I KNOW YOU EXPECT
Sarcasm from me. I minored in it, in college. Bachelor of Journalism/Sarcasm.
But I was sincere when I wrote last week that I believe that all of our City Council members and our City Manager — considered terrible villains in the unfolding drama of Santa Monica in the minds of many disgruntled, disturbed, distressed, disquieted, disconcerted, even discombobulated residents — all do love Santa Monica. In their own way. But it’s a mistake to try to quantify or qualify love, isn’t it?
And what is a villain, anyway? Just the other side of the coin. Your villain is someone else’s hero. Take Jason Islas. Please.
SO LET’S NOT JUDGE
Let’s assume the highest motives. Unlike the Mango Mussolini, none of our local political leaders, I believe, ever had any thought of trying to destroy the (People’s) republic. It may even shock them at some future moment when they look around at a high rise, sun scarce, jam packed but tourist bereft, car-less SM without a resident in sight because the mad max crazies and blade runner druggies own the sidewalks, the streets and the parks. And they will wonder, how in the world did this happen?
They were motivated by love of their city, expressed through service. They took a lot of grief to get where they are, then once in office they put in a lot of hours, for almost no pay, were expected to be experts in everything in this very complicated little city, and are the target of every crazy columnist and nasty neighborhood association. The good things they accomplish get minimized by many. Who needs that? Why would anyone want the job? Gotta have a lotta love.
It may be hard for some of you to take that in. But don’t forget what they say, and there’s often a lot of wisdom in what “they say” —
YOU ALWAYS HURT THE ONE YOU LOVE
They never intended to hurt this historic, beloved, unique little city at the ocean end of LA. They ran for office, a nasty business, because they felt they could do some good. Offer good guidance and governance. Every politician who ever ran for office had the ego to believe they could do that important job better than anyone else.
But … are there other considerations? You bet.
I’m only speculating. But while love of city through service may be the first motivation they all express and believe, there are other reasons they may not even admit to themselves.
I’ve spent many years trying to figure out what is behind all the secrecy, deviousness and cunning, and the results I see all around me that I find increasingly dismal. What is the master plan they’re all in lockstep with, that is spinning us into this unholy vortex?
It’s complex, of course, with many moving parts from the many centers of power in this town. But here’s one version.
Santa Monica must be developed to “progress, to move into the future,” they might insist. We have a bloated, highly overpaid staff with a half a billion dollar pension and benefits bomb ticking away, and a yearly budget climbing precipitously and now approaching $1,000,000,000 — for a city of fewer than 100,000 people! — so we must keep that development income pouring in. We must keep building housing in our already uber-dense 8.4 sq. mi., specifically rental units so renters will remain a large percentage of our population, so SMRR can retain its power. All sorts of other interests gladly support this because it serves their interests too — developers, transportation wonks, unions, bike lovers, car haters, hoteliers, social activists, the tourist industry and the politically ambitious. SM is a money machine, but a lot of us residents don’t like living with the results.
But recently I’ve been pondering another factor.
THE PERKS, THE PRESTIGE
In a recent column I mentioned a junket our current mayor Gleam Davis went on, to Dubai. I wrote that “I do not know how much, if any, of that excursion was paid for by our tax dollars,” and shouldn’t have. I had no indication of that, and didn’t even think it was the case. Davis wrote me, “the government of the United Arab Emirates paid for my trip to Dubai. I also went to Greece in May to speak at the meeting of the ministers of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. The OECD paid for that trip.” I regret any unintended suggestion otherwise. But it doesn’t really matter. The point is, why do reps of such a small community get invited to these things, and treated like royalty?
Because we have fostered an image of SM as one of the most progressive, sustainable, socially conscious little towns on the planet. Partly, it’s true. And we who live here know, partly it isn’t, and there are some very dark consequences that the world doesn’t hear about. Give you one example. Why would we squander some $140M on a city offices building? To make it something so beyond LEED platinum titanium rhodium sustainable that it will win awards and be known everywhere. It is a vanity project, a resume polisher for our city leaders, that they can brag on the rest of their lives. Never mind that we spent at least $50M too much. Just keep raising that budget and packing in that development.
Prestige and perks. The hidden magnet. This is part one. I may write part two, unless someone convinces me to run for Council.
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 email@example.com