When voters head to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 6, they will have the opportunity to shape the future in a number of ways. They will be tasked with deciding who should lead the country and what role government should play in our lives. They are asking themselves whether or not to raise taxes during tough economic times to fund public education and mass transit, whether or not to abolish the death penalty or change how food is labeled. Months of campaigning, accusations, record defending, pontificating and promising have come down to this. The rhetoric is now rendered moot, for the power is in the hands of voters.

Through myriad public forums, interviews, story coverage and reader feedback, we at the Santa Monica Daily Press have identified the critical issues that have a firm grip on the city’s collective psyche. In terms of the crowded and often contentious City Council race, our elected officials will be called upon to deal with the issues of traffic congestion and development, the loss of redevelopment money to help pay for affordable housing and public facilities, the fate of Santa Monica Airport and an almost certain legal battle with the Federal Aviation Administration, as well as increasing employee pension and healthcare costs at a time when revenues are flat or flagging.

We need a City Council that will not only maintain a strong grasp of the issues, but one that also brings an injection of innovation to the table. With that in mind, we at the Daily Press strongly endorse Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer, Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis and columnist/attorney Frank Gruber for three of the four open seats on the council.

As a former member of the Recreation and Parks Commission, and a current member of the Planning Commission and the Ocean Park Association board, Winterer has proven he cares about the community. He is an advocate of slow growth and clearly speaks for residents who want to retain Santa Monica’s vibe. He has held developers to task and advocated for community benefits, including a living wage for future hotel workers. He brings common sense and a willingness to hear all arguments before making a reasoned decision. In addition, Winterer represents a much-needed demographic on the council. He is young(er), a family man and a homeowner. Santa Monica needs someone like Winterer.

Appointed to the council in February 2009 following the death of Councilman Herb Katz, Davis has brought a critical eye to the dais. She studies the issues thoroughly and then makes educated decisions in the best interest of Santa Monicans. She holds city staff accountable by asking tough questions and states her opinions clearly so that her constituents know where she is coming from, even if they don’t always agree with her. While her relationship with developers does concern our editorial board, she has shown that she won’t just rubber stamp recommendations. She understands that without development, City Hall would not be able to provide the level of services that residents and merchants demand. We like that balance and believe compromise is needed to be a successful, thriving city, which is why we support Davis.

As a former Planning and Housing commissioner and local columnist with The Lookout News, Gruber has proven to voters that he cares about the future of Santa Monica and has the intellect to make sound decisions if elected. He knows what the issues are and has solutions that are fair and balanced. We believe he will challenge city officials and provide the oversight and fiscal restraint needed to ensure City Hall’s financial standing is secure. With strong connections to the city by the sea, we believe Gruber will pay homage to its humble roots while ensuring it continues its rise as a world-class destination.

When it came to selecting a fourth candidate to endorse, this newspaper did not feel strongly enough to back any of the remaining candidates. Those who did receive some consideration were Councilman Terry O’Day, attorney Bob Seldon and education activist Shari Davis.

 

Keeping schools intact 

 

With threats of more cuts to public education, we need a school board that will show real leadership, ask the right questions and hire the right people to make reforms and contain costs. We also need a board that can respond to concerns of those in Malibu who feel they are not represented and are threatening to break up the school district. Student achievement continues to improve, but if communication between parents and the administration doesn’t, we’re concerned about what the future may hold. That’s why we are supporting incumbents Ben Allen and Jose Escarce, and Malibu parent/teacher Craig Foster for three open seats on the Board of Education.

While initially we felt that Allen’s run for the school board was merely a stepping stone for higher office, his decision to stick around for another term demonstrates that he cares about the schools and wants to leave them better off than when he attended them. He has shown a commitment to listening to Malibu parents, going so far as to attend sporting events and PTA meetings. He has shown true leadership during the roughest patch and is still energetic and pushing for more efficiency and accountability. He should be allowed to continue this important work.

With Escarce comes experience and institutional knowledge that proves valuable at a time of transition and uncertainty. We like Escarce’s intelligence, his commitment to educational excellence and equality. He’s not reactionary, but instead digests the data and makes decisions based on fact and what’s in the best interest of all children in the district. We would like for him to serve one more term and finish strong.

Foster is what Malibu parents have been craving. He’s done his homework, has kids in the public schools and even serves as a teacher part-time. He knows first-hand what is working and what isn’t and can bring practical solutions. He also hails from Malibu, which will hopefully help heal old wounds. He does believe a separate school district for Malibu is needed, and that’s OK. He can be an advocate for that and still do what’s right for kids in both communities. He’ll also be a financial watchdog, holding administration accountable. The school board needs more of that.

 

Not much to report here 

 

Once again the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees is not even a race since no challengers stepped up to the plate. The non-contest won’t even appear on the ballot. With all that has happened at SMC over the last few years — increased tuition, decreases in class offerings, contract education and a pepper spraying incident — we expected professors or activist students to put forth their own candidates. Guess not.

With the Rent Control Board, voters have some choice. Three people are running for two open seats — incumbents Robert Kronovet, a landlord; and Ilse Rosenstein, a retired teacher; and challenger Christopher Walton, an attorney. While both incumbents have performed their duties well, the Daily Press is choosing to support only one — Kronovet.

As the only landlord on the board, and the only commissioner not backed by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, which holds too much power over elected bodies, it is imperative that Kronovet be re-elected. He represents a voice that is sorely lacking, and while some of his ideas are far fetched, the community needs people who think outside of the box. He does have sound ideas for closing the board’s budget gap, and they don’t include raising fees.

We like Walton because of his fiery defense of renters (after all, roughly 70 percent of the city is renters) and his legal background. He’s also a renter so he brings that perspective. He’ll be a fresh voice on the board and there are sure to be some fireworks between him and Kronovet if both are successful Nov. 6. We like a little political theater.

 

Santa Monica-centric measures 

 

Measure GA  — YES

This charter amendment would make the annual rent increase for rent-controlled units easier to calculate and more transparent. Landlords will get a fairer return on their investments and tenants will still have protections (thanks to a ceiling) from extreme increases when the economy fluctuates drastically. It is also estimated to save money by cutting the time it takes to determine the increase, which is apropos since the board is dealing with a roughly $360,000 budget deficit.

 

Measure ES — YES

 

Education is the foundation of this community. Time and again voters have stepped up when called upon and approved parcel and sales tax increases and bonds for public education. The need is still great at our public schools and Measure ES — a $386 million bond — will go a long way in repairing or replacing aging facilities and usher in new technology that is needed to remain competitive. We are concerned about voter fatigue and what may occur if Propositions 30 and 38 do not pass. Will the school district come forward with another parcel tax measure? Will ES make voters less likely to approve that measure if it is placed on the ballot? Those are fair questions, but we cannot worry about the unknowns. We must face reality, and the reality is our schools are old and in need of upgrades. If approved, the average homeowner will pay an extra $185 a year, while renters will pay $16 a year. That’s a relatively small price to pay to ensure our future is bright.

 

Look for Daily Press endorsements on the presidential race, U.S. Senate, State Assembly, and county and statewide ballot measures to appear in the Oct. 30 print edition. 

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