YOUR COLUMN HERE — In this season of hyper hyperbole, false accusations towards a certain seated Council-member, and the unfounded and unrealistic promises made by some candidates, it might be helpful to step back from the brink and dispassionately evaluate what’s real versus what is fabrication.
I have attended many candidate forums and it is more than curious to see how a number of candidates, when asked about their views on the LUCE in general as well as on specific development projects, call for a modification of the LUCE even though there were six years of public input, and repeatedly rail against these projects as being too massive or too high, even though they are not in their final iteration. Unless they are prescient, (and I believe that some of them think that they are) there is no way they could know what a final project will look like and therefore they should not be self righteously tearing them apart.
There seem to be at least two schools of “group-think” among those running for City Council. One is a Walden Pond like myopic view of Santa Monica where mechanized traffic will be relegated to less and less space and bicycles will reign supreme. Bicycle lanes are a good thing, the banishment of cars is not. I’d like to see a single example of a modern city which aligns with this fairytale vision. The other more predominant one consists of multiple candidates including at least one incumbent, who want to wall off our fair city, stifle commerce, and prevent any future development.
I and my fellow Santa Monicans have become accustomed to our wonderfully rich quality of life replete with City Services that are the envy of most other municipalities. The elephant in the room however is that there is a definite and provable Nexus between these services and where they come from.
Myth versus reality: Myth- Santa Monica is under threat of over-development, Fact- 96% of Santa Monica is protected from any increase in intensity of development and the LUCE is a zero growth document for the vast majority of our city, thereby protecting our neighborhoods.
Facts: The General Fund revenue from sales taxes increased by 60% over the last 10 years; the budget for public safety has risen from $25 million-$103 million; business and sales taxes created over $76 million worth of revenues in 2013 which is more than the $75 million price tag for Santa Monica’s cultural and recreational services! New projects supported by the General Fund include the New Tongva Park and the Ken Genzer Square adjacent to City Hall. In 2013 visitors spent $1.63 billion in Santa Monica and the revenue from the transient occupancy tax from hotel stays doubled from 2004 to 2013 from $20 million-$41 million, much of which going to support a $25 million increasing public safety funding.
There is a reason that both businesses and residents want to move to Santa Monica, namely it is an incredibly vibrant, exciting and dynamic city. We are often referred to as Silicon Beach because of all the new high-tech start-ups. One of the reasons that we are such a sought-after place to live and do business in, is because of visionary leaders like Mayor Pam O’Connor who can always be counted upon to make rational, thoughtful decisions grounded in common sense and not ideology. If it were not for Mayor O’Connor, there would be no light rail coming to Santa Monica in 2016. She worked tirelessly as a member of the MTA Board to make this dream a reality.
The other candidate for City Council whom I (as well as the education community in the form of CEPS – Community for Excellent Public Schools), am endorsing is Frank Gruber. In spite of the fact that he and I may have some philosophical differences, I think he will make an excellent City Council-member and for anyone lucky enough to have spent time in conversation with him, is more than obvious why. That he is extremely bright is a given, but much more than that, he can always be counted upon to thoughtfully evaluate all sides of an issue before reaching a decision. When you think about it, isn’t that what we want from our elected officials? Thoughtful, levelheaded, commonsensical individuals who are not beholden to any special interest group and who after thoughtful analysis, vote their conscience and what will be in the best interests of the City at large.
I urge you to re-elect Mayor Pam O’Connor and vote for Frank Gruber to keep our enlightened City, enlightened.
Mike Gruning is a Santa Monica resident.