The courtyard at the Santa Monica Main Library ranked number five on a list of the 10 most peaceful public places. (Photo courtesy Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners)

CURIOUS CITY — John Muir for City Council!!
Well, no – he is dead, for one thing. 100 years ago this Christmas Eve, the giant of conservation drew his last breath, not in his beloved wilderness but at California Hospital in Los Angeles. So you see, when it comes down to the nitty gritty, we all come out of the woods for what we need. But if there had been a St. John’s Hospital in 1914, I like to think Muir would’ve opted for Santa Monica.
We probably couldn’t have talked him into a Council run. He had bigger fish to fry. (And I’m sure he did.) But for a guy who was most comfortable far removed from what he considered the corrosive influence of society, he was a very adept politician. He petitioned Congress, went camping with the President, and gifted all succeeding generations with Yosemite, instead of another dammed lake for houseboats, and the Sequoia National Forest, instead of more redwood boards for backyard decks and hot tubs.
He founded the Sierra Club. (Co-founder was Warren Olney, mayor of Oakland and great grandfather to our local noted journalist.) But overall, his biggest contribution was changing, mostly through his writings, the national dialogue and mindset on wilderness and preservation. We owe him a lot. He’s on the back of the California quarter, you know, and has been on two U.S. postage stamps. A great American, a great Californian.
And his spirit is right here in Santa Monica, in the Muir Woods mural at the corner of Lincoln and Ocean Park, a local art landmark since 1978, painted by noted muralist Jane Golden, formerly of Santa Monica.
It’s a pretty good bet John Muir’s work will last forever. But that Muir Woods mural we have – maybe not.
There are plans moving forward to paint over it, with a different mural, at a cost about double what it would take to have it restored by Golden herself, now in charge of Philadelphia’s mural program. Many consider it a Santa Monica treasure. The decision is up to your school board, because the wall it’s painted on is now Olympic High School, and school district property.
Want to learn more about an American icon, John Muir, and what’s going on with that mural, and how you can help save it? You can! For free! This Monday! (OK, that’s five now, my quota of exclamation marks for the whole column. Sorry, boss.)
At Vidiots, 305 Pico, Monday, Aug. 4, 6:30 – 9 p.m. (God bless Patty and Cathy’s cineaste civic-minded hearts.) To gather public support and provide information, “The Campaign to Save the Muir Woods Mural” group has arranged to screen the PBS American Masters documentary “John Muir in the New World,” preceded by a panel discussion with local artists, environmentalists, community leaders and someone from the Sierra Club. I will be one of the people speaking, but don’t let that stop you, it’s a good and important cause anyway.
Interest was high for the first ever Residocracy candidates forum at the Main Library Monday night, and turnout exceeded the auditorium’s capacity (they got the only space available in that time period, they said). The organizers did a great job, I heard many say, and I thought the format, the way the questions were asked, was creative and really effective. I learned a lot.
I learned Pam O’Connor is a human being. One I want as far away from our city government as possible, but I give her credit for even showing up (late) to what was sure to be a hostile environment for her record and political philosophy.
She stuck to her guns. When it came time to vote yes or no to the question of have you/will you accept campaign donations from developers, up went her lonely white yes sign. The crowd got pretty rude at times with shouted remarks, especially toward Jerry Rubin – shameful and sad.
Personally, I’ve now upgraded O’Connor from “evil” to “having a totally different vision for our city than I do.” Same result, though. She’s got to go, along with the other three who vote with her for every exception every developer asks for.
I learned Jon Mann and Terence Later are sincere and not the joke candidates they sometimes appear to be, and have some good ideas; same for Ken Robin who was not there. (Thank you, Terry, for paying public tribute to our Daniel Archuleta.) And I still wouldn’t vote for them if hell froze over on the beach. Not the right personalities to get anything done.
I learned a little more about Jennifer Kennedy – not impressed yet. (Many seem to regard the Planning Commission as a required step to City Council. Nonsense. And we have to examine all the votes that originated there. Himmelrich was the only one who voted against the Bergamot Area Plan, that gave birth to the Hines Project.)
I should like Frank Gruber for being a fellow columnist, but we’re definitely not fellow travelers. Whitney Scott Bain? – not presidential, too much pro-pilots. Feinstein and Himmelrich did well, were what I expected. And Jerry Rubin, bless him – such a good heart, and so wrong on nearly every issue.
Young Nick Boles was the rising star of the evening. Won’t get anywhere this time, but keep your eye on him. I was impressed that he mostly did not vote with his yes or no sign, a sign that he acknowledges that he needs to know more before having an opinion.
Five came off as confident and competent but maybe that’s just stage presence, and doesn’t mean I’d vote for them: Brock, McKinnon, McKeown, Feinstein and O’Connor. Yes, don’t know, yes, don’t know, hell no. In the end, I believe Phil Brock is by far the strongest candidate we have, for the people, for his vast knowledge of Santa Monica, and Kevin McKeown has more than proven himself.
There. Is there anyone I haven’t offended? No? OK, I’m done.
Random quote(s) of the week: “When in doubt, tell the truth.” … “Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing the matter with this, except that it ain’t so.” – Mark Twain.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at

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