Last Tuesday, former planning commissioner Terry O’Day was appointed by City Council as an interim replacement for the late Ken Genser on the council dais. In November, he’ll have to run against other candidates and win to complete Genser’s term which expires in November, 2012. O’Day prevailed after eight rounds of voting. 

Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights-affiliated City Councilman Richard Bloom nominated and voted for O’Day through all eight rounds. Bob Holbrook, a “business-backed” councilman, consistently backed O’Day and SMRR-endorsed Pam O’Connor voted six times for O’Day.

Gleam Davis nominated and voted exclusively for SMRR darling and “officeholder-in-training” Jennifer Kennedy. Davis’ vote was strictly SMRR “partisan politics.” She totally ignored her constituency who were overwhelmingly backing either Ted Winterer or O’Day. The snub was a major political blunder for Davis. 

Councilman Kevin McKeown, a SMRR member, nominated and voted for Winterer for the initial rounds and then changed his vote to Kennedy. O’Day and Kennedy were the only candidates nominated for the final round.

Bobby Shriver, an independent, voted for Winterer initially but switched to O’Day on the final round — possibly to avoid voting for Kennedy. Because Genser was mayor when he died, council will choose an interim mayor at their April 13 meeting. Some are saying that Shriver, seeing O’Day’s inevitable victory, may have voted for him in hopes of receiving his support for a mayoral nod.

O’Day has received consistent backing by developer, hotel and real estate interests who contributed to his failed 2006 council bid as well as the campaign committee he co-chaired to defeat 2008’s Measure T, a ballot proposition that would have restricted commercial development in the city.

A few years ago, it would’ve been unthinkable for SMRR-endorsed politicians to support anything associated with real estate interests, landlords and developers who opposed traditional SMRR core values such as rent control and slow-growth development. Today, these “business entities” share many SMRR priorities such as more social services, low income housing, environmental programs and education, so there are some mutual interests. 

The political shift is away from SMRR vs. non-SMRR and more toward “more development” vs. “slow growth.” The schism between pro-development SMRRs (who see development as a source of funds for expanded public housing, sustainable city and social services) and slow growth SMRRs (concerned about traffic and crowding) within SMRR is real.

Developer and real estate lucre has already found its way into some SMRR politicians’s war chests. Thousands of dollars in campaign contributions have flowed to the late Genser as well as Bloom and O’Connor. The real estate/developer largess may have already paid off through votes for O’Day. What? Can’t buy Bloom and O’Connor’s votes? Looks like someone may have.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent by hotel interests, developers and big business in the fall election because they smell blood in the water. Deep-pocket interests will likely back a slate of pro-business and pro-development incumbents consisting of Holbrook, O’Day and O’Connor in November.

At their annual summer congress, SMRR will probably endorse McKeown, Davis and Kennedy, and possibly O’Connor (if she has a fat war chest) for November’s elections.

Members of the business community already ponied up an estimated five grand for O’Connor at a re-election fundraiser last fall put together in part by Kim Karie, a City Hall lobbyist for developer, real estate and luxury hotel interests. Karie also lobbied hard behind the scenes for O’Day’s appointment. 

O’Connor, who has a growing list of enemies within SMRR and a lengthy history of accepting developer/real estate boodle, may be sucking up to big money interests to keep her flagging political career afloat in case SMRR dumps her. Year-end (2009) “Friends of Pam O’Connor” financial disclosure statements listing her contributors have still not been filed and posted on the city Web site.

With O’Day’s appointment, City Council is now made up of five council persons who are considered pro-development. They are Davis, Bloom, O’Connor, Holbrook and O’Day. On the other side are slow growth McKeown, and Shriver who leans toward “less.”

Now, there are enough votes on council to approve projects faster and with more generous terms for developers. Even if a pro-development incumbent loses his or her council seat to a slow-growth advocate such as Winterer in November, the votes will still be there for speedier approval of larger developments and City Hall’s growth-encouraging Land use and Circulation Element (LUCE.)

Traffic and quality of life issues for the rest of us will be glossed over because there’s big money to be made and campaign coffers to be filled. Scary thought: council’s pro-development margin could be even bigger especially if McKeown were to lose his reelection bid this fall.

We’re becoming victims of political greed and out-of-state real estate manipulators. As voters, we must smarten up, organize and fight for what’s good for all of us. 

Santa Monica is not for sale.

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