LAUGHING MATTERS — It’s August 1 so perhaps it’s fitting that our local politics are as hot as the weather. And, if the first ever Residocracy City Council Candidate Forum on Monday at the Main Library’s MLK Auditorium was any judge, between now and November we could be in for a political heat wave.
The forum was so crowded that an estimated 400 people waited in line for up to an hour with at least 100 being turned away. Inside, the atmosphere was spirited to say the least. Frequently the 13 candidates received cheers and also some jeers. Among those booed was perennial council candidate Jerry Rubin who later joked, “It felt like the Jerry Springer Show,” adding “I’m just glad no one threw a chair at me.”
What has caused the considerable spike in the temperature for this year’s election? Decades ago it was rent control, then it was homeless issue and now it’s development. Or over-development, depending on your point of view.
The city seems to be changing overnight. Sleep in and another building goes up. Some love the ‘progress’ while others lament the loss of peace and quiet and the arrival of gridlock.
The debate in the public square crystallized over the controversial Hines project, which the City Council first authorized and later rescinded. Santa Monica politics has become a combat sport for which protective headgear is recommended.
The next round in the battle leading up to November will take place this Sunday at the SMRR convention, which might add a few degrees to the fire. The event is being held in the cafeteria at John Adams Jr. High School and organizers are expecting a packed house of 300 or more.
At stake is the coveted SMRR endorsement for three City Council candidates, which more times than not guarantee a victory in the fall. (Six of the seven current council members were endorsed by SMRR.) Sunday’s get together figures to be a political circus with spirited wheeling and dealing over nothing less than the future of Santa Monica.
Among the council contenders, none is more informed or cautious about development, nor more passionate and optimistic about Santa Monica than Richard McKinnon. A much-respected Planning Commissioner, McKinnon, his wife and son moved here in 2000 from Australia. Conrad graduated from Samohi where he was a standout on the tennis team. Currently a senior at U.C. Berkeley, Conrad will soon be getting his degree in physics. (My old major … well, not quite.)
McKinnon’s close involvement in Conrad’s education eventually led to a stint on the Parks and Recreation Commission, which led to the Planning Commission. He ran for Council in 2012 and, without the SMRR endorsement, or union backing, and marginal money, he received 8,041 votes, an impressive feat.
The high-energy McKinnon is looking to improve on his remarkable 2012 showing. In addition to controlling development his primary issues include reducing traffic congestion, protecting our environment, balancing the budget while saving city services and turning Santa Monica a deep green.
Proof that our fair city long ago stopped being a sleepy little beach town is evidenced in what it costs to run a successful council campaign. Insiders say, without a SMRR endorsement, it could take $100,000 to be a contender. A citywide mailer could cost $15,000 alone. Adamantly refusing developer contributions, McKinnon doesn’t have a war chest. What he does have, however, is a growing legion of enthusiastic supporters canvassing the city spreading the message.
Because of his devotion to environmentalism and his own physical fitness, McKinnon’s minions have affectionately dubbed him the “Lean Deep Green Fighting Machine.” Riding the walk, so to speak, he bicycles everywhere, including to every campaign event. He also swims 2000 meters a day. (Some days I don’t even drive 2000 meters.) Some of Richard’s followers jokingly suggest that he should challenge incumbents Kevin McKeown and Pam O’Connor to a swim-off.
One example, however, that Santa Monica still has the roots of a small town is embodied by one of McKinnon’s most avid supporters. Robin, a baker, is preparing free samples of her famous fresh-baked gourmet granola to distribute at Sunday’s SMRR convention. (Only in Santa Monica, or perhaps Santa Cruz, could voters be enticed with granola.)
Sunday’s SMRR convention will be an exciting political circus as likely will be the rest of the campaign season. Will McKinnon’s grass roots support be enough to carry him to victory? Should they occur, will Jerry Rubin be able to dodge flying chairs? And will I receive some of Robin’s complimentary baked goods? (Making my new mantra “Will write for granola.”) For the answer to these and other earth-shattering questions, stay tuned.
For more info go to www.richardmckinnon.com. For “Robin’s Just Right Baked Goods” email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If he’s not too busy eating, Jack can be reached at email@example.com.