MY WRITE ‚Äî As expected, despite a low voter turnout, 4th term Councilman Kevin McKeown easily cruised to victory. McKeown was endorsed by a variety of powerful community organizations such as Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), Residocracy,org, the Santa Monica Democratic Club, Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) and a number of labor and civic political action committees (PACs).
Close behind McKeown was Planning Commissioner Sue Himmelrich. She also received broad support from the same PACs and former Santa Monica Mayor Denny Zane – her paid campaign manager.
Just before the election, Himmelrich initiated a war over the Fairmont-Miramar Hotel renovation. Even though the new hotel is being redesigned by world class architect Rafael Pelli, Himmelrich dusted off an old, out-of-date rebuilding proposal which she labeled “Miramar-zilla” Hotel owners Ocean Avenue, LLC fired back accusing her and her husband Michael Soloff of buying the election and lying.
Unfortunately the spat made her appear callow and out of touch. What’s the point of picking a fight before a completely new design becomes public? It was “much ado about nothing” and a cheap publicity stunt.
A lot of us wanted to see Mayor Pam O’Connor lose however, like a cat, she proved she has nine political lives and it appears that all of them will be spent running successfully for council.
Without SMRR’s support but with a ton of help from her developer friends and a host of powerful, well-financed special interest PACs, O’Connor pulled it out of the proverbial hat.
O’Connor has always thumbed her nose at her constituency because she thinks she can get away with sleazy tricks. You have to hand it to her for the way she shakes off criticism and carries on with nary a side eye.
Complaints about supporting all proposed developments – good and bad – and violating the Oaks Initiative by accepting campaign contributions from developers after voting for their projects 24 times over the last ten years had no traction but have earned her the nickname “Teflon Pam.”
Residents need to wise up, control their egos and start working together. Six months ago I had hopes that the major slow-growth groups including Residocracy.org (which was fresh off its victory over Texas developer Hines), SMCLC and the official neighborhood groups would unite and back a trio of council candidates before the annual SMRR convention in hopes of building momentum and secure prized SMRR endorsements.
The general consensus was to back McKeown, Himmelrich and either Recreation and Parks Chair Phil Brock or Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon. But, before anyone could say “attaboy,” SMCLC endorsed McKinnon, so chances of a unified slate were out the window.
In the meantime, Residocracy which had been leaning toward Brock took a break. SMRR’s Steering Committee finally endorsed a weak third candidate in Planning Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy, further splitting the slow growth movement.
If fourth place finisher Brock had everyone’s early support, O’Connor would be a goner. Folks, if we don’t get our act together, how are we going to take out pro-development Terry O’Day and Gleam Davis two years from now?
Brock’s inability to secure key endorsements and deep pocketed contributors early on hampered his ability to compete against big bucks candidates who either financed their own campaigns like Himmelrich or received substantial largess from developers, labor unions and educational PACs like attorney former Lookout columnist Frank Gruber.
Gruber, the other key pro-development candidate in the race, received most of the same labor endorsements and support from the developer, hotel and business interests as O’Connor did. But, alas, Gruber came in fifth possibly due to his credibility issues.
Gruber tried too hard to be too many things at one time. One campaign flyer screamed that Gruber was ‘against overdevelopment.” Other materials tried to position him as a labor God, savior of our schools and an environmental leader. I know what he has and hasn’t done and I didn’t believe any of it. Apparently, neither did voters.
Rounding out the top seven vote getters were Kennedy and McKinnon. McKeown tried hard to tie Kennedy to his coattails but it didn’t work. She never presented a compelling reason to vote for her plus her quiet persona didn’t project passion or leadership.
McKinnon wanted to turn Santa Monica a “deep green.”¬† But, his off-the-wall ideas and lack of realistic solutions to problems that’ve made Santa Monica an increasingly unpleasant place to live in made it easy to dismiss him as a wild-eyed dreamer.
By the way, I saw lots of “Vote McKinnon” lawn signs on public parkways, Tuesday morning. It would behoove candidates to be aware of ordinances about posting on public property. It’s illegal. It’s also an environmental affront.
Speaking of campaign materials, another factor that may have affected council outcomes was the lack of Unite Here, Local 11 hotel workers canvassing for candidates. In 2012, a virtual army of union members hit the bricks and knocked on doors.¬† This year, my Wilmont doorbell was untouched by their fingers. Maybe there were fewer feet on the street because the hospitality union and its political partner SMRR endorsed different candidates.
There was a lot more direct mail being used, this time.¬† Last Monday, 27 different mailers were in my mailbox.¬† My answering machine logged four-dozen automated phone calls in the two weeks prior to November 4.¬† Ugh. I’m glad it’s over.
Bill can be reached at email@example.com