Last year as a senior at Beverly Hills High School, Steven Mark Foonberg was chosen to represent his graduating class as a speaker at the commencement ceremony.
This year, Foonberg, 18, is hoping voters will choose him to represent them on the Beverly Hills City Council. Foonberg is one of 13 candidates running for three at-large council seats in the April 12 municipal election. Three candidates also are running for city treasurer.
Foonberg, a student in the USC school of television film, said he had decided to run before any of the three incumbents announced they would not seek reelection. He was among the first three candidates to file his nomination papers with the city clerk on Feb. 2.
It was while preparing for his high school graduation speech last year that Foonberg said he began to seriously consider a run at the City Council.
Previous Teen-Age Candidates
"I realized that I had the knowledge and experience to represent all of the citizens of Beverly Hills and not just the young people," he said. "I want to emphasize through my candidacy and election that qualified youth has the energy to bring city government to all the people and vice versa."
Many political observers, including some current council members, have written off Foonberg's chances because of his inexperience and age. Foonberg also has history working against him.
According to city spokesman Fred Cunningham, two other teen-agers have run for City Council in the past, both without success. In 1984, 18-year-old Craig Roberts finished last among eight candidates for three seats. In 1974, 19-year-old Steven M. Lack placed seventh in a field of nine candidates for two seats.
Foonberg hopes to change the pattern.
Voters will get their first chance to evaluate him on Saturday at a candidates forum sponsored by the Concerned for Tenants Rights of Beverly Hills, a renters group. The forum will be held at Beverly Vista School auditorium, 200 S. Elm Drive, at 10 a.m.
Goals of Candidacy
Foonberg says his candidacy is serious and he has based his campaign on eight goals:
Increase awareness of the AIDS crisis with city sponsorship of informational forums.
Increase emergency services, recreational facilities, handicapped parking and free shuttles for the elderly.
Increase financial support for schools.
Increase city visibility by maintaining strong ties with the entertainment industry.
Increase youth involvement by soliciting youth as interns and volunteers in city government and civic groups.
Determine feasibility of a superior court for Beverly Hills by working with the Beverly Hills Bar Assn.
Conduct feasibility studies on converting city lots into multistory parking structures in business districts.
Maximize customer service for cable television subscribers.
Foonberg downplays his age by saying, "More important than where we have been is where we are going."
But he also points out that his age can be an asset.
"My generation has grown up with computers," he said. "We can use the technology and our enthusiasm to apply and modify the solutions developed by the senior citizens."
He also says that as a lifelong resident of the city, he knows its streets and its problems.
"I've delivered newspapers and done remote (television) shoots all over the city," he said. "As a former Little Leaguer, I know the problems of finding adequate fields for youth."
Foonberg, who was a camera operator for the city production crew broadcasting the meetings on cable television, says that he has attended more council meetings than any other candidate.
Camera-Eye View of Meetings
Even though he watched the meetings through a camera viewfinder, Foonberg said he saw plenty.
"I saw a pattern of many of the same old problems being repeatedly brought before the council for council reaction," he said. "Often the reaction was simply to refer the problem to study. I think the council has to take the lead in issues rather than simply react to problems."
Foonberg said he has raised about $2,000. Other candidates have spent up to $100,000 in past elections.
Foonberg said he spent about $700 for full-page ads in college newspapers at eight schools where former Beverly Hills High School students may be attending. Since those students maintain permanent residence in Beverly Hills, they could vote by absentee ballot, Foonberg said.
He has installed a toll-free telephone line to help those students apply for absentee ballots or voter registration information.
Foonberg also hopes to have a voter registration drive at Beverly Hills High School to register those students who will become 18 before the April 12 election.
Although student support is uncertain, Foonberg has the support of at least two school staff members, who are non-residents and thus ineligible to vote in the city election.
Patsy Carter, head guidance counselor, called Foonberg an "energetic, capable student.
"He is a concerned citizen, a good student, a bright boy," she said. "He would do the job aggressively if he got elected."