The votes are in and there were a few surprises.
I predicted that Measure Y, which will add another half cent to the city’s current 9.75 percent sales tax, would carry by 60 percent of the vote. It received 60.86 percent of the vote according to the Los Angeles County election officials, although ballot counting is ongoing. The measure is expected to add about $12 million annually to City Hall coffers.
The deal was that if Y, and its companion measure YY, passed, City Council would offer to share half its revenue with the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, although there’s no legal requirement to do so. The new tax kicks in on April 1, 2011.
As I predicted, Councilman Kevin McKeown received the most votes in the race for a four-year seat on the City Council, followed by the other incumbents Pam O’Connor and Robert Holbrook. With roughly 6,000 additional ballots to be counted, Ted Winterer (making his second run for the council dais) is currently neck and neck with Holbrook for the third open seat.
McKeown, O’Connor and Winterer were endorsed by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights. O’Connor and Holbrook benefited from being featured in numerous mailers from developer-backed entities and special interests. Police, fire and municipal employee unions backed McKeown, O’Connor and Holbrook.
A handful of other contenders finished far behind the leading four.
In the race for two-year seats to fill out the terms of the late Herb Katz and Ken Genser respectively, SMRR-endorsees Terry O’Day came in first, with Gleam Davis second. Challengers Robert Kronovet and Susan Hartley, both with no major support or revenue, followed a distant third and fourth.
It all proves that unless you can elicit key financial support or SMRR backing, your campaign is in trouble. “Major” candidates must have enough resources and/or support to produce at least three, glossy political mailers — citywide.
In the race for SMMUSD Board of Education, first-time school board candidate Laurie Lieberman came in as the top vote getter. She was endorsed by SMRR, education advocacy groups and also had her own key financial backing. Nimish Patel raised $70,000 on his own and amazingly placed fourth without any major endorsements (except mine and the Daily Press Editorial Board). Oscar de la Torre and Ralph Mechur came in second and third primarily because they are incumbents and members of the SMRR team, not because of their track records on the school board, which I believe have been poor.
It’s interesting to note that three candidates — O’Connor for City Council and both de la Torre and Mechur for school board — who didn’t receive an outright SMRR membership endorsement (but were later added to the SMRR team during a secret, closed-door meeting by the 13-member SMRR Steering Committee) all handily won re-election.
Many political activists claim that SMRR was misleading and dishonest because SMRR’s literature featured all endorsees as equal members of their team with no differentiation as to whether they were endorsed by the rank and file at the Annual Congress or added later by the SMRR Steering Committee.
In the weeks immediately before the election, a different hullabaloo erupted over misleading mailers from Santa Monicans for Quality Government. SMQG put out slick color brochures featuring Davis, O’Connor, Holbrook and O’Day. The slate mailers were designed to look like they came from Santa Monica police and firefighters as well as the Committee for Excellent Public Schools, a school support group.
Like the equally phony Santa Monicans for Sensible Priorities citizens group from previous elections, SMQG was conceived by hack political advertising and public relations shills and paid by the Edward Thomas Management Company (Casa del Mar and Shutters hotels) and key developer/real estate interests. This time, Texas-based Hines and Brentwood-based NMS Properties helped foot the bill. Both firms have large developments pending City Council approval.
Additional SMQG resources came from Village Trailer Park LLC, Maxser & Co. (both with major developments pending) and the Armbruster Goldsmith & Delvac law firm, which represents several developers including Hines. Anybody want to bet whether Holbrook (if he wins), O’Day, Davis and O’Connor will recuse themselves from voting for these mega-projects when they come before City Council in the coming months? Naww.
SMQG’s so-called president is Fred Huebscher who runs the Hermosa Beach-based The Political Scientists, which worked directly with the O’Connor and Davis campaigns. Huebscher is a political direct mail strategist and produces political slate mailers, which are often criticized as being misleading.
The problem is that only a small portion of Santa Monica’s electorate pays attention to the local news media’s coverage of those shenanigans. Political commentary such as this column are read by even less people.
So, until the majority of voters stop relying on mailers loaded with B.S., misrepresentations and outright lies for their campaign information, familiar names will stay in power and out-of-town special interests with tons of money to spend will control how we’re governed and our quality of life.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org