Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)



Then I started writing this column, seven years ago.

Now I never know what to think, or what anyone else in this strange little city is thinking.

I come up with something to write each week, usually about SM politics because that controls the future of our put-upon city. I ponder what I know, and I research some other things, and then…

The words come rushing out of my keyboard like irresistible tsunami waves crashing on the beach, divinely inspired, perfectly formed, unimpeachable.

Ha! No, they are forced out with constant uncertainty, each thought and word scrutinized, cross-examined, reconsidered and often replaced. In the end, usually as dawn is breaking, I hit “send” and wonder when the challenge and vitriol, the mockery and threats for all my column’s harsh judgements, fuzzy logic and downright error will begin.


I rarely get death threats or even pushback from City Council or Staff, SMRR potentates or Forward(non)-thinkers, no horseheads in my bed from developers or Union 11 overlords. I rarely hear from anyone who disagrees with me.

I sometimes wish I did, because the conclusion is obvious, and sad:

What I write doesn’t seem to matter or change anything. How many are even seeing it?

My friend Bill Bauer, the late great SMDP columnist, faced the same misgivings. Here’s my theory: long ago, those who disagreed with him decided to not give his work any attention, even though they all were reading him, knowing he was on the mark, and not liking it one bit. But it was smarter in the long run to not give it any notice. Ignore it, because you can. No consequences.

Because the political machine had become so strong that you could stand in the middle of 5th Street and shoot somebody and you wouldn’t lose any voters, if you were wearing a SMRR t-shirt. You could shoot your mouth off and cost the City a cool million from a lawsuit and remain on City Council, and your four partners in crime on the Council, who never even censured you, would all win re-election the next year. You could take payments from firms that had six-figure contracts before our school board and have your wife on the board vote to approve those contracts, but not recuse nor even mention the arrangement to anyone, and still go on to State elective office and get more than a million votes. No consequences.


But I told Bill the same thing I have to occasionally tell myself: political change is glacially slow, SM politics is deep and messy, tangled and tortuous, the level of being uninformed or intentionally misinformed is great and widespread — people are reading, they agree, but it’s impossible to know how many and you sure can’t measure it (yet) by votes every two years.

(That could change with court-ordered district elections, if our current City Council would ever obey the court order that said you have and are still discriminating against minority voters in SM — stop it! Your current City Council was elected illegally. Hold a new election July 2, by districts, not at-large.)

But the oh-so-progressive City Council of this nothing-but-progressive City, always fighting for minorities, diversity and the little guy, proud to be known still as the People’s Republic of Santa Monica, is fighting on, with the help of $2K/hour lawyers, to maintain that court-condemned discrimination. (And they won’t even tell us how much of our money is being spent, until the appeal is over. It’s many millions.) What about the rule of law? (We have lawyers on Council.) What have we become?


Do speak up, I get emails every week from people I’ve never heard from before. So now I will give them voice, maybe next week too, so we all can be reminded that what I’m observing and writing about is the New Normal. But doesn’t have to be.

A lot of local folks are not happy.

“I don’t want this to be happening in my city!  But what do I do? How do I vote to make it stop….it is NEVER clear what I should do…” – J

“Your editorials are a window, for me, into how Santa Monica really works outside whatever enclave/bubble I happen to live in.” – I

“I did not know about the fire engines sitting in Ontario since July. That was a new and disturbing bit of information. So many of our residents are totally in the dark about what is happening here.” – C

“The same group has been running our City for years. The 2018 City Services Ratings should be reasons enough for changing to district elections. Rick Cole hired more communications staff who orchestrate Metro/Expo bus banners, articles in regional papers, Council/City Manager speaking engagements outside the city and widely publicizing events like the Coast Open Streets, attended by 15% of Santa Monicans. Do residents benefit from expensive PR/communications or just the incumbents and the region?” – T

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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