Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights political leaders have called the shots In Santa Monica for more than three decades.

The organization’s core beliefs center around affordable housing, tenants rights, social services and sustainability to name a few. Because SMRR wields such political clout with voters — the majority of which are renters — receiving their endorsement is tantamount to a “fast pass” to victory at the polls.

Dues-paying SMRR members are eligible to vote and endorse candidates for City Council, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, Santa Monica College Board of Trustees and Rent Control Board as well as for local ballot measures. Those endorsed will receive the organization’s backing in the November election.

The fun begins at the powerful organization’s 2010 convention next Sunday afternoon beginning at 12:45 p.m. in the John Adams Middle School cafeteria. This year a number of aggressive candidates asked friends and associates to join SMRR (prior to the May 4 membership qualifying deadline) with commitments to “bullet” vote expressly and only for them. Among the potential council endorsees rumored to have signed up as many as eighty supporters are Ted Winterer, Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day.

Five City Council seats are open this year. Incumbents Pam O’Connor (seeking her fifth term) and Kevin McKeown (seeking his fourth term) are once again asking for SMRR’s blessing for four more years on the dais. Two, two-year council seats, currently occupied by former SMRR co-chair Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day, who were appointed by council to finish the terms of the late Herb Katz and Ken Genser respectively, are open. Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer is asking for a SMRR endorsement but hasn’t decided as of my deadline whether for a two-year or full term.

I believe SMRR will endorse McKeown, Davis and O’Connor. O’Day may have to fight it out with Winterer for a two-year endorsement. But if Winterer opts for a four-year endorsement, O’Day could be well positioned for a two-year nod. But, anything can happen.

I’m putting my support (I’m not a SMRR member) behind Winterer and McKeown because they are both low growth advocates and accessible to the public and/or their constituency. I’m on “Team Ted” and “Team Kevin” because with McKeown and Winterer you get what you see. There’s no hidden agenda, shadowy money persons or hotel/developer lobbyists lurking in their backgrounds as there are with some other aforementioned candidates.

The competition for Board of Education endorsements will pit incumbents Oscar de la Torre, current board chair Barry Snell and Ralph Mechur against a number of newcomers. All three have received previous SMRR endorsements.

Recent allegations against de la Torre by the Santa Monica Police involving child endangerment and Snell’s past troubles with the California Board of Accountancy could open endorsements for new challengers.

School board hopeful Laurie Lieberman (wife of land-use attorney Chris Harding) has supposedly enlisted a sizeable cadre of “school supporters” to promote her endorsement. In fact, Lieberman is so confident of SMRR’s nod, supporters sent out invitations weeks ago for a “North of Montana” (Avenue) Victory Party — a Mexican Fiesta — “to toast Laurie with Margaritas and more,” Sunday after the convention.

As I’ve written before, a clean sweep of the school board is needed. The board has been appallingly lax in its oversight and leadership. Their only solution to continuing district fiscal and management problems is to float an armada of regressive tax increases. Even with Lieberman (whose endorsement I’m told is a lock), it still looks like it’ll be “business as usual” — even if she wins the election in November.

Let’s hope SMRR’s membership makes some bold moves here and endorses Brentwood teacher Chris Bley who was passed over in 2008. Bley would bring some much needed “common sense” to the board and he’s definitely my “No. 1” candidate for the job.

Santa Monica College Board of Trustees incumbents trustees Louise Jaffe, Nancy Greenstein, Andrew Walzer and current chair David Finkle should easily receive SMRR nods (yawn) once again.

Current Rent Control Board appointee Christopher Braun (two-year term) and current chair Marilyn Korade-Wilson (four-year term) should garner SMRR endorsements. Democratic party activist Todd Flora and a couple of other newcomers could duke it out for the two remaining endorsements.

Three local ballot issues are expected to win easy SMRR approval. One measure that would strengthen tenant protections (which I enthusiastically support) should be a slam-dunk.

Another tax measure — this time a half cent increase in the sales and transaction tax rate in Santa Monica — will easily win SMRR’s favor especially with the hall packed with school supporters already on hand to cheer on Lieberman and Davis.

An advisory ballot measure that asks voters if they favor sharing revenues generated by the tax increase with the schools will also handily receive SMRR’s endorsement.

Party on!

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

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