City Hall (File photo)



To the “City Council Retreat” last weekend.

It’s not that I’m shirking civic responsibility. And I don’t judge anyone who did go. But I’ve been before and I couldn’t imagine this was going to be any different. From accounts I heard and read, it wasn’t. An orchestrated PR sham.

They are more than a waste of our time (and money). They are a maddening exercise in our City government’s relentless program of trying to convince us how great, correct and moral their agenda for our future is, while clumsily trying to make it appear as though they are actually soliciting and listening to our opinions, priorities and heartfelt desires and will act on them. Like the recent selection of our new City Council member, it’s obvious everything has been decided before the doors are opened, and nothing will change their minds.

And since I’ve mentioned that…

I don’t know much about the newest Council member anointed… uh, appointed, last Tuesday by the other Council members. Ana Jara does have a long record of service to the community and at SMC, she is a long-time renter in the Pico neighborhood, and she seems quite qualified and has some admirable ideas. I sincerely wish her the best.


That’s not why she got the appointment. 76 people applied, but the Council took only two quick rounds of voting to select Jara. Her family was with her that night to celebrate, and obviously many friends and supporters too as the room erupted in cheers at the announcement of her selection. Did they all turn out on the chance she would get the appointment? Maybe.

Council members chose other candidates in the first round of voting, for acknowledgement or payback, I would guess. But somehow, miraculously, they all coalesced for Jara in the second round. Actually, it was 5-1 but Sue Himmelrich, engaging in her pernicious pastime, later changed her vote to make it unanimous.

Jara is a Latina who is opposed to district voting and testified at the trial. Our City has decided to spend more than the millions already spent to appeal the decision, of the lawsuit claiming racial discrimination by Santa Monica governments over many decades. No California city out of a couple dozen similarly challenged has ever won that fight.

Despite flimsy rationales for opposing the switch to districts, the real reason is that it threatens the political structures they’ve built over decades to maintain power. District voting would lessen the influence of big money donors and the unions and most of all of kingmaker Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR), and give an ordinary, unbeholden citizen a chance to knock on every door and maybe be elected.


Nearly every Council member elected over the last 40 years or so knows they wouldn’t be there without the blessing of SMRR, a once-needed organization formed to protect the renting majority in Santa Monica, now seemingly more concerned with maintaining their political power.

I certainly can’t know what was inside those six Council heads, but they arrived that night with their marching orders from the boss. SMRR Co-Chair Patricia Hoffman issued this statement prior to the decision: “Diversification on the Council should be a priority. Ideally, we really do want a diverse Council that’s reflective of the population of the city. Holding up a cultural mirror is important. It can’t be ignored.”

I agree wholeheartedly. And Jara fits that description. The perfect candidate. For them. But she is a pawn in the power brokers’ maneuvering. She now owes her Council position to SMRR and the other six who voted for her, all SMRR loyalists. Come the next election she will have the extreme benefit of incumbency, and if we do go to district voting, that will make it tough on that Oscar de la Torre guy they can’t stand, who would be competing with Jara in the Pico neighborhood. (His wife Maria Loya brought the lawsuit.)


Very recently, the survey we were asked to take, to determine our priorities for our City government. We were given 23 areas to choose from, but among them was NOT mobility, overdevelopment, or senior services. Yet they were of such concern to those who took it (we hope residents, but who knows?) that they all landed in the top 12 as WRITE INS. “Built environment” was there, but without an explanation I have no idea what that means. Also, no “traffic” option among the 23, but no one cares or talks about that, right? Why do you think those topics were omitted? Were we being played?

It reminds me too much of the behavior of the tRump regime. Oh, the wrecking crew in Washington are a bit less sophisticated and they probably care less about appearances (like, zero) but the intent and the process is the same: we’re in power (and we got there through highly dubious means) and we’re calling the shots and there’s not a thing you can do about it, but we will give some cockamamie rationale for all the embarrassing stuff we’re forcing down your gullets. And some of you will actually buy it.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK: I keep reading about good policies protecting residents in other cities and wonder, why not here? The answer, of course, is lack of political will.

If Temple City can, why not us? Arts Commissioner Phil Brock picked up on this ballot measure from the 2016 election and posted it:

“Shall the Temple City Charter be amended to do the following, none of which grant the City new powers: prohibit Council members and Commissioners from accepting City contractor or lobbyist gifts without full reimbursement; establish stricter Council member contribution and gift restrictions; impose overall limit of four terms for Councilmembers; prohibit City contractors, lobbyists, and employees from serving on City commissions; prohibit Council candidates from accepting City contractor or lobbyist contributions?”

It passed overwhelmingly and is considered now the toughest anti-developer corruption law in Southern California. Recent news from LA indicates perhaps they should look at it too.

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at

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