LAUGHING MATTERS — As a friend of SMRR for three decades, I reluctantly report that shock waves are still reverberating after the Steering Committee’s controversial City Council endorsements this past Sunday. Not surprisingly, they supported council incumbent Kevin McKeown, the top vote getter at their convention, but also supported Planning Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy who got the least votes of those who survived the first round. (Say what?)
Two weeks ago Sunday, 500 passionate SMRR members spent five hours in a hot and overcrowded cafeteria at John Adams Middle School voting for their favorite candidate. And in the view of many, the Steering Committee seemingly ignored their wishes. Ouch.
The latest wrinkle from SMRR came on Tuesday when Co-Chair Patricia Hoffman said that SMRR might support a yet unnamed 3rd candidate, adding, “We’re playing it by ear.” All I can say is if SMRR is employing a PR firm overseeing all this they should stop payment on the check.
This past Sunday, when the Daily Press scooped the original endorsement story, I immediately emailed McKeown, “The fur is going to fly.” He emailed back, “I don’t wear fur,” to which I replied, “Okay, then the fake fur is going to fly.” (Lo and behold, a headline was born.)
The logical choice for SMRR, in addition to McKeown, would seem to have been Planning Commissioners Richard McKinnon who received the 3rd most votes at the convention. McKinnon’s impressed many on the campaign trail, including yours truly, with his experience, leadership and candid demeanor. (Plus he loves tennis as do I.)
If the Committee had also included Sue Himmelrich they would have selected three of the top four convention vote getters signaling to their members, “We heard you loud and clear.” SMRR could have explained their concerns that Frank Gruber, who came in 2nd, doesn’t entirely share their core values and my guess is the membership would have been fine. Instead there’s a mini-revolt brewing.
After my column last week, I received an email from McKeown objecting to the word “secret” when referring to SMRR’s Steering Committee. He noted that the committee members were chosen in an open election at last year’s convention. I stand corrected. (Actually, as I type I’m sitting, so I sit corrected.)
Yes, the names are now public (thanks to the Daily Press) but curiously they’re still not on the SMRR website. (News to me, I also learned from Kevin that his last name, McKeown, rhymes with “known.”)
Indicative of election tension, I also had a small dustup with former Mayor Judy Abdo. I had phoned to ask about SMRR when she volunteered, “I’m deeply disappointed in you, Jack.” I responded, “That makes two of us … but what did I do?”
It was my support of Bobby Shriver for County Supervisor that had Judy so dismayed. I jokingly responded, “Gee, Judy, I’m not deeply disappointed you’re supporting Sheila Kuehl.” Silence. Like the audio version of an oil painting. Judy and I finally agreed to respectfully disagree. (Of course, she hasn’t read this yet. Yikes!)
I kid SMRR because I care. (Drum roll please.) In that regard, I note that to join SMRR one has to agree to their 13 “Statements of Purpose.” I’m not saying the document is a tad long but while I was reading it I got drowsy and dozed off. (I actually agree with each individual statement but the whole thing has an eerie loyalty oath feel.)
SMRR is understandably concerned with interlopers. (For some reason I love the word ‘interloper’.) And as a rent-controlled tenant who has benefited from SMRR’s work in the trenches, I don’t want to bite the hand that feeds me. That said, I obviously don’t mind nudging it a little.
With my criticism of the organization, some will likely suggest that I’m ‘smearing SMRR.’ (Say that fast five times!) With my praise, my Yiddish-speaking readers might even suggest that I’m ‘schmearing SMRR.’ (For those so inclined, Google ‘schmearing.’)
In spite of all the controversy, I was heartened by Hoffman’s recent comment, “It’s time for SMRR to change its process for the selection of candidates.” (On behalf of those who attended the SMRR convention I hope the change includes air conditioning!)
Lastly, it just struck me that the “Fur is Flying” might be a great name for a pet grooming parlor. Of course with PETA’s presence, at least in progressive Santa Monica, any flying fur will be of the fake variety. And in this particularly heated election, there’s likely to be plenty flying around. Given my recent tête-à-tête with Judy Abdo, I, for one, am preparing to duck.
If he isn’t too busy ducking, Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or jnsmdp@aol.com.

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