90210: Beverly Hills Residents Donate To Make A Difference
This story is part of a Neon Tommy Special Report that follows 2012 campaign money in L.A. >>>
A visit to Beverly Hills will likely involve encounters with movie stars, nice restaurants, expensive shopping stores and grand mansions. The city offers all the glamour and opulence of "Hollywood" that tourists hope for. At least, that is what I had hoped for when I visited Los Angeles before moving from China last year.
As I drove closer to the heart of the Beverly Hills from downtown L.A., the fancy cars got fancier--from Mercedes-Benzes to Bugattis-- and the pedestrians got more designer, hurrying with a coffee in hand and Louis Vuitton purse in the other.
After parking my car on the street, I wondered how much a Louis Vuitton purse would cost, so I stepped into one of its stores. The purses sit nicely on the shelves with no price tags in sight.
“People who shop here may not care how much it costs,” a friend of mine explained.
That’s probably true.
Many residents, however, care about what’s going on in the country and the world, and they want to make a change through donations to the presidential elections.
“In Beverly Hills we have a good life here. I care more about what’s going on in the outskirts; I care more about the unemployment,” said Annette Rubinstein, a resident who is self-employed in property management.
Residents from Beverly Hills (zip code 90210) have made $3.7 million in donations for the 2012 election-- 168 times as much as an average zip code in California, which is about $22,000.
Beverly Hills has a population of about 34,000, and about 90 percent of the city is zoned for residential use, according to the city’s official website. The median household income in 2010 was $81,726.
“I came from such poverty that whatever [the war did] it wouldn’t make a difference to me,” she said.
Even though she now enjoys the quiet and tranquil life in Beverly Hills, she can never forget what it was like being poor.
“I am one of those luckier people. I’m not worried about myself as I’m worried about the people around me,” she said.
Disenchanted and disappointed with the Democratic Party, Rubinstein is considering shifting to the Republican side after having supported Democrats for years.
“I feel that our voices are drowning. The Democratic Party doesn’t hear us.” she said. “I’m turning to the Republican Party hoping that they see things the way I do--less government involvement, less government spending.”
Among other things, Rubinstein said Obama is taking too much liberty and power himself, such as going to Libya without asking Congress.
“I think he went to Libya because there is oil there, because the European countries pressured him to go in there because they needed the oil. Now in Syria, for example, there are atrocities daily. I don’t hear President Obama asking Assad to step down,” she said.
Rubinstein expects the coming election will be a very tight race between Romney and Obama.
“Obama will have a chance to win if he continues to give free things to people,” she said. “Anybody would be better than Obama right now. Mitt Romney can’t be worse than Obama.”
Glenn Padnick is a retired TV producer. He is a registered Democrat and a firm believer in Barack Obama.
"Frankly the main thing I want to achieve is not to have Republicans push through their idiotic ideas. Democrats run the country better, for everybody, than the Republicans do. They make it fairer and helpful to all people. They care about most Americans, unlike the Republicans who only care about the richest Americans. Romney is the best of them, and he is terrible," Padnick said.
"Obama can’t accomplish anything as long as Republicans are in control of the House of Representatives. Obama has done a very good job [on unemployment rate], if Republicans hasn’t stood in his way, he’d do a better job."
As far as the issues Padnick is most concerned about, healthcare ranks at the top of the list.
"It’s a shame, it was a sin that people couldn’t afford healthcare. I find the opponents of it [Obama’s health care] totally mischaracterize and paint it wrong and are only out to benefit the wealthy. Again they don’t care about poor people in this country. Their attitude is 'Screw them. They’re poor. Let them die.' I don’t believe in that," he said.
"I believe in what Democrats believe in: fairness to everybody and helping people that are less advantaged."
Padnick also shed light on several things Obama could do better (if Republicans haven’t stood in his way), including a better explanation of his health care reform and his foreign policy. Other than that, Padnick is ready for Obama to tackle issues he never tackled before such as gun control in his next term.
"I believe his policies are best for the country. He inherited a sinking ship, and has been able to take that ship away from sinking and get us in the right direction," Pardo said.
Pardo defended Obama's first term, focusing on what he has done to correct past mistakes made by past presidents.
"Obama has taken the country in the right direction in terms of taking us out of a very terrible recession that the last two Republican administrations had put us in, and trying to correct the economy by investing in education, investing in infrastructure and by saving the auto industry, which he was criticized for. Now the GM is back at number one again, although the Republican wanted it to go bankrupt and fail," he said.
"In foreign policy he has been very strong in capturing or stopping a lot of the actual people who attacked us like Osama bin Laden and the people who were part of the Taliban."
Like Padnick, Pardo also is concerned about healthcare, especially for those who cannot afford it, and he doesn't believe Obama has handled it the best.
"I believe that healthcare is not a privilege that only rich people should have. I think it’s a right that everyone should have, and the Republicans don’t. I believe that the government has a role to play, not the primary role," he said. "There are more things I wish [Obama] had done. In healthcare, he should have pushed for the Republican Option instead of trying to compromise with the Republicans back in 2010.
Though candidates' popularity can change quickly, Pardo thinks Mitt Romney does not have a good chance of winning the 2012 presidential election.
"The thing with Mitt Romney is you don’t know where he stands. You can put a videotape of Mitt Romney one week saying he is pro-healthcare, six months later he is against it. One month he is pro-abortion, the next month he is against it," Pardo said. "Mitt Romney, in my opinion, flip-flops, and will say anything to win an election. He did that as a governor. He did that in 2008."