Santa Monica voters have a real chance to improve both their city government and school district this election.
Development and traffic are the big issues in the council race. You can choose candidates favorable to development or candidates who promise to restrain it.
The two incumbents — Terry O’Day and Gleam Davis — are pro-development.
In 2008, Terry O’Day co-chaired an organization, “Save Our City” that raised almost three quarters of a million dollars from developers to fight a ballot measure that would have placed a temporary moratorium on commercial development. One of Measure T’s major benefits would have been a reduction in traffic growth.
O’Day was appointed to complete the term of the late Ken Genser in February 2010 and then was elected to serve the remaining two years of Genser’s term that fall.
Once again, with the backing of hundreds of thousands of dollars in developer and real estate largess, he’s now running for re-election for a full, four-year term.
Let me repeat: When businessmen invest this much in a candidate, they demand a return and that’s council approval of highly profitable, oversized, ugly, traffic-generating developments.
Enter Davis. Like O’Day, she too was an interim appointee to council now running for a full four-year term. In 2010, before she was elected to fill out the remaining two years of the late Herb Katz’s unexpired term, Davis generously called for an extra five feet of maximum height (86 feet) for the Bergamot Transit Village proposed for the old Paper Mate property on Olympic Boulevard.
This triggered a flood of developer donations to her 2010 campaign and again in 2012. She’s consistently voted for developers who’ve supported her council runs and against her constituency — the majority of Santa Monicans who favor less obtrusive developments.
On a positive note, there are three candidates running for council worth voting for.
I like Ted Winterer because I know he’ll keep a lid on development and demand that its negative impacts such as traffic, appearance, parking problems and environmental issues will be dealt with in a meaningful, not a symbolic, way. Winterer won’t just settle for more bike racks, wider sidewalks or landscaping as satisfactory community benefits in return for approving any development.
There are two other “dark horse” candidates worth your vote. They can’t afford to inundate you with glossy mailers, false promises and exaggerated claims of their own importance because developers aren’t underwriting their campaigns.
Best of all, these men are not in the pocket of any special interests and are totally independent. Neither has any “debts” to pay off or political cronies to take care of. They’re not locked into ridiculous, Utopian agendas, either. That’s why they have my vote and should have yours.
Bob Seldon, co-founder of the Northeast Neighbors, is as “green” as an Irish shamrock. I mean a real dedicated environmentalist not like another major candidate who claims to be pro-environment while voting for development after development. Seldon will work to curb the increasing crush of local developments and find balanced solutions to traffic problems to accommodate private vehicles as well as bicycles and mass transit.
John Cyrus Smith is a former TV news producer who, like Seldon, is a common sense guy running for the first time without any “big bucks” backing him. I’m confident that Smith will affect smart, objective solutions to traffic and parking problems while only supporting responsible development.
Nobody else deserved my vote, so I only voted for three candidates. By the way, Smith is second (158) on your ballot, followed by Seldon (159) and Winterer (160).
Almost more important than City Council is the school board race. Now, we have an opportunity to elect board members who’ll stop waste, really close the achievement gap, find new sources of revenue, reduce expensive and bloated administrative overhead and establish a “results driven” model to all aspects of district operation.
Two current board incumbents — Jose Escarce and Maria Leon-Vazquez — claim to have improved the educational experience for all students including closing the achievement gap as school board members. As if 6 percent of male African-Americans being proficient in high school math and 14 percent of African-American females is progress (2012 Student Achievement Data study).
With 64 and 65 percent proficiency for Asian females and males and 50 and 53 percent for white females and males, respectively, the incumbents should be ashamed of themselves for even mentioning the achievement gap. By the way, the academic inequality is only one aspect of their lackluster and painfully inadequate performance over 12 long years on the board.
Then there’s the recently announced drop in donations to the school district’s equity fund — $40,000 less in 2011-12 than in the year before. “Taxing” donations is bad policy and I predicted it would cost the district money, months ago. Chalk up another in a long series of boneheaded and destructive policies pursued by these two.
Unfortunately, the chummy clique of school supporters, cheerleaders and union members have circled the wagons in support of the old guard and mediocrity. I guess they’d rather maintain their power and influence than see the district get shaken to its roots and our schools really move ahead to excellence.
I like to shake things up, so that’s why I voted for Ben Allen, Karen Farrer and Craig Foster — first (184), second (185) and third (186) on your ballot.
Vote smart, your future depends on it.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org