Civility. Dialogue. Compromise.
Still possible? I truly hope so. I wrote last week that it was getting pretty ugly out there, and it is.
Santa Monica Next, a pro-development group, ran an “editorial” April 8 (except, to run an editorial you have to be a news organization, not propagandists a la Faux “News”) titled, “The LUVE Initiative is No Way to Run a City.” I’m embarrassed to say they likely lifted that from my column of April 6, where I quoted a neighbor I spoke with, and then countered his argument.
They started off by stating that the LUVE initiative, which would take decisions for larger development projects out of the hands of our City Council (which has yet to say no to any out-sized development, unless forced by an initiative) and leave it to a vote of residents, is backed by “a group of committed no-growth activists circulating a petition to put an initiative on the ballot that would effectively make it impossible to build anything over two or three stories… As these no-growth activists seek signatures … they are making pie-in-the-sky promises about how it will fix traffic and prevent displacement.”
“No growth” is a gross distortion, of course, a hot-button exaggeration. There may be a handful who are adamant that we never ever build anything more in Santa Monica, not even a tree house, but the overwhelming majority of LUVE backers I have encountered know that’s not in our city’s best interests. They just want smart, reasonable, low rise, slow growth.
“Effectively” impossible to build over two or three stories? Not true, of course. Development that the residents of Santa Monica agree is good for them would pass on a vote; this is meant to block the huge, the bad and the ugly.
“Fix traffic and prevent displacement”? Oh, I wish! LUVE will only prevent an exponential increase in traffic from more helpings of the kind of unmitigated overdevelopment we’ve been handed the last few years, while we try to deal with the mess we’ve got now from that overdevelopment. Displacement? — such a vexing problem we have here, to do something about all the longtime residents being Ellis-ed out of Santa Monica. In the last two weeks I spoke with two people, in their homes for 26 and 42 years respective, who were being evicted. It’s so sad, and all our brightest minds have not yet come up with a good solution. LUVE might help, a little, through its exceptions for low-cost housing projects, but no one pretends it will solve the problem.
‘Donald Trump LUVEs Santa Monica’ — ?!?
If you want to see the rest of the hit piece, go read, at santamonicanext.org. And you will encounter their graphic up top, titled “Donald Trump LUVEs Santa Monica,” complete with his big head and his words, “…a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” altered to read, “…a total and complete shutdown of outsiders entering Santa Monica.” It could be slightly humorous if it didn’t promote a terrible lie, that those backing the L.U.V.E. initiative want to keep “outsiders” out. And equates those seeking a democratic solution to the very undemocratic Mr. Trump. What does it say when you trot out Donald Trump to make your case?
Ten days after the “editorial” came out, flyers appeared in Sunset Park: “DON’T SIGN THE LUVE PETITION.” “Don’t be fooled by false promises… hides behind a charade of democracy to achieve higher rents amid a nightmare of corporations buying up votes as almost every new building would require a vote. …the few who want to keep Santa Monica stuck in the 1950s. Don’t Sign LUVE” Just yesterday a friend said he spoke to a Sunset Park resident who asked him about “those flyers that say, ‘NO LUVE.’” Is there a connection? I don’t know. Anyone can print a flyer. But the wording was very similar.
The “Support Smart Growth” line near the bottom is rich with irony, a distortion that is truly an inside joke someone probably felt very clever about. Much guffawing and back slapping. But here’s the overriding point to remember in this anti-petition campaign being waged so strongly, especially across social media, these past three weeks. The petition, if successful in getting enough valid signatures, merely gets the issue onto the ballot, where all Santa Monica voters can weigh in. Even then, the LUVE initiative does not mandate anything, except that some projects be put to a vote.
It’s in the Constitution
Let me remind you of the First — the very first — Amendment to our U.S. Constitution: “Congress shall make no law … abridging … the right of the people peaceably to … petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” Pretty important, since our founding, this right to petition our government. Seems like even folks who might not vote in November to pass the initiative, should at least be in favor of putting it on the ballot. They should sign too, out of principle.
If it makes it onto the ballot, there will undoubtedly be furious and expensive campaigning to defeat it. There is very big money involved. But to try to thwart even the gathering of signatures? That seems pretty un-American to me.
Both sides of this issue distrust each other, and their motives. I plead guilty as well. But I am trying to change that. I try to remind myself, often, that almost all of those with whom I disagree, even 100 percent, still are good people motivated by their love of our town, not by some hidden financial or philosophical imperative. If we can acknowledge our differences of vision, is it possible to make compromise without feeling we’ve violated our core values? I think so, and I pledge to try.
It’s such an important and divisive issue, how our small city will proceed into the 21st century. It shouldn’t be the most money or the loudest voices who prevail. We must try to accommodate all viewpoints and come up with a plan which pleases no one completely but that we can all live with.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “To actually have to sit down and talk, to listen, to compromise, that’s hard work.” —Michael Moore
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.