WELCOME, NEW CITY COUNCIL
Next Tuesday’s Council meeting marks the dawn of a new era — or the same ol’ same ol’. That depends on the incumbents. They still have the 4-3 majority. But we cannot afford — economically, environmentally, morally — business as usual.
If the remaining Council incumbents see the writing on the wall from this election, in clear bold large letters, and truly wish to serve the electorate and their city, as we know they do, they will team with the new Council members and usher in an era of progress, sustainability, innovation, sensible growth and fiscal responsibility like we’ve never seen in our City government. It is possible. But nothing will be easy. Our challenges now are the greatest we’ve ever faced. But in great trials lie great opportunities for good.
I’VE BEEN CRITICAL
For many years of what our City Councils have handed us. But I’m not being sarcastic in saying I know the incumbents wish to serve the electorate and their city. They have done so, in their own ways, and must be thanked. Being on Council requires ridiculously long hours, an impossible array of knowledge to master and the judgment of Solomon, for almost no pay, and ample possibilities to be vilified as well as praised.
But past Councils and I (and apparently the voters of Santa Monica) have very different ideas on where this small, great city should be headed, and the past leadership has been disastrous in so many ways. In this election, the voters cried out in a very loud voice, Stop! Enough!
Will the incumbents be able to change their stripes, acknowledge wrong paths and now become heroes? Tough challenge. We shall see. I believe in miracles. If not and they cling to their repudiated governance, we will have to endure another two years of bad decisions, until the rest can be turned out in 2022. As they surely will. With what we are facing, we simply cannot afford those two years of backsliding.
BROCK, DE LA TORRE, PARRA
Those three new Council members will be sworn in — Christine Parra, Oscar De La Torre and Phil Brock, replacing three incumbents they defeated.
Let us first take a moment to acknowledge what an earth shaking event that election was.
Pam O’Connor was defeated as an incumbent in 2018, perhaps because her bold flaunting of the law (Oaks Initiative) cost our city nearly a million dollars from a lawsuit and that was the last straw in a long string of improprieties. It had been 16 years before that since an incumbent lost, Mike Feinstein in 2002, never a huge favorite of the SMRR kingmakers. (You can come up with your own reasons.)
The rule of thumb is that an incumbent fails to get re-elected to City Council in Santa Monica only once every five elections or so. That’s about a dozen blue moons. The machine is that tight, the campaign funding bountiful. So ousting three in one election is beyond unheard of, it’s hard to comprehend.
For one thing, the slate that sent three incumbents packing ran a great campaign. Really smart use of social media, Brock in particular tireless in posting his principles and plans, everywhere. And their message was firm but not strident or alarmist.
They were a product of the residents’ expressed needs and desires, not opportunistic career politicians checking the breeze and adopting the message of the moment. They had less than half the money of their opponents but used it very effectively. Parra was a political unknown but she came in third. Brock had run before but fell short and de la Torre won two terms on the school board but backed off from running for Council; both were felt by some to be carrying baggage. Everything was against them — except what the voters saw out their front windows, and the understanding of who was responsible, and who had a very different plan to right the ship.
In a time of pandemic, when everything needs to be re-evaluated, we had incumbents already inching back to business as usual, and trying feebly to convince us that was what was needed. Residents were fed up with it before, and now it seemed just insane.
Crime was so out of control that longtime residents were moving out and we had a reputation that was affecting what little tourism remained, and yet during the campaign Council members were ignoring or trying to explain away the crazy guy on your front lawn or the looters in your downtown.
“CRIME, WHAT CRIME?”
— accompanied by twisted and meaningless statistics was a slap in the face. People knew their bikes were getting ripped off from their locked garages and grandma was in danger of getting sucker punched by a mentally unstable person as she ambled down the sidewalk. Forget about visiting our parks.
There’s more, so much more. I’m not trying to open old wounds from an election that’s over, but we have so many serious challenges and we do still have an incumbent majority on the Council: Gleam Davis came in second and was re-elected, newly-appointed Kristin McCowan, running for an additional two years, but unopposed, was also elected, and we still have Kevin McKeown and Sue Himmelrich.
THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN
Loudly. In an era when Trump loses by 3M votes and acts like he has a landslide mandate, THIS is a mandate. It is very clear that voters here were fed up with how the city was being run (into the ground), and wanted Council members who would listen to their constituents and act on behalf of the people who live here, not outside interests.
So the incumbent majority can use their advantage to disadvantage the newcomers, or they can work with them. Despite years of flagrant overspending, overdeveloping, waving the flag of sustainability while turning a blind eye to our vital resources being depleted by their actions, they can redeem themselves in the next two years, and perhaps be returned to the position of power and prestige they seem to enjoy so much. A big finish can make you forget the first part of a mediocre movie or song or play.
If they want to show their good intentions and get off to the right start, they should vote two of them into the mostly ceremonial positions of Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem. They may be the new kids, but they are the big dogs that we have sent there to lead.
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 email@example.com