Santa Monica City Council’s newest member wants to focus on improving communication between city government and residents.
Councilmember Greg Morena, who was sworn into office Tuesday night, is looking to address a host of local issues, including public safety, homelessness and development. However, he said educating the public on the work being done is as important as the work itself.
“Neighborhood groups are concerned about public safety and homelessness, and the City’s efforts have been extensive, but the community doesn’t hear about all of these great efforts and the ingenuity or strategies behind them,” he said.
Morena wants to change how the City disseminates information. Community members shouldn’t feel that they have to pull information out of their local government, he said.
“I can’t wait to work with our elected (officials) and talented staff to create a modern communication system to share our progress, hopes and dreams,” he said. “It’s going to take us really defining how and where people receive information.”
Councilmember Ted Winterer said many other Councilmembers are interested in improving communication with residents, especially in the wake of a recent citywide survey that revealed that about 60 percent of residents get their local news from social media.
“We’re all well aware that there’s a lot of misinformation on social media distributed as fact,” Winterer said. “That’s a big challenge for us … we need to make people understand they need to go to source documents to find facts.”
Morena’s own hopes and dreams include working toward ending homelessness, building more housing while preserving the character of the city’s neighborhoods and changing the way Santa Monicans think about public transit.
He wants to approach homelessness as a regional issue and make connections with groups that have been receiving funding from Measure H to provide homelessness services. Morena said his best friend grew up in Santa Monica but now sleeps across the border unsheltered in Venice, which he believes exemplifies why local governments must work together to house homeless individuals.
Building more housing and more affordable housing will be a part of addressing the problem, Morena said, and is something he thinks Santa Monicans can agree on despite their differing views on development.
“I want to ensure people of all economic levels can live here, and respecting the integrity of the neighborhoods is paramount,” he said. “I think development is an incredibly delicate balance. I hope to bridge and unify some of the people with dissenting opinions.”
Morena also said he doesn’t think stopping development is a solution to improving traffic. Instead, he believes Santa Monica should focus on taking cars off the road by encouraging people to use public transit.
“The development that’s happened is already here and we’re getting traffic as a byproduct,” he said. “We have to change how people think about moving about town.”
What connects all of Morena’s priorities, he said, is promoting a feeling of unity in Santa Monica. He said he believes representing his generation in city government – Morena is 40 – will encourage other communities that haven’t “been at the table” before to participate as well.
“I think he’ll be a strong, independent voice and a breath of fresh air,” Winterer said.
Morena hopes to stay above the divisiveness that can characterize local politics, he said.
“I’m not a part of that animosity and I don’t intend to be,” he said. “It holds you back from what you’re able to accomplish.”