Courtesy image.

WE NEED SOME SIMPLE RULES OF THUMB

For this task of shaping our future, post-pandemic world. With our government revenues and budgets slashed like Marion Crane, our choices are more limited now. That’s a good thing. It should force us to look with fresh, discerning eyes at how and why we spend our tax dollars. Because from federal to local government, it’s been unbalanced and unfair, for decades. This is a forced chance for a reset. To make up for past sins.

On the federal level there are armies of special interests massed in DC, with support from bought politicians on both sides of the aisle, to quicken a “return to normal.” They have already looted the treasury of literally trillions from the last three gigantic relief/stimulus packages that should have gone to state and city governments, small businesses, schools, police, fire and medical services, and individuals in need. Greed seems to know no limits, nor humane restraints.

I DIDN’T SAY THIS WOULD BE EASY

But I do know this: the numbers are on our side. The people numbers. The voting numbers. Overwhelmingly. People all over this nation (all over the world) have glimpsed a different possibility through the effects of quarantine and are saying, if not now, when? Why go back to the old ways that we know were killing us? This pandemic is horrendous but it has shown us, right in front of our eyes, that we can have a world that works for everyone. No — that we must have that world, now. Everyone with health care (including mental health) and shelter, no hunger, superb free education through college, old age with dignity, safety on our streets, clean air and water, safe foods, fair elections, no discrimination of any kind, no wars. (Did I leave anything out?) It’s not a utopian fantasy; we have seen that all these things can be done. We have the resources but we are missing, so far, the political will.

IT SHOULD BE EASIER IN SANTA MONICA

Than in DC. You’d think. But you have similar forces at work here. And they have already been trying to shape the outcomes for weeks. At a time when it has been tragically proven that urban density is a deadly partner to viral diseases, we continue to keep building here. It’s unjustifiable, and unconscionable. Enough.

Our City Council and staff are spending great time and energy to try to come up with a “wartime” budget to make our city function. I applaud their work ethic but they are still doing it wrong and seem incapable of a different vision. And a very different vision is exactly what we need from our leaders now.

You have the pro-development political group Forward issuing their manifesto of the same old tired arguments to “build” us out of our deep economic hole, to add taxes to one of the highest-taxed cities in the nation, and they are getting access to the decision makers that has been withheld from ordinary residents. They want more market rate housing that won’t go to the locals who need truly affordable housing, when our vacancy rate is already 8 percent and our retail stores and office spaces are looking like a ghost town. We should all be standing up and saying, are you nuts? Some of us are.

WE NEED A FEW SIMPLE GUIDELINES

To govern the complex negotiations we’re going through. So that all involved might immediately understand, for example, that getting rid of teachers and school crossing guards is not what’s called for. Cutting way more off the top salaries of the most bloated and overpaid city staff in CA is what’s best for the most of us. If we’re all in this together, let’s make the sacrifices a bit more evenhanded.

I absolutely respect and honor our police and fire heroes — my wife’s side of the family have been firemen, going back 100 years in SM — but maybe, as an example, those nine police officers and sergeants who make $350+K in salary and benefits, can get by for a year or two on about half of that. That extra $1.5M could pay for 50 crossing guards. Doing the same for our many attorneys on staff could bring back a few teachers.

Our children are our most precious resource, yet our City government has continually short changed them. 22 years before finally, grudgingly, agreeing to build that sports field they promised? Eliminating Head Start and its yearly $1.5M grant? Now they are considering eliminating the after-school program CREST? What would working parents do? Plans steamroll ahead for very expensively rebuilding a Samohi with a shrinking enrollment, even needlessly tearing down some beloved buildings that are still functional. Get a grip. Get a pandemic plan.

NUMBER ONE RULE

Who does it benefit? If the answer is not unequivocally “the residents,” then don’t do it. Residents come first, not developers, not people you would like to see move here.

There are a few more I have in mind. I want to keep it simple. I’m open to suggestions.

Resident input encouraged, not taken away. Complete transparency. When something comes out of Sacramento that is not to our benefit, resist, don’t immediately acquiesce because it serves your personal interests. Respect for Council (give them assistants!) and staff, and easy access to them. Staff recommendations that thoroughly lay out pros and cons, rather than a one-sided presentation favoring their vision. (Their vision must be that of the residents. Don’t forget, most of them don’t live here and some may have their careers and resumes uppermost. New hiring must always make that number one: you work for us.)

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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5 Comments

  1. We 100% agree. Outside interest have for too long had outside influence. Developer rights overwhelm resident rights . Our city income is dependent on fickle tourism and small conventions. We have more city lawyers than cities more tan twice our size, yet our use of costly outside legal advice is legendary.

    Turn this crisis into a dangerous opportunity to bring budgeting sanity back to our city.
    Use this crisis to change the anti resident, back room Developer Agreements into Agreements by Developers to abide by resident friendly, environmentally conscious rules that benefit all, not just a few.

    And finally, work to return Santa Monica to those that live within its borders with budgets that live within its means.

  2. Thank you for your article in the Daily Press. What a breath of fresh air. I wish a few council members or the mayor would speak out in this way. You make perfect sense to me.
    I’ve worked and lived in Santa Monica for fifty three years.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. I am a 3rd generation native and am appalled at how the city has been sold to the developers. Enough. Let’s have a moratorium on development for 3 years and sort out the mess trying to make us into a city for the 1% to move to has created for residents.

  4. Ditto, ditto, ditto! I completely agree with everything said. So what’s to be done now? The City Council and most departments have turned a blind eye and deaf ear to their constituents. No amount of pleading, reasoned arguments or brow beating works. Like in the case of our Federal governing body, the only choice left is to vote them out of office and start anew. Of course by then much of the damage will be harder to undo. We need some new candidates and a new vision!

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