YOU THINK 2020 WAS CRAZY

Buckle up for 2021. Don’t ease up on your resilience or sense of humor yet. This year will hold some historic moments (already has). So maybe if we’re prepared or anything, we can make it a positive journey.

It already has affected our lives in so many ways. Let’s take a look at our city, the state and our nation. Just a few examples.

RECALL NEWSOM!

He rubs some people the wrong way, just for the excess hair gel. You can debate whether or not he’s done a good or rotten job, in the face of a pandemic and the resultant economic collapse, and a Federal Government throwing stumbling blocks at CA, following the lead of the Orange Oaf. The LA Times reported that the recall effort has been fueled by QAnon and other conspiracy groups, including one affiliated with the lethal Proud Boys. Politics, rearing its very ugly head.

On the national front, you have the stunning scene of Republican legislators, whose very lives were threatened by the insurrection at the Capitol just three weeks ago, saying the idea of holding the former president accountable for his documented efforts to aid and abet the insurrection is “stupid.” Let’s just move on and heal a divided nation, say the folks who did their best these last four years to blow up those divides.

I don’t think all politicians are bad actors. But certainly, too many of them. It affects our personal lives greatly. It’s a huge challenge, to vote in only public servants and not feeders at the public trough.

IN SANTA MONICA

We have had City Councils, staff bureaucrats, and School Boards that are fiscally out of control. $2.5M toilets, $9M bus stop redesigns that are a joke, a $140M “world’s greenest” office building that now needs more money for the new reality of office space in COVID. Way too many staff lawyers at sky high salaries. Running through school bonds literally in the billions, and soon asking for more. A pension time bomb of half a billion dollars.

This is my take on explaining the latest round of School Board excesses and errors, based on a lot of observation and information, most of it not known by the general public.

SMMUSD HAS A MASTER PLAN?

— for construction. They say. Haven’t seen it. I’m sure there must be a master plan for instruction, but we haven’t heard so much about that.

The man who oversees it all, and pushes the construction plan hard, is Carey Upton, the COO of SMMUSD. Formerly he was their Director of Facility Use where, according to his Linked In bio, he “developed the department from a one-person operation with a revenue of $80,000 annually to a thriving business managing all district facility use with a direct staff of 22 that earns $1.7 million annually… Created a unique entrepreneurial business that raises much needed capital.”

That’s impressive, and funding is always needed for our schools, but I think that’s also the problem. You get people who become really good at generating cash, and then they overlook their original mission, ignoring detrimental consequences to the communities they are supposed to serve. All for the shiny resume. Dollars are the measure of success.

BEFORE COMING TO SMMUSD

Upton was manager at Los Angeles Theatre, where he “took an operation that averaged $300K annual to $1.9 Million in 21 months.” Before that he taught Acting I and Directing I at the University of Maryland for less than four years — his only academic experience listed. Before that he directed plays and stage managed, and “helped park cars with Steve Ball.”

I swear, I am not making fun of any of this. Honest labor in any field is commendable. Respect the mail carrier and the scientist, the teacher, the sanitation worker and the actor equally. Upton apparently really excelled when it came to making big money where others did not, and I respect that.

But does that make him the right person to be directing massive construction that perhaps does not do what’s best for the students, and for the community?

WHY SO MUCH NEW CONSTRUCTION?

Especially when the student population is declining. Add to that 13ish percent of enrollment from out of district — partly for diversity, we are told, but no stats are offered to back that up. Until recently there was also a financial incentive, a payment from the state for each student in class that day. But that ended. So now we the taxpayers and school bond suckers are paying to educate other cities’ students, shortchanging our own kids.

That plan for construction will result in, among other things, nearly an entirely new Santa Monica High School. Only a couple of older buildings left standing. You won’t recognize your old high school.

That sounds like a great idea! The best classrooms for our students, 21st century classrooms. But… a couple of things.

HISTORIC BUILDINGS

That could be repurposed, probably even at less cost, will be torn down. It’s been a national movement for universities and high schools across the nation for some years now, to maintain an important continuity for the institution and teach students the importance of history and tradition, architecture and conservancy. But I guess SMMUSD missed all that.

A lot of attention has focused on the History Building, a defining structure for 85 years of Samohi grads but not officially a designated landmark.

When Samohi moved to this location, that building was it. That was Santa Monica High School. The pleas of the Santa Monica Conservancy to take a pause, to study alternatives that could satisfy all needs, have fallen on deaf SMMUSD ears. At their Board meeting last Thursday there were more 70 voices in favor of the teardown, around five opposing. Don’t read too much into that.

Not that it mattered. The decision had already been made. The chorus for teardown was virtually a membership list for Forward, who apparently are now turning their attention away from the City Council they lost control of, to the School Board.

What a town.

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