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In 2014, we eliminated traditional endorsements in favor of a ranking system and we tried to build on that this year.

We tried to group candidates based on our evaluation of their ability to hold office, their demonstrated desire to work on behalf of constituents and the level of knowledge they would bring to their positions.

 

The Rent Control Board

 

Rent Control Board

Tier 1: Anastasia Foster and Caroline Torosis

If you support rent control, these are your only two choices. Both women have demonstrated a clear understanding of the challenges facing tenants and both have campaigned hard to earn your vote. They are passionate about protecting renters and have provided detailed information on their priorities and plans.

 

Tier 2: Christopher Walton

Walton declined to provide information to the Daily Press about his candidacy. He isn’t an active threat to rent control but he doesn’t appear to be mounting an active campaign for the seat. The danger with his candidacy is if pro-renter voters were to split their vote three ways, it could open the door for Gealer who is profoundly opposed to rent control.

 

Tier 3:

Elaine Golden Gealer

Gealer is far and away the worst choice for the Rent Control Board.

Her ballot description lists her profession as a nonprofit executive and she is president of Action Apartment Association. She is also a realtor and has been a landlord.

In every professional capacity she has opposed and tried to undermine rent control.

Under Gealer’s leadership, the Association has sued the Rent Control Board multiple times and the organization’s purpose is to aid landlords, not protect tenants in any way.

In her role as a realtor/landlord she has personally fallen afoul of tenant protections.

She is unequivocally opposed to rent control and has spent considerable time attacking the board and the city in public presentations.

We think her campaign promises are both deceptive and dangerous. Her promises to help tenants purchase units fall far outside the control of the board and the last time any such program existed, it was a disaster for renters. A few thousand units were converted and in the majority of cases, the units were not purchased by the tenants. The program also created a wave of problems that continues to reverberate today in mixed owner/renter buildings where renters are in conflict with the homeowner’s associations. It’s a terrible idea that was abandoned for a reason.

Perhaps the most dangerous result would be Gelaer’s presence during legal briefings for the Board. After receiving information from the Board’s attorneys and with direct access to staff, Gealer would be well prepared to mount future lawsuits against the City’s renter protections.

There is no way to support rent control and support Gealer.

 

College Board

Tier 1: Rob Rader, Susan Aminoff, Sion Roy

The two incumbents, Rader and Aminoff, are part of a successful board that has created a strong, vibrant and valuable campus. They are individually knowledgeable about the issues and have demonstrated an ability to work with the board and other entities.

Roy will do nothing to alter the path of SMC, either positive or negative. He won’t vote in any way that is substantively different from the incumbents but that’s not necessarily a bad position. He has been active on campus, is informed on the issues and has demonstrated a desire for the leadership position.

 

Tier 2: Margaret Quinones-Perez

Coming into this election, we fully expected to find all four candidates for College Board would be equally effective. That still might be the case but Quinones-Perez did not respond to our requests for information. We can’t rank her in the same tier as other qualified candidates who have shown a stronger campaign for the position.

 

City Council

Tier 1

Ted Winterer and Gleam Davis

Winterer has been a voice for slow growth on the council and opposed the Hines project from the start. He cares deeply for the city and has shown a strong understanding of the issues facing the community. H has also mounted a strong campaign that shows significant respect for residents even when they have not shown the same respect for him. He has attended more community forums than any other candidate and when faced with hostile and outright unfair questions, he has answered them with knowledge and patience.

Davis described her approach to us as a “thoughtful and nuanced perspective to the issues.” We agree with her self-assessment and also think she has shown leadership in supporting social service, arts and education programs within the city.

 

Tier 2

Tony Vazquez, Terry O’Day

Both Vazquez and O’Day are clearly capable of holding elected office. However, the rank below Winterer and Davis for us.

We think Vazquez has run weakest campaign of any sitting councilmember. He seems to think that his title as mayor and his name recognition are enough to carry him to victory. It might be, but by skipping candidate forums and leaning so heavily on his laurels we think he does a disservice to voters who are clearly want to hear from their councilmembers and justifiably question some of the decisions that have been made in recent years.

O’Day has mounted a stronger campaign and in conversations with us, he has shown he understands issues small and large facing the city. Our issue stems from his demeanor prior to running for reelection. In the past four years he has seemed disinterested from the dais and has skipped several meetings. While he has become more animated in the past few months, it seems like other councilmembers have more passion for the position.

 

Tier 3

Armen Melkonians

Melkonians might actually want to be on the council but he hasn’t run a convincing campaign for the position. At every opportunity, he stumps for Measure LV at the expense of providing substantive answers on issues facing the city. He is welcome to express how important the measure is to him, but he should also be able to talk about more than one issue. LV either passes or fails on Nov. 8 and either way, the day to day business of running a city requires more than just repeating “Vote yes on LV.” If he were elected he will have to have some ideas about homelessness, the airport, sea level rise and the local economy that don’t rely on that one measure and we would have bumped him up a tier if he had articulated those ideas during the course of the campaign.

 

Tier 4

Oscar De La Torre and Mende Smith

As a sitting member of the school board, Torre is clearly capable of serving in an elected office however, he did not provide answers to the Daily Press’ campaign questions and we can’t rank him any higher based on that lack of information.

We don’t think Smith knows enough about the local issues to be an effective councilmember. Her answers show a lack of sophistication about Santa Monica’s pressing issues and we think her lack of interest in serving the community prior to running for office is a problem. We don’t think someone should be put in charge of a city without first demonstrating a desire to serve that city. There are 25 or more city boards/commissions, Lions, Kiwanis, Jaycees, Rotary, SMRR, Residocracy, volunteer opportunities at local schools, SMC bond oversight committees, Climate Action Santa Monica and many more. if Smith were to take the time to be a part of an organization she would also have the opportunity to learn more about the city and its challenges.

 

Tier 5

James Watson, Terrance Later, Jonn Mann, Phil Brock

Watson has not participated in the various candidate forms and he did not respond to our questions. He filled out the paperwork to run but doesn’t appear to be running an actual campaign.

Both Later and Mann have run for decades without success. Neither has ever gathered a significant portion of the vote and neither brings anything to the table this year that is different from their decades of failed runs.

Brock has filed as a write-in candidate. We don’t believe write-in candidates should be considered serious contenders for office and the write-in process means he has not participated in any of the voter education or outreach opportunities.