FOLLOW THE MONEY, HONEY
It’s true for politics in DC, and in Santa Monica.
If you run across a puzzle, a conundrum, something doesn’t compute, you’re stopped by a brick wall, a common sense question that no one seems to have a logical answer for – chances are, something’s up. The people who are up to something for their own good, but not the general good, are experts in covering their tracks. You may not be able to find the real trail, but always keep in mind the Watergate rule: follow the money.
Sometimes it’s a matter of power and control, not money, but in this age of the unlimited and anonymous mountains of campaign cash of Citizens (ha!) United, and of corporate personhood – money is power, and vice versa. With nonchalant government rule bending and violation of laws without consequence (by corporations-people, not people-people) – people can get shot – and a feckless media, it’s Wild West time. Every man for himself, and you’d better have a big posse.
Boy, do I sound cynical. But I’m not. I’m still an optimistic idealist, but also a realist. To solve a problem you must understand it. You get nowhere if you attack shadows.
I also still believe in listening to each other and trying to find common ground, even compromise. Many here complain that their city government does not listen to them, and there’s tons of evidence. Go to any City Council meeting where 50 or 100 folks have sacrificed their evening and waited until midnight or later to have their two minute say, only to have the Council discuss and decide at the end – after most commenters have dragged themselves home – as though not one of them had even shown up.
I don’t think our City Council members have bad intent. I believe they are convinced they are doing what’s best for Santa Monica. But I believe they have been influenced by moneyed interests or their own pursuit of power, and have lost perspective.
I also believe many of them see those who show up to offer their viewpoints at City Council meetings as “the usual suspects.” The rabble-rousers, the NIMBYs, the disgruntled, the crazies even. I believe they see that crowd of 50, 250, could be 1,000, as still a small vocal minority not representing the majority opinion of 94,000 residents, and therefore they have no obligation to listen to what they’re saying.
If so, that means that attacking them with the charge that they are not listening is actually the wrong tack. They believe they are listening to the people, but that those of you who show up to speak do not represent the people.
A way has to be found for Santa Monicans to easily and often convey their opinions on important local issues to their City Council. Of course we all know we can email them, but how many know what issues are coming up and what their implications are? People become alarmed at what is being done long after it’s too late to reverse it, because they did not know or understand at the time. There needs to be a method of informing everyone and proactively getting their input. 20,000, 10,000, even 5,000 voices would be hard to ignore.
That may be really difficult. So the other part is changing lawmakers’ minds as to what those expressed opinions represent. There must be some way to convince them that 50 people speaking out represents 5,000 others (or whatever the ratio may be) who feel the same way but couldn’t show up in person.
Of course, you have to be willing to live with the results. Maybe you don’t really represent the majority. Maybe the true majority loves big boxes and high rises everywhere and doesn’t mind the traffic or running out of water. That’s democracy. But let’s at least give it a try, eh?
We all know that a large portion of our citizenry is not at all informed about the issues. Many don’t care to be and never will. “Politics” is not their thing. Or they know they’re here only for a year or two and couldn’t care less. Not their town, just passing through. Out of 94,000 people, don’t issues affecting the future of Santa Monica really belong to those who have been here for a while, and especially those who plan to stay?
But we elect our City Council, you say – that should cover it. Well, if you know anything about elections here, you know it ain’t so. Developers and other outside interests have a big stake in getting their way here. There are literally billions involved. It turns out they have to spend a laughably small amount to influence elections.
VOTING BY FLYER
A lot of people still march to the polls thinking they’re doing their civic duty by voting for the names that show up on those flyers in their mailbox. The teachers endorse these candidates, the police and fire departments, some Democratic Party subgroup, etc. – little understand that executive boards of those organizations make endorsements their rank and file do not necessarily back, and that endorsements on many of those flyers are literally for sale, for so little money it’s a sad joke.
Wake up, folks. Big money is eviscerating California’s Coastal Commission and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (see the well-researched investigative articles in the LA Times by Steve Lopez and Tony Barboza), and we who live here will all pay the price. Billionaires and corporate donors have influenced the Democratic Party leadership to put Bernie Sanders at a huge disadvantage over the much more acceptable Hillary Clinton. (But don’t count him out.) If you think Bernie and I are naive or pinko to rail about a class war, I’d ask you to explain the last 35 years. There has already been one, and now we need some balance. Money talks, but votes count. That’s where we need those big posses I mentioned earlier.
For now, sad to say, it seems we can’t trust our City Council to say no to overdevelopment. So I believe we need to get the LUVE initiative on the ballot, and get it passed in November, to get these decisions back into the hands of the voters, to stem the tsunami of outsized projects about to be approved. Don’t be surprised and shocked. Be informed.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “All you need is LUVE.” – some English guys I ran into a few years ago
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com.