CITY HALL — Would-be City Council members interested in the seat vacated by the death of Mayor Ken Genser won’t have to apply for the position.
Instead of filing an official application with City Hall describing their qualifications, interested parties are being asked to contact a City Council member or the City Clerk directly to be considered for the seat.
The change means there will not be a publicly available official list of potential appointees, though City Clerk Maria Stewart said she will post the names of people interested in the vacancy who contact her on City Hall’s Web site. Those who tell council members they’re interested won’t necessarily be included on the list, raising concerns about transparency.
The decision is a departure from the process used to fill the seat vacated last year by the death of City Councilman Herb Katz, when City Hall solicited applications and ended up with 27 contenders. The panel eventually appointed Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights co-chair Gleam Davis to the council with a majority vote in February.
The process that led to Davis’ appointment sparked criticism that council members had given applicants false hope they could be appointed.
The council on Tuesday voted 4-1 not to solicit applications to fill the vacancy, with Councilman Kevin McKeown casting the dissenting vote. Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor was not present at the meeting.
City Councilman Bobby Shriver opposed soliciting applications from the community because he said only a small group of individuals has any chance of being appointed.
At Tuesday’s meeting he named four individuals he believes have a legitimate shot at being appointed to the seat, and said participating in a process that gives the impression a broader pool of applicants will be considered is disingenuous.
The people he named were: Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer, former Planning Commissioner Terry O’Day, former school board member and SMRR co-chair Patricia Hoffman and school board member Oscar de la Torre.
In an interview he said it’s conceivable names could be added to that list, but said soliciting applications from the public at large would give rise to false hopes.
“Telling people that there’s anything other than a political process going on [is] just not right,” he said.
McKeown said he favored asking for applications as a way to make the process as transparent as possible. He suggested Tuesday night that applicants for the council seat also be considered for City Hall commissions and boards, which he said would make the process more inclusive and help promote civic involvement.
“Rather than trying to fix perceived problems with the appointment applications, the council majority simply threw up its hands and declared that it’s an insider process, so live with it,” he said. “We could have done much better to promote community transparency and political sustainability.”
Anyone who is registered to vote in Santa Monica and resides in the city is eligible for the position. The council will attempt to appoint a new member Feb. 23. If no candidate gets a majority vote a special election would be triggered.