As we slip into “sweet 16,” it’s time to reflect on where we have been and where, as a community, we’re heading.

We all have things we love about Santa Monica. Number one is climate and geography, the beach, the glorious sunsets over the Pacific and the Santa Monica Pier.

We share the cultural, educational and athletic opportunities by being next to one of the world’s great cities. We benefit from the historical, recreational and lifestyle opportunities that Southern California provides.

We’re fortunate that our city is low rise and relatively low-density compared to West Los Angeles or Century City. Despite the lack of dense high-rises, crowding and traffic resulting from City Hall’s bungled transportation policy has turned this community into one of the most congested and unpleasant urban areas in the United States.

I’ve also never heard anybody say that one of the best thing about living in Santa Monica is its city government or public schools. One only has to look at traffic or the lingering achievement gap between various demographics of Santa Monica-Malibu Unified Scholl District (SMMUSD) students to see why.

This is an election year, so we can makes changes to make government more responsive to us as opposed to special interests and socialistic politicians hell-bent on forcing their impractical and failed agendas down our throats.

This year, we can replace four council-persons whose terms expire. Current Mayor Tony Vazquez, Mayor Pro Tempore Ted Winterer, Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day will have to be re-elected if they want to stay in power another four years.

O’Day and Davis have been consistent pro-development votes on council and their allegiance to special interests has put them at odds with most voters. Their political demise could mean a more community-centered city council.

I’m not impressed with Vazquez or Ted Winterer. I’m disappointed in Vazquez’s lack of support for residents and homeowners – especially when the zoning updates to the new Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) were being promulgated earlier this year. Winterer hasn’t accomplished much since taking office.  Both need to step up their games if they expect to be re-elected.

A couple of good folks are waiting in the wings. Recreation and Parks Chair Phil Brock, activist John Cyrus Smith, Residocracy founder Armen Melkonians Northeast Neighbors Chair Amy Aukstikalnis and Vice Chair Tricia Crane and a couple of other neighborhood activists have caught my eye.

A thorough house cleaning is in order at the SMMUSD school board. I blame them for ongoing inept fiscal management and ineffectual educational equality policies that have victimized minority students.

The struggles with charitable funding, wherein all donations go into a central pot with the board deciding how your school contributions will be spent, contribute to the dysfunction.

With the eventual split of Malibu from the district, problems will get worse. A new board is “a must” if our schools are to improve.

Up for re-election to the school board this fall are Dr. Jose Escarce a champion of permit student funding, Maria Leon-Vazquez (Mrs. Tony Vazquez) whose inability to “bridge the gap” goes back as far as 2001 and Ralph Mechur a 2015 political appointee who failed to be elected in 2014. Contrary to a previous comment in this space, board member Oscar de la Torre’s term doesn’t expire until 2018.

Events to look forward to in the coming months include the opening of the Expo Light Rail from Culver City to downtown Santa Monica in April or May. Expo will carry commuters from downtown Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles when operational. While excited about the transportation advantages the trains will provide, there are some negative issues to deal with when Expo takes on paying passengers. I’m concerned about public safety both on the tracks and with the crowds Expo could bring. Many challenges are ahead.

Lastly, wages and labor issues are back in 2016. Most households have received numerous mailers from FairWageSantaMonica.Com (One Fair Wage Coalition.) The group is promoting a $15 per hour minimum wage for all workers in Santa Monica with no loopholes or exceptions including current union contracts that agree to a lower wage.

There’s virtually no information on this deep-pocketed group. Identities and affiliations have been hidden, but the Coalition has to be spending about $100,000 on three, glossy citywide mailers with a fourth piece to come just before the citywide minimum wage will be under consideration by City Council on January 12.

Secret groups – especially those with enough lucre to do four fancy mailers to 38,000 households – raise red flags with me. Who really is the Fair Wage Coalition and what is their real agenda?

Council better be careful here or it’ll find itself in a compact with the devil – and you know we’ll all be paying for that mistake as time goes forward.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.