ABI - Anyone But Incumbents. Courtesy image.

MY APOLOGIES TO OUR CITY COUNCIL

For all the times I drew a parallel between their political actions and those of The Donald, and Moscow Mitch’s GOP.

They’re amateurs. Not even in the DC wrecking crew’s league. But they are learning, it seems.

We’ve all seen that flat out denying the facts — works. Look people in the eye and ask, what elephant in the room? What are you going to believe, me, or your lying eyes?

What crime? That’s the line our incumbents are taking, denying there is a problem and even asserting that things are improving. Hmmm. What do you think?

In the recent Santa Monica Democratic Club’s candidates forum, that’s what we heard. When challenger Phil Brock, running on a slate with Mario Fonda-Bernardi, Oscar de la Torre and Christine Parra against the four incumbents, raised the issue of safety and crime, it was amazing to see all the incumbents look us in the eye and declare, what crime?

Councilmember Gleam Davis admonished Brock, “You can cherry pick stats but compared to 10, 15, 20 years ago, Santa Monica is a much safer city than what it was.” (She must be talking about gang murders being down. That’s it.) Tell me, do you feel safer here now than five years ago? Two years? A year?

WELLBEING

“For me,” Davis continued, “public safety involves being a place where everyone can thrive. So for me, we need to become a city of wellbeing.” Try that line on the next guy who sticks a gun in your ribs and relieves you of your purse, or car. Or the mentally unstable guy who sucker punches you as you take your daily stroll. Hey! You just broke my wellbeing!!

Cherry picking stats is exactly what the incumbents did, to deny we have a crime and safety issue here. It can be a confusing issue — on paper, not on our streets — because there are so many agencies reporting crime figures. And which time periods are you comparing? I looked in a lot of places and the consensus is that no matter how you slice it, SM is one of the least safe cities in California. Right near the bottom. The last reported years are 2017 and ‘18, and Santa Monica’s violent crime rate far exceeds that for CA as a whole. Where would you say responsibility for that lies?

“SANTA MONICA COUNCILMEMBER”

Interesting that in the candidates information for this election, only one of the four incumbents running for another four-year term, Gleam Davis, lists their occupation as “Santa Monica Councilmember.” Ted Winterer, Terry O’Day and Ana Jara do not. I think that speaks volumes, don’t you? Everyone knows that being the incumbent is worth a ton of votes. Usually. Voters who don’t know the situation will vote to keep the same crew because “everything seems pretty good.” So if three incumbent City Councilmembers don’t lead with that, well, it would seem they’re not so proud of what they’ve done (or not done) and don’t want to remind voters that they’re the ones responsible. It would indicate their assessment that being an incumbent, this time, is a big minus.

I would have to agree. And in 34 years here, I have never seen such widespread, very strong dissatisfaction with the incumbents, among all residents.

IT’S A CLUB

“And you’re not in it,” George Carlin used to say. Our City Council is a club with rules for entry. First, you must be endorsed by Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR). Only Bobby Shriver (Kennedys don’t need any endorsements) and Herb Katz got elected without that, maybe Ruth Ebner (one term), probably Asha Greenberg (even SMRR founders have trouble recalling for certain).

But before that anointing, you must buddy up to the other members and prove to them that you love what they stand for and will get right in line. 7-0 votes is what they’re looking for, no less. They even have a standard process for voting one way in front of the public, then changing that vote on the record after the meeting. Unanimous!

ONLY ONE GOT ELECTED

To first take their seat on the Council, of the four incumbents running this year. Ted Winterer. The other three all were appointed first, to a vacancy, then elected running with the huge advantage of incumbency.

It’s a recent tactic, for the most part. Except for Alan Katz in the mid-’80s, you have to go back to the late ‘60s and early to mid-’70s to find anyone appointed first, not elected. And SMRR wasn’t founded until 1978. Recent appointee Kristin McCowan was appointed last July and is now running… as an incumbent. I have not mentioned her because she is running unopposed for a two-year term. But so far she seems to fit into the club just fine.

OTHER ENDORSEMENTS

That’s a whole other topic. Let’s just note that it is a small board, maybe even only one or two officers, not the rank and file who make an endorsement, and that for some organizations a “contribution” will get it for you, a little extra, please, for all our mailers and phone calls, thank you! But I found this interesting story from the LA Times, just before the1992 election, on that subject:

“The issue this year is not rent control,” said Ron Wirtz, president of the Santa Monica Firefighters Assn. “We’re committed to battling the myth raised by Santa Monicans for Renters Rights that rent control would be endangered without a SMRR majority on the council.”

[Ken] Genser is the only SMRR-supported candidate who has also won the police and fire unions’ backing. The unions have also endorsed challengers Weston, Asha Greenberg and Anthony Blain.

In past elections, Wirtz said, people have voted for the rent control slate and wound up with a council that favors social services at the expense of public safety and other basic services. [My emphasis.]

Given the SMRR dominance of the council, the unions are taking a risk in facing the rent control issue head on, and Wirtz said it will be interesting to see if voters respond. “If the voters are happy with the way the community is, the incumbents will be reelected, won’t they?”

Some things never change. But — sometimes they do. When people get up off their couches, get informed, organize, and vote. Blue. No GOP, no incumbents. In overwhelming numbers. It’s all we’ve got, folks, but there is nothing in a democracy stronger than the vote, and so far, last I checked, we do still have a democracy.

FINAL WORD: today, 200,000. Deaths, of Americans, from coronavirus. Never forget: according to almost all medical experts, at least 180,000 of them could have been prevented by a quick, national response, as in most other countries. Those deaths are at Trump’s feet. The horror.

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