IT’S ALMOST ALWAYS ALL ABOUT THE $$$
Oh, occasionally you have high ideals that steer a piece of history. A saint here, an aesthete there, a righteous crusader, a philosopher or poet, a selfless patriot waving the right flag. But let’s face it: in the history of the human race, greed rules. And when I say greed, I mean also greed for power.
So much of what happens politically seems mysterious. Why would they do that? But if you could know what they know, the veil would be lifted. Oh — no wonder, now it makes sense.
Why is the City allowing a four-story early childhood learning center on our civic center property? A pre-school, basically, on the edge of downtown, across from a parking garage, a Hilton hotel, the courthouse, our Civic Auditorium, a high school, maybe an athletic field for big kids, and oh yes the Rand Corporation? Doesn’t that seem odd? Would you pick that location, to gather toddlers? Wonder why that location was chosen? (“A done deal,” we’ve been told for at least a decade when we questioned it.) Why are we charging this Santa Monica College enterprise only $1 a year rent on the land instead of market rate, a $25,000,000 giveaway? Why are we also kicking in millions from our coffers to build it? Haven’t we Santa Monicans already given SMC, in recent years, more than a billion (that’s with a B) in bond money? Why did we have to fight to get just 30 percent of the admissions allocated to Santa Monica kids? And only 15 percent for low income. (The 15 could be included in the 30.) Who’s benefiting from this?
JUST GROW’D (LIKE TOPSY?)
Why are we allowing its presence and size to infringe upon the building of a simple athletic field next to it, so needed by our kids and Samohi? It has grown considerably from first projections (because it is part of a college, could have gone to 20 stories or more if they wanted), creating such a contentious, drawn-out process (15 years — that means kids at Samo when it was promised by City Council, could now have their own kids at Samo, still waiting), with many still wondering if it will ever get built? “This is nuts. This is absolutely crazy” asserted one advocate. Why was it the last item placed before the Coastal Commission, after everything else went in, leaving the possibility of no go; with all those other things there, approved, now we don’t know if the field will fit? Why did the estimates at one point skyrocket to more than $80,000,000? For a playing field. One of the bids just for a design was more than half a million. A sorely-needed playing field, for our kids, for our high school — why all the delay, resistance, and ridiculous expense? Who’s benefiting from this?
$2,300,000 for a pair of outdoor toilets in Clover Park? Are you serious? Last Council meeting that was on their consent calendar — meaning, these items are so clear-cut we don’t even need to discuss them, just give them all a pass at once. But Councilmember Tony Vasquez pulled the toilet for some discussion, of the design history and the cost estimate. Fellow Councilmember Sue Himmelrich said she hoped the City would consider ways to save money, including buying prefabricated buildings, “in view of our looming and threatening possible deficit.” Hear, hear! And thennn — she voted for it, making it, for the record, for history, unanimous. Himmelrich’s willingness to question projects and agenda are admirable, but go for nothing when she then makes the politically expedient vote to vote with the majority, as she almost always does after raising questions (and not really getting good answers). Toilets made to withstand tsunamis and earthquakes — who’s benefiting from this?
EXTRA CHEESE ON THAT WEBSITE?
On that same consent calendar was a cool million for a new City website. The current one is pretty bad. (Wonder what we paid for that?) Every tech-savvy person I’ve asked about it has been taken aback, and offered, I’ll do it for .9M! I think there’s probably a smart kid at Samohi who would do a great job for a stack of pizzas, a few subs and a designer credit. Who’s benefiting from this?
How about those skyscrapers on Ocean Avenue, and the 12-story behemoth hotel development proposed for smack dab in the middle of our downtown, on our property bought years ago with our taxpayer money. Shouldn’t we have some public park area at our core? And why do we need 20-story buildings anywhere in Santa Monica, let alone blocking our view of the ocean? The Miramar gave up fighting for its tall tower and now proposes to spread those multi-$M luxury condos all over the block. Gigantic. Out of place here. And it’s all against current zoning, you know. But we make exceptions. Often. Who’s benefiting from this?
The lawsuit fighting our switch to district voting for City Council instead of at large — the state of California asks for it. Every California city (except us), of 24 recently, when challenged, decided to go district. There are arguments both ways but not iron-clad or even that compelling. What would be the great harm of electing our City representatives by neighborhoods? But our City Council thinks it would be terrible enough that they have hired an extremely pricey international law firm to fight it, we’ve already spent millions and the price tag could easily hit $8,000,000. (Why, that’s as much as we spent on our glorious new bus benches.) Who’s benefiting from this?
There’s more. So much more. I know I’ve written of these things before and many of you know about them, but many don’t, and hopefully will be shocked and motivated to become informed and VOTE. This time I’m asking all to ask that question: if it doesn’t seem to make sense, who is benefiting? Individuals? Special interests? In many cases I don’t know the answer.
But I do know this: the answer is usually, clearly, NOT — the residents of Santa Monica.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Who’s benefiting from this? (I learned from years in advertising: repetition is imperative.)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “You [demagogues] are like the fishers for eels; in still waters they catch nothing, but if they thoroughly stir up the slime, their fishing is good; in the same way it’s only in troublous times that you line your pockets.” — Aristophanes
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com