SO SHOULD SANTA MONICA
Why? Why should we have term limits for City Council members? Because we don’t like them? Well, there is that…. I’M KIDDING! (They’ll swear I’m not.)
The President has term limits. Congress doesn’t but here are good arguments pro and con. Most Governors do (38 of 50); ours does. All our elected state officials except the Insurance Commissioner do. Most cities in California have them for their city councils. And here in Santa Monica we have term limits for just about everyone, even volunteer commission and board members — but not for our City Council. You have to ask, why is that?
Or maybe you don’t have to ask. In many cities where term limits were established, it was their city council who initiated the process. I’d say those are cities with representatives more concerned with serving their constituents by perpetuating good governance and limiting possibilities for corruption, than in personally getting re-elected, over and over and over.
If it’s pretty certain you will be a City Council member next year and the next and the next, and another term and another (it’s pretty hard for an incumbent to lose), maybe two dozen years running, there’s a lot you can get done for people. But some of those people don’t live here or care about our city, only their own bank accounts, and they can make an awful lot of money from what you can do for them, and they will be grateful, and perhaps somehow show their appreciation.
MY GOODNESS, HARUMPH, HARUMPH
That can’t happen here. Those who cite oh so many incidents and patterns in the last few years as indications that it has been happening are told that they are just being mean, paranoid and crazy, that there is no actual “evidence,” there have been no prosecutions, nothing to see here, people, just keep moving.
So why is the train on Colorado, and on the ground, that makes it less safe and bisects our city and delays emergency services and… benefits developers of “transit-adjacent” properties? I know, there are all those good reasons for it. I just can’t remember them right now but you can ask our longtime City Council member, the mayor at the time, Metro board member and then chair of the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority Board of Directors, Pam O’Connor.
And if you have accomplished the unusual feat of getting her to talk to you, a constituent, please ask her about all the campaign contributions she has taken over the years from entities who had business in front of the Council, either before or after the contributions. Ask her how she interprets the anti-corruption Oaks Initiative passed by our voters in 2000. I guess City Council member Terry O’Day was not mindful of it when he accepted campaign contributions in the last election that earned him two Oaks violations and a whopping $500 fine for each. But then O’Day spoke in his recent district voting lawsuit deposition of how much money it takes to win a council seat. Not lamenting it, mind you, that’s just the way it is, folks.
And while you’ve got her there, ask O’Connor also about the Elizabeth Riel firing which cost us the local taxpayers nearly a million dollars (Riel sued and won) — but she probably won’t talk about it because when the questions turned to that during her recent deposition, she refused to answer and walked out, after 10 minutes. The court referee in the case ruled that California law “overwhelmingly” requires her to finish the deposition. She’ll be back.
POSSIBLE CORRUPTION AT CITY HALL?
In an outside review in April 2016 to determine if there was any, conducted by attorney John C. Hueston, the review did not find that O’Connor violated anti-corruption laws in the dispute, only that she was “not mindful” of rules that prohibit the Council from either direct or indirect influence in hiring and firing. Not mindful. I guess that applies to all those campaign contributions too. If I run a stop sign or pass a bad check, will I get off by claiming I wasn’t mindful at the moment?
Somehow Hueston missed checking a little further into the activities of council member and former Mayor Tony Vazquez, and his wife and 20-year SMMUSD school board member Maria Loya-Vazquez. They both have been investigated, by the school district and by the LA County district attorney’s office regarding contracts given by the board to firms that hired Tony as a consultant (but he did not report those earnings). And I don’t even have time to get into school board member Ralph Mechur’s fees for remodeling the Vazquez’ home, his contracts approved by the board and his subsequent appointment to the board.
So it turns out all the accusations all this time that elicited all the cries of no evidence, no prosecutions, you’re crazy! — do perhaps have some basis in fact. We’ll see. No one has yet been convicted and you are still innocent until proven guilty in this country. It is pretty interesting what depositions can do, to separate speculation from fact.
The fact remains that the City is fighting the district voting lawsuit gold tooth by gold polished nail. The attorney for the suit, Kevin Shenkman, told me that his deposition of Leon-Vazquez is being fought by the City’s lawyers, “claiming this will invade her right to privacy and might hurt non-parties. They filed a motion for protection order but the discovery referee, same judge, threw it out. We had great difficulty trying to serve her with the order to testify and finally had to do it at a school board meeting.”
Maybe, just maybe, term limits will make it less likely that these scenarios take place. Personally, I think it should be two four-year terms, not three. It’s not a hot-button issue like Hines or LV so the petition gatherers are slow in inching towards the 10,500 signatures of registered Santa Monica voters that they need. But we need this. It’s a no-brainer. There really is no credible argument against it.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK: “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” — Ronald Reagan
“When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.” — Richard Nixon
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com