The ruckus began after members of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights gathered for their annual convention to endorse candidates for local races this November. Within days of the convention, the group’s Steering Committee met privately and voted to add to the party slate three SMRR loyalists who’d been passed over by the membership.

The rank and file howled. They complained that including City Councilmember Pam O’Connor and current school board members Oscar de la Torre and Ralph Mechur on SMRR’s slate circumvented the democratic process and made the convention a “waste of time.”

Justifications and excuses flooded this newspaper from SMRR’s leadership. SMRR Co-chairs Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein and Patricia Hoffman wrote (“SMRR in its own words,” Aug. 5), “When the convention fails to endorse a full slate, the Steering Committee is charged with determining, by a two-thirds majority, if it wants to add candidates to fill the slate.”

“Time to get a set of SMRR’s bylaws,” I told myself. So, I phoned around and was informed that they were hard to come by.

Meanwhile, SMRR Steering Committee member/spokesperson Sonya Fox Sultan also wrote in (“Defending the Steering Committee,” Aug. 11) rationalizing the committee’s actions. “By adding candidates who have consistently supported rent control and worked hard to protect tenants, the Steering Committee fulfilled one of its most important responsibilities to the broader SMRR membership.” 

She added that the committee “will not shy away from … complaints from outsiders or from newly-minted SMRR members who may not share our deep commitment to SMRR’s platform and core values.” Whoa, Nellie!

Core values? SMRR has declared repeatedly that its number one “public” priority is “affordable housing,” most of which goes to out-of-towners. Nevertheless, at election time, SMMR tries to convince renters that without SMRR, rent control will die and they’ll all be evicted, en masse.

It’s just not true. I’ve been a renter here for nearly 40 years. Nobody in their right mind would threaten rent control — well OK, some gonzo landlord types may try, but they weren’t at the SMRR convention, so bringing it up as an excuse is just more crap. 

While architect Mechur profits by designing affordable housing projects for providers such as Community Corp. of Santa Monica (SMRR’s favorite housing nonprofit), calling de la Torre and Mechur champions of SMRR’s core values is gratuitous at best.

A major SMRR platform plank is “protecting the community from excessive development and the traffic it generates.” Yet, the Steering Committee added developer-friendly O’Connor to its list of four City Council endorsees, which also included two other pro-development candidates.

SMRR loves to reward loyal, long-time party workers and politicos regardless of qualifications or talent. It’s why certain folks get endorsed and explains, in the case of SMRR-supported school board members, the lousy job that they do. The committee’s major purpose is to make sure the game is played to win and SMRR stays in control — not, as they claim, serving residents.

The real howler was this Sultan gem: “SMRR is a diverse and welcoming organization.”  

Remember those bylaws I wanted to see? Sultan was one of the committee members I called about getting a set, a couple weeks ago. “I don’t have them,” she told me. The next day she told SMRR member Stanley Epstein she didn’t even know where she could find the bylaws.

Like any cabal, the less you know about it, the better off you are.

Imagine an attorney, Steering Committee member and SMRR spokesperson who doesn’t have or know where to find a set of bylaws? That’s stonewalling at its prime. “Welcoming,” indeed.


Revisiting Arizona <p>

City Council’s vote to boycott Arizona and then reject the bid of an Arizona-based firm to supply 20 mobile homes to the city’s Mountain View Mobile Home Park is fast becoming a hot news topic, regionally.

Council incumbents Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day wrote a letter (“Don’t get the wrong impression,” Aug. 13) stating, “It is inaccurate to claim that Tuesday night’s decision will cost the city $2 million.” They added that council “directed staff to reject all bids and negotiate a purchase on the open market.”

Until the purchase is made, we won’t know how “inaccurate” the $2 million additional cost figure is. It may be less — or more, however, we’re now spending thousands of dollars for staff to find alternative vendors, additional costs nobody is addressing.

Their nonsense continued. “The Arizona boycott adopted by council is a statement of our city’s values. … We should make the effort to stay true to this value. When we do, we will find that it doesn’t have to cost more to live with integrity, and in this instance it almost certainly should not.” We’ll see.

Maybe Davis and O’Day can get the little children riding the Santa Monica Pier carousel or Big Blue Bus riders to help pay for these cost overruns. Integrity? Badly misplaced.


Bill can be reached at  


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