CITY HALL — With the City Council scheduled to select a new member on Feb. 23, potential appointees are taking different approaches in their behind-the-scenes campaigns to fill the vacancy.
Terry O’Day, a former Planning Commission chair, has been asking supporters to e-mail council members urging them to back his bid for the seat.
Several members of the council this week said they had received a barrage of pro-O’Day e-mails. No other candidate, they said, has generated a similar push so far.
In an interview, O’Day said he believes making council members aware he has a broad base of support for the seat will help his chances.
“I think it’s going to be material to their decision, so when people ask me what they can do I tell them to contact council members,” he said.
O’Day supporters include Jonathan Parfrey, the director of the environmental coalition GREEN LA, and Todd Flora, a Santa Monicans For Renters’ Rights steering committee member. O’Day said a message on his wife’s Facebook page seeking backing for her husband’s appointment has also helped drum up support.
O’Day resigned from the Planning Commission last August, saying at the time, “I just need to make some space for other areas of my life where I’m needed, both personal and professional.”
Some City Council observers had questioned why O’Day was seeking to fill the vacancy so soon after resigning his position on the commission. This week O’Day told the Daily Press he stepped down from the Planning Commission in order to spend more time with a close friend who was terminally ill and who died late last year.
Two other potential appointees who have made their interest in the vacant seat known, Planing Commissioner Ted Winterer and school board member Oscar de la Torre, said this week they have been speaking with council members and community leaders to lobby for the seat.
In an interview, de la Torre said that since learning SMRR Chair Patricia Hoffman is not actively seeking the seat he believes his chances of winning the appointment have improved.
“It makes me want to work harder knowing that there is an opportunity and a void that is being left open by Patricia not working to win this appointment,” he said.
He has won two terms on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board with SMRR backing. Neither O’Day nor Winterer were backed by SMRR in their previous bids for the City Council.
“I’ll be working hard to let people know that the time is now for someone from my background, experience and commitment to be appointed,” de la Torre said.
Several council members reached this week said they were continuing to talk with potential appointees and others about the appointment.
Councilman Richard Bloom said he had asked the City Clerk to provide candidates with a questionnaire soliciting information about their community involvement. He said because the City Council decided not to require candidates to submit a formal application for the vacancy it was a way to for him to learn as much as possible about each person seeking the seat.
“For me, it’s just an additional tool to help in evaluating the candidates,” he said.
He acknowledged receiving a steady stream of e-mails regarding the appointment but said, “I wouldn’t draw any conclusions based on the number of e-mails that have gone out.”
While individuals’ lobbying efforts may have an effect on the council’s decision, one longtime community leader, who asked not be named in order to discuss City Council politics openly, said the council members’ decisions will probably hinge on development issues.
With a number of large-scale projects proposed for the east side area known as the Light Manufacturing and Studio district, council members may want to vote for a person who shares their thinking on development in that area, the person said.
“Those projects and the candidate’s views of them are what’s most talked about in the community and may be among the most important things on the council members’ minds,” the source said.
Winterer was a prominent supporter of Measure T, the anti-development measure that failed to win voters’ approval in 2008. Both O’Day and de la Torre came out against the measure. The late Mayor Ken Genser, whose death in January created the council vacancy, also had opposed the measure, despite his long reputation as an anti-growth crusader.