We are intrigued by the reactions to the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights convention held last Sunday at John Adams Middle School. Apparently there are some pretty peeved people out there who feel that the convention was hijacked by North of Montana homeowners and education advocates who came out to back City Council candidate Ted Winterer.

It seems some older SMRR members didn’t like the new kids on the block turning the tables, which led to no endorsements for Councilwoman Pam O’Connor, who has been endorsed by the group in years past but has fallen out of favor with some over education and development, and school board members Oscar de la Torre and Ralph Mechur.

We say sour grapes.

SMRR leadership loves to talk about how the organization is “grassroots” while other groups — mainly the bogus Santa Monicans for Sensible Priorities — were “AstroTurf” because they really only represented business interests and had no resident support. SMRR leadership is fond of touting the group’s open forum where members can truly participate in democracy by voting for the candidates they feel best represent them.

But when it became clear that a new voting block had gained control of the convention, some of the old guard got mad and are now working with the steering committee behind the scenes to get support for O’Connor and other candidates that failed to make the grade at the convention.

Where’s the democracy in that? SMRR leadership wants to hide behind their bylaws, saying that the steering committee has the option to “support” (not endorse) candidates if there isn’t a full slate. That has ticked off those who went to the convention and felt their vote meant something.

This is how democracy works, people. Sometimes a new faction can come in and kick butt. Sometimes a small group with more contacts and more cash can swing the vote. It happens all the time in local, state and national races, and finally it happened to SMRR. If you don’t like it, change the bylaws. Until then, deal with it.

Now what SMRR leadership should really be concerned about is what the convention means for the future. It is obvious that a rift still exists in SMRR between those who are in favor of development and those who are slow-growth. It seems that development, not renters’ rights, is the hot topic with the potential to disrupt the group’s operations and possibly dilute its influence in future elections.

It’s turning out to be an exciting campaign season and it’s just getting underway. With so much at stake (five council seats open), there is sure to be more fuel added to the fire. We can’t wait to see what happens.

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