The most important City Council endorsements were made in July when members of the powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) organization endorsed planning commissioner Ted Winterer and council incumbent Gleam Davis. A week later, SMRR’s secretive steering committee added former City Councilman Tony Vazquez and incumbent Terry O’Day to “The SMRR Team.”

Last week, the political action committee (PAC) for the Coalition of Santa Monica City Employees (CSMCE), representing nine municipal employee unions with 1,600 non-public safety employees, announced they were endorsing Davis, O’Day, Winterer and entertainment attorney Frank Gruber.

The city’s two public safety unions — Santa Monica Firefighters Local 1109 and the Police Officers Association (POA) — will also endorse council candidates. The POA should announce their picks, today. These bargaining units are primarily concerned with wage and benefits packages for their respective members. This year, as in previous years, they will be actively campaigning for their respective slates.

Endorsements from two school advocacy groups — the Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) and Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Direction (LEAD) — are expected soon.

Development and planning issues seem to be on the front burner this election. Traffic is the number one issue followed by development. There’s no doubt that City Hall’s development policies and inability to deal with traffic increases have resulted in expanding gridlock all over town — and an increasingly unhappy electorate.

Many residents view Santa Monica’s traffic congestion as a direct result of City Hall’s permissive stance on new and larger developments. Even though planning staff and their highly overpaid consultants boast that “sustainable” mitigation measures such as bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure improvements will mean “no new net car trips,” traffic still gets worse and worse.

Two citizen groups concerned with development issues will support restrained development candidates. Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) which was behind 2008’s failed Measure T ballot measure that would have temporarily capped commercial growth to reduce traffic impacts in the city has already endorsed planning commissioners Winterer and Richard McKinnon.

The new Santa Monicans for Responsible Growth (SMRG) has formed a PAC and promises to endorse candidates they think will back more temperate development policy. If the slow growth contingent expects to have any influence on the pace of development in the community, they must put up a united front, support the same qualified “slow growth” candidates and work hard to get their people elected.

Conversely, developer and hotel interests will be sending out slick, color mailers under the name of some phony citizen’s group such as Santa Monicans for Quality Government. As they have in previous years, these brochures will tout pro-development candidates as being against big development and push the big lie: “Development doesn’t cause traffic.” Organizers and consultants behind the so-called “citizen’s group” will once again hide their supporters and financial contributors.

Major projects — such as the Fairmont Miramar Hotel renovation and expansion and the construction of a half-dozen new, large, mixed-use/office projects (including the highly controversial East Village development at the Village Trailer Park and Bergamot Transit Village project at the Paper Mate site) — won’t be up for council approval until after the election.

Pro-development incumbents such as O’Day and Davis have dodged a bullet because they now don’t have to risk voter disapproval by supporting these projects or lose developer campaign contributions by opposing them.

A few more viable candidates are also coming down the track.

Environmentalist and recent Planning Commission appointee McKinnon is getting some support from slow growth advocates. Like other lesser-known challengers, he needs to become better known to voters.

I’ve met former TV news producer John Cyrus Smith a couple of times, He impresses me as a smart, no-nonsense type of guy who also needs more exposure.

Attorney and neighborhood activist Bob Seldon has his hat in the ring. I know Seldon personally. He supports controlled growth and “green” initiatives and he’s firmly rooted in reality. Like Smith, he uses common sense when solving problems.

“Urbanist” Gruber has consistently supported big development interests and their projects in his opinion columns over the years. On his FrankGruber2012 web page, he’s posted, “Santa Monica must continue to control development for the benefit of all.” Is this the same Gruber who described slow growth/anti-traffic advocates as “Santa Monicans fearful of change” in his writings?

Former City Councilman (1990-94) Tony Vazquez jumped into the race after 18 years on the sidelines. His single council term was fraught with controversy. He voted against a number of key public safety measures and his feud with the POA contributed to his failure to be re-elected for a second term back in the day. Vazquez says things are different now. It remains to be seen if this leopard has changed his spots.

Why is school activist Shari Davis running for City Council? She should be shooting for school board being that she has been behind every school tax and bond measure in recent memory. Maybe, with a council seat, she could funnel even more city money to our fiscally voracious school district.

Other council candidates have little chance of winning a seat. They won’t get key endorsements, recruit enough volunteers or raise sufficient money to make any impact. I suspect some are running for ego. Who knows about the others.

More to come. Stay tuned.




Bill can be reached at

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