The Republican Party in Washington, D.C. is totally out of touch with the concerns of the average American. For 50 years, they’ve had two solutions to every problem: cut taxes and reduce government spending. That’s because the GOP is the party of wealthy people whose only concern is protecting their money. On the one hand, I’m disgusted by the fact that far too many of these people would deny poor kids a good public education or decent health care in order to maintain their account balances. On the other hand, I appreciate that their primary motivation (greed) makes them predictable.
In our fair city, we also have a political party that is totally out of touch with the concerns of the average person. They’re called Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights. They were a tenant’s organization that somehow morphed into the political force to be reckoned with in Santa Monica; controlling the levers of power at Santa Monica College, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, the Rent Control Board, and on our City Council. The organization (and by extension, the city it runs) claims to be focused on a progressive, people-first agenda, but too often fails to meet the liberal smell test. Look at other famously hip cities like Cambridge in Massachusetts or Berkeley in the Bay Area and you’ll find a local government where decisions are made out in the open, after public debate, and by people who are accountable to voters. Look at Santa Monica, and you’ll find two City Council vacancies being filled by appointment, not election, in one year. You’ll also find that SMRR doesn’t care about democracy, only about power.
When Herb Katz passed away last year, the City Council had to find a replacement. Appointing someone was the first option. The SMRR majority on the council chose appointment and supposedly opened the process to any Santa Monican registered to vote. They received 27 applications and chose SMRR’s Gleam Davis. With that appointment, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights controlled five of the seven seats on the council. From the beginning to the end of the process, I was surprised to see that SMRR had adopted the GOP attitude that ignores public opinion, the appearance of impropriety, and any potential conflicts of interest. But then why concern yourself with how bad your naked power grab looks when you can crush anyone who complains?
With the recent passing of Ken Genser, it’s déjà vu all over again. Only this time, a special election wasn’t even on SMRR’s radar. This time, the question was whether to solicit applications for SMRR to approve or just choose directly from a list of SMRR members. By a vote of 4-1, the council chose not to ask for applications. The bedfellows on this vote were especially strange with Bobby Shriver joining the SMRR caucus in a “keep it real” protest vote, and SMRR’s Kevin McKeown as the only vote for an open application process. Potential candidates are supposed to just call up a council member to see if they might be considered. Thanks to Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, our City Council has gone from an elected body to a country club where membership has its privileges.
I almost joined SMRR last year. Then I realized I was highly unlikely to have any effect on the organization’s vision or direction. As best I could tell, I’d have to whip up a bunch of votes for candidates for the Steering Committee in hopes that I might someday be a candidate myself. If I kissed enough butt on the Steering Committee, I might get a seat on a city board or commission. If I toed the SMRR line well enough and long enough, I might be considered for one of those City Council appointments — at which point I become a council member for life because SMRR candidates don’t lose elections. That would take way too long, so I decided to keep shaming them in print.
Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights came into its own in 1979 and we all know that as tough as it is to be anti-establishment in your 30s, it’s that much tougher to recognize when you’ve actually become the establishment. But that’s what SMRR is. They may have set out to give the seven-out-of-10 Santa Monicans who don’t own property a moderately priced beachfront paradise to enjoy. But three decades later, what they’ve given us is a college with less than 20 percent local enrollment that constantly begs for millions of dollars from local taxpayers; a school district that protects and enables pedophile sexual predators like Thomas Beltran; and a City Council that permits developers like Sister Sue at Saint John’s to literally crap on our community. With people like SMRR’s Kelly Olsen advocating for SMRR’s Patricia Hoffman at the funeral of SMRR’s Ken Genser, what we have in Santa Monica is ancient Rome by the Sea. A place where political power is handed out as a favor from one family to another, not earned from the voters through the democratic process — and they don’t even give us bread and circuses.
Kenny Mack is a muti-platform content provider with four-quadrant crossover appeal who never has to wonder who runs this town, but constantly wonders when they’re going to do the right thing. His past columns are archived at www.ifyoumissedit.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org