CITY HALL — Bring popcorn to the next week’s City Council meeting.
The newly elected council will seek common ground on who should lead the city for the next two years.
Santa Monica’s mayor is always a council member selected, every two years, by his or her council colleagues. The position is largely, though not entirely, ceremonial.
Aside from the title, the mayor leads council meetings and, along with the mayor pro tempore (who will also be selected on Tuesday), sets the agendas for the meetings.
Currently, Mayor Pam O’Connor is completing her fourth stint as mayor, though it was her first two-year term. Council’s often opt to split terms, allowing one member to serve the first year and other to serve the second. O’Connor has declined nominations for mayor on several occasions.
Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day is also completing a two-year term.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown, who was elected in 1998, has never been mayor — the longest serving member of council who’s never held the top seat. It took former Mayor Herb Katz until the end of his fourth term to win the mayoral election. William Jennings served 11 years without ever chairing the council.
McKeown was the top vote-getter in November’s election. He has served as mayor pro tempore for three years.
The newly elected Sue Himmelrich will take retiring Councilmember Bob Holbrook’s seat on the council. This will, in theory, shift the council to a “slow-growth” majority, with four members who vocally opposed, for instance, the controversial Hines development project, which was approved by the outgoing council and later struck down after a referendum process earlier this year. McKeown endorsed Himmelrich for council during the election.
Last time around, in late 2012, newly elected Councilmember Ted Winterer supported McKeown for mayor while O’Day supported Councilmember Gleam Davis and Councilmember Tony Vazquez supported O’Connor.
They voted repeatedly, stuck in a comical deadlock, until O’Day jumped to the O’Connor camp, allowing her the mayor’s seat.
The process often plays out awkwardly. Former Mayor Michael Feinstein has compiled the footage of the mayoral elections from 1996 through 2006 (which also showcase vastly different political alliances and historical hairstyles).
Members put forth nominations and substitute nominations, sometimes involving two different mayors and two different mayor pro tempores over a two-year period.
The process does not include public comment and, unlike the typical procedure followed by council when making motions, nominations don’t always require another council member to second it.
Often the decision is made in less than 10 minutes.
The mayoral seat is seen by many as an advantage for those up for reelection or seeking higher office. It’s been 30 years since an active Santa Monica mayor has failed a reelection attempt. In 1983, Mayor Ruth Yannatta Goldway was ousted from office after the All Santa Monica Coalition out-spent Goldway’s backers — the young Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, now the city’s largest political party — $223,000 to $93,000 according to Los Angeles Times archives.
Davis, O’Day, Winterer, and Vazquez have terms expiring in 2016, with Winterer and Vazquez being members of what may be an emerging slow-growth majority.