CITY HALL For the first time in nearly a decade, the City Council will be tasked with selecting a new member to join the dais.
The 30-day clock to find a replacement for late Councilmember Herb Katz, who was re-elected to another four-year term in November, will begin ticking on Tuesday when the council declares the seat vacant.
The Santa Monica Municipal Code states that the council must make an appointment within 30 days of announcing an open seat, holding an election to fill the position if it fails to reach a consensus before the deadline.
Katz died on Jan. 7 after a long battle with cancer. The Sunset Park resident and accomplished architect served for 16 years on the council, including one year as mayor in 2008.
It’s the first term vacancy on the council since former Councilmember Asha Greenberg resigned in September 1998, replaced by Councilmember Richard Bloom who was elected in 1999 after officials could not reach an agreement on an appointee.
During a council workshop last week when officials were briefed on the rules regarding the appointment of a new member, several residents who attended the meeting suggested that Ted Winterer, an Ocean Park activist who came in fifth place in the election, be selected to join the dais. Among those who endorsed Winterer was Susan Hartley, who came in sixth place.
Winterer said that he is still interested in the position.
“I think there is a cogent argument to be made that one person who should be considered is the runner up in the last election,” he said. “It was only two months ago.
“I don’t think I am the only person to be considered, but I hope the council will take a hard look at me and my qualifications.”
But councilmembers said they believe the appointment should be opened to residents and not be dependent on the results of the previous election. The municipal code states that a councilmember must be a registered voter to qualify.
“Let’s have a process to see who is interested,” Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor said. “Maybe the fifth vote getter in the election will be interested.”
Mayor Ken Genser said that opening the process will enable the council to review applications and meet the candidates, adding that residents would also have a chance to weigh in.
“I think the council’s job is to appoint the best person for the job,” Genser said. “I think it is a bit of a simplification to think that we should be limited to choosing from a list of people who chose to run in the last election.”
Genser added that all things being equal, consideration should be given to gender, pointing out that there is only one female councilmember.
Not all councilmembers are on board with the idea of finding a replacement from a pool of candidates. Councilmember Bobby Shriver said that he would like to see a special election.
Some have spoken out against using an election to find Katz’ replacement because of the cost, which can run anywhere from $100,000 to $150,000.
Shriver said a democratic process will be important in finding a new councilmember given some of the high-profile issues that will be coming up in the next year, including the Land Use and Circulation Element, which narrowly received the council’s endorsement 4-3 last year. Katz was one of the votes in support of the document’s framework.
“(The election) gives whoever that person is tremendous legitimacy in their vote, whereas if it was appointed by one political group, the legitimacy of their vote would be in doubt,” Shriver said.
Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, the strongest political organization in the city, currently has a 4-2 member majority on the council. Shriver and Councilmember Bob Holbrook are the only two members who have not been endorsed by SMRR.
Holbrook said that in a “perfect world,” the new councilmember would be closely aligned with Katz.
“I would like to try someone close to Herb,” he said “I don’t know if there is anyone like Herb to choose.”