In a few weeks, the 2010 election season will begin in earnest. Most serious candidates have been working on their campaigns for months and a lot of ducks are already in rows. I’m ready to see who’ll fly on Nov. 2.

The most interesting races will be for City Council and Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education.

Kevin McKeown has served 12 years on council, Bob Holbrook has been on the job 20 years, and Pam O’ Connor for 16 years. The late Herb Katz and Ken Genser served 17 and 22 years respectively before their untimely deaths. They were recently replaced by appointees Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day who both desire to serve out their remaining (two-year) terms.

McKeown, O’Connor and Winterer have been endorsed by the powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights political organization for the four-year terms. McKeown’s and O’Connor’s incumbency along with SMRR’s backing are big pluses as is Holbrook’s long history on council. The big question is which of these full-term candidates will be on the dais after election day.

At this point, with SMMR’s support, incumbency and financial contributions from individuals and special interests, it would seem that at least two out of the three incumbents, if not all three, will be re-elected. But, I see McKeown and newcomer Ted Winterer coming in first and second with Bob Holbrook beating out O’Connor for the third four-year council seat. My good friend Jeff thinks it will be McKeown, and O’Connor with Holbrook beating Winterer for the third seat. We’ll see who’s right Nov. 2.

At the school board, Oscar de la Torre has served eight years, Ralph Mechur three years and Barry Snell four years. At SMRR’s recent annual convention, members backed Snell and newcomer Laurie Lieberman. After the convention, SMRR’s steering committee added de la Torre, and Mechur to their slate. With strong backing from school supporters and contributions from her husband’s (land use attorney Chris Harding) business associates, Lieberman will be the one to beat in November.

Because of sharp criticism of the board’s lack of performance over the last four years, the flaps about district financial solvency, special education, gag orders, never-ending unfair tax schemes plus the inability of de la Torre and Mechur to get a SMRR convention endorsement, their campaigns may — and should be — in big trouble. Present board chair, Barry Snell whose past includes multiple disciplinary actions by the state Board of Accountancy could face tough going.

After the steering committee’s “behind closed door" support of de la Torre and Mechur, SMRR co-chair Patricia Hoffman said the committee’s decision to back additional candidates who didn’t win outright endorsements was a vote of confidence in SMRR incumbents who have done a good job. Please, Patricia.

Chalk it all up to delusion because they, and most other sitting board members, haven’t done a good job. Their mismanagement has endangered our public school system to its core. The only “good job” de la Torre, Mechur and Snell have done is maintain SMRR’s stranglehold on our schools’ throat.

Nevertheless, one or two incumbents will probably be re-elected. I’m still betting teacher Chris Bley, who didn’t seek SMRR’s endorsement and who ran strongly for BOE two years ago, will unseat an incumbent. Perhaps Nimish Patel or one of three other challengers will also prevail.

City Council squanders $2M<p>

City Council’s idealism may cost Santa Monica $2 million — and that’s just the beginning.

Last Tuesday, five out of six council persons seeking re-election rejected a $3 million bid by an Arizona company to provide 20 manufactured homes for the city-owned Mountain View Mobile Home Park. Mayor Bobby Shriver was absent.

Council had voted a few months ago to boycott Arizona as a protest of that state’s passage of a controversial illegal alien immigration law. “Putting their money where there mouth is” could cost City Hall $2 million more to purchase the mobile homes from a non-Arizona source says Housing and Economic Development Director Andy Agle — and endanger a federal grant for the replacement housing.

I don’t know about you, but if I want idealism, I’ll go to church. In the meantime I expect my elected representatives to do their proper fiduciary duty and spend taxpayer money prudently.

After throwing away $2 million — or more — than necessary to purchase the mobile homes, it would appear that council’s profligate spending is strictly designed to teach those “Arizona rednecks” a thing or two and we, not they, are paying dearly for it. What sense does that make? Maybe Arizonians will boycott travel to Santa Monica. After all, turn about is fair play.

This squandering of resources is just one more reason to vote against City Hall’s upcoming half cent “transaction and use tax increase” measure. It’s also making me rethink about voting for some incumbents, especially with 10 challengers also vying for council seats.

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

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