up, it will be others who will have to pay for it. 2069 is just too far down the road. Let Metro prove itself for the first 30 years and then vote on a measure. So far, Metro gets a no.
AJ Willmer October 25, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I am in favor of Measure J as it will enable us to build much needed mass transportation in Los Angeles, faster and more affordably. However I was NOT representing the Rotary Club of Beverly Hills It was a personal opinion..
Marie Cunningham October 25, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Sorry Mr. Willmer, I was not trying to imply that you were representing the Rotary Club. I have added in that you made your statement as a private citizen. Best, Marie
Brian David Goldberg, PhD October 25, 2012 at 07:30 PM
To learn more about why I am Voting No on Measure J and why you should vote NO as well read my newsletter at the following link: http://conta.cc/Rri4O0
Barry Brucker October 26, 2012 at 05:25 PM
Let me explain the process of how the Council came to their position on Measure J. Without a resolution before us made it difficult and irresponsible for the Council to simply vote yes or no on this matter. Both Council Members Bosse and Mirisch both thought that a vote up or down without any back up resolution was acceptable. I felt I could not vote on a measure without an explanation to the community as to our reasoning. Dr. Gold expressed his personal views on "J" but was uncomfortable with the Council taking a position unless it was unanimous. After some deliberation, the Mayor recessed the meeting for 30 minutes and assigned both myself and Lili Bosse to try and craft a Resolution. Note: The BHUSD voted on a resolution as had the Council in 2008 in support of Measure R (the original Transportation Bill). Councilmember Bosse and I discussed the measure and with the help of the City Attorney to wordsmith into proper form came up with a comprehensive resolution ending with "The City Council and the City of Beverly Hills does not take a position in support of Measure J." This was presented as a recommendation to the Council with Council Member Bosse making the motion and my second. Mayor Brien and Council Member Gold supported the measure with Council Member Mirisch voting no. The Council Majority of Bosse, Brucker, Brien and Gold all supported the City Council resolution to "not take a position to support Measure J".

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