Like political soap opera?How about the palace coup at the Wilshire/Montana Neighborhood Coalition meeting (Wilmont) last week?

Wilmont’s board of directorssupports therenovation and expansion of the Fairmont-Miramar Hotel because itwould include on-site employee parking, eliminate the need for hundreds of hotel staffers to park on nearby residential streets and free up parking space for residents.

Residents of adjacentcondos, the owners of the nearby Huntley House hotel (concerned about blocked views) and the usual slow-growthers oppose the renovation. They claimWilmont’s endorsementwas made in secret without member input. They formed a coalition to seize control of the group and set things straight

Eleven persons ¬ó many who recentlyjoined the organization ¬ó submitted petitions for election to the boardat Wilmont’s annual meeting on June 9. The group¬ís bylaws state thatcandidates must livein Wilmont, be dues-paying members and submitpetitions for candidacy with 10 valid signatures fromorganization members at least 10 days prior to the election.

Wilmont Chair Valerie Griffin announcedjust before the election that “long standing rules”required that board candidates must have beenmembers for a year, attended at least three board meetingsand have contributed to the group’s activities.Unfortunately forGriffin, the ¬ìrules¬î are inconsistent with Wilmont’s bylawsandtherefore not legal.

Whenchallenged about procedure,she moved to cancel the election because (get this folks) the organization¬ís elderly membership chair had broken her hip and membership information was not available. Candidates and petition signers couldn’t be verified.

These and otherdesperate tactics to thwart the coup weredeployed. At themeeting,Griffinwas quickly ousted and members voted overwhelmingly to go ahead with a provisional vote.

Ballots weresealed in a ballot box which was taken home for safe keeping by Wilmont’s Vice Chair Albin Gielicz, who took over the confab afterGriffinwas sent packing. Members ofthe hostile opposition trying to take over Wilmont thentrusted a current board member to take the ballotsfor safe keeping untiltheycould be verified and counted? Whaaa?

It really doesn’t matter who wins. With all the chicanery and foolishness, this neighborhood group has completely lostits credibility. No matter how the ¬ìnew¬î Wilmont board votes on the Fairmont-Miramar or any other issue,it’sall a bunch of hooey. Plus, does anybody reallycare?

The big question is: are coup backersa “one trick pony” or are they seriously interested in resuscitating Wilmont’s credibility and solving broader neighborhood issues? Time will tell.

Who are they working for?

City officials are projecting that City Hall will be awash in red ink in four years. They are projecting a$4.6 million deficit by fiscal year 2015-16. Who knows, by 2202 the annual deficit couldbe $10 million or more

The reasons given for the projected deficits areincreased employee retirement costs, added operating expense for new parks and city facilities and costs incurred by the dissolution of the Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency

City Manager Rod Gould told the Daily Press that steps willbe taken to bring future spending in line with revenues. Those steps includea combination of fee increases and reduced spending

Withever larger annual deficits looming, what’sa City Council to do? Commit to a 10 yeargiveaway of at least $8.120,245 annually to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District!

A couple of weeks ago, council approveda 10 year schedule of payments on its Master Facilities Use Agreement and related supplements to allowschool playing fields and athletic facilities to continue to beused for generalcommunity recreation.

The agreement(this year worth $8 million-plus) hasbuilt in two to four percent annual cost of living increases.It calls for annual review of payments based onthe value of the school facilities and City Hall’s ¬ìability to provide additional compensation¬î ¬ó apparently not on the need to cut payments ifmunicipal deficits soar.

City Hall bureaucrats and politicians were thrilledto “be able to providemorefinancial stability for the district,” but what about the financial stability of the city, especiallyin the face of even largerdeficits likely six, eight or 10 years down the road?

Councilman Bobby Shriversaid a 10 year lifespan contract could put the city at risk. Hewisely urged a more prudent, five year agreement ¬ó the same as the current contract. Council voted for the 10 year giveaway, instead.

Deeper red ink could mean reducing city services, laying offpolice and fire personnel and/or raising taxes and fees. Such moves are now more probable because City Hall has putSMMUSD’s financial interests before its own.

It appears that once again Gould, his staff and council persons Terry O’Day, Gleam Davis, Pam O’Connor, Bob Holbrookand his honor Mayor Richard Bloom are more concerned about the SMMUSD¬ís solvencythanthe solvency of the city ¬ó and the residents ¬ó they’re supposed to serve.

For the record, Kevin McKeown, who does business with the district, didn’t vote.

The right thing to do

City Council finally made the right decision in approvingchanges tothe municipal code to banunattended private displays inpublic parks. Their vote will bring PalisadesParkin line with other city parks by eliminating the oneexceptionCity Hallhad unfortunately extended to local churches for seasonal nativity scenes decades ago.

This was the only correct solution to a knotty problem. It’ll passConstitutional muster because free speech has not been abridged. Finally, some common sense on an emotional issue.

Bill can be reached at

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