• Name: Richard McKinnon
• Age: 56
• Occupation: Chairman, Conrad Capital
• Neighborhood in which you live: Wilmont
• Own or rent: Rent
• Marital status/kids: Married/one son
• Obama or Romney: Obama
• Education: Where did you attend and what degrees do you have? Australian National University, B.A.
• Why are you running for City Council, what makes you qualified to lead, and what role do you see yourself playing on the dais if elected?
This election is about residents. It is about the quality of life in Santa Monica. The council will either lead on issues or simply follow as others dictate. So there is a critical need for an agenda that reflects the needs of residents and public policy that strengthen the city. As someone heavily involved in our community, our schools, a Recreation and Parks and now Planning commissioner there’s been a lot of involvement on issues that matter to people who live here. You need to know what policies make a difference and how to make them happen. Getting a comprehensive bike plan in place, or city as arboretum adopted, required policy skill and political leadership. Every Wednesday night voters have been able to assess my performance at the Planning Commission. I have a record of making clear, strong decisions. I would be a powerful voice for residents.
• What are Santa Monica’s three major strengths and weaknesses? What will you do to ensure the strengths remain and the weaknesses contained?
Strengths are Santa Monica’s landscape and environment, the values of people who live here and the overall community that supports so much diversity of opinion.
Our weaknesses are traffic, congestion and ongoing threats to the quality of life.
• Homelessness continues to be a significant concern of many residents and business owners. How would you rate City Hall’s response over the last four years, what will you advocate for and does that mean more or less funding ?
It is unfair and outrageous that as a society we can’t get residential accommodation for the homeless. To have thousands wandering our streets looking for food or shelter every night isn’t acceptable. It requires a whole of person and whole of life approach to solve the homeless person needs (which are always complex). But for residents to be scared or shut out of parks and streets because of homeless is also not fair. Council is trying to tackle the issue. Maybe a B-minus.
• Where do you stand on the City Council’s decision to increase the campaign contribution limit from $250 to $325?
As a candidate, raising money is tough; $325 is quite a lot to many, not much to some. When corporations and single-issue donors can give large, unregulated amounts to political action committees or independent expenditure committees, the playing field is quite uneven. It is a long, hard grind from many donors matching one big check to the other side.
• Will you sponsor a local law banning smoking within multi-family residential units, i.e. condos and apartments? If not, what would you support?
• If elected, would you allow medical marijuana dispensaries to set up shop in Santa Monica?
Medical marijuana in Santa Monica should be sold through a hospital dispensary or pharmacy to people who have legitimate prescriptions and treated as a medical and health issue. We dispense and sell complex and difficult drugs every day for a range of medical issues; marijuana is another. It’s the street scene that surrounds it that creates the social problems and hospital and clinical settings remove that.
• What policies will you support that will enable Santa Monica to deal with the increased competition for resources and the need to be sustainable, particularly when it comes to water and power consumption/generation?
The city needs to go deep green. We need a powerful plan that sets tough targets and firm dates across the board and then a clear path to implementation for issues as widely diverse as solar energy installation, water self sufficiency and zero waste. Santa Monica should be the national and international leader in moving from a carbon economy to a renewable energy economy. It requires political leadership.
Swimming, riding a bike, going to art galleries.
• What are you reading?
John Updike and Robert Caro.
• The loss of redevelopment agency funds dealt a serious blow to the City Council’s ambitious plans for the Civic Center, Samohi, and the park in front of City Hall, among other projects. If elected, what projects would you prioritize and how would you finance them?
Green space and recreational facilities.
• City Hall already provides the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District with millions in exchange for access to campuses, mainly athletic fields. Do you believe this deal is good for the city, or should it be revisited and modified? If so, in what ways?
Schools are the absolute cornerstone of our society. Every great city has great schools and in Santa Monica the connections and networks formed in the public schools provide the foundation of community activity and life. It was a good deal for everyone and provides certainty for schools and city.
• If you could ride the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica Pier with three people in history, who would they be and what would you want to talk about?
Picasso, Washington, Julius Caesar.
• Where do you stand on the Santa Monica Airport?
The airport is a relic of the past. It makes no sense on health, safety, environment and economic grounds. It must be closed. The strategy will be three stage. Immediately remove subsidization, give notice on ground leases of termination when the leases expire, cap movements, charge everyone commercial rates for landing and rent; all of which will begin to transform the current “anything goes” airport environment. In 2015, under the agreement, reclaim the western end of the current airport and thus shorten the runway (closing out jets) and from 2015 focus on closing the whole airport. This would be followed by a visioning process for the 200-plus acres.
• Community benefits as part of development agreements: what is your definition of a benefit? When should the City Council demand benefits and to what degree? And should some be part of a checklist that developers can choose from, or should the council always have complete control in negotiations with developers?
Santa Monica is immensely valuable. Therefore the city must have a list of priorities and benefits that are agreed on ahead of time and form a strong compensation to the city and its residents for the value of the development agreements and development in general. Community benefits must always be present in Tier 3 and Tier 2 developments. Our objective is to ensure that the development produces a wave of public investment that matches the private investment.
• What is your definition of overdevelopment and what is your plan to prevent it?
Huge buildings that overwhelm city streets, out of balance developments that force too much building on too little a site, canyon-ize of city streets, high-rise in the wrong place, buildings with hundreds of apartments that are 15 feet from the freeway, buildings with hundreds of tiny apartments. Tighten and toughen our zoning code, reject inappropriate development agreements, say no often, lay out clear standards and make the scale and balance of our city an overriding concern.
• The sputtering economy and the rise in pension contribution costs have forced some cities to file for bankruptcy. Santa Monica is doing better than most, but if nothing is done to trim costs, deficits will become reality. What’s your plan for controlling public employee pension costs?
We need to restrain the number in City Hall, make changes to the way we do business and constrain the cost of running the city by rearranging staffing, becoming more flexible in customer service, use technology to solve residents’ needs. It’s clearly bureaucracy, not service, you want to cut. It’s the staff numbers that create the overall issue.
• How do you get across town during rush hour? Any tips or shortcuts?
I ride my bike. Everyone should.
• What should City Hall’s role be when it comes to the creation of affordable housing?
City Hall needs to be leading. The state removing redevelopment agencies means less housing. Our new strategy will be based around city budget dollars, forming a foundation and partnership for major pension plan investment and thus a sizable opportunity for new housing. The same approach will be used for workforce accommodation.