CITY HALL — A proposal by Councilman Bobby Shriver to let the people of Santa Monica directly select the mayor got a measure of preliminary support on Tuesday, with five out of the six members who were present voting to send the idea to city staff for further analysis.

A final decision to undo the current system, under which the seven-member council picks one of its members to be mayor every two years, would have to come in the form of an amendment to the city charter, which can only be done at the ballot box.

The council could vote as early as next month to place a measure on the ballot, though there’s not yet a specific proposal for an alternative method of selecting the mayor.

On Tuesday, the decision to move the proposal forward was opposed by Councilwoman Pam O’Connor.

Shriver’s proposal to directly elect the mayor gained support particularly from backers of Kevin McKeown, who has served on the council for 12 years and has been the top vote-getter the last two times he was elected but has never been chosen mayor by his colleagues.

Zina Josephs, who chairs the organization Friends of Sunset Park, spoke on his behalf Tuesday night.

“As I have watched the way the mayor has been selected in Santa Monica the last few years it reminds me a bit of social clubs in junior high and high school,” she said.

“One council member (McKeown) is apparently being punished for refusing to get along and go along.”

Tuesday’s vote was no guarantee the measure will make it onto a citywide ballot.

City staff is expected to present a report on different options for selecting the mayor at the council’s annual retreat, which is scheduled to take place Feb. 13 at a meeting room in the Main Library.

The retreat is similar to a regular council meeting with an agenda and time for public comment, but takes place in a more casual setting. While the council is authorized to take official action at the retreat, the meeting is typically not broadcast on CityTV, the Internet or KCRW, according to City Clerk Maria Stewart.

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