Last week our City Council announced it was taking applications to fill a vacant seat. This, just as former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was removed from office by the Illinois State Senate by a vote of 59-0. Actually, it wasn’t that close. The Senate also banned him from running for public office ever again. Ouch.
Blago was accused of attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat formerly held by President Obama. Apparently his price was $1,500,000. Naturally, I began to wonder what our council vacancy might sell for. (When you have a weekly column, you wonder these things.).
I asked a few political mavens around town who agreed that, given the current economic crisis, a City Council seat might be worth $100. And since it takes four votes the $100 would be divided four ways. This reminds me of a 1976 “Saturday Night Live.” Lorne Michaels offered the Beatles $3,000 for a reunion on SNL, adding that they could divide the money any way they saw fit (meaning Ringo didn’t have to get a full $750).
As for our council vacancy, surprisingly, some people have encouraged me to apply. (OK, it was my sister.) I’ve attended a few council meetings and for me to serve you’d have to pay me Blago bucks. At one meeting, literally 50 residents spoke about their hedges. Hedges? At about the 10th hedge, I would start banging my head on the table.
Council meetings start at 6:30 p.m. and often run past midnight. I have no idea how the members stay awake (or maybe they’ve perfected the art of dozing while upright). Former Councilmember Michael Feinstein says you learn to “pace yourself.” Pace myself? I’d need a coffee IV drip or a nap, or both.
Another drawback to being on council is the e-mails you get from pests like me. Lately, however, I’ve gotten a tad more creative with the subject line. I’ll put in “Quick question” as if to suggest that the inquiry will be brief. Often, however, I get quick answers, as if to suggest please lose my e-mail address.
From the outside, being on council seems to be a thankless job. Recently, they passed an ordinance banning smoking in common areas of multi-unit residential buildings. With all the compromises, the end result appeared to satisfy no one, which I suppose is the art of politics. Personally, I don’t think council went far enough with the ban and will be e-mailing them to do more. But I doubt I’ll put that in the subject line.
I don’t confine my e-mails to just the council. I’ve been corresponding with Police Chief Tim Jackman ever since some readers e-mailed me about a dangerous traffic problem. Years ago, a median was constructed at the exit of the Bicknell beach parking lot, which directs traffic south, to Hollister. Bicknell is a wide, through street, very close to the I-10 Freeway. Hollister is narrow, with parking on both sides, dead ends at Main, and is far from the freeway.
Whenever the weather warms up, Hollister turns into the Indianapolis 500. Beach goers rushing to get home to West Covina and other like destinations speed down Hollister, a street on which a number of children live. The green light is so short that only one or two cars get through. This naturally backs up traffic so severely that residents on the block are unable to get out of their own driveway. One resident is a heart surgeon who literally has to plead with drivers to let him back out because he has a medical emergency. On more than one occasion he’s been told in anger to do something to himself that is anatomically impossible, if you follow my drift.
Chief Jackman investigated the Bicknell situation and clearly sees the problem. But in government, identifying a problem and fixing it, can be two different matters (hopefully not for Obama or traffic may be the least of our worries).
Back to the council vacancy, some suggest the fairest solution is to hold a special election. But that could cost $150,000. Our current fiscal status is, and forgive the technical terminology, “We don’t have two nickels to rub together.”
Five of our six council members live in north Santa Monica. There are no representatives from Ocean Park or Pico Neighborhood. Ted Winterer lives in O.P., was first runner up in November, and would seem the logical choice. Susan Hartley, second runner-up, lives by the airport, and she’d be great, too.
Remember those political mavens I mentioned earlier? They tell me the new member will be closely associated with Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, meaning not Winterer or Hartley. And, a blow to my sister, it won’t be me either. Which is OK, unless it turns out I could have attended council meetings in my pajamas.
To Herb Katz, who gave so much to Santa Monica, R.I.P. Jack can be reached at Jackneworth@yahoo.com.