THE BIG PICTURE
I’ve seen it passed around lately that you have to remember, when you vote, that anyone who wants to be President is already insane.
Can’t that be said also of newspaper columnists?
Both have impossible job descriptions. No one can ever cover all the ground each demands. You can never get enough information to proceed with certainty, and sorting out the info you do get becomes like navigating a landmine field. There’s never enough time in the day, week, year. So much that you feel is worthy has to fall by the wayside. Everyone wants your ear, to get their agenda pushed. You can’t please everybody.
We’re both underpaid. The POTUS makes $400,000, peanuts compared to corporate heads. Hell, we’ve got more than 100 city employees in li’l ol’ Santa Monica who make more than $300,000, and not a one of them has to decide whether or not to nuke North Korea, eviscerate school systems (okay, maybe), starve old folks or speed up destruction of the planet for profit (okay, maybe again).
Me? I drive an 11-year-old car, with dents.
Perhaps the biggest intellectual challenge to both Presidents and columnists is of
perception. You get all this info, so many angles, overlaps and contradictions, on so many seemingly intractable problems, how do you approach it? What’s the Big Picture?
MASTER PLAN OR CHAOS?
An overriding problem with all Santa Monica problems is that we have no master plan. We take it bit by bit, DA by DA, and we wind up with the mess we now face and nobody’s happy. We point to the 2010 Land Use Circulation Element (LUCE) update, supposedly covering the next 20 years (but we’ve already approved most of the 20 years’ allotment for housing), but there are so many exceptions that no one pays more than lip service to it.
But it’s not chaotic. It’s driven by the billions to be had by smart, soulless developers, from our skyrocketing land values and City officials who hand them everything they want and more, despoiling forever our hopes for a modern, still low rise beach community, for very meager “community benefits.”
Every issue gets caught up in the small stuff. My personal path for trying to make sense of things is to step out of the weeds and try to see that Big Picture, see if there’s a common sense question that can’t be picked to death, only answered.
For example, I recently had a member of the SMRR Steering Committee tell me, “The majority [of SMRR membership] and on the Steering Committee don’t believe we should be allowing more and more housing as a way to solve the high rents.” So I asked, “But if the majority at SMRR do not believe in building more and more, then why is it happening, from City Council members handpicked by SMRR?” and the less than tenable response was, “SMRR is not in charge of Council members.” That fits right in with those on the Council who present themselves as “slow growth,” but let’s look at results. Instead of debating all the blah blah blah, the Big Picture question becomes, If Santa Monica is being densified and overdeveloped, at a dear cost to residents and our legacy, approved by a City Council that is put there by SMRR, who IS responsible? If this is not our vision for Santa Monica, who do we need to address, and how?
Here’s another one. What would be the reasons for building a large Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) not in a residential neighborhood but on the edge of Downtown, taking up space at the CIVIC Center we are trying to re-imagine, that will serve mostly children who do not live in Santa Monica (employees of City Hall and Rand Corporation), leased to Santa Monica College (SMC) for $1/yr (a giveaway of at least $25M of our money), kicking in additional millions of City cash to boot, when SMC has tons of acreage (including at the airport, and their recent purchase of the former YWCA) and we just voted them another huge bond windfall, which now brings their bond bank account to close to a billion dollars?
Here’s one more. We have this large piece of land bought with OUR money, Downtown — a defining park, as most cities in the world have, or a 6-12 story hotel with public open space on the fourth floor?
I’m sure you can come up with your own common sense, Big Pictures questions. Pass them along to me.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Was this one of the funniest, most creative April Fools jokes ever? Who did this? Go ahead, snitch to me.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words.” — Mark Twain
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