The citizens of Santa Monica get to vote for four of seven City Council seats this election. Whoopee!
All four incumbents are running. Bobby Shriver is going for a second four-year term. Richard Bloom, on council for nine years also wants four more. Mayor Herb Katz has served 16 years and is going for his fifth term. The “grand old man” of City Council, Ken Genser, on the dais for 20 years, is running for his sixth term. The three, long-seated incumbents are the most responsible for the state of our community, today.
Some think Santa Monica is well governed. They’re either smoking some really good weed or they’re delusional because when it comes to problems, nothing ever gets better. We still have an army of homeless on our streets, gridlocked traffic that’s getting worse; parking is scarcer than a virgin in a house of ill repute; development is excessive and ugly; an ever escalating array of taxes, fees and city charges abound, and non-rental housing is priced out of reach for all but the Beckhams.
Under Katz, Bloom and Genser, our bedroom community has become an international travel and tourism center, a regional entertainment/production center, a regional educational center, a regional center for medicine, a regional dining and shopping destination, a regional homeless services center and a regional center for public housing. Thank goodness they haven’t figured out how to screw up our climate, yet.
City government doesn’t serve the people. It serves itself and the agendas of the power brokers, socialists and dreamers behind the scenes. Instead of resolving issues, we get pie-in-the-sky, utopian schemes that exacerbate problems by gridlocking traffic, wasting money, attracting more vagrants and encouraging even more development (as long as it’s on bus routes).
For example, look no further than the Pico Neighborhood. Nine years ago, neighbors begged for a few trees along 20th Street and Cloverfield Boulevard without screwing with traffic. Recently Councilmen Genser, Bloom, Kevin McKeown and Mayor Herb Katz added their own two-cents: remove or shrink traffic lanes, reduce street parking, add planted medians, traffic islands, bike lanes and modify intersections — as they’ve done all over town.
Their vision will add millions of dollars to the project’s cost and may make streets less safe for everybody. Again and again, residents are ignored because it’s about “them,” not “us.” So, wanna bet that Pico and Sunset Park neighbors will see firsthand how council egos will create substantial increases in congestion and residential cut-through driving when the revised 20th/Cloverfield designs are unveiled to residents Wednesday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. in the Virginia Park auditorium?
There’s a lot of talk about solving homelessness with housing. But there’s darn little housing available. Hundreds are on waiting lists. Shriver busted his pick to secure housing for homeless vets at the Brentwood Veteran’s Administration. Meanwhile, Katz, Genser and Bloom talk the talk but have done little to get people real help or housing. Reduce our hard-core street population? Forgeddaboutit.
The update to the city plan or LUCE (Land Use and Circulation Element) calls for much more commercial and residential development with greater heights and density on major transit streets. Genser and Shriver oppose LUCE’s extra 10-foot "bonus” height allowances while Bloom and Katz support them. Genser, Bloom and Katz overwhelmingly supported the development agreement for the massive, 324-unit “Village” in the Civic Center including the 96-foot tall wing. Shriver opposed it as “too big.”
Parking problems are solved with yet more restricted parking zones throughout town. Although opposed for the most part by Katz, unfettered permit parking has exacerbated city-wide parking shortages.
There’s no desire to control spending. Fees and taxes increase continually. The city employs about 2,200 people and its annual budget is over half-a-billion dollars. Residents are constantly shortchanged. Public housing and social services still go to outsiders first. Because Genser, Bloom and Katz rarely rein in spending and waste, they’re poor stewards of the public purse.
Measure T is the ballot proposal that would restrict commercial development for the next 15 years and consequently reduce the huge traffic increases new commercial developments bring. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are pouring in from out of town developers to defeat T and fatten campaign war chests for anti-T candidates Genser, Bloom and Katz.
Shriver, by supporting T, is flying in the face of “no on T” business interests who supported him in 2004. He’ll probably lose out on their contributions, too. However, Shriver’s proved to me that he’s truly an independent thinker and can’t be bought. How refreshing.
The real tragedy is there’s only one viable challenger, Ted Winterer. He’s been sandbagged or ignored by the city’s political power base and because he supports T, he won’t get any filthy developer lucre, either.
I don’t care. We need change. I’m just voting for Shriver and Winterer.
Bill Bauer can be reached at email@example.com