DOWNTOWN — After some jitters over how elected leaders might be planning to spend Measure Y revenue should the half percent sales tax increase pass on Nov. 2, Santa Monica’s cops and firefighters are continuing to back the ballot initiative.

Sources told the Daily Press that leaders of the public safety unions were surprised this week by a comment from City Councilwoman Gleam Davis at the Daily Press’ candidate forum in which she expressed openness to spending some of the money raised from Y that is said to be for “general fund services” to prevent cuts to emeritus classes at Santa Monica College.

A source says the unions, which last month voted to back Measure Y and companion advisory Measure YY (which urges leaders to use half of the new revenue for education programs) halted printing of their campaign materials in support of the measures for two days this week while “questions were posed and clarifications were made.”

Apparently, the answers were to the groups’ liking, and the unions are again at ease with supporting Y and YY.

The Daily Press was told leaders of the two unions are satisfied that the portion of Measure Y revenue that City Hall would keep (estimated at $6 million per year, assuming Measure YY passes and is honored) will be spent on general fund programs, not used for “special projects” like helping SMC.

Asked for comment, Police Officers Association Jay Trisler said only: “If we’re supporting this, we want the public to understand that Measure Y is for general services.”

How the money will ultimately be divvied up, though, comes down to trust, since the ballot measure is a “general tax” that doesn’t direct money to specific uses. As such, it requires just a simple majority to pass, rather than the two-thirds threshold for specialty taxes.

Indeed, the Measure Y text could hardly be less specific. New revenue, it says, would be used to “maintain essential services including: police, fire, paramedic and emergency 911 response, school, educational and after-school programs, public transit, services for the disabled, gang and drug prevention programs, environmental, library and other general fund services.” (Read: Anything the council deems worthy).

Meanwhile, cops and firefighters so far haven’t borne the brunt of budget cuts, though the unions are clearly mindful that they could be next.

Just a few months ago, City Manager Rod Gould tried to cut two police lieutenant positions from this year’s budget but was turned back by the council, which preserved the positions under heavy pressure from the police union. The positions, which cost $500,000 annually to fill, remain vacant while a hiring freeze is in effect.

Low growth group attacks O’Connor, again<p>

In the first direct attack on a candidate of this campaign season, the slow-growth group Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City is again targeting Councilwoman Pam O’Connor, accusing her in a press release of taking “bundled” donations from a development company that has a major project pending before the council.

The release, sent out on Monday, charges O’Connor, who is running for a fifth council term, with taking enough money from employees of development company Hines to re-pay a few thousand dollars of debt left over from her previous campaign. (Hines, of course, is seeking a development agreement with City Hall to build a nearly 1 million square-foot mixed-use project at the Papermate site at 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard.)

It’s basically a re-play from four years ago, when the group attacked O’Connor for taking money from Macerich, which was then working on plans to re-develop Santa Monica Place.

“Because of community outcry, the Santa Monica Place project was scaled back. But the fact remains: Ms. O’Connor took that developer’s money then, as she has done now, at a time when she thought that project would be coming to council for her approval,” the SMCLC press release stated.

O’Connor, reached this week via e-mail, dismissed the attack and called the group a “one-note pony.”

“SMCLC has yet to provide any evidence of special treatment. They note my tenure on the council but then don’t have a single case to point to that supports their innuendoes,” she wrote.

“While they state that I received campaign contributions from Macerich, they can’t point to any special treatment I gave to Macerich — because there was no special treatment!”

Also: “Most developers, like most people, just want a fair shot. SMCLC demonizes developers and I don’t. My motto is to treat everyone fairly.”

SMCLC is backing three candidates for City Council: Kevin McKeown and Ted Winterer in the four-year race and Susan Hartley in the two-year race.

Patel leads school board candidates in fundraising<p>

He may not have the backing of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, local Democrats or leading school advocacy groups. But Nimish Patel does have $42,032 in the bank from campaign contributions in just the past three months. Major gifts included: $5,000 from Barry Honig, a Boca Raton investor, and separate $2,500 contributions from several sources: Beverly Hills firm APH Holdings; Troy Barnet, of Rancho Santa Margarita; Robert Hsu, a Beverly Hills investment manager; and Hamid Kabani, a Los Angeles accountant. (Patel has raised a total of $63,232 since beginning his campaign for a Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board seat).

Patel’s take during the period from July 1 to Sept. 30 was nearly triple the amount raised by the second place school board fundraiser, challenger Chris Bley, who reported raising $25,004 since his campaign began, $15,000 of it from a single New York financier named Richard Winter.

Another challenger, Laurie Lieberman, was third with $11,146 raised, followed by three incumbents: Ralph Mechur, who raised $5,125 (and also loaned his campaign an additional $1,000); Oscar de la Torre, who raised $2,700; and current board president Barry Snell, who raised $1,640.

Two other candidates, Patrick Cady and Jake Wachtel, did not have fundraising committees.

nickt@www.smdp.com

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