IT AIN’T NO RABBIT HOLE
I’ve communicated with so many folks who have had visions of Cheshire cats, Dodos, Tweedledum and Tweedledee pop into their heads, too often these days. What is going on in the world? What is behind what’s going on? How is all this possible? It just can’t be. It’s insane. Are we doomed? Alice, make room.
But while her Wonderland was probably a dream, ours is a real nightmare, because there is really big money involved, from DC to the Pier. That’s what’s going on, and if you’re paying attention it’s as plain as O’Day. (That’s not an accusation, it’s a joke.)
It’s true of national politics and it’s true in Santa Monica. I don’t know which one I find more distressing: with a completely corrupt and clueless toddler-in-chief and his enabling GOP calling the shots in Washington, I seriously fear those shots will become real and nuclear, but there are forces just as greedy and amoral who are licking their chops over carving up this city I love and are on a clear path to doing it, and that’s personal.
You don’t have to fight your enemy, of course. You can just take it, or you can leave. It seems to me more and more who have been here for a long time are leaving, expressing bad and sad feelings about what their town has become. In 31 years here, I’ve never encountered that.
OK, who’s still with me? Probably anyone not a shill for development who was at
Monday night’s dog and pony show called The Final Public Hearing Draft Downtown Community Plan (DCP) and Associated Amendments to the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) — an extracurricular City Council meeting. And even some who weren’t. I wasn’t there. (Whaaat?!!) I had a family obligation. But I doubt I would have gone anyway.
I’VE HAD IT
I’ve seen enough. Like many of our residents I have given up on City Council meetings being a place where Council members listen with open minds. Maybe one does, but nothing will change until we have at least four honest Council members, dedicated to truly representing the people who live here rather than powerful economic interests who benefit financially from their decisions, and in turn enable them to retain power.
It would appear, time after time, that everything is decided before the Council chamber doors are opened to the public. Hundreds can show up, make great sacrifices to appear and wait til midnight to speak, for two minutes, but the outcome can be accurately predicted beforehand. Tell me the last time a mighty wave of citizens showing up changed an expected Council vote? ‘73? When Council wanted to tear down the Pier and build an island in the bay with bridges extending to Malibu and LAX? (Incumbents were resoundingly defeated in the next election. Ahem.)
Is that what it takes? We are wild-eyed activists to them, stuck in the past, no-growth NIMBY wall builders, children who must be taken by the hand and marched into the inevitable future of a taller, denser Santa Monica. City planning is very complex, kids, and you just don’t understand. But, but, it’s OUR city… Shush!
Those doors must have been opened pretty early Monday night because locals arriving by 5:15 reported finding ¾ of the seats already filled by Unite Here union members. (I saw video.) The national union, with a very small number of members actually living in Santa Monica, seems hell bent on covering this town with hotels and restaurants, the bigger the better as long as they pay union wages. Sure, workers and businesses here have a stake. But not a greater stake, or a greater say, than residents.
People (usually trolls) try to poo-poo the idea that people get paid to do social media baiting, but it’s a fact. A recent shill post on the Residocracy page extolling the virtues of the proposed Frank Gehry behemoth ran several days, to finally more than 500 responses. Turns out the poster might have fibbed about living in Santa Monica. The letter of support he submitted to Council listed his address as Los Angeles. Oh, and the exact same letter was submitted by up to half a dozen others, several names well-known to shill watchers. Most not giving a Santa Monica address.
Who else was taking up the few remaining seats in chamber? Chris Harding’s law firm was represented, and other law firms, according to Dr. Anna Rogers, who was there. She said members of the Planning Department filled most of a front row, “then there were the usual cast of characters from Forward, Next, the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Santa Monica Inc, even clergy, from CLUE.” (Their stand: it’s a moral imperative to cover our downtown with development so we may be granted a handful of “affordable” housing by developers — it’s the only way!).
Unite Here put on quite the show, Rogers said, with interpreters for members reading their scripts in Spanish — but at least two could be overheard later speaking pretty good English. It would appear the “interpreters” had the scripts memorized, she said, because occasionally they would speak the word before the speaker read it. One of their people stood inside chamber all night with a walkie-talkie of sorts, she continued, identified as an interpreter but overheard passing along bullet points to people outside yet to speak. Rogers told me her first undergraduate degree was in Spanish, emphasis Chicano Studies, and she has U.N. certificate as a “near Native speaker.”
As I write this I don’t know what the Council will do Tuesday night. But all these diversionary, deceitful tactics are accepted so the Council may point to their “public input” before they vote — always for more development. The politicians can dance all around it but we the people have to live (or die) with the results. Our City Council has become a joke, but the residents are the punch line.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The future lies with those wise political leaders who realize that the great public is interested more in government than in politics.” — Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org