By Michael Feinstein. Inside/Outside. January 19, 2015

One of the great things about our Santa Monica civic culture is how many of us play different roles at different times in the community.

The ability to see things from varied perspectives makes us stronger, wiser and more conscious. The more we integrate such varied perspectives into our local government, the more democratically vibrant we can be.

As a 30+ year resident, I’ve been blessed to play multiple roles in Santa Monica, both inside and outside of local government. I hope to bring that range of experience to our community through this column.

My goals include providing a forum for factually based and solutions-oriented critical analysis, as well as framing positive choices for the community. I’ll also introduce big picture visioning that sometimes can get lost in our day-to-day reality.

Local planning issues are paramount. Included in what I’ll be focusing on will be creating great new public spaces and linkages where there are none today – including capping large segments of the I-10 freeway and turning the newly gained spaces into parks and other public opportunities.

I’ll also be looking at ways we can improve community input on public policy and making our elections more representative. On the latter point, having been both a local candidate and having worked on electoral reform on regional, state and national levels, I hope to bring positive, innovative options forward like Ranked Choice Voting, that could provide a fundamental improvement to how we choose our elected officials.

As for last year’s election, I will be doing a post-election analysis from a candidate’s perspective, about how amidst the seemingly singular focus about over-development, we collectively failed to get deep into the issues and the visions of our candidates – and how we can do it better next time – from the role of the local press, City TV, social media and groups doing endorsements, to even a local non-profit to coordinate some of the above.

Of course public policy doesn’t stop at Santa Monica’s border. One thing I experienced on the City Council is how public policy choices made on higher levels of government can constrain or enliven us. So I’ll also be looking at those connections.

For example Proposition 13 – a statewide property tax reform passed in 1978 that limits annual property tax increases for homeowners, but has a giant loophole for commercial property owners – affects everything in Santa Monica from funding local schools and social services, to the fiscalization of land use choices. With Proposition 30 set to sunset in 2018 – a short term statewide tax reform passed by voters in 2012 meant to address a portion of the state’s structural financial deficit – there are serious efforts underway to reform Proposition 13 in a way that preserves homeowner protections, but also resolves tax unfairness and inequities it created. I’ll be tracking that effort, including the role our Santa Monica homegrown representatives County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, State Assembly member Richard Bloom and State Senator Ben Allen are playing in that debate.

Of course, for this column to best serve our community, it need to be a two-way street. That’s why I’m asking for your input on issues to be addressed and perspectives to include. Whether you see me on the beach, at our local organic food co-op, a community meeting or via the email address below, please let me know your thoughts.

How will I treat your input? Just like when I was on the Council, my practice is to hear from a range people to understand context, but not judge them individually, nor play ‘gotcha’ politics from what I learn. Having been on the ‘quoted’ side of journalism for more than 25 years as an activist and public official, I also deeply respect the difference between being ‘on’ and ‘off ‘the record and will conduct myself accordingly in this new role .

For this column’s name, I choose ‘Inside/Outside’ to reflect the dual roles I’ve personally played in the community – but also to remind that it takes both sides to make our community work. Really, the differences are no more than the yin and yang of the seeming duality we live every day.

For the timing, I’ve chosen to appear on Mondays because in weeks that our local government agencies are meeting, it gives me the opportunity to do a ‘pre-story’ and preview possibilities; while in weeks when they are not meeting, to do ‘post-game’ analysis.

The day I chose to kick off my column – Martin Luther King Day – is to show respect for the greatness of King’s work – and to acknowledge the importance of the issues of race, class, peace and the social and economic inequities he worked to address. As a child of the 1960s, all of those causes and movements greatly shaped who I am.

With that, I hope to see you today at the annual Martin Luther King Westside Coalition celebration. Please connect with me for a chat with your ideas for this column.

Michael Feinstein is a former Santa Monica Mayor (2000-2002) and City Councilmember (1996-2004). He can be reached via Twitter @mikefeinstein

Inside/Outside‘ is a periodic column about civic affairs Feinstein writes for the Daily Press, that takes advantage of his experience inside and outside of government.



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