This is the conclusion to our profile on Santa Monica’s newest councilmember Kristin McCowan.
After amassing years of political experience on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., Santa Monica’s first Black councilwoman Kristin McCowan has returned home with a hope to be the voice Santa Monica’s diverse communities.
Touting her connection to working mothers, people with special needs and those who go through the daily struggle of trying to survive on substandard pay, McCowan said she is currently hard at work learning the various ins-and-outs of her new position, but she already has a few matters she’d like to address if she were to remain on Council past the November election.
“First and foremost,” McCowan said, “my goal was to represent a younger, homegrown voice on the council and I think we accomplish that through my appointment and then my commitment to run again in November. And then after that, I’ve always said that economic recovery is the most critical thing we have going on right now.”
McCowan added she can’t come into the job with a short-term perspective, especially since it appears Covid-19 will affect local residents and businesses well into election season.
“One of my brothers is a small business owner in Santa Monica that’s been very, very affected by the COVID pandemic and — the city has done a great job with the Economic Recovery Task Force and trying to get all small businesses and business-owners information on what relief programs and stuff are accessible to them. And they’ve done rent abatement and other things, but there’s still so much more that needs to be done. And while we’re in the process of trying to find people options on what’s available right now, I am really committed to thinking through what our long term plan for pandemic relief and disaster relief is because this is, maybe, the first global pandemic in modern history but it’s not going to be the last,” McCowan said. “We’re a more globalized society and we have a responsibility to ensure that going forward, we have mechanisms in place to ensure this never happens to our community again. And so to the extent that I can be part of creating that future mitigation effort and looking at it holistically, that’s what I want to do.”
While working for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, McCowan learned firsthand how small mitigation efforts like turning a door the opposite direction could have wide-ranging effects, which is an experience she knows can be of use to Santa Monica residents who face a number of daily dilemmas stemming from the pandemic.
There’s a lot that falls under economic recovery, “but another issue that I’ve highlighted as being very, very important to me is how we restore the community part of our community… I think one way that we really need to work on that is (by asking) what public safety in Santa Monica looks like,” and ensuring that it’s representative of the community it actually serves, McCowan said. “So, I think we need to reimagine our public safety and I don’t mean to be cliche about that. But I think we need to look at ways in which we can allow our police officers to actually do the job of policing,” and then find ways to allow social workers or others to handle some of the other issues surrounding homelessness and domestic disputes. “And then also look at how we can reinvest in our community,” McCowan added.
Since her appointment to replace former councilmember Greg Morena, city officials have lauded McCowan for her participation in recent Black Agenda conversations.
“I’ve been really excited to be part of the work that we’re doing there and I don’t want to get ahead of them or any of the announcements,” McCowan said, but the enfranchisement of Black people and people of color in the community is one of the many matters the new councilwoman promises to support as long as she is a representative on City Council.
“I hope it’s an issue that speaks to every generation,” McCowan said, mentioning fellow community members have come forth to share how she has inspired them. “I think they’re so heartened to see not only my ability to now serve my community in this role but to see all of the fired up and committed younger folks who are determined to get this right… when I talk about looking at the Black Agenda and looking at systemic racism in Santa Monica, we need to break down all of it and see just where we messed up and what we need to do differently.”
That’s the level of attention the city needs to be committed to, “and I think the city’s approach so far is the right one. It’s a multi-tiered approach,” McCowan said as she described the community’s role in the discussion.
“I wanted to show everyone in a very clear way that I’m committed to serving this community, not just for four months, but for as long as they’ll have me,” McCowan said. “I’m going to be pounding the virtual pavement and I’m going to meet as many of my constituents as possible, and I’m going to fire up people to vote for me for my two-year term. And I’m fired up to get more people involved — more young people, people like me, moms for Kristin, the whole bit. We’re going to do it and I’m excited.”