Down and Dirty in Beverly Hills

When Tip O' Neill remarked that "All politics is local," he probably wasn't thinking about Beverly Hills.

Or maybe he was. Because in the throes of the upcoming March 3 City Council election the town that is known as "the place where the world comes to meet" has instead become the world capital of anonymous slimeball politics.

I should know: I'm one of the 11 candidates running for 3 seats on the Beverly Hills City Council, a basically non-paying gig. And I have become a lightning rod for the full force of anonymous sleaze attacks and dirty tricks. And the only one in this election, for that matter.

As recently as a year ago, I wouldn't have dreamed of running for public office. But as a 4th generation Beverly Hills resident, I was very concerned at some of the colossally bad and short-sighted decisions that were being made by our City Council. It seemed to me that the City Council majority felt they worked for the lobbyists and special interests rather than the residents. Sound familiar?

My motivations for running were simple: it was something I felt in my gut that I had to do. I felt that I had to run to help protect the City from losing its soul. I wanted to make sure that my 20 month old son Vin would be able to enjoy everything that I feel makes my hometown so special.

Perhaps my sentimental weakness for my hometown clouded my judgment and made me a bit naïve. Yes, I'd expect lobbyists and special interests to prevail in DC or even Sacramento. But in Beverly Hills? In our cosmopolitan little town where it's more like 2 degrees of separation rather than 6?

I vowed to put the residents first. I vowed to restore transparency to a City Hall which has stacked the deck in favor of developers and special interests. I vowed to even the playing field for the residents, who have been ignored and taken for granted in every which way. I vowed to end the culture of bad deals for the City and great deals for developers, who invariably were represented by ex-mayor lobbyists.

I didn't know if I had a chance against the Establishment, but I knew with the backing of a loyal group of like-minded residents, I was going to give it everything I had.

And then came the cold-shower.

It came a mere few days after Clif Smith, the publisher of the local newspaper, The Beverly Hills Courier, courageously exposed the inner workings of the "Beverly Hills Insiders' Club," which has run the City for its own benefit for so many years. It came a few days after the insiders' polling evidently showed that their candidate might be in trouble and it has not let up since.

First there was the anonymous email implying that I'm anti-Persian and anti-Semitic. Go tell it to my mohel. Then there was anonymous email and website suggesting I was lying about the endorsement I had received from the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

Then there was a creepy, voice-distorted robocall telling voters that my idea for the City to use the slow economy to land bank and purchase property in Beverly Hills for municipal uses and investment was something else entirely. In fact, the anonymous robocall suggested, if I were elected, people's houses would be confiscated under eminent domain. A similar anonymous email with the same false claim was circulated a day or so later.

But the true piece-de-resistance of these anonymous masters of slime was the robocall that went out to thousands of residents on Thursday night. These calls all went out sometime between 10:45 pm and midnight and purported to be from my campaign. A drunken-sounding woman incoherently told people to vote for me. The clear intention of this call, which evidently was paid for and engineered by the anonymous supporters of another candidate, was to upset the voters and discredit me.

This may represent a new low in the annals of Beverly Hills politics. Boy, have we come a long way since our first mayor, Will Rogers.

You ask then: why do I want to enter politics?

I don't.

That's the point. I want to stay a resident and make sure our voices are heard. I want to make sure our City lives up to its considerable potential. I want Beverly Hills to remain Beverly Hills. And I never wanted to be a politician. Certainly, I never thought I would be subjected to such vicious yet ridiculous attacks by anonymous sleazebags and cowardly chazers.

But here I am. In the other Beverly Hills local paper, the Beverly Hills Weekly, publisher Josh Gross, who endorsed me, wrote: "Mirisch is a 'Mister Smith goes to Rexford Drive'-type candidate. (Beverly Hills City Hall is located on Rexford Drive). He has no ulterior motive for running, besides a desire to give back. Unlike many contenders in recent years, he will not seek paid clients while on the Council. Some see his campaign as an uphill race. We say: he deserves our vote and our support."

Mr. Smith, huh? As in long-time Beverly Hills resident Jimmy Stewart?

There are three more days to go now, plenty of time for the insiders' club to come up with new dirty tricks. And each dirty trick is an attack not only on my candidacy, but on democracy in Beverly Hills as well.

I hope we both can withstand the assault. I hope our voters are smart enough to reject anonymous sleazeball tactics by those so desperate to hold onto power that there are no depths to which they will not stoop. Maybe then we can finally restore, at least in some small measure, the trust in a local government for the people, by the people and of the people. If we can give the residents of Beverly Hills a Council we can look up to rather than one which looks down on us, we may very well be able to create our own Capra-esque ending.