Ted Winterer

When now-former Mayor Ted Winterer started his term two years ago, he told the Daily Press his biggest obstacle would be to get a divided community to find common ground and have a dialogue instead of a shouting match.

It was December 2016, and the community was still reeling from the battle that played out over Measure LV, which would have required a city-wide vote on all development projects above two stories. The City was also poised to start discussing the Downtown Community Plan, a source of controversy among neighborhood groups reluctant to see big buildings spring up in their communities.

The topics that spark heated debate in Santa Monica evolved in the two years that Winterer served as Mayor, he said, but the angry rhetoric that characterized disputes over development has not abated.

“It is sadly a sign of the times in which we live that some refuse to let facts get in the way of their opinions and vilify those with whom they disagree,” Winterer said.

He saw that people who speak vehemently on social media or in large groups often intimidate others, so he spent more time speaking with constituents in person or over email.

“(I) found this led to a courteous mutual understanding with constituents even when our positions differed,” he said.

Winterer and the council were able to reach an understanding with residents on some issues, although the process wasn’t always courteous. Winterer said one of the council’s most significant achievements during his mayorship was deciding in January 2017 to close the Santa Monica Airport by 2028 to build a park in its place and immediately shorten its runway to reduce jet traffic.

But that process was marked by tense conflict between residents concerned about the airport’s impact on property values and pilots who said the airport should remain open indefinitely. Even when the council decided to eventually close the airport, groups that supported the idea criticized the lack of public input into the process and said another 12 years would be too long.

However, Winterer’s council was able to make progress on sustainability and passed several ordinances that proved less controversial with residents, such as switching to 100 percent renewable energy as the default electricity option, banning disposable food containers and requiring that new development projects maintain the city’s current demand for water.

While Winterer accomplished many of the sustainability goals he had in mind, some challenges arose or worsened during his tenure that were difficult to address, he said.

Rising crime and homelessness were chief among them, which Winterer said has been the case across California. Santa Monica was hit particularly hard, however: violent crime jumped almost 50 percent in 2018 and about 30 percent more homeless individuals resided in the city in 2017 compared to 2015.

“Various changes in state law and policies decriminalized certain crimes and released inmates into the population,” he said. “The City Manager made the shrewd decision to hire the best in hiring Chief Cynthia Renaud and I believe we’ll make a dent in that going forward. We hired a lot of officers in the past six months, which should be consequential.”

As Winterer returns to his role as a councilmember, he plans to look into problems that could arise in the not-so-distant future and start tackling them now. The threat of a recession in the next few years means the city needs to deal with its pension liabilities and bargain with its labor unions to keep costs down, he said.

“It’s beginning to smell like a recession. We’re long overdue and we have to do some belt-tightening to prepare for that,” he said. “We’re going to be focusing on making city government more efficient and cost-effective.”

 

madeleine@smdp.com

 

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2 Comments

  1. DUH? Too bad Ted and the others didn’t think of that when they approved an absurd vanity building no one wanted or needed – or the ridiculous ECLS school for the well paid employees of RAND and Staff… how about the millions spent a lawsuit to keep their own power base while they ruin what is left of this City and take it out on the lower wage earner… “have to bargain with labor unions”… how about putting the lid on runaway spending Ted- no new $$$ hires…. Cole’s office alone is a waste of massive money.. to do what? Destroy the best thing left in this City– SMO… total fail- total by this Mayor with worse coming in … we deserve better.

  2. What about the bloated salaries, pensions, and public employees being able to retire at 55 on full benefits ? If you are looking at fiscal responsibility start there.

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