CURIOUS CITY” column for Wed., Oct. 25, 2017

By CHARLES ANDREWS
LAST WEEK

On these very pages, I tried to make sense of a world seemingly gone mad, and get a handle on death and destruction, class conflict and corruption, fire and gunfire, double dealing Dems and rake Republicans, hurricanes and homicides, chaos and crap on your front porch.

I failed miserably.

And now, with a week more to ponder… I’m still drawing blanks.

— I don’t WANT to be a NEWSPAPER COLUMNIST! Waaah!!

I know. There are plenty of other, easier things to write about, and often I do. The video store. The shoe guy. Best pizza in town. Even bikes on sidewalks, seems so safe now.

But when it comes time to sit down at the laptop, whatever is swirling around in my brain seems to throw forward the dominant thought for expression, and if I feel or hear that other citizens of dear old Santa Monica are thinking the same thing, well, what can I do?

There are those who rarely agree with what I write about local politics (like, the entire City Council, top City staff, and my publishers, God bless their tolerant, First
Amendment-loving, keep the wall between editorial and advertising hearts), and wish the
Daily Press had never given me, or the late lamented Bill Bauer, or
Jack Neworth when he goes political, a voice.

We irritate those in the local power structure who have influence over the cash flow that keeps this paper afloat, and it is a bit of a miracle anyway that this tiny daily survives and thrives, in a small city, beset by competition like you’d expect in a city 10 times our size. But the forces I rail against have the machine, the money and the influence; all we the people have got are the votes.

The only thing that matters in the end, of a fair election, is the votes, but so far the moneyed machine has been able to buy enough votes come election time. We have to do better.

ARE ELECTIONS THE ANSWER?

Well, yeah. Obviously corruption will always try to get its way, behind the scenes, but most everything that matters here comes up for a vote before the City Council, and that SMRR-dominated (for decades) Council hasn’t yet seen, since I’ve been paying attention, an outsized development or outlandish expenditure of funds that they didn’t like. And approve. Usually unanimously or maybe 6 to 1.

The list is endless. The Hines project.

4th-5th and Arizona, 12 stories worth. A light rail on the ground along Colorado, cutting our city in two for emergency services, because that’s an excuse for building tons of housing adjacent. The hundreds of units going up at Colorado and Lincoln. Stewart Street between Nebraska and Colorado (Village Trailer Park).

The ECLS building multi-million dollar giveaway to Santa Monica College (SMC), given priority over a desperately-needed playing field promised to parents and kids more than 12 years ago. The hundreds of millions in bond money we just gave SMC when they haven’t even used the hundreds millions more they already banked from our previous bond measures.

A City Services Building — a good idea, to consolidate scattered City offices and save money, but a bad idea to build it so state of the art sustainable that it comes with a price tag running over $100 million. Expanding our already bloated, largest and highest paid City staff with ever-more six-figure bureaucrats. 105 Santa Monica City staffers make more than $300,000 per year in pay and benefits.

BUT WE CAN AFFORD IT

Right? We’re a rich town. No, comfortable, but not rich. We certainly have limits, and we’re approaching them at warp speed.

How do we afford all these posh amenities? Well, we did vote ourselves the highest sales tax rate in California. But we still have to build, build, build to get those developers’ fees to pay our ever-increasing bills.

Those same developers who contibute so much to City Council campaign funds. And no one can “afford” to build one, two or three stories anymore, so the sky’s the limit! So much for our low-rise beach town, the sunshine and sea breezes.

When you are adding new high-paid staff positions, you are obligating the City for decades to come to pay those benefits and pensions, oh those fat pensions.

Used to be people went to work for municipal government for much lower pay than they could get in the civil sector because they would more than make it up in retirement. Now, they’re higher paid than civilian counterparts to begin with.

Pretty sweet, for them. But we’re the pocketbook, and the future looks grim.

MAN MADE DISASTERS

I used the recent fires up north, in my last column, as grim reality and also as metaphor for how we seem to be engulfed on every side by seemingly irresistible forces of man made destruction.

On the human side, I searched in vain for a way to empathize and see
the opposition’s point of view. But as fires and hurricanes are irresistible, soulless forces
of destruction, perhaps so are the political ones.

At least locally all we have to lose is our
historic, beloved beach town. National political action will cause untold poverty, misery,
and death.

All we have is the vote, and we must use it. We must organize, even lacking the money and machinery of the opposition. Our very lives are at stake, and the soul of our great nation and city.

An off-year election is the perfect time. Only the motivated turn out to vote. Where’s our motivation? Time is rapidly running out.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Will everyone flock to the new Chick-fil-A coming on Lincoln, in spring? Will they buy into the press release that touts chicken that is 100 percent breast meat with no fillers or hormones, and lemonade squeezed fresh? Will we welcome them as the good corporate citizens they say they are, who care for their employees’ growth and well-being and give them college scholarships? Or will the good people of Santa Monica inform themselves that this corporation notorious for its funding of anti-LGBTQ groups and pushing its Christian message is continuing to do so today? Fil-A phooey, I say.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” — Mark Twain

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com