Tomorrow is election day; vote if you haven’t already.
There are some important issues to be decided — like Measure Y. Should voters approve a permanent half-cent increase in the city’s sales tax? City Hall claims it needs the revenue. But, with no Social Security increase next year (for the second year in a row), it’s not good news for any tax measure.
Y is the kind of ballot measure you’d think the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce would be against, however the chamber’s Board of Directors is conflicted. On one hand are the merchants who think that a 10 1/4 percent sales tax will hurt their businesses. On the other hand are powerful chamber leaders who say City Council members promise they’ll share Y’s revenue gains with the always financially distressed school district, which apparently counters any qualms about lost business by merchants. Therefore, the chamber took a “No Position” on Y.
There are five seats open on City Council. Incumbents Kevin McKeown, Pam O’Connor and Bob Holbrook are running for four-year terms. Ted Winterer is the leading challenger. Five others are also in the race.
The incomplete terms of two council members who died while in office are open. Interim City Council appointees Terry O’Day and Gleam Davis are being challenged by Robert Kronovet and Susan Hartley, who are campaigning hard.
I urge you to study up on all the candidates and see who is for slow growth, financial responsibility, curbing waste and using city resources wisely to benefit residents.
When it comes to school board candidates, who will be good stewards of taxpayer money? Have incumbents Barry Snell, Ralph Mechur and Oscar de la Torre made the right decisions in the face of reduced support from Sacramento? Who has a viable plan for finding new revenue sources? Who will select a good superintendent of schools and bring real leadership and stability to the district? Key challengers are Chris Bley, Nimish Patel, Jake Wachtel and Laurie Lieberman.
Farmers’ Market changes not for the better<p>
Seven weeks ago, I wrote about the changes coming to the Pico, Main Street and Downtown Farmers’ Markets after Oct. 1. After complaints primarily from Main Street restaurants, City Hall spent three years developing an application and evaluation process for removing “older” vendors and bringing in new, local suppliers.
The changes only applied to purveyors of products such as breads, coffee, baked goods, snacks and prepared foods but did not apply to purveyors of cheeses, canned goods, honey, plants and florists. Another problem involved the criteria for selecting new purveyors such as sustainability and source of ingredients (Vendors can’t buy raw ingredients from Arizona?) over price and quality. At the Pico market, the new paella vendor lasted only one week. Paella at Pico? City staff has no concept of who its market customers are.
Old Town Bakery sold bread and cakes at the Pico Market for 15 years. After being replaced by Pico Boulevard baker Le Pain du Jour, bread prices nearly doubled from $4 to $7 and $7.50 a loaf — all while a whole slew of proper food handling practices were ignored. I guess the higher prices helped pay for their H2 Hummer.
On Oct. 23, when this was written, they were a “no show.” The higher bread prices, "sustainable” H2 and possible food handling violations makes City Hall’s selection process idiotic, hypocritical and a complete failure. At Pico, the changes have ticked-off many vendors and resulted in substantial declines in both foot traffic and revenues, vendors tell me.
At the Main Street Market, where Richard "The Breadman" Schackne was booted, he told me he’s received hundreds of calls from customers who miss him. “The Breadman” and other long-term Main Street Market vendors were replaced with local suppliers including a neighborhood restaurant that now has two spaces in the market. Schackne is considering legal action against the city.
Even worse is the City Hall market supervisor telling disgruntled market customers that their favorite purveyors quit when they were clearly terminated.
The turnover was due in part to City Hall’s “Buy Local” campaign that favors local merchants and requires out-of-town vendors to pay higher booth rents. Like a lot of "Buy Local" schemes, it always seems to cost me more. I’m not patronizing Le Pain du Jour because it’s a pain in my wallet.
I’ll occasionally visit Avila and Sons at Pico because they have the best walnuts. For everything else, I’m heading to Gretna Green Way for the Sunday morning Brentwood Farmers’ Market where a good loaf of Challa is $4.75, there’s a much wider assortment of both farm and prepared food products and the kind of non-food items (crafts, jewelry, skin care, clothing) that were eliminated from the Pico Market a couple of years ago.
Best of all, in Brentwood there are no City Hall meddlers to screw things up.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org