CITY HALL Board of Education member Oscar de la Torre is hoping a block of his sup- porters can influence the city’s most significant endorsement, including calling for the termination of City Manager Rod Gould.
On Sunday, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR), the city’s largest political party, will host its political convention, during which they endorse candidates for City Council, the Board of Education, Rent Control Board, and Santa Monica College Board. De la Torre plans to bring a voter block to the convention and will ask his group to back candidates that support removal of Gould from his position as City Manager.
De la Torre, who’s had a public and ongo- ing feud with high-ranking city officials, facilitated in the addition of 120 residents to the SMRR membership. He will be arrang- ing transportation to the meeting for his group and he hopes to have at least 100 of those members show up to SMRR’s convention as a voting block.
SMRR’s conventions are usually attended by anywhere from 250 to 500 members, making a hundred-person block significant. Members are required to pay annual dues and sign a form acknowledging their support of the SMRR platform.
Gould has repeatedly raised concerns about financial bookkeeping at the Pico Youth and Family Center, a nonprofit organization run by de la Torre. De la Torre has denies the claims. City Council recently sided with Gould, voting to pledge less money to the organization than in years past.
“The removal of Rod Gould, is in my opinion, a done deal,” de la Torre said. “Rod Gould is smart enough to know that he needs to find another job. All the candidates that we have talked to have committed to getting rid of City Manager Rod Gould.”
Gould declined to respond for this article.
SMRR Steering Committee member Maria Loya, to whom de la Torre is married, is looking to unseat an SMC board incumbent.
De la Torre, who is seeking reelection to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, is also the co-chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association (PNA).
His voting block, however, is not directly associated with the PNA.
“We’re calling ourselves the Pico Delegation, even though many of those who are part of the group we are taking to SMRR do not live in the neighborhood,” he said. “We intend to put our support behind those candidates who are support our issues. For the City Council race it’s a little complicated right now but we’re very clear on the school board race and on the SMC board.”
Other concerns, aside from the firing of Gould, include support for the Pico Youth and Family Center and a promise to fight gentrification.
“Throughout the years, we have worked to engage residents, especially from the Pico Neighborhood, to participate in the election because if we are not at the table, we have learned we are on the menu,” de la Torre said. “SMRR has a progressive platform that, unfortunately, has not always been followed by those who receive the SMRR endorsement. As renters, and working-class residents, we intend to strengthen SMRR by supporting progressive leaders.”
De la Torre would not say which candidates the Pico Delegation will be backing.
SMRR has long been considered a king-maker in Santa Monica politics. Six of the seven current council members received SMRR endorsements in the last election. Only longtime Councilmember Bob Holbrook has remained successful without the organization’s support.
The convention will be held this Sunday.