What were the highlights of last week’sU.S. Conference of Mayors?
I think the highlight was just the fact youhave a group of mayors who come togetherand have the opportunity to talk aboutissues facing their cities and the strategiesthat they use to solve those issues. Theamazing thing is no matter the size of thecity or the state that it’s located in, we allface similar challenges. Basically it was asharing of ideas and strategies cities wereusing to solve those challenges.Pension reform is a huge issue that facescities across the country and changing thenegotiations that cities are going throughwith their various labor segments or unionsis challenging. One of the things we talkedabout, I was very proud to be able to speakon the ARMP [Alternative RetirementMedical Plan] program we have in the city[that gives employees the opportunity to optout of their existing benefit in exchange fora defined contribution plan or a one-timelump sum payout]. That was somethingseveral cities have asked for informationon because they found that fascinating. Itwas something they didn’t know about, andpeople were saying, “Wow, this is an inno-vative idea. Can we get more details?”Everyone talks about attracting tourism.In the new world of advertising outside of your region, social media is very impor-tant. People had some really great ideasof things they were doing to use socialmedia and other outlets that are much lessexpensive in terms of advertising. Becauseof budget cuts they’re facing, [cities] arebeing very creative.
How was Orlando?
It was great. I had no idea that the Cityof Orlando has 55 million visitors a year. If you think of Las Vegas, Las Vegas is hop-ing to hit 40 million in the upcoming years.The tourism attraction is great there. Peoplewere very hospitable. Mayor Buddy Dyerfrom Orlando is a delightful person whocreated an incredible experience for us. Hemade sure we understood what they weredoing there. Again it’s the sharing of infor-mation. It’s really an opportunity to talkand see what people are actually doing.
What ideas regarding Orlando’stourism outreach can be used here?
Orlando is a much bigger city thanBeverly Hills. They do have three majorattractions there with Universal [Studios],Disney [World] and Epcot. It’s a little bitdifferent but having said that, I do believethat their regional marketing and outreachto the surrounding cities and communi-ties—working together not just to bringpeople to Orlando in those three areas butto get them to see and visit some of the cit-ies in surrounding areas—is very effective.Smaller cities around Orlando reach intoOrlando and say, “If you’re here, comevisit us. Come visit the unique region of Florida.” When you look at the Westside,Beverly Hills is a unique place to be, butwe don’t have sandy beaches. People whocome to stay for the beaches in SantaMonica or the Marina area or Venice, wewant them to come to Beverly Hills. Weneed to be working together to get peopleto visit us and come to what will be ourcultural center, the Annenberg. People whovisit Beverly Hills may want to go to theGeffen, so why not support and help themget to the Geffen and partner with theGeffen? Those are the types of things Ipicked up that I believe are really importantfor the long-term plans to attract tourists toBeverly Hills both from the local regionand from the national and internationalregions.
During the conference, you were onthe educational reform, transportationand international affairs standingcommittees. Would you like to highlightone of those?
The one that everyone knows probablymost about is the transportation commit-tee. It’s really critical to get out there thatmayors and cities, the reason why theypush so hard for the transportation bill,when you actually look at it, it’s beensomething like 1,000 days with no trans-portation bill. When you look at infrastruc-ture needs, when you look at job creation,when you look at opportunities to actuallyhave interconnectability from one region tothe next, a transportation bill has to pass.When you look at America Fast Forward[a loan program included in the transpor-tation bill] as an example, putting asideits local impact [related to the WestsideSubway Extension], regions are willing tosay, “We’re willing to borrow the moneyand repay it.” It [would put] 2 million new jobs in place across the country. You canimagine the impact that has on any region.It doesn’t matter if it’s Beverly Hills, theWestside of Los Angeles, whether it’s thenortheast border or San Francisco or themiddle of the country where they’re talk-ing about adding high speed rail and thingslike that to interconnect Midwestern cities,[creating] 2 million new jobs, that’s incred-ible. I’ve always said at the end of the day,not only do you put people to work, [butyou also] have capital improvement, youhave a capital asset when it’s done. Youcreate jobs [because] somebody has tomaintain and run those facilities and runthat transportation. When you look at everymajor city across the country everyonetalks about how traffic is such an impedi-ment to mobilization, people’s ability towork in urban centers, the ability to [take]the jobs that we want. You’ve got to havesomething that gets people to and from.[The standing committee] hashed outand discussed the issues, and actually chal-lenged Congress to start doing its job andto figure out a way to work together. Themayors that were there—it’s a bipartisangroup of mayors—are working really hardto fix cities in the region and doing whatCongress has continually failed to do.
Who were some of the mayors you met?
Michael Nutter, who is the mayor of Philadelphia and the incoming president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which isa very prestigious and powerful position.He’s just an amazing man. The things he’sdone already in Philadelphia to deal withcrime, to deal with educational needs of themost needy in his community, to be out onthe streets and create a government that’sresponsive to his community, he’s a greatleader. It’s my belief this will not be his lastpolitical stop.[Sacramento Mayor] Kevin Johnson.He’s a friend. He was just elected for thesecond vice president position, so he willbe president [of the U.S. Mayors] in acouple of years. The work he’s doing toreally push education reform in his cityis impressive. He chairs the educationalreform committee, so I sat with him on that.He’s a guy who just got re-elected and isworking really hard to push for educationalreform to deal with issues around tenureand pay for performance and teacher men-toring and training. Those types of thingsare really cutting edge. In that educationalreform committee meeting, Arne Duncan,who is the secretary of education, was thereas well. It was a back-and-forth dialogueof what cities are doing. [Duncan] walkedaway with new ideas of what mayors aredoing in cities for public education. It wasreally pretty impressive.
Tell us what you learned from othermayors that could be useful in BeverlyHills.
Again, the idea of how you go aboutworking to brand your community. Someof the branding ideas go back to using vari-ous facets of social media to get your brandout to a wider group that tells them whatyou actually offer. The brand of RodeoDrive is a great brand but also [it’s a goodidea to use social media to reach largegroups of people about] some of the otheractivities that exist [in Beverly Hills].The other thing I learned is that we areon the right track with pension reform thatwe have done in Beverly Hills. There’s stilla ways to go, but we’re certainly headingin the right direction. No one has madeit there all at once. Other cities have hadlabor challenges trying to move forwardto get it all [done] at once. Cities that havedone it the best seem to have been thosethat have worked with their labor uniongroups and actually gotten there over aperiod of time.The other thing everyone talked about isinfrastructure and the fact that sometimesdeferred maintenance of infrastructure isnot a good thing to do. I’m really happyto say that Beverly Hills doesn’t kick thatcan down the road. People are looking atus. When I talked about ideas of how wepave our streets and how we resurfacethe streets and while many people say,“Why are you doing this? The streets are
Beverly Hills Weekly
LOCAL LEADERS UNITE
Mayor Willie Brien discusses last week’s U.S. Conferenceof Mayors in Orlando
By Melanie Anderson
Mayor Willie Brien (left) looks on as Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (center) greets Racine, Wisc. Mayor John Dickert
P h o t o : U . S . C o n f e r e n c e o f M a y o r s