If you want to talk about the City of Santa Monica, then the newly formed organization Santa Monica Forward politely invites you to join their new group.
Forward announced its existence via a press release this week and organizers said its goal is to provide a place where residents of all viewpoints can engage in civil discussion without much of the vitriol that has colored recent debates.
A partial list of founders includes 45 names and contains former politicians, current councilmembers, local activists and members of the business community. The list includes Judy Abdo, Richard Bloom, Nick Boles, Gleam Davis, Frank Gruber, Carl Hansen, Erik Huberman, Jason Islas, Juan Matute, Pam O’Connor, Terry O’Day, Cynthia Rose and Barry Snell.
Abdo said Forward was founded with a positive goal.
“The group isn’t coming together as anti-this or anti-that,” she said. “It’s more about how can we help people feel comfortable expressing their opinions.”
She said some residents found themselves alienated during recent public meetings and do not agree with some of the statements made by other organizations when they claim to represent Santa Monica citizens at large.
“People are feeling like their voices aren’t being heard and they didn’t have a place to have their voices heard,” she said.
Rose said her participation was motivated in large part by the one-sided claims made in recent civic discussions.
“The only reason I’m involved is I don’t feel my voice was represented and this was an exciting way for me to feel that I could take part in a conversation that’s moving in a direction that is inclusive, equitable and civil,” she said. “I am frustrated as I think many people are there are groups in Santa Monica that say they speak for Santa Monica residents, (Forward) is providing people that may not agree with those points a place to be heard and to have conversations. We will never claim to speak for everyone, and that’s part of the frustration and what brought these people together, a lot of conversation from a lot of different places that gave the impression that was the only voice.”
Abdo said Forward’s founders may be part of other local organizations but the new group has no institutional relationship to anyone. She said the individuals who chose to found the organization did so due to a set of shared beliefs that mirrors many of the established political organizations already in the City but Santa Monica Forward maintains a focus on the process of discussion rather than any specific goal.
The groups mission statement reads “We are working for a diverse, progressive, sustainable and equitable Santa Monica. We endorse the community’s vision for its future, expressed in the LUCE. We stand for fact-based, inclusive and civil public discourse that respects the many viewpoints of our residents.”
Matute said the group shares a foundation in progressive beliefs and Forward’s membership will contain individuals who are part of many other groups.
“I think there’s a whole lot of overlap between this group and other groups that exist,” he said. “People felt there needs to be an organization that focuses on creating respectful public dialog, that is focuses on making sure progressive values are not lost.”
He said he chose to participate for the same reasons he engages with other political activity.
“It had a lot do to with my job at UCLA, teaching and research about what cities are doing about climate change, that’s my personal motivation for being involved in all of these efforts,” he said.
Rose said the group hopes to be a resource for residents that can dispel myths, answer questions and provide factual information.
“The biggest part of our mission at this point is to put forward and support civil discourse and fact based conversations that are not personal,” she said.
Organizers said Forward is still in its formative stage and what comes of its inclusive discussions will be determined by the people that participate.
“We don’t have any set position or trajectory on where we’re going at this point,” said Rose. “We know we have a common goal of putting this conversation forward of being diverse and inclusive in our supporters.”
Abdo specifically touted Forward’s diversity citing a spectrum of ages, geographical locations and specific causes among its founding members.
“It’s multi-generational and with growing diversity in the group of people,” she said. “We’re trying to bring together different generational thinking so that we understand each other better. We think that that’s really important.”