I SHOULD BE WRITING ABOUT
City Council choosing a new member last night (did they? — this is published after). It’s a BFD, as our President might opine. We now have three new slate members on Council, working to fulfill their campaign promise to represent residents first, not outside interests. They are opposed on every important vote by the remaining establishment three, put there by the local political machine.
Kristin McCowan is the textbook example of how the machine keeps itself in power. She was appointed by the Council last July, pre-slate election.
McCowan has pretty much stuck like glue to Mayor Sue Himmelrich, who is an important part of the SMRR-Democratic party machine. The year before McCowan’s anointing, Ana Maria Jara was similarly brought in.
Appointees become incumbents and incumbency is a huge advantage in elections. Who else was appointed in this way, and elected next time up? Gleam Davis, exceedingly pro-development and subject to recent controversy over her votes involving downtown development, including the proposed huge expansion of the Miramar Hotel, because of her husband’s long term employment, not generally known, by Dell.
Another appointee was Terry O’Day, who, like Davis, usually appeared more interested in what was on their phone screen than what the residents were saying.
You need four votes to get anything done. The candidate who came close but did not win (he got more than 12,000 votes) was architect Mario Fonda-Bonardi, a moderate with extensive credentials, including, currently, the Planning Commission. He would be a perfect addition to this City Council, but his taking a stand over another issue is unacceptable to the three machine incumbents.
I approve of politicians taking a stand for their principles, especially when it hurts their chances for election. That’s courage and integrity.
I SHOULD BE WRITING ABOUT
Other pressing local issues, like crime, traffic, the unhoused, the untreated mentally ill, water shortage, overdevelopment, the hotel workers union influence on city planning, city staff’s big influence on city policy (most staff don’t live in SM, and care more about their resume and salary than the residents they supposedly serve), sustainable economic recovery (not back to business as usual — it’s time for some fresh thinking but we’re not seeing it in this “progressive” city), racism, a new City Manager, support of local businesses, fair treatment of businesses renting city properties, a rash of catalytic converter thefts, a Cultural Affairs department that can “find the time” for worthwhile new efforts and not give away our existing art or authorize misspending (say, half a mil on a piece almost no one can see), the intrusion of organized crime, Pier crime and policing, police assignment, funding, staffing, training and policies, a new Police Chief, prevention of more child sexual predators on City payroll (if for no better reason than the looming, possible $100M in lawsuits), assistants for Council members (sorely needed — see “staff big influence…”), climate change preparation, parking, district elections resolution, Sacramento attacks on local control, such as attempts to eliminate or weaken any single home zoning, earthquake preparedness, ADU advantages (backyard “granny” units), ALL the schools issues…
A big one is the ridiculous edict from SCAG requiring Santa Monica to build nearly 9,000 new housing units in the next eight years. But they are also requiring that 6,138 of them be “affordable.” By Gleam Davis’ favorite tool of “inclusionary housing,” that would mean building nearly 25,000 units to get the requisite 6,138. In the next eight years. Of course when I look around my rapidly morphing city, it looks to me like we are on track for the 25K, not the 9K.
WHY AM I NOT WRITING ABOUT IMPORTANT STUFF?
Well, sometimes… because I’m tired. Worn down from the whack-a-mole of bad stuff always raising an ugly head here. I’ll bet some of you good souls out there who fight for what you know is right, usually for others who don’t have a voice, and maybe have for years or even decades, are tired too. It can be exhausting, for ordinary residents with jobs and families and God-forbid a life, to try to keep up with the well-funded troublemakers working at their desks all day, on payroll to some entity that has big dogs in these fights on very pricey Santa Monica turf.
But you can’t throw in the towel. I won’t. I am inspired by so many examples lately of others who have gone through much more for what they know is right. U.S. soccer star Megan Rapinoe’s long fight to win equal pay for women in sport is now an HBO movie. An LA Times piece, “When Racism is Called ‘Election Integrity’,” is an old story in America. More headlines: Huntington Park a “corridor of corruption,” graft and retaliation. “Cities Growing More Diverse but Segregated.” (We’ve taken care of segregation in SM: we’re driving our once-diverse population away, through densification practices that do not attend to the effects on lower income residents.)
Crusading Modesto attorney Frank Carson spent years accusing local police and prosecutors of corruption, then was charged, along with his wife, stepdaughter and three cops, with the murder of a scrap metal thief, and has gone through a nine year trial, ruining him financially, emotionally and wrecking his marriage.
The outstanding L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez told us the story of Pilar Diaz Bombino, brought here from Havana when she was four, raised in the projects in Watts by her mother. She spent her senior year working two jobs, earning nearly a 4.0 GPA, giving “an inspirational” commencement speech, being accepted by a fistful of great universities including Berkely and NYU but choosing her favorite, UCLA, while studying diligently to become a U.S. citizen the day before graduation. All in COVID. “Our senior year was stripped from us,” she said, “but our power to change the world will be forever in our hands.”
Pilar, I don’t think I’m so tired anymore.
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