CITY HALL — After an election that saw Santa Monica’s City Council incumbents sweep their way back into office, don’t expect any policy shifts in 2011. But be prepared, observers say, for some early contention on the dais.
Once members are sworn in for their new terms Dec. 7, the council’s first order of business will be to select a mayor.
Bobby Shriver, who was picked by his colleagues for the post just six months ago, may think he’s in a good position to win an extension, considering a normal mayoral term is two years and the same decision-makers as last time will be making the call.
But, as some recall, Shriver was picked only after multiple rounds of voting failed to produce a majority, and even then won the job by only a 4-3 vote.
And now, a couple of new dynamics are in play that could further threaten his claim to the mayoral sash.
Here’s a rundown of the factors likely to affect the outcome:
Bloom for assembly?
First, there’s the terribly kept secret that Councilman Richard Bloom is extremely likely to run for State Assembly in 2012. Bloom, who was first elected to the council in 1999, wasn’t a factor in the mayoral discussion back in May. But taking the mayoral reigns for the next two years figures to give him a boost during a potential 2012 campaign, prompting many observers to consider him a prime candidate to seek the post.
A reliable member of the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights voting block, Bloom is likely to get support from at least a couple of members of his party, though getting the nod from Kevin McKeown and Terry O’Day, SMRR members who last time around helped elect Shriver, a non-SMRR member, is less certain.
Bloom has twice served as mayor in the past, which may make some fairness-minded council members wary of giving him a third term, especially since McKeown, a 12-year veteran of the council and the top vote-getter in November’s election, has yet to be selected mayor.
Reached this week, Bloom didn’t dispel any rumors about a possible Assembly run. But he declined to speculate about who would be selected mayor.
“I think the council isn’t due to address this issue until December and the discussion is premature,” he said. “We don’t even know what the results of the election are yet.”
(The election is set to be certified on Nov. 30. At press time the race for one council term was still too close to call, with incumbent Bob Holbrook holding onto a 55-vote lead over challenger Ted Winterer.)
O’Connor out of the running
Despite having been Shriver’s main competition six months ago, one member of the council who won’t factor into the mayoral discussion is Pam O’Connor.
O’Connor this week said she’s not interested in being mayor, mainly because she’s in line to become the president of the Southern California Association of Governments, a regional planning body that draws its members from the ranks of local government leaders in six Southern California counties, in May.
“I couldn’t be mayor and president of SCAG at the same time,” she said. “That would be too much.”
A political decision?
It goes without saying that selecting a mayor is a political decision. But one former mayor, Denny Zane, this week said he believes the choice should have more to do with collegiality and cultivating a sense of fairness than with establishing alliances.
Every council member, he said, should eventually get a chance to be mayor.
“Fairness should drive the decision,” he said. “It certainly should drive it far more than the personal ambitions of any one council member, especially if that person has already been mayor a few times.”
He added: “I think fairness would argue that [Shriver or McKeown] should be mayor or that they each should be mayor for a year.”
McKeown, while popular among voters, wasn’t nominated for the job in May. At times he has appeared to have a strained relationship with several of his colleagues, including some members of SMRR.
This week McKeown said he plans to make a case for himself come December.
“Other than me, everyone on the council who’s been elected for more than three weeks has already been mayor, most of them multiple times,” he said in an e-mail. “Residents have been asking me since the election if finally, after 12 years, I’ll now be mayor, since I was the top popular vote-getter for the second election in a row.”
What will O’Day do?
When it comes to handicapping the mayor decision, the most important person may be O’Day, the newest council member who isn’t himself likely to be nominated for the job. Back in May, faced with a decision of whether to support O’Connor or Shriver, he cast what was considered the decisive vote for Shriver — a move that cost his fellow SMMR member the position.
Many observers expect that this time around it will come down to a choice between Shriver and Bloom, a decision that may be harder for O’Day to make, especially because Bloom last year nominated O’Day to fill a vacant seat on the council, paving the way for his appointment. Will O’Day again break party ranks to back Shriver? Or will he side with Bloom, who may be on his way up the political ladder?
It’s likely that in the weeks ahead O’Day will be getting pressure from both sides. If he’s leaning in either direction, or thinking about a third option, he’s not saying.
“I haven’t made any commitments,” he said on Tuesday. “I think our mayor has done a great job in the short time he’s had … I think he deserves the chance [to continue], but that doesn’t mean he’ll have the votes either.”
O’Day also noted he owes special consideration to a possible mayoral bid from Bloom.
“Richard has been mayor in the past and has a great deal of experience to contribute to the role, and I think he’d be a great mayor for the upcoming year or two,” O’Day said.