Council Welcomes Commissioner Gary Ross; Departing Commissioners Voice Concerns

This summer’s City Council meetings have begun by welcoming new Commissioners and sending departing ones off in style. 

On Aug. 17, the Council welcomed new Planning Commissioner Gary Ross, and bade fond farewells to former Arts and Culture Commissioner Zale Richard Rubins, former Human Relations Commissioner Karen Popovich Levyn, and former Traffic and Planning Commissioner David Seidel. During their departing addresses, Rubins and Seidel briefly discussed what they see as shortcomings in Commission procedures.

Ross, an employment attorney who previously served on the Health and Safety Commission, kept his remarks brief, especially when compared to the outgoing Commissioners. “I’m so grateful to have been appointed to this position,” Ross said. “I’m honored that the Council has entrusted me with this position, and I want to thank each and every one for placing that confidence in me….we’ve done good things so far, and like you say Mr. Mayor, there are many important things ahead, so it will be a lot of work, but I’m prepared and really looking forward to it.”

After Ross, the Council awarded its first plaque of recognition to photographer Zale Richard Rubins, who has also served on the Architectural Commission. Rubins thanked the Council, fellow Commissioners, and family, but also expressed concern at what he feels is a lack of direction and organization in the Arts and Culture Commission, until recently the Fine Arts Commission. “The lack of defined responsibilities and disciplined pathways for bringing in or promoting projects with the City Council, other Commissions, and civic organizations can lead to unnecessary operational confusion and waste,” Rubins said. “Because of the change of the Commission’s purview, the importance of the fine art aspect of the Commission is being diminished. As a result, there should be clear-cut distinctions made and understood between fine art and public art, and procurement procedures throughout the city.” 

Rubins also recommended requiring the appointment of at least one collector, gallerist, or graphics professional to the Commission. “It is essential to have these vested people on the Commission. It more than helps making those necessary specialized decisions relating to the distinctions between fine art and public art as well as in their acquisition, preservation, and ultimate value to the city,” he said.

Teacher and publicist Karen Popovich Levyn of the Human Relations Commission said she was proud of the Commission’s efforts to provide grants to the community and develop different kindness and civility initiatives like February’s Kindness Week and the current Embrace Civility Awards. “The Human Relations Commission is a wonderful commission and really close to my heart, because it really deals with human civility and human rights,” she said, before reading the Embrace Civility Statement inviting every community member to “support an environment where civility, respect, and responsible actions prevail.” 

David Seidel, who runs the education office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and once taught science at Beverly Hills High School is also a member of the Beverly Hills Rotary Club and a former member of the Health and Safety Commission. “It’s a privilege to be selected as a Commissioner and it’s an honor to serve, and one of the clear highlights of being in the city, whether it’s a commission or another activity, is the people you get to work with,” Seidel said, thanking fellow commissioners, city staff, and his family. He finished by saying that he is concerned about inefficiencies in the Commission requiring staff time, which he called “one of the great unidentified sunk costs within the city at a time when we can least afford it.” In May 2020, Seidel sent a memo to City Manager George Chavez detailing what he saw as inefficiencies, and since “little has changed,” he plans to revise and resend the memo. 

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