With the unfortunate passing of Herb Katz last month, there’s now a vacancy on City Council. Procedure calls for the remaining council members to appoint someone by Feb. 24 to fill his seat until the general election in 2010. Katz was elected for his fifth term in November or 2008.

If the council cannot choose a person to replace Katz by the deadline, a special election will be called to select someone to temporarily fill the seat until Nov. 2, 2010. According to the City Clerk’s office, Katz’s seat (whether temporarily occupied by an appointee or someone elected during a special election) “shall be placed on the November 2010 ballot so voters may elect a council member to serve the remainder of his term.”

A similar situation happened when Emily Bloomfield, elected to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education in November of 2006 gave up her seat in August 2007. The school board appointed Ralph Mechur to replace her until the next general election in November 2008. Then, Mechur and others could run to fill Boomfield’s vacated seat for the last two years of her unfinished four-year term expiring in 2010. Because Mechur ran unopposed for Bloomfield’s seat, he just needed to be “sworn in” to make it official.

So, who’s going to replace Katz until 2010? Four of the six remaining council persons are members of the powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights organization and will control the appointment.

My crystal ball says Gleam Davis will get council’s nod. Davis, a 22-year Santa Monica resident. is currently co-chair of SMRR which has dominated city politics for three decades. She made a failed run for council in 2006 and is currently on the Planning Commission.

According to her “Davis for City Council 2006” Web site, she’s an active supporter of the SMMUSD. She was involved with the Community for Excellent Public Schools and either chair or co-chair of the district’s BB Committee, Advisory Committee on Child Care and Development, Santa Monica Child Care and Early Education Task Force and was a member of at least one SMMUSD parcel tax committee.

Professionally, she is a trial attorney and senior counsel for AT&T. She holds a Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Southern California. Davis lives with her family “north of Montana.”

Because of her SMRR connection and deep ties with the public schools, she should have support across the board. With key SMRR members wanting to see a woman or a minority on the City Council (Pam O’Connor is the only woman on the dais), Davis fits the bill.

Some people have been rooting for Ocean Park activist Ted Winterer who came in fifth for four open council seats last election. Ted isn’t a SMRR insider and didn’t receive their endorsement last summer in his election bid. Ted is also a middle-aged, white male.

Planning Commission Chair Terry O’ Day has been mentioned as a possible appointee but he is also a middle-aged, white male. He co-chaired the controversial Save our City committee that opposed last fall’s failed ballot Measure T, which would have reduced commercial development in the city. Today’s big roll in Measure T’s defeat will cost him key support from SMRR slow growth insiders.

Others who have also been mentioned include Susan Hartley who also ran for City Council last year and veteran SMRR insider and current co-chair, Patricia Hoffman, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2004. Early public applicants for the seat include community activist, Jean McNeil-Wyner and Mac computer consultant Christian Boyce. Councilpersons don’t necessarily have to pick an applicant and can appoint any resident of their own choosing.

Keep in mind the person appointed to temporarily fill Katz’s seat is the odd’s on favorite to be elected (if they run) next year to serve out Katz’s term. Being that Santa Monica voters are reluctant to replace incumbents, this appointee could have a long, long run on the dais.

It’s also worth noting that SMRR endorsed only two candidates for four open council seats last November — Mayor Ken Genser and Richard Bloom. Bobby Shriver and Katz also ran but without SMRR’s endorsement.

Speculation is that SMRR’s leadership felt strongly that Katz, who was suffering from cancer, would not finish his four year term.

Assuming Shriver’s re-election and with Bob Holbrook in mid-term, SMRR strategists knew there would be only two non-SMRRs on the dais, therefore SMRR would control any appointment to replace Katz by a four to two vote once his seat was declared “open.”

This appointment will likely net SMRR a five to two “super-majority” on City Council.

As I’ve said many times Virginia, it’s not about governing, it’s all about getting and keeping power.

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

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