Mayor Friedman is Ready to Meet the City’s Challenges

Mayor Lester Friedman has an ambitious agenda to not only prepare Beverly Hills to meet the problems of today, but also the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.

In an interview with the Courier, Friedman laid out his goals for his second term as mayor. This includes continuing to address issues around power outages, antisemitism and public safety; strengthening the city’s finances through new revenue streams; and readying for the arrival of two Metro stations in Beverly Hills and three major sporting events in Los Angeles. 

It’s a lot to accomplish. But, between his seemingly inexhaustible supply of motivation and fantastic team of city staff, council members and commissioners, Friedman is not daunted by the workload. 

“One of the measures that I will be working on is to expand the 24-hour day to 28 hours, that would give me four more hours of sleep,” he jokingly told the Courier.

“In all seriousness, my wife and I moved to the community for the schools and boy the fact that we have such a great police and fire department were amazing extras,” he continued. “I’m so thankful for the opportunities that the city has given me to be successful personally and this is really my way of giving back.”

Friedman was elected to the City Council in 2017 after six years on the Traffic and Parking Commission and first served as Mayor during the pandemic in 2020. In addition to his civic duties, Friedman runs his own law practice and is an official scorer for the UCLA men’s basketball team. 

Top of his priority list this term is future proofing the city’s finances to ensure Beverly Hills can maintain its world-class schools, police and fire departments going forward. 

“I think this coming year we’re going to still be okay, but our finances do not look that rosy after that, so we really do have to prepare for the future,” he said. 

While tax revenues have rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, the cost of staff salaries, equipment and capital improvement projects continues to increase with inflation. 

Expenses will also grow when the police department hires 13 or more officers to staff the two Metro stations currently slated to open in 2025 and 2026, Friedman said. And revenues will suffer from the loss of a $26 million public benefit contribution from the Cheval Blanc hotel project, which voters shot down in a May 2023 Special Election.

“Cheval Blanc is not coming back, it’s a lost opportunity, it is unfortunate,” he said. “Now we need to move on and be sure that we have other sources of revenue that will help support us.”

To that end, Friedman looks forward to working hand in hand with the council to implement some of the revenue-raising strategies recently proposed by the Blue-Ribbon Committee on Long-Term Strategic Financial Planning. For example, he is excited by the potential financial gains from expediting commercial leases on city-owned properties. 

He also intends to brainstorm ways to reap the economic benefits of increased tourism when Los Angeles hosts events for the 2026 World Cup, 2027 Super Bowl and 2028 Olympic Games. Friedman is already in conversation with Olympic organizers and plans on launching a Beverly Hills 2028 Olympics Task Force.

“There’s no question that when these events are occurring Beverly Hills will be front of mind for dignitaries, for athletes and visitors,” he said. “It is something that we need to be prepared for because it will bring in additional revenue and visitors to our restaurants, our stores and our hotels.”

Friedman also looks forward to advancing recommendations from the Electrical Resilience Ad Hoc Committee, such as potentially investing in microgrids that can supply energy during an SCE outage. 

“Once there is a power outage, it puts the entire city on alert,” he said. “There are people who are dependent on their medical equipment having a power source at all times. Our police are taken away from other jobs to provide extra patrols in the areas that have the outages.”

“We need to have power resiliency.”

Then there is also the matter of maintaining the city’s-top-notch public safety, a perennial priority for city leaders. 

Friedman will be working closely with the BHPD to expand its surveillance network by integrating cameras at private residences and businesses. In addition, he will oversee the placement of 12 sirens throughout the city to alert residents in the event of a public safety emergency or natural disaster such as a wildfire.

He also is excited to strengthen Beverly Hills’ reputation as a bastion against Jew hatred by hosting the 2024 North American Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism on Dec. 11 to 13.

“We were honored to be asked to host,” he said. “It really is an important issue for us as a community and important that we let the world know that antisemitism should not, cannot be tolerated.”

Last, but by no means least, he plans to continue deepening his connection with the community through initiatives such as the “60-Second Shout Out” highlighting local businesses; “People Helping People” highlighting good deeds; and town hall-style meetings titled “Les is More: An Hour with the Mayor.”

“We really are a big family,” he said. “Being an individual, you can only get so far, but when you have the support of your community, your team you can truly be successful.” 

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