Welcome to 2012!

As you are aware, this is an election year. In addition to electing or re-electing (as the case may be) holders for national, state and county offices, Santa Monicans will elect people for City Council, Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education and Rent Control Board.

Council terms for Terry O’Day, Gleam Davis, Richard Bloom and Bobby Shriver expire in November. It’s early for speculation, but I suspect O’Day and Davis will run and receive considerable financial support from the usual cast of characters — developers and hotel operators.

Rumors are that Shriver will hang up his councilman’s hat. Shriver said he’s mulling options including seeking a state office. If he decides to run for council, he’d easily win re-election. And, if he supported a slate of candidates, “Team Bobby” could dislodge at least one or more council members and really upset the apple cart.

Bloom e-mailed me some months ago that he was completely focused on his Assembly race and would not run for council this year. He’s facing tough competition from Torie Osborn and Betsy Butler, who’ve both raised more money and garnered numerous key endorsements. Bloom has raised some Assembly campaign funds — most of it from (guess who?) local developers.

If Bloom doesn’t place in the June primary, he’ll have time to regroup, solicit campaign donors and seek a Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights council endorsement at their annual convention in late July or August.

The powerful SMRR organization will probably endorse O’Day, Davis and Bloom, if he runs. They may also back current planning commissioners Jennifer Kennedy and/or Ted Winterer, who previously ran (unsuccessfully) for council.

Winterer is favored by neighborhood leaders and slow-growth advocates. However, O’Day, Davis and other special interest-backed candidates will have larger campaign war chests.

Other viable council candidates may emerge from school support organizations. And, the developer/hotel/real estate camp may put up additional candidates from a list of players sympathetic to their agenda.

Someone mention buying elections? You can bet the family Prius on more dirty campaign tricks, misleading political mailings and phony citizen groups courtesy of big developers such as Hines, the Edward Thomas Management Co. (Casa del Mar /Shutters hotels) and their hired PR gun, Kim Karie.

The terms of school board members Jose Escarce, Maria Leon Vazquez and Ben Allen expire this year. All will probably run for re-election. They should easily win SMRR endorsements — virtually a guarantee of victory at the polls. We could see a PTA activist or school supporter such as Shari Davis (if she doesn’t run for City Council) or Rebecca Kennerly take a shot at school board.

In any case, SMRR’s Steering Committee will usurp membership choices and endorse candidates as they did in 2010, if nothing else, to maintain their tight control of school and City Hall governance.

It’s unclear whether there will be another school tax measure on either the June or November ballot. Being that the district is always crying about how poor they are and it’s relatively easy for school cheerleaders to win voter approval for tax measures, expect another unfair and regressive school tax scheme in 2012.

Development and traffic will be issues in 2012. There are still a half-dozen major office/mixed-use projects pending council approval in the eastern Mid-City area. Three new hotels are winding their way through the approval process, including two at Fifth Street and Colorado Avenue and one at Seventh Street and Wilshire Boulevard.

Then there’s the complete reconstruction of the Fairmont-Miramar Hotel at Wilshire and Ocean Avenue. Neighbors whose views could be impacted are already upset. The Huntley hotel across Second Street has even hired a professional organizer to stir up community opposition to the project.

Santa Monica Airport will generate a lot of debate in the coming year. Its neighbors are fed up with noise and pollution from corporate jets and smaller propeller driven planes alike. The questions as to whether the airport should be closed, limit flights or operate as usual will continue well past 2012.

Crime isn’t a big community concern because the Santa Monica Police Department has done a terrific job of reducing it over recent years. Speaking of the SMPD, we can all expect a new chief of police in the coming months as the current chief, Tim Jackman, has announced his retirement, effective last month.

Never fear. Jackman will stay around through March as interim chief when a replacement is expected to be announced.

In public opinion polls, both homelessness and the general cost of housing in Santa Monica are still mentioned. Expect little change from the previous years in City Hall’s 2012 homeless count set for later this month. Market rate and rent-controlled housing costs will continue to increase this year, especially if new taxes are added.

Mayan apocalypse aside, 2012 should be an interesting year in Santa Monica.

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

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