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 ‚Äî Terry O‚ÄôDay and Gleam Davis ‚Äî are pro-development.
In 2008, Terry O‚ÄôDay 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‚Äôs major benefits would have been a reduction in traffic¬†growth.
O‚ÄôDay 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‚Äôs term that fall.
Once again, with the backing of hundreds of thousands of dollars in developer and real estate largess, he‚Äôs 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‚Äôs council approval of highly¬†profitable, oversized, ugly, traffic-generating developments.
Enter Davis. Like O‚ÄôDay, 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs consistently¬†voted for¬†developers who‚Äôve supported her council runs and against her constituency ‚Äî 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‚Äôll 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‚Äôt 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‚Äôt afford to inundate you with glossy mailers, false promises and exaggerated claims of their own importance because¬†developers aren‚Äôt 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‚Äôre not locked into¬†ridiculous, Utopian agendas, either. That‚Äôs¬†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‚Äôm 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‚Äôll 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 ‚Äî Jose Escarce and Maria Leon-Vazquez ‚Äî 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‚Äôs the recently announced drop in¬†donations to the school district‚Äôs equity fund ‚Äî $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‚Äôd 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‚Äôs why I voted for Ben Allen, Karen Farrer and Craig Foster ‚Äî 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