CITYWIDE – Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) has chosen to support Kevin McKeown and Jennifer Kennedy for City Council.
SMRR’s steering committee issued a statement of support on Aug. 10, a week after its convention failed to endorse any candidates for the council race.
SMRR chair Patricia Hoffman said SMRR has always used the language of “support” for candidates picked by the committee as opposed to “endorse” for candidates that come out of the convention although she acknowledge the difference is largely without meaning.
“The convention endorses and we support, that’s the only distinction,” she said. “(The candidates) can use our name, we put them on our literature, it’s a minor distinction but it’s part of the history of SMRR where that distinction was made.”
In addition to McKeown and Kennedy, the announcement included support for Louise Jaffe for the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees.
In a statement, SMRR said “We chose Kevin because he is a hard-working responsive Councilmember with a great record on the issues. Kevin has tirelessly worked to preserve our housing and neighborhoods and to prevent over-development. We chose Jennifer because has been an integral part of SMRR for more than fifteen years, having served on our Tenant Hotline, the Steering and the Housing Committees. She a Planning Commissioner and was twice elected to the Rent Control Board.”
Hoffman said McKeown and Kennedy are both strongly in line with the SMRR platform. McKeown has been a SMRR member for many years and his wife is part of the steering committee (she recused herself from the endorsement process citing a conflict of interest). Kennedy has worked with SMRR in many capacities, on the group’s housing committee, on the rent control board for eight years, on the group’s hotline and as a campaign coordinator for SMRR in the past.
“She’s done all of the work, she knows SMRR inside and out and she represents the things that we think are important,” said Hoffman.
Hoffman said Jaffe, an incumbent, has developed a significant knowledge of education related issues, earned a regional reputation as an education supporter and is someone that already knows the issues facing SMC.
While the committee did make some decisions, it did not fill out a complete slate of candidates. There are three seats open for Council this year and four on the College Board. Hoffman said the committee could not come to consensus on any other candidates to fill out the last two spots.
The 11 person steering committee consists of Patricia Hoffman, Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Sonya Sultan, Denny Zane, Judy Abdo, Bruria Finkel, Roger Thornton, Genise Schnitman, Linda Sullivan and Maria Loya. Four of the members, Tahvildaran-Jesswein, Zane, Schnitman and Loya recused themselves from the discussion because they are involved in an active campaign for this season.
Hoffman said it took a vote of two-thirds of the remaining members for a candidate to receive the support of the committee. She said the committee has chosen to support candidates in past elections where the membership failed to endorse a full slate and that the organization’s rules explicitly state the committee will fill vacant spots after a convention.
Some SMRR members and critics had said SMRR should forgo any committee level support this year due to a lack of consensus at the convention and criticism that the convention didn’t have a full three rounds of voting.
Hoffman said the committee’s support should not be tainted by criticism of the convention process because everyone in attendance specifically voted for the rules of the day and the committee’s role in supporting candidates is well known.
“We gave (members) the opportunity to choose candidates and they didn’t do it, they didn’t get it done, they handed it back to us,” she said. “They handed it back to the steering committee, it’s a process they all knew about.”
According to Hoffman, everyone present at the convention voted on an adopted policy that day that included acknowledgement of the Chairperson’s authority and the rules for challenging a decision.
The approved rules stated the convention would have no more than three rounds of voting, not a guarantee of three rounds. While some members may have expected a third round, she said it was apparent from the first two rounds that the membership was in gridlock.
“When I received the second round of votes, they said it was exactly like the first, there weren’t any changes,” she said. “With that being the case and the fact that we were hours over, I said ‘OK’ then they suggested that I call it and I came out and called it.”
Although some members challenged the decision, Hoffman said a vote was taken and that those challenging the decision failed to reach the two-thirds majority that was required by the attendee approved rules to override the chair’s decision.
This is the first year that the SMRR convention has failed to endorse a candidate, leaving the entire decision up to the committee. Hoffman said the situation was likely a result of the specific voting blocks that showed up to support one, and only one, candidate.
“Because of the tactics that they used there, they more or less guaranteed that nobody would be endorsed there and that the steering committee would decide,” she said.