In an email sent on Monday to Beverly Hills Courier publisher Clif Smith and reporter Abbey Hood, Beverly Hills Mayor Barry Brucker expresses his "concern that the Courier articles have been framed to scare and panic our residents about some unsubstantiated fiscal doom and that the Hilton project is [the city's] only road to financial sustainability." Here's the backstory: Like every publication, the Courier has been covering the proposed--and very contentious-- Hilton renovation/Waldorf Astoria development (it'll go up for a vote next week). Is the Courier biased in its coverage, pushing an agenda that would seem to support the project? The Mayor (pictured) seems to think so. Here's his response to a Courier story that suggests that if the Waldorf isn't voted through in Beverly Hills, it would be grabbed by LA and would rise at 1000 Santa Monica Boulevard in Century City (architect Jean Nouvel's old haunting grounds). Mayor Brucker writes: "To the best of my recollection, the SunCal property may have financing challenges and therefore it would only be speculation to suggest that the Waldorf has considered that property. In fact, at the Planning Commission review the Waldorf Corporate said the ONLY location under consideration was the SM/Wilshire Corner in Beverly Hills. Mayor Villaraigosa's comments about wanting a hotel of the caliber of the Waldorf are obvious… All of Century City is being entitled for 40-50 story projects." There's so much more to read in his email to the Courier. It's after the jump.
Mayor Barry Brucker's response to the Courier's publisher and writer:
TO: CLIF SMITH AND ABBEY HOOD
Dear Clif and Abbey,
After reading this weeks Courier, I felt it imperative that I share my disappointment regarding the tenor of the articles written in the Courier these last two weeks. I have received numerous phone calls inquiring about the truth and validity of the headline " City Freezes Hiring: Plans For Police, Fire, Other Cutbacks" which has caused a panic throughout our community. The inference about a hiring freeze, and that we are contemplating cutting Police, Fire, Library and our Roxbury Senior Center services should the Hilton project not pass on Nov. 4th has NOT been contemplated, vetted or discussed by the City Council. In addition, the quote in last weeks article suggesting that the "City of Beverly Hills could lose as much as $79 million…from 9900 and the Nov. 4th Beverly Hilton Project" was misleading in order to suggest that our General Fund budget will decline by 50%. Nothing could be further from the truth.
For the record, please note the following:
1. Since the Courier hit on Friday, I have had numerous discussions with City Manger Rod Wood, who informed me that his comments were "completely taken out of context" and that the articles were "mixing comments on completely different issues".
2. The Mayor and Council have NOT been informed about any cuts to our valued City Services. There are NO cuts or freezes on any existing positions. In fact, as recently as this past Friday, October 24th, there were employment offerings posted on the City Website.
3. The Council has NEVER discussed cutting Police, Fire, Paramedic, Library or our Roxbury Senior Center. The first I had heard about this statement was reading the quote in the paper on Friday.
4. To the best of my recollection, the SunCal property may have financing challenges and therefore it would only be speculation to suggest that the Waldorf has considered that property. In fact, at the Planning Commission review the Waldorf Corporate said the ONLY location under consideration was the SM/Wilshire Corner in Beverly Hills. Mayor Villaraigosa's comments about wanting a hotel of the caliber of the Waldorf are obvious… All of Century City is being entitled for 40-50 story projects.
5. I have served on the Budget and Finance Ad Hoc committee for the last four years. We have not, and would not, factor a potential development project (let alone one that is subject to a referendum as Measure H) into our budget plans and projections. . . to do so would be irresponsible. We have maintained our top AAA finance rating for being fiscally responsible and investment conservative. I am proud that our financial projections and fiscal solvency (for supporting our Police, Fire and School JPA) were not contingent on the success of the Hilton Measure H outcome or any other pending real estate deal.
6. The projected Hilton property tax and TOT revenues would not be realized for at least 4-6 years until construction is complete. There would not be any immediate financial impact from TOT or Property taxes for the City. That seemed to be omitted from your article.
7. Our City services continue to be maintained at a first rate level. This Council has never waivered from that commitment to the community and unlike the inference it is not dependent on any single development project happening.
8. With the Montage set to open in less than a month, we WILL see real TOT dollars benefiting the City NOW.
9. Having just returned from the NYC sales mission (for which you, Clif, attended and contributed greatly) I spoke extensively about our strong financial position and fiscal/revenue/investment strength. The response from virtually every retail and development entity was positive acknowledgement that Beverly Hills is a premiere location for retail and business re-investment, expansion and development.
My concern, which is shared by many in the community (North, South, East & West) is that the Courier articles have been framed to scare and panic our residents about some unsubstantiated fiscal doom and that the Hilton project is its only road to financial sustainability. I hope that your articles this week will reflect the true picture of our City and our unwavering commitment to maintaining the finest Police, Fire, Paramedic, Library, Senior Center and other City services. This community counts on its elected officials to be fair and balanced… likewise, we expect the same from our valuable newspaper.
PS: This note is not intended as a "letter to the editor". It was sent out of respect for both of you and the integrity of the paper, and as a personal commentary on the last few articles and contextual clarification of our City Manager's quotes.