Author: John Mirisch

Why you need to vote NO on ‘Measure BH’

It’s all about the Money

All the money is on the ironically-named ‘Measure BH.’ It would pick the pockets of Beverly Hills taxpayers to the tune of close to $400 million and give the Beverly Hills School District more construction funds to do what they were supposed to with the $334 million from Measure E, which Beverly Hills voters passed less than ten years ago.

All the money is on Measure BH because the BHUSD is cynically counting on feel-good propaganda to dupe 55% of the voters this June into voting for the tax. (Most tax increases require a 2/3 majority, but because the entire school board drank the Kool-Aid this time, Measure BH only requires the lower threshold.)

Literally, all the money is on Measure BH because this feel-good and deceptive campaign is being financed and supported by those who would directly profit from its passage: bond sales companies, school consultants, construction interests and more. In other words, all the money is on Measure BH because the special interests have stacked the deck against Beverly Hills taxpayers.

Scare tactics and institutional blackmail

Door hangers and other ads attempt to paint the following horror scenario in the event that Measure BH doesn’t pass:

  • Students will remain in portables at boarded-up schools.
  • School auditoriums will remain closed and in disrepair.
  • Critical security infrastructure will not be implemented.

Let’s ask ourselves: Who put our kids in portables at boarded-up schools? Who closed the auditoriums and kept them in disrepair? Who neglected to build “critical security infrastructure”? It was the School Board, including a majority of current board members, who did all of these things.

And now they want an additional $400 million?

Are they kidding?

Boardmembers are holding our children hostage and saying, “Show us the money or the kids won’t be safe and will be in boarded-up schools.” What they are not saying is that the School Board is responsible for the boarded-up schools because they did not spend the hundreds of millions of Measure E funds wisely. Through Measure E and other past bonds, the residents of Beverly Hills have already given close to a half billion dollars to our schools.

The threats and blackmail are shameful. The fact that the District is sponsoring such deceptive propaganda is outrageous. And the fact that they are selling us the exact same bill of goods they sold us in 2008 with Measure E an insult.

Definition of insanity:

Repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.

The propaganda about Measure BH would have us believe that this is the purpose for the proposed bond issue:

To provide safe and modernized school facilities, make necessary structural seismic safety repairs, upgrade, repair, and reconstruct aging classrooms, infrastructure, multiuse, gyms, libraries, science, technology & labs; roofing, plumbing, heating, ventilation and electrical systems; renovate Beverly Hills Unified School District schools to better protect student/staff from unauthorized entry, security risks and natural disasters.

But the above description isn’t about Measure BH. Those are promises the BHUSD made us ten years ago for Measure E. The residents of Beverly Hills believed those promises and gave the School Board $344 million to fulfill them.

But those promises were not kept and the BHUSD is now effectively asking us to again pay for the same things yet expect different results despite their track record of failure.

And then there is the deception. During the Measure E campaign in 2008, the School Board promised us that the bonds could be financed “without raising the current level of property taxes.” They lied; not once but multiple times as the bond raised our taxes several times in succession.

And now they want an additional $400 million?

And then there is the disingenuous promise of “stringent oversight.” Remember when Measure E promised a “Citizens’ Oversight Committee”? Lest we forget, that body had no power and could not serve as a check on inefficient and wasteful spending. Likewise the “stringent oversight” promised by the Measure BH oversight committee would have no additional authority to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. We would yet again be handing the BHUSD an unaccountable blank check with yet another feel-good rubber-stamp committee meant to convince voters that there is real and meaningful oversight.

Are they kidding?

Unfortunately, these rubber-stamp bodies provide after-sight, not oversight. Frustration with the lack of real oversight was underlined by a recent resignation of one of the Measure E committee’s prominent members.

Our school district was once a Lighthouse District. Our High School was once among the top public high schools in the nation. No more. Sadly, the education we are offering our children is far from where it should be. And the District is losing students as a result of our under-performing schools.

Now the BHUSD is seriously talking about reconfiguration and perhaps eliminating the K-8 model which we have had for decades. Yet the District also says that potential reconfiguration will have “no impact” on plans to spend close to $400 million on facilities. As if potential reconfiguration would not necessarily inform the best way to spend our money. This ridiculous assertion is simply another insult to our collective intelligence.

Don’t Be Fooled by the “Rah-Rah” Groupthink

We should not be giving this District another dime until BHUSD can right the ship; until it can prove it deserves our trust to spend an additional $400 million on top of the $344 million from Measure E; until it provides our kids with the kind of education they deserve; and until it stops breaking promises to parents and voters.

It is my hope that Beverly Hills voters will not be fooled by the glossy door-hangers and “do it for the kids” rhetoric. Campaign cheerleading and slick social media messaging can’t paper over the institutional blackmail and deception that has been peddled to get yet another $300+ million bond past the voters of Beverly Hills.

A more appropriate designation for the Measure BH campaign would be ‘Measure BS.’ I urge you to vote NO on this ill-advised money-grab to send a message to our School Board that it should refocus its efforts on what must be its core mission: namely, giving our children a world-class education.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me at if you have any questions or would like to talk personally.


John Mirisch
Vice Mayor, City of Beverly Hills

Read More Why you need to vote NO on ‘Measure BH’

BHEA’s Salary Formula: Fiscally Imprudent & Unsustainable

The BHEA, the teachers’ union in Beverly Hills, accuses me of “uncivility” because I suggested their position that defends linking teacher salaries to Beverly Hills property values is “intellectually dishonest.”

(They also accuse me of being misleading and factually inaccurate in my takedown of their bogus arguments. More on that later).

As an elected leader, I look at it as my job to defend our residents and our City against attempts to insult our collective intelligence and I make no apologies for it. What is uncivil, in my opinion, is the attempt to spin and deceive our Community about a salary formula which could vie fairly to be the textbook definition of the concept of “fiscal imprudence.” I look at it as my duty – and a mitzvah – to take a strong position against any attempts to insult our collective intelligence, whether the matter has to do with land use, fiscal responsibility or anything else.

As I mentioned in my 2015 letter, from an intellectual standpoint, it would make sense (and not be intellectually dishonest) to suggest linking teacher salaries to performance metrics, such as test scores and/or college admissions – or even school and District rankings. Personally, I don’t believe that this would be good policy, but at least a reasonable argument could be made as to why performance and salaries should be linked.

But what in the name of heaven do Beverly Hills teacher salaries have to do with Beverly Hills property values? We all understand that Beverly Hills property values tend to appreciate well and above the CPI. How does it make any fiscal sense – or logical sense, for that matter – to link teacher salaries to something as extraneous and irrelevant as Beverly Hills property values?

On the other hand, Beverly Hills property values have absolutely nothing to do with the performance of BH teachers and no reasonable argument can be made that linking teacher salaries to Beverly Hills property values is good for the Community at large. It is disingenuous to make that argument. One might as well link salaries to the weather in Ulan Bator, to Cody Bellinger’s OBP or to how often Rahm Emmanuel gets indigestion after eating spicy food. Fiscal responsibility 101 suggests that any policies which tie the hands of the organization responsible for expenditures is simply bad fiscal planning.

As I stated in 2015, teachers have a right to fair and sustainable salaries, but these should be negotiated in collective bargaining with no linkage to extraneous factors. As I pointed out, condoning such a ridiculous link would quite naturally encourage City employees to push for a similar link between their own salaries and Beverly Hills property values.

The JPA is a lease agreement which is supposed to provide in-kind value to the City at the level we are paying for. The City is in no way obligated to simply give the money to the schools, and while I have been a strong supporter of the JPA in the past, I simply cannot overlook a fiscally absurd policy which will damage our schools and could damage the City. It’s just not worth it.

We have a choice when it comes to leasing facilities and under such circumstances and I certainly wouldn’t choose to rent from a landlord who thinks it’s OK to insult the collective intelligence of the people of Beverly Hills.

As for the BHEA’s contention that I state “inaccurate and misleading information,” their response does not point out any single piece of “inaccurate and misleading information.”

What the BHEA does do is attempt to counter my suggestion that they split future pension cost increases with the School District. Now, a lot of public employee pension information may seem like inside baseball. And BHEA likes to talk about what’s ‘fair.’ But is it fair for the district’s pension share to increase from 12.58% to 19.1% within the next three years? Is it fair for the taxpayers to be on the hook for an increasing share of pension costs even as the overall pension obligation continues to grow with property tax receipts as under the current contract formula? While taxpayers pay, the teachers’ share is capped at only 10.5%.

For the BHEA to suggest that the Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2014 (PEPRA) is “dealing” with the “fiscal threat” of ballooning pension costs that I referred to – and which the teachers’ themselves suggest is the main cause of the School District’s fiscal woes — is both self-contradictory and a half-truth at best.

Pension costs are not the main cause of the District’s fiscal problems. And even they were, evidently PEPRA is not “dealing with the fiscal threat” in any meaningful way. In point of fact, PEPRA is window dressing which only addresses some 12% of the state’s public employee pension problems. PEPRA is simply not addressing the pension crisis in any meaningful way. (The ultimate solution, moving public employees to 401k-style pensions or hybrid plans, is both simple and impossible in the current political climate because of the power of public sector unions in California).

On the other hand, the BHEA’s interpretation of PEPRA’s intent is also wrong. There is nothing in PEPRA which precludes the District from asking the teachers for additional concessions in the event that the District’s share of future pension costs continues to increase due to the poor rate of return of the pension fund. (Another irony is that union representatives control the pension fund, yet the taxpayers assume all the risk of their bad investments.) Indeed, PEPRA allows for this kind of cost sharing through collective bargaining.

The employees of the city of Costa Mesa, for example, have agreed to cost sharing in the event of future employer pension rate increases. In the BHEA’s case, that would mean teachers and the District split the difference between the District’s current 12.58% employer share and the projected 19.1%. (In Costa Mesa the employees actually pay for 60% of any increases).

The BHEA takes issue with my use of the word “unsustainable” to describe the current salary formula. But linking teacher salaries to Beverly Hills property values ties the hands of District Boardmembers and does nothing to alleviate the pension crisis. Furthermore, at the same time as base salary and ‘statutory benefits’ (including pensions) increase with a tax rise, the District’s overall obligation will increase at a compounding rate as it will pay an increasingly-disproportionate share of the total costs. In my book, that is the very definition of “not sustainable.”

But beyond that, linking teacher salaries to Beverly Hills property values is just plain wrong. While it should be clear to most that the salary formula is paydirt for the union, it is the brazen attempt to convince us that such a linkage is also actually great for our Community which is both disingenuous and insulting to our collective intelligence.

While I believe the BHEA’s heels-in-the-ground position is only representative of a few individuals prone to casuistry, their unfortunate attempt to sell us a bill of goods gives rise in my mind to something I never thought could happen: the thought that maybe the time has come in Beverly Hills for charter schools.

Read More BHEA’s Salary Formula: Fiscally Imprudent & Unsustainable