A MONTH AGO
(Too early! some said) I started writing in earnest about the upcoming election in November for City Council seats. Meaning, since there was no Earnest currently on the Council, I couldn’t recommend any incumbent and had to go scour the mean streets of Santa Monica for prospects.
Which raises a good question: do you have to have a Santa Monica address to run for Council? I would think so. But can we in good conscience deny representative rights and privileges to folks who have resided here for years, or decades, just because they don’t lay title to a street address? Are you your home? If you are homeless, are you nothing? And with their numbers, don’t the homeless deserve to have their own seat on the Council? At least one. They could be their own district. Imagine the campaigning. I might start going to Council meetings again.
But we also don’t want no dadgum Culver City or West LA carpetbaggers telling us what to do. But they do. For years “our own” Jason Islas was a perennial example. Unofficially, of course, without portfolio. But he sure talked at us a lot, about how he thought our City should be run, and he got listened to a lot, respectfully, by current Council members and others in our City government and staff. (More respectfully than a lot of actual residents during their two minutes before the mast.) Without being in possession of that magical 9040* address that would give him a stake in the game.
In the last year, he finally did manage to grab that zip code brass ring, which indicates to me that Next and Forward must pay lots more than most of us imagined. First, last, and deposit in Olde Santa Monica runs you five figures, you know. Now he’s working for our billion-dollar buddies Bird, so he’s probably eyeing North Of Montana.
Others agree with me that no one on this Council has stood their ground and voted a final “no” on big developments, and so others have taken up the call, “No Incumbents!” Overdevelopment is the big issue, creating or exacerbating most of our other problems. Some people, though, take issue with that.
Well, there’s really only one who seems perhaps justifiably miffed to be lumped together with all those developer reps on the dais. That would be Sue Himmelrich. Because, compared to the others, she’s a Councilmember of conscience, a crusader for the crushed, a candidate for the constituents. She speaks her mind and asks tough questions. (At this point there is smoke rising from Kevin McKeown’s clenched teeth.)
Until… it’s time for the final vote on a large development, and then she goes along to get along. Always? Almost always. So, on those big votes, it goes on the record that our Council approved unanimously. They must, then, in their wisdom, know something we don’t know, right?
She has taken me to task for not separating her out. She hasn’t quite called me An Enemy of the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, but she has intimated — aw heck, more than intimated, she’s come right out and chastised me for having a tenuous relationship with the truth, for not letting the facts get in the way of a good story, for not being a real writer and for having a short memory (maybe guilty on that last one — and sometimes you want that).
Well, I resemble those remarks. It is a fine line. It does depend on what your definition of the word “is” is. She claims the high ground because she has opposed, for example, the massive Miramar mess, the shrinking Gehry tower, and the commercial giveaway of our taxpayer-bought land at 4th and Arizona. So far.
Great! But how will she vote when final approval is in the balance? Her record there, in her freshman term, is little better than anyone else’s.
I’m well aware of the game rules for politicians, that when it looks like you can’t possibly win you make nice with your vote, and try for an amendment or for getting your colleagues’ support for some other project. The other council members don’t like it when it’s not unanimous. They look out for each other. It’s definitely a good old boys/girls club. But that doesn’t make it right.
Himmelrich lists, on her “campaign promises kept” sheet, under “Preserving the Diverse Character of Santa Monica and Opposing Excessive Development” — “moved to elect Kevin McKeown mayor.” Huh? That may be a poke in Pam O’Connor’s eye but hardly a blow for “opposing excessive development,” in the opinion of almost everyone I know. At my very first Council meeting years ago, a helpful seatmate whispered, that’s Kevin McKeown — he’s on our side, usually the good guy, but he’d sell his grandmother for affordable housing. You simply can’t build your way into lower rents and home prices — how many tens of thousands of units will it take? — but you can ruin your small beach city trying.
IT’S A LOFTY GOAL
But when you approve every outsized, inappropriate project because the developer is throwing you some scrap of a few “affordable” units or a cash donation toward same, what you wind up with is the mess we’ve now got, Santa Monica being literally developed to death. It’s got to stop. November. Now.
I’m sick and tired of the cronyism. SMRR, Union 11, Forward, Next and developer money are calling our shots, not our elected “representatives.” We need Council members who will stand up for the residents on every vote. Council Member Tony Vazquez revealed under deposition that he received ongoing payments for “consulting” from firms that then submitted six-figure contracts to our school board, where his wife sits and votes. Neither one of them came clean about that money. And now Himmelrich is supporting and fundraising for Vazquez in his quest for a seat on the powerful Board of Equalization. I understand longstanding friendship, but when your friend’s activities impact your sacred promise to serve the residents, you’ve got to draw the line.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Am I a crazy idealist to want such representation? Should I just give up?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “As for civil liberties, anyone who is not vigilant may one day find himself living, if not in a police state, at least in a police city.” — Gore Vidal
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org