Voter Fraud: If It Can Happen In Beverly Hills …

Beverly HillsIn a city in which an election was won four years ago by seven votes, every vote should count. But only the votes that should count should count. And that?s a problem in Beverly Hills.

Voter fraud is real. It?s alive. It?s happening. And we have to stop it. Whether or not it happens at the federal level, we know it happens at the local level. We have seen it ourselves and our own investigations have proven it happens.

Last week,?at a marathon City Council meeting, the Beverly Hills City Council at my request unanimously agreed to launch an Anti-Voter Fraud Initiative. The initiative will attempt to use every tool at the council and city?s disposal to protect the integrity of our local election, the next of which is March 7 (and in which I and the vice mayor are up for re-election).

We will attempt to inform our own voters to help report suspected instances of unauthorized voters (?If you see something, say something?), as well as continue to lobby the secretary of state, our DA and other officials to take the matter of suspected voter fraud seriously and to take action. The decision to launch the Anti-Voter Fraud Initiative follows a Monday meeting of the City?s Sunshine Task Force which we created to make our city a model of transparency and good government.

Yes, we are frustrated.

Our frustration and the decision to educate, lobby and take whatever local action we can to deal with voter fraud is preceded by two council study sessions in which we discussed the matter with representatives from the local registrar-recorder and the secretary of state, one meeting more exasperating than the other. We shouldn?t have to self-police and we are extremely limited as to what we can do locally to put an end to voter fraud.

Some background information is in order, particularly for those who aren?t familiar with Beverly Hills, beyond the stereotype, or suggest that voter fraud doesn?t exist.

In 2008 a local developer won a referendum by 129 votes which granted a controversial building entitlement. The developer spent millions of dollars prior to the election with all manner of expensive propaganda. The grass-roots group opposing the developer?s plans suspected that many voters who had voted in Beverly Hills were not bona fide or legal residents of the city, but nonetheless voted in the election.

In a Herculean effort, volunteers canvassed the city, going door-to-door to investigate the claims of voter fraud. They uncovered 569 documented cases of voters who were not entitled to vote in our local election. The group of phony voters included random people registered at unsuspecting residents? addresses, non-U.S. citizens, Beverly Hills residents? adult children who themselves were domiciled elsewhere, etc. That?s right: there were 569 documented cases of illegal voters in an election which had been won by 129 votes. The math is pretty simple.

The citizens? group turned over their voluminous documentation over to the local DA?s office, which complimented them on their meticulousness and then proceeded to do … absolutely nothing. No indictments. No prosecution. No convictions. Nothing.

Fast forward to the months preceding the Nov. 2016 election: the same developer who had won the tainted 2008 election was now attempting to pass an initiative to build a 375-foot skyscraper in Beverly Hills. As in 2008, the developer spent millions of dollars in campaign propaganda (it turns out that the developer ended up spending more than $1000 per vote in a losing effort), and reports of potential illegal voters arose once again. The city received a list of over 500 voters registered at a few business addresses. As a council colleague remarked, the limited number of business addresses makes this seem like an organized effort. We turned the list over to the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder, who sent letters out to these 500 registered voters, informing them that their voting status would be placed on hold pending their verifying that they actually lived in Beverly Hills and were entitled to vote here.

It turns out that only two of the over 500 registered voters ended up verifying that they actually live in Beverly Hills.

If we had not been provided with a list of unauthorized registered voters, which we forwarded to the registrar with the request to invalidate the registrations pending further confirmation, we could have had 500 illegal voters in the November election. This is in a city in which, as mentioned, a council member won election in 2013 by a mere seven votes.

At our council study session earlier this month in which we asked for representation from the local registrar, the secretary of state?s office and the DA, only the registrar seemed to take the problem of voter fraud seriously. The secretary of state?s representative gave answers which actually decreased our confidence in its ability to protect the integrity of our voting process and raised the frustration levels of the entire council. After having refused to prosecute the widespread 2008 voter fraud, the DA?s office refused to even send a representative to our council meeting, even after I followed up the initial refusal with a letter to county DA Jackie Lacey, personally asking her to send a representative to discuss this serious issue. Their job is not just to prosecute voter fraud (something they evidently refuse to do, as was the case in 2008) but also to help us avert such crimes which undermine our electoral system. This nonchalance was both shocking and stupefying.

At that meeting, as confirmed by our city clerk, we pointed out various ways in which voter fraud could occur and evidently had occurred: people could simply register at houses where they did not live, either with or without the bona fide residents? knowledge or they could register at business addresses, as they had done in the past. At the polls, they could comb through the voter rolls and see who had not voted and simply get replacements to vote in their stead. There is effectively no way under our current system to avoid or deal with most of these situations, particularly if the local DA?s office is unwilling to take action.

According to today?s Washington Post: ?Multiple investigations of the extent of in-person voter fraud ? someone showing up to vote fraudulently ? have found that it?s not a significant problem.? Well, if these ?investigations? are anything like our own experience, this is a prime example of a self-fulfilling conclusion. Our secretary of state?s office and our own DA seem unwilling to investigate or even acknowledge the problem. Small wonder that ostrich ?investigators? – in opposition to grass-roots residents – are finding that voter fraud is ?not a significant problem.? See no evil. Hear no evil. … You get the picture.

Our situation is different from President Trump?s claims of voter fraud in that many (though not all) of the phony voters in Beverly Hills are U.S. citizens who simply don?t live in Beverly Hills and therefore are not entitled to vote in municipal elections. But the problem remains a serious one at any level of government and we deserve to have faith in the integrity of our electoral system at all levels of government.

On Tuesday, the National Association of Secretaries of State issued the following statement: ?We are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump, but we are open to learning more about the administration?s concerns.?

How about also being open to learning about the concerns of cities in which elections are won and lost by seven votes? How about taking action in instances in which voter fraud clearly has taken place and in which there are ongoing attempts to rig our elections?

Whatever the situation at the national level, we in Beverly Hills are committed to doing whatever we can to protect the integrity of our local elections, even if we do not receive the support from the authorities who are tasked with doing so. Because if the integrity of our electoral system is not protected, if bad actors know that they can literally get away with voter fraud without any consequences, then we can expect to see this phenomenon spread and grow, further undermining our democracy.

Local government, when done right, is the best form of democracy because it is closest to home. For it to mean anything, though, the elections in which the residents choose their local leaders and decide on local issues must be on the up and up. Sacramento, we have a problem.

And so the Beverly Hills Anti-Voter Fraud Initiative is born. Let?s hope other cities and municipalities join us to create a coalition against voter fraud. Our democracy is too precious to allow its very fundament, our elections, to be subverted.

John Mirisch is the Mayor of Beverly Hills. He has, among other things, created the Sunshine Task Force to increase transparency, ethics and public participation in local government. Mayor Mirisch is a CityWatch contributor.

This piece was originally published by City Watch LA

Beverly Hills Backs Self-Driving Uber in Fight with California

UberBeverly Hills Mayor John A. Mirisch has taken Uber?s side in its fight with the State of California over the company?s effort to roll out self-driving cars without a special permit.

Mirisch backed Uber even as other civi leaders, such as San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, have opposed Uber?s provocative move.

After losing labor court disputes and failing to get the patent protection for ride-hailing, Uber Technologies, Inc. seems willing to bet the company that it can continue to operate un-permitted self-driving cars in California.

Breitbart News noted that after successfully launching the nation?s first legal ?autonomous? (self-driving) ride-hailing pilot in Pennsylvania in August, Uber on December 14 launched a commercial self-driving service in California, without obtaining a Department of Motor Vehicle permits, as Google and 20 manufacturers have done.

After DMV general counsel Brian Soublet?wrote a cease-and-desist letter to Uber?s Head of Advanced Technology, Anthony Levandowski,?threatening legal action, he only acknowledged that there was a ?debate? over Uber needing a permit to operate self-driving cars. Levandowski claimed that with a stand-by driver ?behind the wheel? making the vehicles ?less than fully autonomous,? Uber does not need any California permit.

The hard-ball play by Uber comes as the company is under enormous and legal and regulatory assault worldwide, including the legality of utilizing contract operators without treating them as employees, and its failure to be awarded key ride-hailing patent rights.

U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen in August denied Uber?s $100 million offer to settle a class action lawsuit involving about 380,000 Uber drivers that were misclassified in the U.S. as contractors, rather than employees under state and federal labor law.

Two months later in October, Uber lost what was billed as the UK employment law ?case of the year,? when an employment tribunal ruled that the correct legal definition for two of its ?App Only? PHV (Private Hire Vehicle) operators were ?employees,? rather than ?partners.? That means that approximately 60,000 Uber operators are entitled to all the ?attendant statutory protections? of sick pay, minimum wage and guaranteed holiday time.

Given the similarity of labor laws in the European Union and the British Commonwealth nations around the world, the ruling my have significant ramifications impacting about 250,000 international drivers that can now sue Uber for misclassification financial damages.

Uber?s ability to dominate the ride-hailing industry it created with the ?fundamental idea of a taxi-calling app? rests entirely on U.S. Patent Application 13/672,658?that covers

A method for determining a location relating to an on-demand service on a computing device is provided. One or more processors receiving a transport request from a user. The transport request specifies at least one of a pick-up region or a drop-off region?

But U.S. Patent Office and the courts have refused to grant the issue of that patent several times. Uber is so desperate to secure the issuance of the application?that it is?still making further appeals for a ?Request of Continued Examination,? according to report by?Seeking Alpha?s Andrew Connor.

General Motors, which made a $500 million investment in Uber rival Lyft, acquired the intellectual property rights of former ride-sharing company Sidecar. One analyst suggests that the Sidecar acquisition now gives GM ?the power to shut down Uber? in the ride-hailing business.

Uber now faces an enormous set of legal and financial challenges due to?its current business model relying on individual drivers using their own vehicles for ?ride-hailing.? But with 34 issued patents, including 8 acquired recently from Microsoft, Uber is positioned to dominate a ?ride-dispatch? service that relies on self-driving cars owned by Uber.

Google and insurance interests led an intensive lobbying campaign in 2012 to pass several pieces of California?legislation?that authorized the DMV to create regulatory rules and implement autonomous vehicle tests across the state.

Uber was only a start-up at that time, but has been actively lobbying the DMV in Sacramento over the last two years regarding issues surrounding ride-hailing services and autonomous vehicle regulations.

Uber may be calculating that the potential implosion they face with their current business model is so risky, it may be worth ?betting the farm? in a battle to convince Gov. Brown and the Democrat-controlled Legislature that California needs to fully-deploy autonomous vehicles.

Beverly Hills has already planned for ?a robot fleet of mass transit vehicles? to ease traffic in the congested area ? hence the mayor?s support for Uber.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

SCOTUS Showdown: Obama’s Dysfunctional Relationship With Congress

SCOTUSbuilding_1st_Street_SEAfter this week?s news that Republican Senate leaders will not even consider any Supreme Court nominee until a new president is in office, current President Obama is taking it to the streets in an effort to get his yet unnamed pick approved. Or at least to make some much-needed political hay.

In a guest column on the acronymically-named SCOTUSblog, Obama makes his case that he will do his constitutional duty by naming an appointment and he expects the Senate will do the same by giving the Obama nominee a fair hearing and, at least in Obama?s world, the thumbs up in an up-or-down vote.

The president?s implication is that he is fulfilling his duty while a Republican Senate contingent which has clearly stated it will not act on a Supreme Court replacement for Justice Scalia until the next president is in office, would be guilty of a dereliction of duty. If you read between the lines, it almost could be an admonition straight out of Gilbert and Sullivan: ?He has done his duty. I will do mine. Go ye and do yours.?

Obama talks about his putative nominee?s virtuous qualities: fierce independence; understanding the role of the judiciary in interpreting, not making law; a keen intellect; faultless integrity. Of course. But let?s cut through the crap. At this stage it?s all political posturing. On both sides.

And in some ways, the president?s predicament reminds me of situations faced by the kids in my high school forensics class who after getting busted by the teacher for some infraction or other were faced with detention or another equally odious punishment. In such situations, Bonnie Miller?s response was invariably the same: ?Sorry, hon, you did it to yourself.?

In the past, we have heard criticisms from the White House when Congress passed bills which the president had signaled he would veto. On such occasions it was as if one could hear in the background of the White House declarations Seinfeld?s Larry Thomas deliver one of his lesser-known classic lines with gusto: ?Please, you?re wasting everyone?s time.? The president would then go on to veto the bill in question with a slight head-shake, as if to say ?kids will be kids.?

On a number of occasions, if the president wanted to be spared the inconvenience of a veto, he got his Senate acolytes to use the filibuster. In this way, for example, he was able to see his recent Iran deal sail through, despite majority opposition in both houses of Congress. While the deal was voted down by the House, it failed to get an up-or-down vote in the Senate.

At that time, of course, it was the Republican Senate leadership which decried the Democrats? use of the filibuster. As a key element of American foreign policy, the Iran deal, they claimed, deserved a full hearing and an up-or-down vote. The Democrats not only responded with the ?waste of time? argument, but also suggested that the use of the filibuster was simply yet another way in which ? through their duly elected Senators ? the people of the United States were speaking. Sorry, Republicans, you didn?t have the votes. Next!

Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Democrats are crying ?Foul!? and trying parse the differences between their own use of the filibuster and the Republicans? unwillingness to consider any Obama SCOTUS nominee, which is in itself a form of filibuster.

?Ah, but the filibuster is often used when it comes to legislation. It is unprecedented when it comes to Supreme Court nominees.?

This is sheer nonsense, and it is all political game-playing within the wacky, arcane set of rules the Senate in all its old-school glory sets for itself. When you change those rules, as for instance when the Democrats under then-Majority Leader Harry Reid used the ?nuclear option? to eliminate the filibuster for lower court nominees, don?t be surprised when the new rules are used against you if ever that shoe moves feet. And be even less surprised when the existing rules are used against you. You?re all playing by the same rules, unless, of course, you change them.

Let me make it clear: I personally believe the Republicans in the Senate should give any Obama nominee a hearing (though I do not feel their ?advise and consent? role obligates them to an up-or-down vote). If anything, the Republicans are playing within those old-school rules which allow them to make a decision without actually voting on it. They are not changing the rules, as the Democrats did when they used the nuclear option.

Now it is the president who is on notice that his nominee has no chance of clearing the Senate, as the Senate exercises its constitutionally mandated ?advise and consent? role. In this case of reversed fortunes, it is the Senate which effectively is threatening a veto. And yet, just as the Republicans in Congress don?t always pay heed to the president?s veto threat when it comes to legislation, the president himself seems undeterred by the Senate?s veto threat.

It?s a classic game of political chicken. This time the Republicans will want to frame the matter as one of the American People?s right to decide the matter through the upcoming presidential election; they will want to paint the president as ?wasting time.?? The president will want to paint the Republicans as ?obstructionist? and ?derelict in their duties.? Each side will attempt to inflict the maximum amount of political damage on the other in this election year.

In a sense, the president is reaping what he has sowed through his inability to reach across the aisle during his 7+ years in office. Ultimately, the SCOTUS showdown and game-playing are nothing more than a symptom of his dysfunctional relationship with the Republicans in Congress, which has been exacerbated by his own abuse of executive orders. In short: how can Republicans in Congress trust the president to pick a justice who understands the Supreme Court?s constitutionally mandated role when he himself doesn?t seem to understand his own?

Just as Republicans shouldn?t be surprised when the president follows through with a threatened veto, so should the president not be surprised when the Senate, led by the Republicans, exercises its veto. The immortal words of Bonnie Miller seem to ring truer than ever before.

John Mirisch has served on the Beverly Hills City Council since 2009.? He is currently Vice Mayor and will become Mayor next month.? In a previous turn as Mayor he created the Sunshine Task Force to increase transparency and public engagement in local government.

CA City Appoints 2 Illegal Immigrants to Commission

Huntington ParkThe city of Huntington Park, perhaps best known as being the home town of Rosario Marin, former treasurer of the United States, made news recently by appointing two people who are in this country illegally to its city commissions.

According to a Los Angeles Times article, the two appointees have to successfully complete Live Scan background checks before they can assume their positions.

The article further states that commissioners have to be residents of Huntington Park, though the city can allow up to two commissioners to be nonresidents.

These appointments are understandably controversial and they raise some interesting questions, the first of which is: To what extent should we allow noncitizens (and possibly nonresidents) to participate in local government? The second would be: How should we differentiate between legal and illegal immigrants?

There are some countries, such as Sweden, in which resident noncitizens who are in the country legally are entitled to vote in state and municipal elections. Indeed, a resident noncitizen who is entitled to vote in a Swedish state and municipal election can also be elected to both of those governing bodies.

It should be noted, though, that people who are in Sweden illegally can?t register a domicile and can?t get a Swedish ID number (which is similar to our Social Security number, but with many more practical uses). In other words, people who are in the country illegally can?t vote or serve as elected officials.

Makes sense.

In Beverly Hills, we have a residency requirement for our commissioners that applies to citizens and noncitizens alike. Both citizens and noncitizens have to be legal residents of Beverly Hills prior to being allowed to serve on a commission. So someone who has an address in Beverly Hills, but doesn?t actually live here, would not legally and/or legitimately be considered a resident and would not be permitted to serve on a commission.

I would argue that somebody who is not in the country legally is by definition neither a legal nor legitimate resident of this city, and therefore should not be allowed to serve on a commission.

Big Problem?— The big problem with the Huntington Park situation is illustrated in a quote by former Huntington Park mayor, Ric Loya, who supports the appointments and who said: ?A lot of people who came here legally or illegally, they?re going to say this is great. Everybody can be involved in government, as long as it?s done legally.?

On the one hand, Loya says everyone can be involved in government, as long as it?s done legally. On the other hand, his statement effectively tries to erase any difference between legal and illegal. Legal, illegal: We should all participate, as long as it?s legal. Sorry, there has to be a difference between the meaning of the words ?legal? and ?illegal,? both as a matter of fairness and common sense.

If we try to eliminate the distinctions between ?legal? and ?illegal,? we might as well change the meanings of ?right? and ?wrong.? Neither should we treat those who have broken the rules the same as those who have played by them.

Who ultimately gets to decide which rules, which laws we can break without any consequences?

The notion that someone who is in this country illegally can pass a background check seems somewhat absurd ? unless the check?s sole purpose is to exclude felons who have been convicted of violent crimes.

What, in the background check, aside from the obvious violent crimes and felonies, would disqualify someone from serving on a commission in Huntington Park? A prior conviction for which someone had already served his time? Civil financial infractions? A failed drug test? Whatever the case, it seems that people whose very presence in this country is predicated on a violation of our laws should not be allowed to serve on municipal commissions within a governmental entity.

Those who feel that breaking immigration laws is either a ?victimless infraction? or a ?trivial offense? would need to create a full list and specify which crimes, offenses or misdemeanors should disqualify people from serving on city commissions and why.

Beyond the issue of city commissions, the attempt to render the distinctions between the words ?legal? and ?illegal? meaningless ? as is often done by polemicists who refuse to acknowledge the difference between anti-immigrant positions and anti-illegal-immigration views ? is very dangerous from both a linguistic and a public-policy perspective.

A misappropriation of the terms could effectively justify a selective following of and enforcement of any number of laws as well as, conversely, encourage vigilantism.

While the Huntington Park decision might be motivated by pure populism, it is extremely problematic in its obvious disregard for federal law; the city shouldn?t complain when its own residents start deciding which municipal laws they themselves do and don?t want to obey.

John Mirisch is the Vice Mayor of Beverly Hills and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.

Originally published by L.A. City Watch

Worlds Apart on Kathryn Steinle: When Political Opportunism Reigns Supreme

kathryn-steinle_3369065bSTOCKHOLM, SWEDEN — The small Swedish Jewish Museum is tucked away on a side street. Discreet signage instructs would-be visitors to push a button which activates a camera, so they can be screened before they are granted entry. The museum’s permanent exhibition fills one fairly small room. Most of the objects on display are Jewish ritual items with some connection to Sweden, amid descriptions of the relatively short history of the Jews in Sweden (Jews have a longer history of permanent residence in the U.S. than in Sweden). There is also a small section devoted to World War II, where one item stands out from all the rest.

Compact, commonplace and simple, one everyday item is the museum’s most extraordinary exhibit. Raoul Wallenberg’s small, well-worn, personal telephone book in his own handwriting is displayed, with the page open to Adolf Eichmann’s phone number. Yes, Adolf Eichmann. It’s just one page. And as much as that one page sends one’s train of thought in all sorts of directions, who knows how many other secrets are hidden within the phone book’s pages? Each number has its own story to tell. It’s simply incredible how such a small item can manage to open itself and the viewer to such a wide, horrible swath of the world’s recent history.

At the top of the display case with Wallenberg’s phone book, there is a quote from the Talmud: “Whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” This quotation gained some currency with the movie Schindler’s List, which used it as a kind of tag line. Poetic and true in a multitude of ways, the quotation is also a fitting tribute to Raoul Wallenberg.

When I got home that evening, I read about California Attorney General Kamala Harris, who is preparing for her coronation as Senator Barbara Boxer’s successor, and a comment she made about the recent murder of Kathryn Steinle. Kathryn Steinle was allegedly murdered earlier this month by Jose Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, who was in the U.S. illegally, having been convicted of multiple felonies and having already been deported five times. He had been in the custody of the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, who had ignored an ICE request to turn him over to their agents for deportation.

Harris said: “Let’s not react to one specific case, when we are looking at a national problem. Let’s react to that specific case in prosecuting that specific murder, and making sure he faces very swift consequences and accountability. On the issue of immigration policy, let’s be smarter.”

Not exactly Talmudic wisdom. Not exactly: “Whoever saves a life, it is as if she has saved the entire world.”

Wouldn’t the converse also be true? Indeed, the first part of the passage from the Talmud suggests, “Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world.”

For Kathryn Steinle’s family, an entire world was destroyed. One minute she was strolling through San Francisco with her father, the next minute she was dead. Her last words were a plea to her father for help, much like Kelly Thomas, the unarmed, mentally ill homeless man, who, as he was being beaten to death by six Fullerton police officers some four years ago, cried out in vain to his father to save him. Neither Kathryn Steinle nor Kelly Thomas’s fathers could do anything to save their children, and worlds were brutally, murderously and unnecessarily destroyed.

Kamala Harris: “Our policy should not be informed by our collective outrage about one man’s conduct.”

Can we really, seriously suggest that individual cases can’t and shouldn’t influence our thinking on larger policy considerations, whether it be police brutality or immigration? Can’t individual cases, individual actions, individual situations be the catalyst for positive changes? Shouldn’t this be our goal as policymakers, or will the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Kelly Thomas and Kathryn Steinle remain senseless?

Individuals can and do make a difference, whether it be a courageous individual like Raoul Wallenberg, Rosa Parks or Jackie Robinson. But can’t we also learn from the victims?? Isn’t it our sacred duty to give some kind of meaning to their lives in the face of senseless actions?

And yet Kamala Harris is effectively saying that while Kathryn Steinle’s murderer should be punished, we shouldn’t draw policy conclusions from the circumstances of her murder.

People who are suggesting that Kathryn Steinle’s murder shouldn’t be “politicized” need to look themselves in the mirror and consider how failing to draw the right conclusions from the circumstances of her murder is in itself the worst kind of opportunistic, cynical political hay-making. I doubt Harris suggested after Newtown, Aurora, Columbine, Charleston or Chattanooga that we shouldn’t inform our policies by our collective sadness and outrage at those tragedies. Neither should we fail to take into account the context of Kathryn Steinle’s murder, as well as how it could have been reasonably avoided, in setting policy, even if it means standing up to special interest groups who feel that the context and conclusions may harm their own, narrow agendas.

It’s fairly simple. Jose Francisco Lopez-Sanchez should never have been in the U.S.? He had been convicted multiple times of felonies. He had already been deported five times. He himself says that he chose to return to San Francisco because he felt San Francisco’s current sanctuary city policies protected him from deportation. He was right.

And yet, had he not been in the country, Kathryn Steinle would be alive today. Why is it so hard for Ms. Harris, as well as other politicians, to acknowledge this simple, clear, logical truth?

And this from the highest law-enforcement official in the state.

Instead of pandering and trying to connect the murder to a lack of “comprehensive immigration reform,” it would be fitting if Ms. Harris would accept the simple truth that Lopez-Sanchez should not have been in the U.S. — and then try to figure out solutions to avoid any more senseless murders. Accept responsibility. Acknowledge the fact that had Lopez-Sanchez not been released by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department, Steinle’s murder wouldn’t have happened, couldn’t have happened. Do your job. Work on ways to make sure that felons who are in this country illegally are deported and that “sanctuary city” policies aren’t allowed to protect felons like Lopez-Sanchez. Do the right thing.

In the meantime, all we seem to get is double-talk, sidestepping and excuses.

It’s not only both sad and insulting to us as voters, but until and unless our political leaders are willing to step up and take action to fix the problem, we can only expect more of the same. And it’s just a matter of time until another world, senselessly, is destroyed.

John Mirisch currently serves?on the City Council of Beverly Hills.?As mayor, he created the Sunshine Task Force to work toward a more open, transparent and participatory local government.

Ready for Condi (as VP)

453px-Condoleezza_Rice_croppedI’m not ready for Hillary. I’m not ready for a coronation. I believe — as Barbara Bush is reported to have said at some point — there are more families in this country than the Bushes and Clintons.

Right.

But America has increasingly become a country of brand equity and, rather than winning an election with ideas, parties look to overwhelm with soundbite sloganeering and the power of the brand.

There can be no doubt: for all the pitfalls, the Clinton brand is strong. And it would be made even stronger by the historic notion of electing the first woman president. Indeed, the time has come for a female president.

Just not Hillary…

Some Democratic pols have suggested that efforts to “Romnify” Hillary Clinton would be bound to fail. Mitt Romney was born rich. Hillary wasn’t. But what cost Mitt Romney the 2012 election was the fact that he by nature seemed incapable of understanding the Little Guy/Gal. Comments like “I’ll bet you $10,000…” simply symbolized the distance between him and us, no matter how hard he tried to be relatable.

Hillary’s comments about leaving the White House “dead broke” fall distinctly into this same category. Most Americans simply can’t identify with such statements, which are so foreign to their own lives. The fact that Hillary wasn’t born into wealth hardly mitigates the effect of such an attitude — if anything, quite the opposite. Mitt Romney seemed to be a patrician by nature, even if his father wasn’t. He was “to the manor born.” A genuinely nice guy (or so it seems), but completely out of touch with the average American.

As such, “Romnifying” Hillary should mean trying to portray Hillary Clinton as a well-meaning elitist. Nice, authentic, but simply too distanced from the Little Guy/Gal to really connect. Yet while she is going to great lengths to create the opposite impression, the main difference between Romney and Hillary seems to be one of authenticity. Mitt Romney seems like a genuinely nice, albeit out-of-touch rich dude. You might be able to have a beer with him, but probably wouldn’t have a lot to talk about. Hillary Clinton’s persona seems anything but authentic. The projected veneer of caring about the Little Guy/Gal seems poll-tailored and purely calculated for political gain.

Beyond the obvious other considerations, most Americans would like a president who we could have a beer with, and with whom the conversation wouldn’t feel forced or phony. In many ways, Hillary Clinton no longer seems like a real person; she seems like she has become the prototype of a virtual politician created by focus groups, pollsters and strategic marketing gurus. Her well-polled positions may seem better to many Americans than those which Romney espoused, but they seem almost robotic, lacking heart and authenticity, motivated by what seems to be bottomless ambition.

Beyond the Clinton transparency problems; beyond the sense that Hillary Clinton seems to feel there are two sets of rules: one for the Clintons and one for everybody else; beyond the authenticity issues so brilliantly captured by Kate McKinnon’s SNL portrayal of Clinton, there are voters who simply believe that they are “ready for Hillary” because she’s a woman and it’s time.

It’s not an argument as much as a feeling, but it is a very powerful feeling and difficult to counteract with anything but another female candidate. However, the Republican side, unfortunately, seems to be fresh out of viable female presidential candidates. But the Republicans still could — and should — put a woman on the 2016 presidential ticket.

No, not Sarah Palin.

How about Condoleezza Rice?

In a way, Condi is not only the anti-Sarah Palin, she’s also the anti-Hillary. Personally, I think she would make a great presidential candidate, but she has never run for office, and she refused to allow herself to be drafted to run for the U.S. Senate seat which Senator Barbara Boxer is vacating in California, even though polls in blue California put Condi on top. (When urged to run for Senate, she supposedly quipped that she didn’t want to be one of a hundred of anything.)

But Condi Rice could be the perfect Republican VP candidate in 2016.

Condi would be hard-pressed to say no to Jeb Bush, with whom she is close, should he get the Republican nomination. But a Bush-Rice ticket might reinforce the notion that a Bush 3.0 presidency is a blast from the past with the dynastic downside which a lot of Americans (including myself) want to avoid.

Condi would be the perfect VP to a number of other viable Republican candidates. Scott Walker has the executive experience, but lacks active foreign policy chops. Condi Rice, with all of her foreign policy experience, would be a marvelous counterbalance and complement to a governor like Walker or John Kasich from Ohio, whose jobs just don’t naturally involve a lot of international relations.

Emotionally and demographically, Condi as the Republican VP candidate could neutralize the zeal of certain voters to “create history” by voting for a female president. Condi Rice on the ticket allows voters to make another kind of history by electing a minority woman. Strategically, the inclusion of Condi on the ticket would allow the Republicans to contrast her record and persona with that of Hillary. Just look at the email situation when each was Secretary of State. Condi plays by the rules. Hillary plays by her own set of rules. Condi is erudite and seems somewhat shy, but she passes the “beer test” with flying colors.

This isn’t exactly the case with Hillary Clinton. As Jonah Goldberg wrote in 2007: “She may have star power, but you get the sense that most Americans would like to have their picture taken with her and then drink alone.” If anything, this has only gotten more extreme over the past few years, especially against the background of the Clinton Foundation’s squirrelly quest for foreign cash; there is a running SNL skit series yet to be written with Kate McKinnon as Hillary, struggling to have a beer with average Americans.

In short, Condi, brilliant as she is, seems both humble and authentic. Hillary, brilliant as she is, can’t help herself from exuding a thinly-veiled, self-entitled, ambition-fueled phoniness.

Obviously the top name on the ballot is extremely important; but on, say, a Walker-Rice or Kasich-Rice ticket, Condi could not only make the difference in the 2016 election, she could also play a major role in the succeeding Republican administration. She could help redefine the Republican Party as inclusive, tolerant and not just for rich people: a party of freedom, fairness and a force for the Little Guy/Gal.

One of Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogans is “Hillary for America.” It feels like it really should be “Hillary for Hillary.” Sorry, I’m just not ready for that. I’m not ready for a new flood of foundation donations from foreign governments and others anxious to gain access and presumably influence; not ready for a whole new panoply of conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety; not ready for reasonable criticism to be dismissed with curt, Nixonian waves of the hand; not ready for dynastic politicians being held to lower standards than everyone else. If anything, I’m ready for some more realness in our political system, wherever it may come from. Heck, despite differences on some of the issues, I’d even be readier for Bernie or Elizabeth than I am for Hillary.

But I most certainly am ready for Condi. And for any number of reasons so should the Republican Party, so should the nation be ready for her, too.

John Mirisch is Vice Mayor of Beverly Hills

Water-wise in Beverly Hills

Beverly HillsWith headlines like ?Big water users like Beverly Hills, Newport hit hardest by Brown order,? Beverly Hills is being portrayed in the media, including the L.A. Times, as a water hog in our drought-stricken state. Beyond such headlines, this impression is only strengthened by such false information as that Beverly Hills has ?no water restrictions.?

The reality is that we have in place conservation measures which are similar to those in effect in Los Angeles ? whose water conservation efforts the Times praised in the very same article.? We have tiered pricing; we don?t allow hand washing of cars; we limit watering of lawns to two days per week.

But the name of our city is ?Beverly Hills,? and it?s sometimes hard to go beyond the stereotype. Despite the fact that some 60 percent of our residents are renters, we are indeed home to some large estates with a lot of grass and greenery. There is a reason that Beverly Hills is known as ?the Garden City.? The beauty of our city is also most certainly one of the reasons we are able to attract tourists from around the world, who also help inject revenue into the larger Southern California economy.

But we don?t live in a bubble and in addition to the conservation measures we already have in place, we are working on a Water Master Plan which will emphasize conservation and sustainability. We?re looking to find ways to recycle gray water and to use shallow ground water. We?d like to continue our regional work to find ways to recycle storm water. And, of course, we want to continue our conservation and efficiency efforts, which include encouraging the replacement of water guzzlers with drought-resistant plants — there is now much discussion of replacing lawns with Astroturf. ?(Personally, I believe that live, natural, drought-resistant ground coverings are by far the best option. In general, I oppose the replacement of turf with fake grass; I also oppose the replacement of trees with fake trees.)

We recognize that ?we?re all in this together,? as we?ve so often heard from Sacramento.? But with the governor?s mandate for urban areas to cut back on water usage by 25 percent, one can really understand why L.A. Times columnist George Skelton asks, ?Why do farmers get a free pass from Brown?? Good question, especially considering that agricultural use accounts for 80 percent of the state?s overall water usage.

In excluding agricultural uses from his executive order, the governor seems to have forgotten that we?re all in it together. He has suggested that an executive order which would, for example, limit ultra-thirsty crops, would be an instance of ?Big Brother.? This seems to be a very selective application of the concept of ?Big Brother.? Isn?t telling a homeowner what days she can water her plants also an example of ?Big Brother??

According to the governor, it would seem some of us are more in it together than others.

While I recognize that agriculture is an important part of our state?s fiscal well-being, the 80 percent water usage it accounts for corresponds to a mere 2 percent of the state?s overall economy. Let?s not forget that urban areas are also important contributors to the state?s economy, and water is important to their success and livability. However, if the governor is so concerned about urban water use, he should take pro-active steps to rein in future development, as well. Even with significantly reduced per capita water usage, even as we continue to develop further hydrological efficiencies, increased development will quite naturally result in an overall rise in demand for this limited resource in our parched state.

Instead of solely focusing on urban areas, the governor should be looking at an overall water conservation strategy which attempts to create a better balance, which adheres to the principles of fairness, and which will ensure that we actually are all in this together.

For starters, like the city of Beverly Hills has already done as the first city in the state, the governor should ban fracking in all of California. Fracking represents not only a colossal waste of water, but the high pressure pumping of water and chemicals into the ground can provide no benefits whatsoever either to our environment or to our aquifers.

We in Beverly Hills are more than prepared to come together with the rest of the region and the entire state to do our part to create sustainable long-term solutions to the challenges that our climate presents us with. After all, our city is built upon the site of the old Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas, the ranch of the ?coming together of the waters.?

But if we are all in this together, then let?s really all be in it together.

John Mirisch is the Vice Mayor of the City of Beverly Hills.