A BAD START GONE GOOD

“Off to a Bad Start” was my headline for last week’s CURIOUS CITY column. Boy, a lot has happened since then.

The bad start I referred to was the partisan, tone deaf votes for mayor and mayor pro tem by the old Council members, which went to veteran Sue Himmelrich and brand new kid Kristin McCowan, respectively. But the meaning was in how the votes were cast.

Sue had made it clear in advance that she wanted the top post. Two years, not one, thank you. A lot of what you see done by Council members that you don’t like or understand, is done for prestige and ego, not money. For one thing, if you’re on the Council, you might become Mayor!

Read ‘em and weep. Mayor Kevin McKeown (2x, ouch), Mayor Richard Bloom (3x, yikes), Mayor Pam O’Connor (good gawd, 24 years on Council, 4x Mayor). Then there’s Terry O’Day, defeated last election, 10 years on Council, never awarded the mayor mantle by fellow Council members. Sounds right to me.

CONGRATULATIONS TO SUE HIMMELRICH

On becoming mayor. She deserves it, and she can continue to deserve it by continuing to vote on big issues with the new slate we sent to Council to make big changes. The four of them shot down further development of a 12-story hotel complex in the center of our downtown, last Council meeting. Hooray!

But she and the other incumbents should have immediately recognized the mandate the residents of SM declared in the last election, by voting Phil Brock the mayor pro tem title. Instead the remaining four, for probably different reasons, pushed it towards Kristin McCowan, appointed to Council only five months before. McCowan’s family is well-known in town for decades, but she herself has been absent for years until moving back recently. Brock and Oscar de la Torre both have decades of service to SM organizations, most of it volunteer. Third slate member Christine Parra has 20 years experience in city government (Culver City). Any of them would have been a better choice, to acknowledge the slate we voted in, against all odds and precedent.

OH YEAH — THE BROWN ACT

But McCowan actively sought that honor. And — she revealed, just before the vote, that she “may have inadvertently” violated the Brown Act in doing so. Inadvertently? The Brown Act is intended to promote transparency in government, to ensure that people get to see and hear what is being decided, in public, not in exclusive private meetings or behind closed doors.

In the case of a seven-member body, like our Council, that means you can discuss a pending matter with two others, but not three, because that would mean soliciting a majority vote. McCowan admitted that she spoke with three other Council members about her desire to be voted mayor pro tem. How is that inadvertent? Pretty easy to count to four, isn’t it?

She sought the opinion of our also-new Interim City Attorney, George Cardona. He advised her to disclose it at the Council meeting, which she did. But then what? After seven seconds of pin-drop silence from everyone, he advised that they could “proceed.” Shouldn’t proceeding mean dealing with the just-revealed possible violation of law? Should Kristin have been asked to recuse herself? Should she have been barred from accepting that position, because of her prejudicial actions? Instead, Sue jumped in to thank Kevin for the honor of his nomination and then it all proceeded without a word about the admission by McCowan.

Nothing will happen. The Brown Act is toothless, with zero successful violation prosecutions since it was enacted in 1953, as far as I could find. But in the spirit of transparency, the City Council should have at least discussed Kristin’s admitted violation. She said that what she discussed was already out there in previous public disclosures, but that depends upon where she talked or wrote about it.

That the Council skipped right past it is embarrassing. Phil and Oscar, Kevin and Gleam, at least, should have called a halt, for discussion. They know all about the Brown Act. Shades of Pam O’Connor. Can’t our elected officials just follow the law? Part of the “bad start.”

BUT TODAY

Everything is coming up roses! We had a terrific, accurate, well-researched, long piece in the Sunday LA Times about our election, by Faith E. Pinho.  Brock is bringing transparency to Council deliberations by going over consent items with a sharp eye, enlisting his kitchen cabinet to research them, and pulling items off for discussion and sending back to City staff for comment.

This is big. Our staff has had a lot of control, even over Council, in what they do or do not report. This shines a light and demands accountability.

The previous Council dropped the ball by not getting us in on the protest other CA cities have made over the ridiculous number of housing units (8,873 in 8 years for SM, 6000 of them “affordable” — good luck) assigned to each city to be built, by the quasi-governmental SCAG (Southern CA Assoc. of Governments), but that housing element is now being discussed vigorously. In the last Council meeting Gleam Davis tried to cast some aspersion on the process, comparing any move to limit housing here as somehow akin to “Jim Crow.” She also was quoted at the end of the Times reporting as saying about the election results, “Not sure I know what the message was, other than, ‘We’re unhappy.’” That’s clueless, disingenuous or just plain BS. Davis had better get a clue and start voting with residents’ wishes, or get out of the way.

Turns out the COVID relief package from Congress contains $15B for struggling live music and theatre venues! That’s a direct result of the Save Our Stages campaign reported in my NOTEWORTHY column, which is tied into the BRING MUSIC HOME book Nicole wrote about last week (you can still order it for Christmas!).

It’s looking better and better for two unlikely victories in Georgia Senate races, which would break evil Moscow Mitch’s iron grip on our government.

Bill Barr is gone, no voting fraud or Hunter Biden bullpucky investigations (even he has his limits, I guess), soon to be followed by Ivanka & the Defective Gene Pool and the Orange Oligarch himself. The NBA started back up Tuesday. Each day from now on will actually be longer, and brighter.

I do believe that 800-year astral convergence Monday night may have worked some magic.

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